Holiday Gift Guide – Gifts for Family Archivists


The family archivist has gathered a collection of photographs, documents, and artifacts that tell the fascinating tale of your family’s past – here’s some gift ideas to help get all of those treasures organized!

  1. Treat your heirloom ornaments to a special upgrade this season and invest in an archival quality storage box to safeguard your holiday ornaments to pass down to future generations. Lineco Archival Divided Ornament Storage Box
  2. Denise May Levenick’s excellent How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia and Genealogy Records is a great guide to how to organize those boxes of family keepsakes that have been waiting in a closet or basement as a future “to-do” project.
  3. Gaylord Archival My Family History Kit is a wonderful place to start organizing your valuable records.
  4.  Scrapbook lovers can use these great 12×12 photo sleeve sheet protectors, which are a great way to fit a lot of photographs in one album.
  5.  Create easy categories for your historic documents with Gaylord Archival Letter-Size File Folders These folders are acid-free, lignin-free, and passed the Photographic Activity Test.
  6. Your family records should ideally be kept in temperature-controlled indoor spaces. But if you don’t yet have the time to organize your papers and they are still sitting in a basement or attic, at the very least grab some weather-tight storage boxes to keep out bugs or water, like this 19 quart IRIS Weathertight Storage Box.
  7.  Savor’s Artwork and School Memories Keepsake Box is an elegant storage system for baby items or childhood school papers. The School Years Edition Keepsake Box has lots of customizable storage options for important childhood memories. The box comes with envelopes and vertical storage for document, plus drawers for small artifacts, with numerous illustrated labels. A great keepsake box!
  8. Have a really big photo project on the horizon? Investing in the incredible Epson FastFoto FF-680W photo printer allows you to autoscan hundreds or thousands of photograph, allowing for custom sizing and file naming to assist in your next digitization project.
  9. Once those photos have been scanned, check out this great source on how to organize and make sense of all your old photos with How to Archive Family Photos: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize and Share Your Photos Digitally.
  10. Archivist Shirt – for the archivist in your life to let everyone know who puts the “special” in Special Collections!

And stay tuned for some awesome gift ideas for all the history lovers in your life this holiday season!

The Sturtevant Triple Murder: Part Two: News Spreads Like Wildfire

Sturtevant Murder


In 1856, a telegraph line was constructed along the Fall River Railroad track from Myrick’s Station in Berkley, Massachusetts to Boston, passing through Bridgewater.  [Kingman, History of North Bridgewater, p. 347] Following the discovery of the Sturtevant murders on Monday, February 16th, someone ran to the Bridgewater telegraph office and sent a telegraph far and wide to newspapers across the nation. On Tuesday morning,  February 17th, before any arrests had been made in the case,  newspapers in Vermont, New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Chicago, Nashville, Iowa, Michigan, Los Angeles, and more ran the horrific details of the “Triple Tragedy”.


Map showing lines of Old Colony Railroad (O.C.R.R.) and Fall River Railroad (F.R.R.R.) in 1846. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Here’s a sample of the telegraph, as reported in the St. Albans Daily Messenger in St. Albans, Vermont:


Horrible Tragedy in Massachusetts.


Boston, 17 [February].

Details of the triple tragedy at Halifax, Mass., show that on Monday morning, a shoemaker by the name of Lull, having occasion to visit a neighbor, stumbled upon the body of a maiden lady, about seventy years of age, lying on a cross path about thirty rods from the farm house of Thomas and Simeon Sturtevant, with whom she lived in the capacity of house keeper. She was lying face downward, and the back of her head had been crushed. In hastening on to inform the Sturtevants, the man found the body of Thomas Sturtevant stretched full length in the porch of the dwelling, cold in the embrace of death, with a lantern by his side. His face was most brutally mangled. In a bed-room was found the remains of Simeon Sturtevant. The walls and ceilings of the apartment were bespattered with blood. The weapon with which all the murders were committed was evidently a sled stake about four feet in length, as one was found blood-stained, near where the body of the woman was discovered. The village where the murder was committed is a thriving little hamlet, thirty miles distant from this city, and contains a population of less than 800. The brothers, Sturtevant, were the wealthiest citizens of that town and highly respected. The murder was evidently committed for money. There is no clue to the assassin.”


1874-02-17 St Albans Sturtevant Murder

St. Albans Daily Messenger (St. Albans, Vt.) 17 Feb. 1874, p. 3.

Telegraph lines enabled news of the terrible murders to spread thousands of miles across the country before police could even begin their investigation in earnest. And what would they discover upon their arrival?

Next Up: The Sturtevant Triple Murder: Part Three: “Horrors Truly Multiply”

Previously: The Sturtevant Triple Murder: A Ghastly Discovery


[Photograph of the “Halifax Tragedy House” by photographer J.H. Williams of South Scituate, Mass. courtesy Historic New England.]

Holiday Gift Guide – Gifts For Murderinos


Here are are a few ideas to give some spooky chills, cozy reading, and DNA investigation to the favorite true-crime afficiando in your life! Murderinos everywhere can curl up with the following gifts (but maybe keep the lights on…)

  1. A must-have for every Georgia and Karen fan. Their book Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide is a hilarious behind the scenes of their successful podcast, with fascinating autobiographical tales that are both funny and sobering.
  2. Pour your favorite beverage into this Stay Sexy Don’t Get Murdered Wine Tumbler.
  3. Journalist Michelle McNamara’s beautiful I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, about her hunt for the Golden State Killer details his horrific crimes across California. Publishing posthumously after her tragic death, the Golden State Killer was caught using groundbreaking genetic genealogy just two months after her book was released.
  4.  Discover some mysteries from your own past by taking a genetic genealogy test through Ancestry DNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage, or FamilyTreeDNA.
  5. Once you have have your DNA results, analyze them to their full potential with Blaine Bettinger’s The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy.
  6.  “Evidence” Pouch. A cute little pouch or purse to take your important evidence to lab, or a night on the town!
  7. Master Detective Toolkit. Great for kids or a silly game night.
  8.  Do One Thing Everyday That Scares You. A daily journal to challenge yourself!
  9. Unwind with a podcast or favorite novel in the tub with this awesome Organic Bath Bomb Gift Set.
  10. Folklorist Michael Bell has documented over 100 cases of a desperate folk medicine belief in early New England – exhuming the bodies of dead loved ones due to the superstitious suspicion that the dead were “vampirically” sapping the life force of surviving family members. Read the fascinating tale Food for the Dead: On the Trail of New England’s Vampires.


And stay tuned for some awesome gift ideas for all the history lovers in your life this holiday season!

The Sturtevant Triple Murder: Part One: A Ghastly Discovery

Sturtevant Murder

On a cold winter morning on Monday, February 16, 1874, 41 year old shoemaker Stephen P. Lull cut through a path behind the Sturtevant house on Thompson St. in Halifax, Plymouth County, Massachusetts when he noticed an unusual shape in the field behind the house. As he came closer, he was horrified to discover the body of his neighbor, 69 year old Mary Buckley, lying face down on the ground “with her head beaten to a pumice”.  The murder weapon, a four foot long piece of wood, was found later that day several feet away from Mary’s body. Lull hurried to the Sturtevant home to notify the two elderly Sturtevant brothers of their cousin Mary’s death. He was shocked as he entered the home to find the body of 74 year old Thomas Sturtevant on the porch with a lantern at his side, and the body of 70 year old Simeon Sturtevant dead in his bed. All three victims had been violently bashed in the head.

Neighbors quickly gathered at the Sturtevant house, and tended to the bodies while speculating who could have committed such a horrible crime. There was evidence that some money had been stolen from the house, but a number of valuable items remained in the home. The Sturtevant brothers were known to be wealthy and frugal and untrusting of banks, so robbery seemed the most likely motive to the crime. Telegraphs were quickly sent to local, county, and state officials who were called to arrive as quickly as possible. Telegraphs were also sent to newspaper offices around the United States notifying the nation of the horrific scene, and some papers printed the details faster than police actually arrived on site.


Horrible Tragedy at Halifax, Mass.- Two Men and One Woman Murdered- Story of the Triple Tragedy

A dispatch from Bridgewater states that at Halifax, Mass., a most terrible murder has been committed. The victims were two unmarried brothers, named Simeon and Thomas Sturtevant, and their housekeeper, named Mercy Buckley. The three victims lived in a solitary house, on a cross road, about a mile and a half from the Halifax school-house. The three were understood to be blessed with a good share of funds, which they kept in the house. They had lived in the house for many years, and although they had many friends among the neighbors, sometimes several days would pass without anyone visiting them. Yesterday, a neighbor by the name of Lull was passing in the rear of the dwelling of the Sturtevants, when some, forty rods from the house, in a field, he discovered the body of Miss Buckley, upon the ground, with her head beaten to a pumice. He at once gave the alarm, and proceeded to the house where she lived when he was shocked by a ghastly spectacle of the dead body of Thomas Sturtevant near the door as he entered. Upon still further search, it was found that Simeon, the other brother, was also lying lifeless upon his bed, with his head also bearing evidence of having been beaten with a club. The nearest neighbors were but twenty rods distant, but no clue at present has been reached as to who the authors of this shocking murder. Word was at once sent to the neighboring towns and to Plymouth, and no effort will be spared to bring to light the authors of this awful tragedy. It is not known that any considerable amount of money was in the possession of these unfortunate victims; still it is conjectured that the motive was robbery.


Boston Globe, 17 Feb. 1874, p. 1.


Next: News of the murders spread like wildfire


[Photograph of the “Halifax Tragedy House” by photographer J.H. Williams of South Scituate, Mass. courtesy Historic New England.]