Sunday, March 25, 2007

WHEN IN BOSTON by Jim Vrabel

As it says in my profile, I’m a bookseller and that gives
me the chance to find books that help my genealogy
research or just catch my interest because of my love of
history. I’ll be posting some of them here in hopes they
will interest others as well.

Here’s one:

March 22, 1630
John Winthrop sets sail from Southhampton, England
aboard the Arbella for New England. Sometime during the
voyage he writes “A Modell of Christian Charity” in which
he says the Massachusetts Bay Company’s new colony
should “be as a Citty upon a Hill”.

March 16, 1631
The first recorded fire in Boston history occurs when Thomas
Sharp’s wooden chimney causes his thatched roof to catch fire.
Lt. Gov. Dudley orders no further construction of buildings in
this manner.

March 22, 1802
Two men are ordered to stand in the State St. pillory for
punishment after destroying a vessel to collect the insurance.

These are paraphrases of some of the entries in Jim Vrabel’s
"When in Boston: A Timeline & Almanac”. Most of my
ancestors didn’t live in Boston but they surely would have
been aware of events in the largest city in New England and
the capital of Massachusetts. So this book caught my interest
when Mr. Vrabel was at my store for an autograph session in
2005. I can imagine how eagerly fresh gossip and news on the
latest events would have been listened to at church meetings
or taverns, especially during the Revolution.

The book is divided into blocks of mostly 25 year intervals
and types of events are divided into several categories ranging
from Population/ Immigration to Sports and each is marked in
the text by a small icon next to the entry. The icon for Disaster
/Tragedy for example is a flame symbol. (You’ll be surprised
how many times early Boston had major fires which destroyed
whole areas.) Entries range from a few sentences to several
paragraphs and make fascinating reading.

If I have one criticism of the book it would be that some sort of
quick index for events organized by the months would have been
nice but I realize that would have been gilding the lily.
The book is available from Northeastern University Press for
$24.95 in soft cover and if you have New England ancestors it’s
well worth the price.

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