The Challenge of Researching Portuguese Ancestors

If you were to visit Lowell, Massachusetts before . . . say, 1890, you would not have met many men walking about the city named João or Manuel.  The Portuguese began arriving en masse in New England in the late 19th century and had established, by the first decades of the 20th century, sizable communities in…Read more The Challenge of Researching Portuguese Ancestors

Busting the Family Tree Brick Wall – Listen to those Rumors!

‘Herring choker.’  Today, it’s a somewhat pejorative term used in some circles to refer to Scandinavians or possibly folks from the Canadian province of New Brunswick.  In our family (which has neither of those connections), it’s remembered as the term my great-grandmother used when referring to my grandfather’s (her son-in-law’s) Owen family. By the time…Read more Busting the Family Tree Brick Wall – Listen to those Rumors!

Dating Old Photographs – The Price of Tea in Lowell, Massachusetts, 1917

Question: What was the price of a cup of chicken soup in 1915? Answer: Ten cents a cup. Add some ham and eggs to that, and you should be prepared to part with the Barber quarter and Buffalo nickel burning a hole in your pocket. If you're feeling a little more adventurous or extravagant, you…Read more Dating Old Photographs – The Price of Tea in Lowell, Massachusetts, 1917

Other People’s Ancestors – How House Histories Bring the Unrelated Together

When I started researching my family tree in 1988, the hobby was quite solitary.  I spent hours in the local history room of the Pollard Memorial Library in Lowell, Massachusetts, threading microfilm reels of the local papers through the microfilm readers and leafing through dusty, yellowed City Directories.  I remember the excitement of the first time…Read more Other People’s Ancestors – How House Histories Bring the Unrelated Together

The Value of Living Memories, Lowell, MA: Circa 1865

For those of us born into Generation X, the earliest living memory of a family member we've likely been exposed to might stretch as far back as Prohibition, or the Great War, or maybe, for the older members of our generation, childhood memories of the Spanish-American War.  I write a local history column for the…Read more The Value of Living Memories, Lowell, MA: Circa 1865