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Category Archives: Events

Local and Family History Lectures, Fall 2014

Posted on August 6th, 2014 by Gail Fithian in Events



Vrabel book cover high resWEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 8


A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE NEW BOSTON  provides a grassroots perspective on the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s. Residents of the city’s neighborhoods engaged in an era of activism and protest unprecedented in Boston since the American Revolution. The book recounts fights against urban renewal, highway construction, and airport expansion; for civil rights, school desegregation, and welfare reform; and over Vietnam and busing. Much of the legacy of that activism remains in Boston today. This book will be sold at the event.

Jim Vrabel is a longtime Boston community activist and historian. He is author of When in Boston: A Time Line & Almanac and Homage to Henry: A Dramatization of John Berryman’s “The Dream Songs.


sacco vanzetti daleyWEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 29






Christopher Daley recounts the saga of the two immigrant Italian anarchists. The robberies in Bridgewater and Braintree, the famous trial at Dedham, and seven years of attempts to get a new trial are recounted. The presentation contains period photographs, some of which are rare and not published elsewhere.

Christopher Daley teaches history at the Silver Lake Regional School System in Kingston. He has served as the Chairman of the Pembroke Historical Commission and the President of the Pembroke Historical Society. He is also working on a book for The History Press, Homicide in the Hub: Boston’s Most Infamous Murder Cases, to be published in the fall of 2015.


WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 12        Baker_Storm_of_Witchcraft                                            


Baker’s will talk from his new book, which describes how conditions in the Bay colony in the 1690s set the stage for the dramatic events in Salem. Engaging a range of perspectives, his book addresses questions about why the Salem tragedy unfolded as it did, and why it has become an enduring legacy.

Emerson W. Baker is Professor of History at Salem State College. He is the author of The Devil of Great Island: Witchcraft and Conflict in Early New England, and co-author of an award-winning biography of Sir William Phips. Baker has been featured as an expert consultant on the PBS series Colonial House and has provided historical consultation for Parks Canada, National Geographic, Plimoth Plantation, Historic Salem, Inc., and other historic district commissions. Both of these books will be sold at the talk.




Theaters were strongly opposed by the Puritans and officially banned by the state legislature in 1750. So it is a testament to the city that once the ban was lifted in 1790, theaters have thrived here. Susan Roberts reviews fifty years of the city’s theater history, focusing on such legendary venues as the Boston Museum Theatre, the Boston Music Hall, Keith’s Theatres, and the Boston Theatre. Her presentation features a virtual tour of the B.F. Keith Theatre, one of the city’s most elegant in its time.

Susan is an avid collector of Boston-related theater ephemera and a researcher of Boston’s theatrical history. Her hands-on theater experience includes work as an electrician, carpenter, property mistress, stage manager, and box office manager. She holds a Master’s Degree in Theatre Management from Emerson College.


Click here for more information and to hear audio of selected talks from past seasons.

Local and Family History Lecture Series, Spring 2014

Posted on December 9th, 2013 by Gail Fithian in Events

A Recipe for Wellbeing: Health and Illness in Colonial New EnglandBoston’s ethnic neighborhoods are famous, but what do they look like today? Old enclaves and predictable patterns are changing as Boston becomes a more global city. The spring series looks at Boston’s three most diverse neighborhoods: East Boston, Mattapan, and Allston Brighton.

This series will complement the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center’s exhibit, A City of Neighborhoods: The Changing Face of Boston (running from March 14  to July 12 at the Central Library in Copley Square). The exhibit will feature maps of Boston’s immigrant population based on the 2010 federal census as well as historic, modern, and digitized maps.

Talks are on Wednesdays at 6pm in the Commonwealth Salon, unless otherwise noted. For full descriptions of the talks, click here.

January 15  Ethnic Enclaves, Edge Gateways, and the Global Boston / James Madden

Tuesday January 28 in Rabb Lecture Hall Turmoil and Transition in Boston: A Political Memoir from the Busing Era / Larry DiCara

January 29  Researching Your Ancestral Homes — Adding Stories to Your Family Tree / BPL Staff

Tuesday, February 4 in the Commonwealth Salon  The Race Underground: Boston, New York and the Incredible Rivalry that Built American’s First Subway / Doug Most

February 12  History of People, Places and Plans that Shaped East Boston / Antonio  Di Mambro

February 26  Boston’s Changing Neighborhoods with the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center and  Tools for Mapping Neighborhoods and Stories in the Digital Age / Evan Thornberry and Jonathan Wyss

 March 12  Jewish Settlement in and out of Mattapan  and The Roots of New Boston: Race and Ethnicity in Mattapan, 1860 – 2010 / Amy Schechtman and Dr. Kerri Greenidge

March 26  Family Research Through Oral History for Less Documented Groups /  Marian Pierre-Louis

April 9  Brighton:  the Historic Neighborhood / Anthony Mitchell Sammarco

April 23 Researching Your Jewish Ancestors in Old Boston Neighborhoods / Meredith Hoffman

May 7 Diaspora to the Boston Neighborhoods and Suburbs  / James O’Connell .

May 21 – Mining Family History – Gold in Local Archives and Speakers’ Round Table, with James Madden, Tunney Lee, Joanne Riley, Antonio Di Mambro, Kerri Greenidge, James O’Connell, Anthony Sammarco and Amy Schectman

BPL Local and Family History Lecture Series for 2013-2014

Posted on August 23rd, 2013 by Gail Fithian in Events

Save the dates! The new series rolls into its eleventh year in September. This fall, the talks will  focus on Colonial and Revolutionary Boston.

The series continues in January 2014 with talks dedicated to the theme Boston’s Changing Neighborhoods: History and Genealogy.

Programs are held two Wednesdays per month (except in December)  at 6pm in the Commonwealth Salon on the first floor of the Central Library in Copley Square.  Get details on each talk here.

September 11  The state archeologist, Victor Mastone, will give an illustrated talk on the Battle of Chelsea Creek, one of the lesser-known battles of the Revolutionary War.

September 25  Massachusetts State Archives staff will review the wealth of records at the Archives useful to researching colonial ancestors and the colonial era.

October 16  Nancy Rubin Stuart will speak on her new book, Defiant Brides, a dual biography of Peggy Arnold and Lucy Knox.

October 30  Maureen Taylor, aka the Photo Detective, will discuss her book and film project, The Last Muster, which uncovers photographs of Revolutionary War veterans who lived into the era of early photography.

November 6  Historian JL Bell will talk on Boston’s colonial newspapers and the men who published them. Bell contributed to Todd Andrilik’s Reporting the Revolutionary War and is the author of the very entertaining Boston 1775 blog.

November  20  Veteran genealogist Barbara Mathews will give tips on using colonial records in family history research.

December 4  Epidemiologist and genealogist Lori Lyn Price will discuss medicine and health in colonial New England. What types of health issues and diseases might your ancestor have experienced, and how might these conditions have been treated?


Collections and programs related to the fall series on Colonial and Revolutionary Boston are:

BPL Collections of Distinction: Colonial and Revolutionary Boston

BPL Collections of Distinction: American Revolutionary War Maps

BPL Collections of Distinction: John Adams Library

BPL Collections of Distinction: Local and Family History

Drinking Boston: A History of the City and Its Spirits

Posted on March 12th, 2013 by Gail Fithian in Events, Genealogy services
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Please join us this Thursday, March 14, for Stephanie Schorow’s illustrated talk on her newest book Drinking Boston: A History of the City and Its Spirits. Her book will be on sale following the talk. The book has fantastic photographs, some of which are taken from the Boston Public Library’s photograph collections. The book also has a wonderful QR code enabled app. Download it to your mobile device, take a walk around and see where many of  Boston’s speakeasies, bars, and nightclubs were located.  The photographs here are one of almost one hundred which depict Prohibition era Boston that  have been posted to the BPL’s Flickr photostream.  The  undated photo below, from the wonderful Leslie Jones Collection housed in the Print Department, shows police dismantling a speakeasy after it had been raided.


Stephanie Schorow will speak Thursday, March 14, in the Rabb Lecture Hall of the Central Library, 700 Boylston Street, at 6pm. Her book will be sold after the talk.



The Local and Family History Lecture Series

Posted on February 26th, 2013 by Gail Fithian in Events, Genealogy services
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BPL News and Events

Local & Family History Lecture Series at the Central Library

The Boston Public Library’s Local & Family History Lecture Series is in its 10th year of sharing information about the history of Boston and its neighborhoods along with tips and guides for those beginning their own genealogical research. All talks will be held in the Commonwealth Salon, Wednesdays 6pm on the dates noted, except for the Drinking Boston talk, which will take place in Rabb Lecture Hall on Thursday, March 14, 6pm.

Jump to: February | March | April | May

Alice Kane on US Chinese genealogyChinese-American and native Bostonian Alice (Yee) Kane presents a historical overview of Chinese immigration from southeastern China to the United States during the 19th and 20th centuries. Among the elements considered are Chinese societal and cultural values, immigration patterns, immigration and naturalization laws, and resources specific to researching Chinese-American citizens as found in courts and National Archives and Records Administration centers.Ms. Kane previously worked in the Boston Public Library’s Microtext Department before becoming a professional genealogist and researcher.
Ellen Berkland on Boston's Harbor IslandsOne of Boston’s most noted archaeologists presents the history of this unique area and explains why it can be considered a neighborhood. Ellen Berkland is the former Boston City Archeologist and currently serves as the Archaeologist for the Department of Conservation and Recreation. 

Thursday, March 14, Drinking Boston: A History of the City and its Spirits in Rabb Lecture Hall

Drinking Boston by Stephanie SchorowFrom the revolutionary camaraderie of the Colonial taverns to the saloons of the turn of the century; from Prohibition—a period rife with class politics, social reform, and opportunism—to a trail of nightclub neon so bright, it was called the “Conga Belt,” Drinking Boston pays tribute to the fascinating role alcohol has played throughout the city’s history. Includes book sale at the event.Stephanie Schorow wasn’t born in Boston, but the day she moved here in 1989, she knew she had come home. Ms. Schorow is the author of six books on Boston, including, with co-author Beverly Ford, The Boston Mob Guide: Hit Men, Hoodlums & Hideouts, published in December 2011, by the History Press and Drinking Boston: A History of the City and Its Spirits, published by Union Park Press on November 1, 2012.
The Kings Handbook to the Boston Harbor IslandsSuzanne Gall Marsh will share stories of the Boston Harbor Islands including Portuguese fishermen who floated their homes from Long Island to Peddocks Island, the Lovells Island lighthouse family, the Great Brewster Island community, and other little-known stories about the Harbor Islands.Ms. Marsh is the founder of Friends of the Boston Harbor Islands and is a program facilitator at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute program at UMass Boston and a seasonal ranger/interpreter with the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. 
James Campano and Duane Lucia on Boston's West EndJames Campano and Duane Lucia of the West End Museum present a broad look at an important American urban neighborhood from the seventeenth century to the present time. The West End Museum is a neighborhood museum located at 150 Staniford Street on the ground floor of West End Place, and is dedicated to the collection, preservation, and interpretation of the history and culture of the West End of Boston.Mr. Campano is the Founder of the West End Museum and Mr. Lucia is the Executive Director. 
Richard Andrew Pierce on West End FamiliesRichard Andrew Pierce provides insight to those facing the challenges of researching family histories in the unique urban neighborhood setting that is the West End. He is a consultant to the West End Museum and a professional genealogist in Boston. Mr. Pierce has traced the ancestries and missing heirs for hundreds of clients. His books and articles include: The Stones Speak: Irish Place Names from Inscriptions in Boston’s Mount Calvary Cemetery, The Wampanoag Genealogical History of Martha’s Vineyard, and a five-part series of articles on the ancestry of President Kennedy for the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s American Ancestors website. 

May 8 The Memoir Project: Recording the Memoirs of Boston’s Seniors

My Legacy is Simply This by Tula MahlSince 2008, Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Boston’s Elderly Commission have partnered with a local nonprofit, Grub Street, to produce The Memoir Project. The project has gathered senior citizens from Boston neighborhoods to write down their personal memories. The project guides participants in sharing their stories through writing their memories in bound journals for their families and future generations to learn from and remember. Project staff will describe how the partnership came about and explain the techniques they use for gathering and writing oral histories.Speakers include:

  • Tula Mahl, Deputy Commissioner of Communications and Policy for the City of Boston’s Commission on Elderly Affairs
  • Christopher Castellani, Artistic Director at Grub Street and author of three novels
  • Michelle Seaton, Lead Instructor and creator of the curriculum for the Memoir Project
  • Judith Klau, Senor Participant from the South End workshop of the Memoir Project

May 22 Memories and Mortuary Records: Community Archiving Projects at UMass Boston

Joanne Riley on Massachusetts MemoriesUMass Boston houses many archival collections that are utilized by family historians and researchers interested in exploring Boston and Massachusetts cultural history through the lives of individuals. The University’s collections include more than 4,000 stories and images in the Mass. Memories Road Show project, hundreds of case records from the Boston Female Asylum, and more than 30,000 mortuary records from the Massachusetts Catholic Association of Foresters between 1880 and 1940.Joanne Riley will share examples from these collections, and will discuss the fascinating, productive, and sometimes challenging interplay among individuals, communities, and institutional archives. Since 2010, Ms. Riley has served as University Archivist at the University of Massachusetts Boston.