Boston Public Library
Programs and Events

Local & Family History Lecture Series at the Central Library

 

Boston Public Library's Local & Family History Lecture Series shares information about the history of Boston and its diverse neighborhoods along with tips and guides for those beginning their own genealogical research. 
 
Lectures in 2015 will take place in the Abbey Room, which is on the second floor of the McKim building. The McKim building faces Dartmouth Street

Author Talk with Roseanne Montillo, author of The Wilderness of Ruin: A Tale of Madness, Fire, and the Hunt for America's Youngest Serial Killer

Wed.
Apr. 15
6 p.m.

Abbey Room
A History of Boston Theater, 1850-1900

In the late nineteenth-century, a serial killer preying on children was on the loose in Boston – a wilderness of ruin caused by the Great Fire of 1872. Authorities believed the abductions were the handiwork of a psychopath, until they discovered that their killer – fourteen-year-old Jesse Pomeroy – was barely older than his victims. The criminal investigation that followedA History of Boston Theater, 1850-1900 sparked a debate among the world’s most revered medical minds and had a long-lasting impact on the judicial system and medical consciousness for decades. In The Wilderness of Ruin, Roseanne Montillo explores how the case that reverberated through all of Boston society sheds light on our modern hunger for the prurient and sensational. Montillo is the author of The Lady and Her Monsters and is a professor of literature at Emerson College. 

 

Author Talk with Nathan Gorenstein, author of Tommy Gun Winter: Jewish Gangsters, a Preacher’s Daughter, and the Trial That Shocked 1930s Boston

Wed.
Apr. 22
6 p.m.

Abbey Room
A History of Boston Theater, 1850-1900

In Tommy Gun Winter, Nathan Gorenstein tells the true tale of two brothers who – along with an MIT graduate and a minister’s daughter – once competed for headlines with John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Bonnie and Clyde. Their crimes and the dogged investigation that followed led to the longest murder trial in MassachusettsA History of Boston Theater, 1850-1900 state history. Gorenstein explores how the Boston saga of sex, ethnicity, and bloodshed  made the trio and their “red-headed gun moll” infamous in Depression-era America. He also examines the Millen, Faber, and Brighton families and introduces the cops, psychiatrists, newspaper men and women, and the ordinary citizens who were caught up in the extraordinary Tommy Gun Winter of 1934. Gorenstein is a former investigative reporter with the Philadelphia Inquirer and is a two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee.

 

Sex, DNA, and Family History

Wed.
Apr. 29
6 p.m.

Abbey Room
A History of Boston Theater, 1850-1900

Genetic genealogy – the use of DNA for defining ancestral relationships – is a new tool for family historians when historical documentation is unclear or unavailable. In this lecture, Shellee Morehead describes the possibilities and limits of using DNA to explore your family history. Morehead, PhD, is a certified genealogist and the author of scientific and genealogical articles in national and international journals. She has appeared on Danish Broadcasting Corporation’s Who Do You Think You Are? and specializes in Rhode Island, Italian immigrant, French-Canadian, and genetic genealogy research.

 

Robert Love’s Warnings: Searching for Strangers in Colonial Boston

Wed.
May. 6
6 p.m.

Abbey Room
Robert Love’s Warnings

In colonial America, warning out was a way for a community to regulate those to whom it would extend welfare. Between 1765 and 1774, Robert Love warned four thousand itinerants, including migrant workers, demobilized British soldiers, and other newcomers. Cornelia Hughes Dayton will discuss why so many people were on the move throughout the British Atlantic and why they came to Boston. She is Associate Professor of History at the University of Connecticut.

 

Women and Physical Culture in Nineteenth-Century Boston

Wed.
May. 13
6 p.m.

Abbey Room
A History of Boston Theater, 1850-1900

Several pioneering women changed the face of sports and recreation in Boston at the close of the nineteenth century. Helaine Davis and Linda Stern discuss the large role these women played in the physical culture movement, which coincided with societal changes such as immigration, industrialization, the development of the modern concept of public health, and the continuing fight for women’s suffrage. Davis currently works as a consulting librarian, assisting individuals with their research in genealogy, American history, rare books, and decorative and fine arts. Stern has developed curricula as both a teacher and librarian and has worked extensively with primary sources related to the abolitionist, suffrage, and Transcendentalist movements.

 

Finding Living Ancestors: Being a Genealogy Gumshoe

Wed.
May. 27
6 p.m.

Abbey Room

A History of Boston Theater, 1850-1900 When uncovering genealogy, most often researchers are looking for ancestors. Sometimes, however, it is necessary to find a living relative in order to track down records, get a DNA sample to solve a family mystery, or return a rare photo or family Bible to a descendant. But finding the living can be just as challenging as discovering an ancestor. In this lecture, Mike Maglio gives pointers on how to locate your living relatives. Maglio is a professional genealogist, writer, and speaker. He graduated from Northeastern University with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering. As a genetic genealogist, Maglio advises on the use of DNA as a tool for genealogy through his site originsdna.com. His focus combines science and history to unravel ancestral genetic migrations.

Boston and the American Revolution

Mon.
Jun. 1
6 p.m.

Abbey Room

The American RevolutionWhy did the Revolution begin in Boston?  What caused Bostonians to be more rebellious than other British subjects in North America?  What were the Revolution's consequences in Boston and beyond?
Professor Robert Allison will examine these questions and discuss the consequences of the Revolution in Boston and beyond. Robert J. Allison is chairman of the history department of Suffolk University and teaches courses in American Constitutional history and the history of Boston at Harvard Extension School. He recently taught the popular massive online open course on the history of Boston.  He is vice president of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, and an elected fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society. His many books include The Boston MassacreA Short History of Boston, and The American Revolution: A Concise History

Lafayette in America in 1824 and 1825

Mon.
Jul. 13
6 p.m.

Commonwealth Salon

The American RevolutionOn the same week as the historic arrival of the replica of Lafayette’s frigate Hermione to Boston Harbor, Alan R. Hoffman brings us expert insight into the Marquis and his farewell tour of America. Hoffman, the translator of Lafayette in America in 1824 and 1825: A Firsthand Account of Lafayette's Farewell Tour of America, describes the full extent of his reputation and explores its origins. This program is presented as part of Revolutionary Boston, a citywide commemoration. To see a full list of programs, visit http://www.bpl.org/revolution.

Previous Local & family History Lectures

Listen to audio recordings of selected lectures from previous Local & Family History series: