ICYMI: The family historian

[Author’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 30 December 2014.]

Margaret Steward in Goshen, New York

Most households have one: the household historian. Whether or not or not the main target is genealogical, there’s normally at the very least one member of the family who retains monitor of siblings and cousins, typically to the nth diploma. My father’s household had one in my great-aunt Margaret Steward (1888–1975). I don’t keep in mind assembly her, however I’ve been advised I take after her, at the very least in as far as the mantle of household genealogist handed from her to me after I was nonetheless in center faculty.

Margaret at Tours for VB
Aunt Margaret in Excursions, 1917-19

Aunt Margaret was born in New York Metropolis, and raised there, upstate in Goshen, and in Europe. Her dad and mom actually anticipated her to marry, however she – like two of her brothers – selected to not, and fell into the function of companion for her father and mom. Throughout the First World Battle, following within the footsteps of a number of older members of the family, she went to France to work in a canteen outdoors Paris, one which served the Allied troops away from the entrance strains. Afterwards, and for a few years to come back, she lived in Manhattan, touring with some frequency through the Nineteen Twenties and ’30s.

She grew to become an officer of Lighthouse for the Blind, and I collect she performed loads of bridge, however Aunt Margaret’s curiosity within the family tree of the Steward, Beeckman, White, Atherton, Jackson, Livingston, and Le Roy households was one other fixed in her life. At one level she employed Harold Hazelton (1904–1991) to doc her ancestral households, maybe with a ebook in thoughts; curiously sufficient, and a few years later, the packing containers with Hazelton’s analysis notes got here to me – they hadn’t been in Aunt Margaret’s possession when she died.

One factor I observed in her analysis was its give attention to the male (or surname) line.

One factor I observed in her analysis was its give attention to the male (or surname) line. The notion we’ve in the present day of “all-my ancestors” analysis meant one thing totally different within the days earlier than the Web: as soon as a spouse’s surname was misplaced, there was no approach aside from happenstance to select it up once more. For instance, an ancestress on the Atherton facet appeared in print repeatedly as Rebecca (Jennison) Prentice, however whereas she was the Widow Prentice when she married Dr. Israel Atherton, she was born Rebecca Stevens in Harvard, Massachusetts. Rebecca’s marriage in close by Groton to Stanton Prentice provides her maiden title, however her marriage to Dr. Atherton in Lancaster didn’t, and the genealogical scribes may solely attempt their finest to ascertain her identification. Now, with so many sources readily at hand, a few of Aunt Margaret’s questions are extra simply answered.

I wish to assume that Margaret Steward would take pleasure in seeing what I’ve accomplished along with her work (and Harold Hazelton’s), and what I’ve added to the frequent fund of details about our associated households. And I’m starting to consider my very own successor: in spite of everything, I’ve a niece and two nephews, and my first cousins have greater than a rating of kids between them. Maybe, sooner or later, a niece, a nephew, or a kind of myriad Steward cousins will decide up the unfastened threads in my work and weave them into one thing else once more!