24 July 2023

ICYMI - Repost: Dual-year dates and other calendar anomalies explained

Originally posted on April 21, 2017

When I first started my family history research, I quickly ran into some older date notations I didn’t understand. They were listed as two years instead of one. For example, I would see a birth listed as 21 January 1680/1. I had no clue what that meant, and no one to ask.


I did, however, have the Internet and I assumed that I would only be one of many amateurs who were confused by this, so I looked at Ancestry.com, at the New England Historic Genealogical Society website (AmericanAncestors.com) and other genealogy sites, thinking this would surely be addressed in their FAQ section or on some “basics of research” page. I was wrong – I could not find any such explanation anywhere.

I did further research, finally finding a Wikipedia entry, which I paraphrase below.  At the end of this post, there is a link to the article (very interesting reading).

One depiction of a multi-year date from a Robert Hicks sketch
Another depiction from a William Mann sketch

12 March 2023

A Trip to Europe! Part 4 of 4

Fannie Sturtevant Woodruff
with her camera
In parts one through three, I detailed much of the European adventure my great-great grandparents, Fred and Fannie (Sturtevant) Woodruff gave their family in the summer of 1901. During their two-month tour, they took a great many photographs and I am lucky to have the original album in my possession. It contains the only photographs I have of the family, including my great-grandfather, Lewis Sturtevant Woodruff, who was age 20 at the time of the voyage.

Already documented is their voyage across from Boston, their travels across England, Scotland, and Wales, their stop in Paris, and their travels in Switzerland. As I noted in my previous posts, the order in which they placed their photographs in the album does not reflect what I would consider to be an accurate order of the places they visited. In particular, in England, Eton appears multiple times in different parts of the album, but I doubt they went back three times. And the Switzerland trip starts in the southeast of country and ends in the southwest, after which the family is in Germany to the north of Switzerland. Please see blog posts two and three for maps detailing all the locations of their photographs.    

20 February 2023

A Trip to Europe! Part 3 of 4

Prior posts explained the photo album documenting a trip to Europe taken in 1901 by my Woodruff ancestors and the start of their journey in Scotland, Wales, and England. The photos appear to be out of order (including one photo from Paris!), and it is unlikely that they were placed in the album in chronological order. 

From England they crossed the channel and started their adventures on the Continent, visiting France, Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands. The photographs appear to be in a better order than those from the first part of their journey, but they are not in the exact order of their trip unless they crisscrossed back and forth across Switzerland.

The map shows all the locations from which they took photos, with the exception of photos taken on the river Rhine.

30 January 2023

A Trip to Europe! Part 2 of 4

Part one of this post took us through the family photo album up to their voyage across from Boston to Liverpool. The first section of the album after the crossing contains photographs from their travels across Scotland, Wales, and England.

The order of the photographs in the United Kingdom, as I mentioned before, appears to be out of order unless the family crisscrossed and doubled back on themselves. They covered a lot of ground, visiting Scotland, Wales, and central England. The map shows all the places where they took photographs.


13 January 2023

A Trip to Europe! Part 1 of 4

Album page 1
Around 25 years ago, an uncle on my father’s side, knowing my interest in preserving and keeping important family relics, gave me a photo album of a 1901 family trip to Europe. My great-great grandparents took two of their three sons, my great-grandfather included, on a two-month grand tour and documented it in photographs. The photographs and annotations indicate that they visited Scotland, England, and Wales on arrival, then went to the Continent to visit France, Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands.

There is no other account of this trip, however the photographs, notes, and available online records provide a wealth of information that has allowed me to perform further research and learn quite a bit about their holiday. I’m particularly grateful to have this album because it contains the only photographs I possess for these family members.

05 June 2022

A 317 Year Old Business, an 85 Year Old Painting, and Three Families Part 2 of 2

But What About the Painting?

The historical preamble in part one sets up the connection between the inherited painting, the longest-operating business in the United States, and my family.

I was prompted to research this painting because of Bill Kahl’s comments about it when I was visiting with him in 2012. Bill described the painting to me as follows:

“It was painted by John Howard Benson, the grandfather of Nick Benson. It is a painting of Lawton’s Valley in Middletown . . . my last recollection is that it hung just off the kitchen in their [my grandparents’] house in Kingston [RI] . . . the painting is an oil painting of a woodland scene in a heavy gold frame.”    

29 May 2022

A 317 Year Old Business, an 85 Year Old Painting, and Three Families Part 1 of 2

Newport, Rhode Island

My maternal grandmother’s family has longstanding roots in the State of Rhode Island. Through her, we descend from a number of the original settlers of Aquidneck Island, which is now made up of the towns of Portsmouth, Middletown, and Newport. 

Aquidneck Island is named as a derivation from the Narragansett name for the island, “Aquidnet,” but is actually not its legal name at all. The island itself was officially named “Rhode Island” by the year 1637, with varying origin stories, but all tied to the Mediterranean Island of Rhodes. “Rhode Island” remains its legal name to this day. 

The Inn at Castle Hill with downtown Newport in the distance. Conanicut Island to the left.