Published September 26, 2019

The new 2019 season of the BBC series Who Do You Think You Are features an episode on the ancestors of tv personality Sharon Osbourne. Her Victorian Irish ancestors fled the potato famine, sailing to Massachusetts in hopes of securing jobs in a textile mill that would provide happy, prosperous…

Read More The streets weren’t paved with gold

Published June 16, 2019

Participation in a DNA surname project through FamilyTreeDNA has shown that my Brewster line descends from Elder William Brewster, passenger on the Mayflower and religious leader of the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts. The tricky part comes in documenting the tree from 1620 down to the present day. The older parts of the tree…

Read More Going off grid in The Oblong

Published January 4, 2019

Today, the city of Beacon, NY is experiencing a resurgence as the “Brooklyn of the north”, home to art studios, hipster coffee shops, and affordable housing. At the turn of the twentieth century, when my grandparents lived there, it was know as NY State’s hat making capital, second only in US hat…

Read More Mad hatters

Published December 2, 2018

On my paternal tree, Andrew Colvin of Saugerties NY was listed in the 1850 census as a stone cutter. His grandfather John Colvin was born in Kirkudbright, Scotland in 1752. John immigrated to the United States in 1772, first going to Dutchess County, New York, then settling in Albany. A soldier…

Read More Bluestone sidewalks of New York City

Published December 17, 2017

Ice hockey is believed to have common roots with the sport of golf: they may both descend from an old Dutch game called “kolf” or “colf”. The summer version of kolf was played outdoors on the grass or streets, with players competing to hit a distant target (a stick or…

Read More Ice hockey in the new world

Published August 21, 2017

My paternal grandmother’s father was called Christopher Scaife Betterton. A carriage striper by profession, he came with his family to the US from England at age five. His father William Frank Betterton was a shoemaker in Sheffield who brought his young family to Rhinebeck NY in 1841. Christopher’s middle name was…

Read More Nice digs!

Published March 16, 2016

Among the many Palatine Germans in my family tree was a man named Jury William Dederich (1711-1786). He lived in Ulster County, NY, in a Palatine settlement called West Camp, located in the Hudson River Valley. Through ancestry.com, I recently found a copy of his will written in 1786. In…

Read More Hobnobbing with the Rockefellers

Published December 20, 2015

My Brewster tree goes back to the earliest New Netherlands settlers of the Hudson River Valley. One branch comes down from Pieter Janse Loockermans, an immigrant from Turnhout, a city in the Flemish section of Belgium. Pieter came to New Netherlands in about 1640 and settled in Beverwyck in present-day…

Read More First appearance of Santa Claus in the US – 1675

Published September 29, 2015

Great Britain in the early 18th century was becoming a naval superpower, with colonies that spanned the globe. They wanted to take advantage of the natural resources provided by these colonies, in order to supply their ever growing need for shipping capacity. The Palatine Germans of the Hudson River Valley…

Read More Immigrants, monopolies, and labor disputes – 18th century style

Published March 1, 2015

As the northeast United States experiences record cold temperatures this winter, I have been reading about how the brutally freezing European winter of 1709 led to the immigration of a number of my ancestors from the southwest area of Germany known as the Palatine region. The surnames of Palatine Germans…

Read More Cold enough for you?