Tag Archives: Research tips

Account books

A current research project has led me to peruse dozens upon dozens of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Connecticut River Valley account books. Used to maintain records of business transactions, account books have been an important component of the store owner and merchants’ trade throughout much of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries in America. While account books tend to be more frequently consulted for the items that were retailed by store owners, the inclusion of names and other data also make account books an invaluable genealogical source. Continue reading Account books

A circus family, part two

The 1870 census, showing a Caron household in Connecticut.

The weekend after my blog post was published in July, I sat down at my kitchen table and knocked down that brick wall. Welcome to part two of my quest to uncover my ‘circus family.’

I joined a website called Genealogy Quebec (https://www.genealogiequebec.com/en) on the recommendation of a co-worker and dedicated a rainy Saturday to my search. I started with the information about which I was confident: my great-grandmother Nora Caron’s birth and death certificate listed her parents as “Alphonse Caron” and “Mathilda Gauthier.” Continue reading A circus family, part two

Not always what you think

Next weekend, Bill Griffeth and I will be speaking at the Brattleboro Literary Festival on DNA and genealogy, and the surprise results described in his book The Stranger in My Genes. For those who are not are familiar with the book, it all started when DNA results were compared between Bill, his brother, and their first cousin. In their case, Bill’s mother was able to provide additional details explaining the surprise results. (I won’t spoil them.) Continue reading Not always what you think

It’s good to get divorced

The New York Times, 12 June 1942. Click on the image to read the article.

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

‘All fidelity to the Duke of Brunswick’

Courtesy Stadtarchiv Mannheim

[Author’s note: This series, on the German origin of the Boucher family of Baltimore, began here.]

With regard to my great-great-great-grandfather Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Esprit Boucher (bp. 1799), I feel on firm ground in ascribing some finds on Ancestry.com to him, although the fate of his second daughter and identity of his second wife remain tantalizing and elusive. Continue reading ‘All fidelity to the Duke of Brunswick’

Stranger than fiction

The Whitaker family in 1930.

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

Double trouble


The red boxes mark the neighboring townlands in which the Holland families lived. Courtesy of National Library of Scotland

Recently I was researching my Holland surname line and ran into an interesting problem. I found two men named William Holland, each of whom married a woman named Ellen Fleming, in the same parish around the same time. Which was the right William Holland and Ellen Fleming for my family? Were the couples related? How was I going to tell their children apart?

These two Irish couples were from Barryroe parish in County Cork. One couple married in 1820 and the other in 1839. I found baptismal records for children with these parents born between 1820 and 1845. Luckily, the Holland child I was tracing was born in 1828, so I knew he belonged to the older couple who married in 1820. Continue reading Double trouble

Who was Stillman Burr?

Courtesy of Maps.com

One of my ‘favorite’ brick walls (talk about an oxymoron!) is that of my great-great-great-grandfather Stillman Burr. He is reported born in Massachusetts circa 1797,[1] married Zeruah Kenyon at Woodstock, Vermont in 1817, and is believed to have died sometime after 1870 – possibly at Henderson County, Illinois.[2] And yes, I’ve always been proud to have been a part of the Burr “clan” – no matter what bad “P.R.” might necessarily go along with the old name. Continue reading Who was Stillman Burr?

What do I know?

Click on image to expand it.

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?

The name is a mystery

Ralph Forbes (1904-1951) by Russell Ball. Click on the images to expand them.

Given the range of databases like Wikipedia and IMDb (more formally The Internet Movie Database), it can be surprising to find a scrap of biographical material that has not been covered. I encountered this paradox recently, when writing up notes on some photographs I’ve bought of the actors Ralph Forbes (1904–1951) and his mother Mary Forbes (1879–1974). Ralph Forbes Taylor was born 30 September 1904 and baptized in the parish of Streatham, Surrey – now part of the Borough of Lambeth in Greater London – the son of Ernest John Taylor and his wife Ethel Louise. The Taylors lived at 142 Gleneagle Road in Streatham (where Ralph was presumably born), and Ernest was a commercial traveler.[1]

But who was Ernest John Taylor? And who was his wife, Ethel Louise, who would in time become the character actress Mary Forbes?[2] Continue reading The name is a mystery