On the list of books of which you have probably never heard is Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana; or, The Ecclesiastical History of New-England…, originally published in 1702. Roughly translated as The Glorious Works of Christ in America, it might not sound all that interesting and certainly doesn’t sound like a genealogical resource, but it really is a rich treasure of biographical information for early New England ministers.
The Rev. John Ward (1606–1693) of Haverhill, Massachusetts, who was in New England by 1639, was the son of Great Migration immigant Rev. Nathaniel Ward, who arrived with some of his family in New England in 1634.Continue reading A treasure indeed→
In addition to laying foundations for progress, over the past ten years NEHGS has greatly increased an already-impressive collection. Better still, we now find it much easier to access vast quantities of content.
When I first volunteered at NEHGS in 2006, its new leader, D. Brenton Simons, reached out to NEHGS members. “In my new role as president, I ask for your help in expanding our collections and increasing donor support in order to preserve our invaluable holdings. Together we can move our remarkable institution forward while still valuing our great traditions.” Within the year, NEHGS launched Preserving New England’s Records: An Initiative for Family and Local History, and its goal has been to gather additional and varied materials for the R. Stanton Avery Special Collections. We still have a vibrant collecting program, and you can learn more about donating here. Continue reading A decade of growth: content→
Over the next few years, you’ll hear more and more about the 400th anniversary of the Puritans and Separatists who sailed on Mayflower in 1620. We know them as “The Pilgrims.” In 1620, the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in Massachusetts Bay, where they found harsh weather, an unfamiliar land, and where they were responsible for the care of (initially) 102 people in their new Colony.
William Bradford, the Governor of Plymouth Colony, is one of the few individuals who documented his life in the early years of the settlement. Governor Bradford was the longest-serving governor of the colony and is well known for his book, Of Plymouth Plantation, written between 1630 and 1651.Continue reading Trouble with Speedwell→
I wrote two years ago about the incredible value of Civil War pensions, but a recent example reminded me that occasionally just getting a valuable pension may be challenging as well. Whenever I realize a Civil War pension exists, whether for a book project or an article, I almost always request it, on the strong likelihood that it will provide further genealogical information, as well as substantial biographical data on the veteran’s life, his widow, and sometimes other family members. Continue reading Bunching pensions→
Today marks the one-thousandth Vita Brevis post since the blog launched in January 2014. The blog’s pages have been accessed more than one-and-a-half million times, and by my (not very scientific) count the following eighteen posts have led the field, read by more than one hundred thousand readers.
By far and away the most-read post at Vita Brevis is Chris Child’s August 2014 account of Robin Williams’s maternal ancestry. The circumstances of Williams’s death, and the affection he had inspired in millions of Americans, made the post a place to stop and reflect about what he had meant to members of the genealogical community. Continue reading The thousandth post→
Captain Daniel Patrick was a well-known and powerful figure in the Massachusetts Bay Colony of 1640. He had been a “common soldier in the Prince’s guard” in Holland, and that experience was sufficient for him to be appointed Captain of Militia in Massachusetts Bay. He commanded 40 soldiers in the Pequot War, and he and his company were notable for executing the “fighting age” Pequot male prisoners captured near present-day Ledyard, Connecticut, on 5 July 1637. Captain Patrick was clearly a formidable character.
He was also a well-known philanderer and eventually departed the colony: “For though he had a wife of his own, a good Dutch woman and comely, yet he despised her and followed after other women and perceiving that he was discovered, and that such evil courses would not be endured here, and being of a vain and unsettled disposition, he went from us… ” Continue reading ‘I was much amazed’→
I opened Pandora’s box. Traditionally, Daniel Fisher is credited with marrying Abigail Marrett/Marriot/Marrott, etc., daughter of Great Migration parents Thomas and Susan (Wolfenden) Marrett.
This is supported by the record of marriage in Dedham of Daniell Fisher to Abigal Marriott on 17 November 1641, and by the will of Thomas Marrett dated 15 October 1663 naming his daughter Abigail [no surname given] and grandchildren “Lidea, Amos, John and Jeremiah Fisher.” Continue reading Pandora’s box→
When I started working on the Early New England Families Study Project sketch for Daniel Fisher of Dedham, I had a vague recollection that he might be one of my ancestors. However, once I pulled out my old folded, torn, and turning-brown 12-generation wall chart (only about half of which has been entered in my genealogy database), I realized that no, I am not descended from Daniel. My ancestor is Daniel’s first cousin, Joshua Fisher Jr.
Daniel and Joshua Jr.’s fathers, Anthony and Joshua Fisher, were brothers, both of whom brought their families to New England in the late 1630s. This means they have not yet been treated in the Great Migration Study Project (complete only through 1635), but, very fortunately, the Fishers and their ancestors have recently been more than thoroughly treated in print.Continue reading The Fishers of Dedham→
The Great Migration to New England from 1620 through 1640 is the focal point of the Great Migration Study Project by Robert Charles Anderson that NEHGS has been publishing for more than twenty years, but there are also a number of lesser-known academic studies of interest to Great Migration descendants.
Roger Thompson, “a retired university reader in American history at the University of East Anglia,” has written several very interesting books that I highly recommend. The first one that I picked up off the shelf today is his Mobility & Migration, East Anglian Founders of New England, 1629–1640, which is a statistical examination of conditions behind the families that came from East Anglia during the Great Migration. Continue reading Mobility and migration→
This year’s holiday Open House at the NEHGS library on Saturday, December 10, included several Fireside Chats. In the morning Marie Daly and Judy Lucey discussed Irish genealogy.
In the afternoon Chris Child covered the different types of DNA testing – Y-chromosome, mitochondrial, and autosomal. This last is the “hot” fad right now; it’s the type you see on TV, such as “I thought all my ancestors were [fill in the blank], but…” I am no expert on the complexity of DNA inheritance, so it was interesting to learn that European (including the British Isles) DNA is greatly affected by thousands of years of migrating groups that have mixed up the pool to the point of making specific interpretations difficult. On the other hand, test results are accumulating to the point where surnames will be identifiable! Continue reading Fireside chats, 2016→