A year ago last summer I was contacted by a gentleman from Zeeland, Michigan. While out weekend bargain hunting, he had come across an antique photograph for sale at a local flea market. The gentleman wrote with empathy about family history, and he seemed to have at least a hobbyist’s eye for old pictures. His curiosity was piqued by this one particular picture, so he purchased it, no doubt saving it from the fate of some Michigan land fill. He said that the only identifier as to who the person in the photo might be were the words “Grandpa Burson” written on its back.
Many of our long-sought ancestors remain elusive despite our best efforts to find their hiding places, creating those inevitable brick walls. “Usually if the spirits want you to find something, you do. And if they don’t want you to find something, they don’t let you into the secret. Trust me.”
One such “spirit” is my father’s step-grandfather, Fred A. Hayward.
Born in Vassalboro, Maine about 1860, one of six children of William C. and Margaret Fletcher (Lynn) Hayward, Fred in 1903 married my widowed great-grandmother Nellie (Ellen Frances Cony Church) as her second husband. I know little about Fred, and most of what I know I draw from what Fred left behind. Continue reading Dead Fred→
On 31 May 1619 John Shipway, the son of John Shipway, was baptized in Charfield in Gloucestershire. Or so it the record shows. However, in 1897, this record was found to be part of an elaborate fraud which ultimately resulted in the desecration of several historical relics, one unfortunate death, and a three-year prison sentence for its perpetrator. Continue reading A man of information→
We tend to think of a bright line dividing North and South during the Civil War, but in families like the Grays of Boston there were a number of living connections between the two regions. Mrs. William Rufus Gray, the diarist’s mother-in-law, was a member of the Clay family of Savannah, and during the war her younger sister and other family members resided in Georgia, near the South Carolina line.
61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Friday, 3 February 1865: We have had news of the destruction of Aunt Eliza’s plantation and the burning of the homestead by [Major General William Tecumseh] Sherman’s army. We cannot but feel sorry for her – but as a military measure it was perfectly justifiable. The place had a powerful rebel battery planted on a bluff commanding the river – 4 miles below was Fort McAllister, on Matilda Clay’s brother’s place; when that was taken by assault, all the places on the Ogeechee [River] up and down were burned and destroyed. Continue reading ‘In the dead of night’→
A recent quiz in The Weekly Genealogist asked readers to share the nature of any secrets they’d uncovered about their ancestors. More than one third of respondents indicated that they had not uncovered any secrets – to which I say, “Hah! You just haven’t discovered them!” Of those who had uncovered ancestral secrets, the greatest number had to do with hidden marriages.
I suspect that most hidden marriages have been contracted by relatives who might be characterized as “the usual suspects”: those folks in every family who provide a long list of colorful anecdotes. Continue reading An ancestral secret→
As those who have applied to hereditary societies may already know, several groups have a policy of requiring every birth, marriage, and death certificate for the most recent three generations of the lineage, with like information for their spouses. While this may not be difficult for everyone, some may not not know where all of these events occurred, especially for the generation of their grandparents. Legal access to these records varies from state to state, and not every state has readily available indices to such records. The following is an interesting example of utilizing records when your ancestors eloped.
In this case, my friend’s wife was applying to the Mayflower Society and trying to locate the marriage of her father’s parents (both of whom are deceased, as is her father). The announcement at left appeared in The New York Times on 12 June 1942 announcing a marriage that had occurred on 23 March 1942. No indication of the place of marriage is given, and no formal announcement of the couple’s engagement had appeared before this notice. The bride was a resident of New York City, and no record of their marriage was found there, nor back in the groom’s native Ohio. Where they got married appeared to be a mystery, and no one alive in the family knew either. Continue reading It’s good to get divorced→
Is truth really stranger than fiction? I’ll let you be the judge. Out of the blue, I received a lengthy message this summer from a woman in Phoenix, through ancestry.com. Here’s an abridged version:
“Hello. Based on your family tree, I have a photo album that might be of interest to you. It was rescued from a dumpster, and I’ve had it in excess of 25 years without doing anything with it. Continue reading Stranger than fiction→
Recently, after completing – without hospitalization or arrest (for significant abuse of a power tool) a major painting project involving thirty-five exterior louvered house shutters attached to My Old House – many people asked me how old the vinyl shutters actually are, when they had first been put up (“gee, when were they last painted?”), and how did I know? Continue reading Diary of an old house→
One of Scott Steward’s recent posts reminded me of several conversations I have had with colleagues (not all of them genealogists) on how much we can fill in on our ahnentafeln [German for ancestor tables].
Several staff members at NEHGS have formed a running group called the Runnintafels (my wife came up with the name, and she is not a genealogist). Continue reading What do I know?→