Find Your Family History via DNA and Records

By Shuangming Pang

8/12/2018

For those who have questions about their past, Boston has resources to find the answers. When 7-year-old David Allen Lambert came home from school, he opened a tintype metal photograph and saw a man he didn’t know. So Lambert asked his 80-year-old grandma: “Nana, who is this?”

“This is my dad,” his grandmother said. Being a curious little boy, Lambert asked, “Where did he live?” Lambert’s grandmother then showed him the genealogy her family had recorded. But she wasn’t of all that was in there because it was published before she was born. “Nana, let’s write a new book,” Lambert said. 

His lifelong hobby for researching family history turned into an occupation. Lambert started working at the New England Historic Genealogical Society since 1993, and now he is the chief genealogist.

“DNA basically allow us to flip over the pages of many years that would never be found in a paper trail,” said Lambert.

Lambert’s great-great-great-grandfather came over in 1792 from Ireland to Canada. But there was no record that could tell where in Ireland his great-great-great-grandfather came from. The DNA allowed Lambert to find someone who had the same DNA as him. That person’s family came over 90 years later than his great-great-great-grandfather did to Brooklyn, N.Y.

Lambert’s father was in World War II and his mother was born in 1896. Lambert carries two markers of DNA from his great-great-great-grandfather who followed the American Revolutionary War, which he matches with a cousin from the other childhood.

“It’s fun to know that I am carrying around something over 200 years old,” Lambert smiled, “that’s probably why my back hurts because I have these old genes.”

The New England History Genealogical Society gives free orientations and tours to introduce people to the resources available at the library’s research facility.

Inside the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Photo by Shuangming Pang

Lambert has helped countless people over the past 25 years to find their family trees—from anyone interested in history to politicians and celebrities.

For Helen Davis, a retired professor from Massachusetts, her journey of finding family history started off when her mother told Davis her ancestor  was named Bentley.

“It was always my goal to connect my family from my generation back to the Bentley who was involved in the revolution in a big way,” Davis said.

The New England Historic Genealogical Society has a lot of archives for genealogy research. Photo by Shuangming Pang 

Davis started her genealogy research in 2000. She used the online database to prove the true connections with William Bentley, a minister in Salem, Massachusetts.  That interested Davis. “If I go back this far,” she asked, “how much further can I go back?”

Gavin O’Brien, a new member in the New England History Genealogical Society whose family was originally from the Boston area, research his mother side’s of history who came over from Italy in 1900s.

Lisa Wenner, a retired library director at Williamsburg Libraries is also a member at the New England History Genealogical Society. She was looking for information about her great-grandmother since nobody in her family know anything about her.

Priscilla-Anne O’Neill is also a member. She wants to get back to Scotland where her ancestor from and find more names and connections.

About Shuangming Pang 4 Articles
Shuangming Pang is a multimedia journalist. Shuangming got the Bachelor degree in journalism at Shanghai University of Sports. She covered the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics as an intern producer of the sports channel at Shanghai Media Group, as well as a news editor of the college sports magazine during her undergraduate studies.