Monday, March 2, 2015

Things Historians Know

 Mitra Sharafi on small archives at the Legal History Blog.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Yet another reason to join the National Genealogical Society

"One of the best ways to learn problem-solving techniques is to analyze NGSQ case studies," writes editor Melissa Johnson, CG, in the brand-new first issue of the on-line NGS Monthly. "Case studies demonstrate how challenging genealogical questions can be answered." Since every problem is a little different, stop looking for one-shot cure-alls and rules, and see the examples published quarterly in NGSQ and analyzed monthly in the new magazine.

If you've tried the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and found it tough sledding, NGS Monthly may be your gateway to a whole new level of research and analysis. If you're a member, the February 2015 issue should be in your email. If not, join here.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


It would appear from multiple reports on Facebook that RootsTech's record-breaking audience also included a number of intellectual property thieves, some who knew better and some who didn't. You need explicit permission to take pictures of a presentation or copy the handout. Without that permission you might as well be snatching their wallet.

Friend and colleague Judy Russell was there and sets us all straight at her blog, The Legal Genealogist. I was not in attendance (I don't do celebrities), but perhaps the organizers could find someone to croon a catchy tune about the Eighth Commandment and/or federal copyright law.

And it's possible to do that without insulting your audience. I remember the country auctioneer in western Illinois who always used to tell people to keep an eye on their stuff: "I know everybody here is honest, but we don't know who might show up later!"

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Why was the first public orphanage built in 1790 in Charleston, South Carolina?

In the Winter 2015 issue of the Utah Genealogical Association's quarterly Crossroads, I review John F. Murray's book, The Charleston Orphan House: Children's Lives in the First Public Orphanage in America. "No nuance, no child, no foster mother is left behind in this revealing and riveting book."

Monday, January 19, 2015

Quote to remember

Words to live by, from Elizabeth Shown Mills's Monday evening talk at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy 12 January 2015:

"Instead of asking each other 'What's the answer?' we should be asking ourselves 'What's the evidence?' "

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Genealogy Christmas . . .

You didn't want to get anything done today, anyway! Good and potentially good things (I haven't looked at them all yet), moving from west to east . . .

* Chicago in Maps, cartographer Dennis McClendon's on-line collection of Chicago maps from 1834 to 2014.

* M. Susan Murnane's new book, Bankruptcy in an Industrial Society: A History of the Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio (Akron: University of Akron Press, 2014), said to be "a social and institutional history of the Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio. The work explains the development of the court and the story of the people who worked there and of those who sought refuge in the bankruptcy court, within the context of northern Ohio's changing economy."

* Friend and colleague Amy E. K. Arner's new book, Abstracts of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, Tax Records 1815 (Berwyn Heights, MD: Heritage Books, 2014).

* Not new at all: Historian Thomas Bender's Community and Social Change in America (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1978): "There were apparently two populations in nineteenth-century towns, an economically successful permanent group who shaped the values and direction of social life in the town, and a floating, largely unsuccessful group. We know little about those who left nineteenth-century towns." By contrast, in his view, "in contemporary America, men and women do not so much move from one town to another as follow an advantageous career path that may take them to a number of basically incidental locations." {93} Now the successful are the floaters?!

Harold Henderson, "A Genealogy Christmas . . . ," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 14 December 2014 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Methodology Thursday: Indirect evidence adds to the New England Ruggles family

Even old New England genealogy is never done. In the October issue of the New England Historical and Genealogical Register (available on line to NEGHS members), Samuel Paine Sturgis III shows that Joseph Ruggles (say 1743-1815) was a son of Rev. Benjamin Ruggles (1700-1782) of Middleborough and New Braintree, Massachusetts, even though no record actually states their relationship. How Sturgis proved it is relevant to all researchers, whether or not we have Ruggles -- or any New Englanders at all -- in our tree.

Key to the case are Joseph's associations with known family members, pattern recognition in property records (an unusual pattern in this case), and a 1904 reminiscence from a family friend. We often hear of researching women by researching the better-documented men in their lives; in this case important corroboration for Joseph's ancestry came by way of his wife Sarah Brakenridge.

Samuel Paine Sturgis III, "Joseph Ruggles of New Braintree and Greenwich, Massachusetts," New England Historical and Genealogical Register 168 (October 2014): 256-270.

Harold Henderson, "Methodology Thursday: Indirect evidence adds to the New England Ruggles family," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 11 December 2014 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]