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

Early American Crime & Criminals

Wed.
Jan. 14
6 p.m.

Abbey Room
A History of Boston Theater, 1850-1900

Anthony Vaver shares insights from his books Bound with an Iron Chain: The Untold Story of How the British Transported 50,000 Convicts to Colonial America and Early American Criminals: An American Newgate Calendar, Chronicling the Lives of the Most Notorious Criminal Offenders from Colonial America and the New Republic. In the eighteenth century, thousands of British convicts were separated from their families, A History of Boston Theater, 1850-1900chained together in the hold of a ship, and carried off to America. Bound with an Iron Chain explores what happened to these convicts once they arrived. Early American Criminals tells dark, compelling, and even humorous stories from America’s earliest criminal underworld of murderers, pirates, and counterfeiters. Vaver writes and publishes the blog Early American Crime. He has a PhD from the State University of New York, Stony Brook and an MLS from Rutgers University.

 

Get Started on Your Family History

Wed.
Jan. 28
6 p.m.

Abbey Room
A History of Boston Theater, 1850-1900

The basic tenet of researching family history is to work from the known to the unknown. With that motto as a guide, Rhonda R. McClure outlines the first steps to uncovering your genealogy and gives pointers that make getting started less daunting. McClure is a nationally recognized professional genealogist and lecturer specializing in New England and celebrity research as well as computerized genealogy. She has compiled more than 120 celebrity family trees and has been a contributing editor for Heritage Quest and Biography magazines. In addition to numerous articles, she is the author of ten books, including the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition, Finding Your Famous (& Infamous) Ancestors, and Digitizing Your Family History.

The Eliot School and the Catholic Exodus of 1859

Wed.
Feb. 11
6 p.m.

Abbey Room
A History of Boston Theater, 1850-1900

Founded in 1700, the John Eliot School is the third oldest in the entire Boston Public School system. In 1859 it was the site of a bloody incident, when a Catholic boy named Thomas Whall was severely beaten for refusing to recite the then-required Protestant prayers in the classroom. Alex Goldfeld explores this event and places it in the context of public education and Catholic immigration in nineteenth-century Boston. Goldfeld is a public historian and has led tours of Boston’s historic A History of Boston Theater, 1850-1900neighborhoods since 2000. He has also served as director of operations at Boston’s Museum of African American History. He is the author of The North End: A Brief History of Boston’s Oldest Neighborhood.

 

Paddy on the Net: Using Irish Genealogy Databases

Wed.
Feb. 25
6 p.m.

Abbey Room
A History of Boston Theater, 1850-1900

Michael Brophy discusses the many resources now available online for discovering your Irish ancestors, including the best websites and recent landmark additions of vital records and census information. He also assesses and critiques finding aids for further research of Irish ancestry. Brophy is a professional genealogical researcher, heir search specialist, and lecturer from the Boston area. He has served as a board member on the Massachusetts Genealogical Council. He was also featured on Dead Money, an Irish TV series about heir searchers, and conducted research for the show Who Do You Think You Are?

 

Life Stories in White and Black from Forest Hills Cemetery

Wed.
Mar. 11
6 p.m.

Abbey Room
A History of Boston Theater, 1850-1900

White and black Boston abolitionists, faced with making social justice a reality, wanted their eternal neighborhood to be open to all. Many chose Forest Hills Cemetery as their final resting place. Notable figures buried there include William Lloyd Garrison, Edward Everett Hale, William C. Nell, fugitive slave Daniel Thomas, and Lysander Spooner. John J. Smith, an African American barber who recruited soldiers for black regiments during the Civil War, and his wife Georgiana, a reformer dedicated to school integration, also purchased a plot there. Dee Morris places these individual stories in the context of Forest Hills to build a rich community narrative highlighting a tumultuous era in Boston history. Morris is a social historian and the author of Boston in the Golden Age of Spiritualism: Seances, Mediums, and Immortality.

 

Author Talk with Dick Lehr, author of The Birth of a Nation: How a Legendary Filmmaker and a Crusading Editor Reignited America's Civil War

Wed.
Mar. 25
6 p.m.

Abbey Room
A History of Boston Theater, 1850-1900

In 1915, the crusading Boston editor William Monroe Trotter attempted to censor filmmaker D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, inciting a public confrontation. Dick Lehr explores how the fight roiled America, pitting black against white, Hollywood against Boston, and free speech against civil rights. He also examines how Trotter’s titanic crusade became a blueprint for dissentA History of Boston Theater, 1850-1900 during the 1950s and 1960s. Lehr, a professor of journalism at Boston University, was a reporter at the Boston Globe for nearly two decades. He has won numerous national and regional journalism awards and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Lehr is the author of The Fence, a Boston Globe bestseller, and coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, the FBI, and a Devil’s Deal and its sequel Whitey: The Life of America’s Most Notorious Mob Boss.

 

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.

 

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. 

Previous Local & family History Lectures

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