Celebrating friendships, stories and discoveries along the way

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Summer of 2015 Retrospective

From my perspective, the summer of 2015 differed from recent years for a variety of reasons. Increasing demands at work have placed limits on my leisure time, and as a result I have had less opportunities for local walking tours. In addition, there were fewer summer genealogy seminars or workshops offered in the Greater Boston area. In many ways I utilized my available time with genealogy this summer as I do in the winter, researching at home and at local repositories. My husband and I took DNA tests with Family Tree DNA and Ancestry.com, and I spent many fascinating hours at home analyzing the results of our autosomal and mitochondrial DNA tests and my husband's Y-DNA test. In late June my husband and I visited locales in Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota for a marvelous ten days of vacation, relaxation, and discovery. As summer closes and autumn begins I have some wonderful memories of our Western adventure and reflections upon recent genealogical discoveries as I look forward to a new slate of genealogy seminars and meetings for the fall and winter.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

25th Anniversary of Ken Burns' Civil War

Last week PBS aired Ken Burns' epic documentary The Civil War to mark the 25th anniversary of the film's debut in 1990. I can hardly believe that it has been twenty-five years since I first viewed this monumental tribute to a defining era of American history. The first time I watched the nine-episode, eleven hour film, I thought it was overly long and I did not find the documentary format appealing. Yet, something about the film intrigued me, and I found that I couldn't stop watching it. Several years later I had a similar experience with the 1993 movie Gettysburg, based on Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Killer Angels. These presentations of Civil War history were so profound that they sparked within me a desire to research the war and to visit the battlefields where the war unfolded.

For the last fifteen years I have visited Gettysburg National Battlefield in Pennsylvania, Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland, and numerous battlefields, cemeteries, and theaters of the Civil War in Virginia. To walk on the land where terrible battles occurred is an intensely spiritual experience and I have been deeply moved at every location I have visited. I have been honored to stand on the ground at Gettysburg where my 2nd great granduncle Oliver Bates fought valiantly with the 20th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment on July 3, 1863 to repel the massive infantry assault known as Pickett's Charge. I have also walked along the route where my 2nd great granduncle Augustus Fairchild advanced with the 27th Connecticut Infantry Regiment on December 13, 1862 at Fredericksburg and was tragically killed in a doomed assault on Marye's Heights. I have visited the gravesite of my great granduncle Nathaniel Caverly of the 13th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment who was killed at Suffolk, Virginia on May 5, 1863 and buried in a place of honor far away from his home in Barrington, New Hampshire. I have visited cemeteries in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland to honor the fallen on both sides of the war.

The feeling of experiencing the past through a personal journey in the present is beyond compare. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Colonel of the 20th Maine Infantry Regiment, spoke of the spiritual nature of battlefields during the dedication of the 20th Maine Monument at Gettysburg in 1889:
In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls. And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and dream; and lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls.1
Thank you, Ken Burns, for your wonderful gift of filmmaking; in the Civil War you propelled me on a personal odyssey into the past and instilled in me a lifelong appreciation for Civil War history and for the sacrifices of the participants on both sides of the war.

1Joshua L. Chamberlain, Speech at Gettysburg to dedicate the monument to the 20th Maine Regiment, October 3, 1889.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Publishing Workshop with Michael Tougias and Alison O'Leary

On Saturday I attended an engaging "Getting Published" workshop with author Michael Tougias and publicist Alison O'Leary. I recently had the pleasure of attending Michael's presentation, "King Philip's War in New England," at the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium (NERGC) Conference in Providence where I learned of the upcoming workshop. Michael and Alison presented and discussed various approaches to publishing one's written work and offered their own years of experience to assist and guide those who are new to the publishing arena. Michael Tougias is a successful author who has published over twenty books. His recent book, The Finest Hours, co-authored with Casey Sherman, has been produced by Disney Corporation into a movie version which is scheduled for release to theaters in January 2016. Alison O'Leary is a successful freelance editor, writer and publicist. I wish to thank Michael and Alison for a fantastic workshop and for sharing so much of their knowledge. I also wish to thank all of the participants of the workshop who shared their experiences and insights with the group. For additional information about Michael Tougias, including his presentation schedule, please visit http://www.michaeltougias.com. For additional information about Alison O'Leary please visit https://about.me/alison.3.oleary.

Friday, April 24, 2015

NERGC 2015

The New England Regional Genealogical Consortium (NERGC) 2015 conference was held in Providence, Rhode Island from Wednesday, April 15 through Sunday, April 19. I attended five seminars on both Friday and Saturday, and all were fantastic.

On Friday morning I attended Donna Moughty's excellent presentation, "Navigating the Best Online Sources for Irish Research" and Cheryll Toney Holley's absorbing lecture, "Navigating New England Waters via Native American Thoroughfares." A delicious lunch with table discussions, hosted by the New England Chapter of Professional Genealogists, followed the morning presentations. I was delighted to host a table discussion on Italian Research with an engaging and convivial group. The handout for the table discussion is available from the sidebar to the right or by clicking here. In the afternoon I attended Dwight Fitch's informative presentation, "Western Frontier Settlements of Massachusetts Bay Colony 1650-1710", Edwin Strickland's scholarly "Westmoreland - Connecticut's Lost Colony" and Michael Tougias' excellent presentation and discussion of "King Philip's War in New England."

On Saturday morning I attended Michael Brophy's excellent talk on "Descendancy Research", followed by Pauline Cusson's informative lecture, "Navigating Brick Wall Research in French-Canadian Records." A delicious lunch accompanied by an engaging talk with legal genealogist Judy Russell followed the morning presentations. In the afternoon I attended Bruce Frail's instructive presentation on "Sailing through Paperwork to Order a VA Headstone" and two fascinating back-to-back lectures on DNA research led by Blaine Bettinger, "The Science Fiction Future of Genetic Genealogy" and "Using Free Third-Party Tools to Analyze Your Autosomal DNA."

The conference was a well-attended and energizing experience. It was a great deal of fun to acquire new information and tips for my genealogical research toolkit and to reconnect with my colleagues and friends. In addition, this was my first visit to Providence and I thoroughly enjoyed the city and its delights, especially the superb culinary experience. I greatly anticipate the next NERGC conference in 2017 at Springfield, Massachusetts.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Reburial of King Richard III in Leicester

Today Richard III of England, the last of the Plantagenet kings, is being laid to rest in a solemn ceremony in Leicester, England, 530 years after the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, where Richard was slain by the forces of Henry Tudor who succeeded him on the British throne as Henry VII. The Battle of Bosworth marked the end of the Wars of the Roses, a series of dynastic conquests for the throne of England between the House of Lancaster, led by Henry Tudor, and the House of York, led by Richard III.

Richard III ascended to the British throne upon the death of his brother, King Edward IV, in April 1483. Richard, however, was not first in line to the throne. Edward IV’s sons, Edward and Richard, were in the direct line of succession. On his deathbed Edward IV named his brother Richard Lord Protector of the Realm until his son and heir Edward, only twelve years old, reached adulthood. After Edward IV’s death Richard imprisoned his nephews Edward and Richard in the Tower of London, presumably under protection from the influence of Edward’s mother, Elizabeth Woodville, and her family until Edward’s coronation. Richard subsequently had his nephews declared illegitimate and took the throne in June 1483. The two princes were never seen alive again after Richard’s coronation.

Two years later, on August 22, 1485, Richard met the forces of Henry Tudor at Bosworth. Richard’s forces outnumbered those of Henry Tudor but at the last moment Lord Thomas Stanley, the third husband of Henry’s mother Margaret Beaufort, changed sides and fought for his stepson. Richard was surrounded by Henry’s forces and was brutally cut down. His body was stripped of his armor and he received a hasty burial at Greyfriars Chapel in Leicester. His burial spot was thought lost until 2012, when a skeleton was discovered in an excavation of a parking lot in Leicester. The skeleton was analyzed and discovered to bear wounds similar to those of Richard III at Bosworth. In 2013 analysis of mitochondrial DNA from the skeleton and from a living descendant of Richard III’s sister Anne of York proved that the skeleton was indeed Richard III.

Richard III has a dark and dubious legacy in history. His greatest crime may have been the murder of his nephews in order to ascend the throne of England. There is no concrete evidence to the fate of the two princes; it is not certain that the boys were murdered, and it is not clear who may have murdered them. Much of Richard’s negative legacy was written during the reign of his successor Henry Tudor. Since 1924 the Richard III Society has been reviewing historical documents to uncover the truth about Richard and to restore his legacy in history.

For more information about Richard III, the archeological excavation, and the burial proceedings this week, please visit http://kingrichardinleicester.com. For additional information about the research that led to the discovery of Richard III’s remains, please read The King's Grave: The Discovery of Richard III's Lost Burial Place and the Clues It Holds, by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones. For information about the Richard III society please visit http://www.richardIII.net.

I have always been fascinated by the dynastic clashes over the battles for the throne, and particularly so for the period known as the Wars of the Roses. There is a personal element involved for me, as I may be a lineal descendant of Queen Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of Edward IV, through her first husband Sir John Grey. Elizabeth Woodville may have been the 4th great-grandmother of my ancestor Anne Dudley Bradstreet through her only surviving son, Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset. In the 1990's genealogist Marshall Kirk constructed an indirect proof to determine the likely descent of Governor Thomas Dudley of Massachusetts from the Sutton-Dudley baronial lines. Gary Boyd Roberts of the New England Historic Genealogical Society included Marshall's theory in his study of royal descents of early American settlers, The Royal Descents of 600 Immigrants to the American Colonies of the United States. Although not proven with direct evidence Marshall's theory seems plausible. To view Anne Dudley Bradstreet's proposed descent from Elizabeth Woodville please click here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Winter's Waning

The winter of 2015 has been one of the most severe and challenging of winters in New England history. During the month of February we experienced a long period of heavy snow and bitterly cold temperatures, shattering all-time regional records for snowfall and intense cold. Fortunately, with the advent of March, we have seen a lessening of the severe cold and snow that incapacitated the Northeast and are looking forward to milder temperatures and a melting of snow.

Reading is my antidote to winter weather, and I have been engrossed in several excellent reads in recent months. I have been reading Hugh Dorian's The Outer Side of Ulster, a fascinating memoir of social life in Donegal in the 1800's, edited by Dr. Breandan MacSuibhne and David Dickson. This excellent volume provides context into the lives of my Donegal ancestors in the early 1800's before they emigrated to Nova Scotia in 1837. I am also reading James Donovan's A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn - The Last Great Battle of the American West, a well-researched and thrilling account of the events leading up to and including General George Armstrong Custer's fateful encounter at Little Bighorn in 1876. On the lighter side I am enjoying several works of historical fiction, including Diana Gabaldon's Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber from the Outlander series, Philippa Gregory's The White Princess, The Kingmaker's Daughter, and The Lady of the Rivers from the Cousins' War series, and Ralph Peters' Cain at Gettysburg.

As a genealogist and historian I anticipate the approach of spring with a return to outdoor activities and travel, as well as attending upcoming genealogical events. In celebration of St. Patrick's Day the New England Historical and Genealogical Society (NEHGS) and the Ulster Historical Foundation collaborate in an all-day program of lectures and discussion of Researching Your Irish Ancestors: Strategies for Success on March 21. NEHGS is also offering an online course led by Marie Daly entitled Irish Genealogical Research: Sources and Methods, offered on March 18, March 25, and April 1. The New England Regional Genealogical Consortium (NERGC) will be holding their biennial conference in Providence, Rhode Island from April 15 through April 18. As I plan my activities for warmer weather I am delighted that spring through autumn in the Boston area offers many opportunities and experiences for walking tours and historical explorations.

For additional information about educational events at NEHGS please visit http://www.americanancestors.org/education/. For additional information about the NERGC conference in Providence please visit http://www.nergc.org/.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Boston University Genealogy Alumni Meeting Schedule for 2015

The schedule for Boston University Genealogy Program alumni meetings for 2015 is listed below. All meetings are held at the New England Historic and Genealogical Society beginning at 9:15 A.M. except where otherwise noted. Special thanks to Liz Loveland, coordinator of the in-person meeting group, for arranging and scheduling the meeting times and for sharing with the group.

January 17
February 28 at 1:15 P.M.
March 28 at 1:15 P.M.
No dates worked for both us & NEHGS for April: Those that are going to NERGC and/or the Mass. Historical Society Conference can have meetups at one or both instead.
May 30
June 20
July 18
August 22
September 26 at 1:15 P.M.
No dates worked for both us & NEHGS for October. Liz will work on organizing a day trip for us in lieu of a meeting.
November 21
December 19