Tag Archives: Spotlight

‘The difference it makes’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
Even as she followed the last weeks of the Civil War in the press during the winter of 1865, Mrs. Gray[1] found time to contribute to her daughter’s happiness:

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 12 February 1865: Mary [Gray][2] is in a state of very happy excitement because her father has withdrawn his prohibition against round-dancing.[3] It is very inconsistent I suppose and all that, but I have long felt a question about it; whether the old fashioned prejudices of her parents ought to enforce themselves to her exclusion from a pleasure all her young friends were allowed, and enjoyed so highly.

She enjoys dancing the “German” as much as any one – but has never remonstrated against our decision, and gave it up 2 or 3 years ago without complaint. Then several other girls of her set said they were not to dance it – and it seemed as if she would have plenty of companionship in abstaining, but one after another they have all concluded to dance it and she was left almost alone – and it does make a great difference in a young lady’s enjoyment of society: it sets her completely apart from the dancing and makes a wall-flower of her at once, for there are never more than two or three square dances of an evening. Continue reading ‘The difference it makes’

Genealogical connections to Spain

Statue of King Fernando I of Castile outside the Royal Palace of Madrid.

Last month, my wife and I took a vacation to Madrid. While Spanish is my wife’s largest “pre-1492” ethnic background (the others being African and Native-American), I have yet to trace an ancestor who was actually born anywhere besides the Dominican Republic. The furthest I’ve gone is to an ancestor born about 1713, who appears on an 1812 census in her father’s hometown of San Francisco de Macoris. (See this post for information on some of my wife’s Dominican Republic ancestry.)

However, through a few of my own documented “royal” lines, I end up with a few cases of Spanish ancestry through my colonial British forebears. On our trip to Madrid, we walked through the Buen Retiro Park and outside the Royal Palace of Madrid, both of which have numerous statues of rulers of various Spanish kingdoms (Castile, Aragon, Leon, Barcelona, etc.), as well as monarchs after unification with the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella. Continue reading Genealogical connections to Spain

John Henry’s honor

John Henry Record and his family. Click on the images to expand them.

Blame it on expediency and not paying attention, but I’ve misrepresented myself. Yes, I know occasionally we all do such things, but in this instance I need to clarify and correct – so as to set ‘the Record’ (pun intended) straight. It involves a statement I made for my “bio” here at Vita Brevis.[1]

My bio states that I enjoy “helping [my] ancestors to complete their unfinished business” (certainly true) and that I “successfully petitioned the Secretary of the Army to overturn a 150 year old dishonorable Civil War discharge” (not true!). Continue reading John Henry’s honor

Finding your roots

Lindsay Fulton assisting students at a genetics and genealogy summer camp.

Recently, I had the opportunity to drive through the breathtaking Pennsylvania countryside to teach a group of middle schoolers about family history and genealogy at Penn State University. The kids were attending a genetics and genealogy summer camp cleverly named “Finding Your Roots: The Seedlings,” where the primary goal was to stimulate interest in science by getting kids to study themselves – their DNA, their bodies, and their family histories – as scientists. Continue reading Finding your roots

Hollywood is a small town

Carole Lombard, Charles “Buddy” Rogers, and Kathryn Crawford in SAFETY IN NUMBERS (1930).

I was recently reminded of just how small a town Hollywood is as I wrote up some notes on two photos featuring a (now) little-known actress named Kathryn Crawford. Born Kathryn Moran in Pennsylvania in 1908, as Kathryn Crawford she was one of a trio of chorus girls in Safety in Numbers (1930); the other girls were Josephine Dunn and, of greater interest to us today, Carole Lombard. The three “Follies girls” are meant to introduce an innocent young millionaire (Charles “Buddy” Rogers) to madcap Manhattan – but of course there are love complications, and hilarity ensues. Continue reading Hollywood is a small town

ICYMI: Tracing your African roots at NEHGS

The Old Plantation. Courtesy of Wikimedia.org

[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 2 February 2016.]

From tracing free people of color in New England to identifying former slaves in the deep south, NEHGS can help you tell your family story. We have a number of guides and tools in our library and available through our education department and online databases that can help you jump start researching your African American roots all over the United States, not just New England. Continue reading ICYMI: Tracing your African roots at NEHGS

Online teaching

I think I survived my first foray into online teaching Wednesday night when I gave my lecture on “Working in and Understanding Original Records” as the third presentation in the NEHGS Online Course “Researching New England,” a fee-based program open to NEHGS members.[1] The course began on July 5, with David Dearborn’s class on “Settlement of New England”; then, on July 12, Lindsay Fulton gave the second class on “Seventeenth-century Published Resources.” The two classes after me are by David Lambert, “Researching Colonial and Revolutionary War Soldiers” on July 26, and Chris Child, “Thinking Outside the Box: Breaking Down Brick Walls in Early New England” on August 2. Continue reading Online teaching

The Church of the Presidents

This July marks the 250th birthday of John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States and an original member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Born on 11 July 1767 in Braintree, Massachusetts, Adams was a passionate orator and ardent champion of learning, whose lamentable presidency was just a short interlude in his lifelong dedication to public service.

This month also marks the fiftieth annual presidential wreath-laying ceremony for John Quincy Adams at the United First Parish Church in Quincy. The tradition was initiated by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967, establishing that on the birthday of each deceased president the current sitting president would send a wreath to be laid on his tomb. Continue reading The Church of the Presidents

Acts of genealogical kindness

I have tried to make it a point in my blogs to give heartfelt thanks to indexing efforts of the New England Historic Genealogy Society (NEHGS) volunteers whenever we bring a new or updated collection online. Several people have asked me exactly how volunteers fit in the indexing process. Answering this question requires a little perspective on what is involved in creating one of our databases.

Typically, the first step is scanning images from the original source materials. The volunteers come to the library here in Boston. Then, using a flatbed scanner or 35mm camera-based book scanner, the volunteer captures every page in the book. A critical part of this phase is to take care that the images are clear and that no pages have been inadvertently skipped. This seems straightforward, but when you are processing a few hundred pages extra vigilance is required. Continue reading Acts of genealogical kindness

Shared DNA through both parents

Recently I gave a webinar about choosing a DNA test and breaking down the differences between AncestryDNA, 23andme, and FamilyTreeDNA. When it came to autosomal DNA, I included the fact that 23andme and FamilyTreeDNA provide a chromosome view of how you share DNA with your matches while AncestryDNA does not, giving you just the summary of how much CentiMorgans are shared and along how many segments. For these reasons I do recommend people who test with AncestryDNA to also upload their DNA onto Gedmatch so they can better visualize some of their matches. A question I get concerns why does this matter? I now have an ideal example to share. Continue reading Shared DNA through both parents