Diane Rapaport is a professional genealogist, historical consultant, award-winning author, popular speaker (and former trial lawyer). She holds a J.D., magna cum laude, from the University of Minnesota Law School, and a B.A. in History from the Ohio State University. Her first book, New England Court Records: A Research Guide for Genealogists and Historians, won Benjamin Franklin Awards from the Independent Book Publishers Association�Best History Book, Best Reference Book, and finalist for Best New Voice in Nonfiction. Her latest book, The Naked Quaker: True Crimes and Controversies from the Courts of Colonial New England, was a finalist for ForeWord magazine�s �Book of the Year� award for History. Diane also writes for magazines, including her �Tales from the Courthouse� column in American Ancestors (formerly New England Ancestors) magazine, journal of the New England Historic Genealogical Society.
A specialist in New England research�particularly court records and other primary sources�Diane is based in the Boston area and works on-site at repositories in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Recently she served as a research consultant and was filmed for the BBC-London TV series �Who Do You Think You Are?� Diane has presented more than 150 lectures and workshops about genealogy and history at a wide range of venues: colleges and universities, libraries, historical and genealogical societies, museums, TV and radio. She is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists and other national and regional genealogical organizations. For more information, visit Diane�s websites, QuillPenHistorical.com and DianeRapaport.com, and connect with her at Facebook.com/dianerapaport.
Favorite Genealogy Quote
�I write to keep in contact with our ancestors and to spread truth to people.� Sonia Sanchez--poet, playwright, activist and author
What are your specific genealogical interests?
New England genealogy�especially the 17th and 18th centuries�is the focus of my work, and I enjoy helping people document their ancestry for lineage society membership (Mayflower, DAR, SAR, etc.). And as a former trial lawyer, I bring a unique insider�s perspective to court records research. Court records offer a wealth of genealogical information�and colorful true stories!�about our ancestors.
What got you into genealogy?
I have been hooked on genealogy since I was a child. My parents were family history buffs, so our summer vacations always included stops at cemeteries and court houses to search for yet another record, or we followed the routes of ancestors� migrations and visited battlefields where they fought. These family adventures brought the past to life for me, and not surprisingly, I decided to study history in college, and I continued researching genealogy as an adult. And what I have always enjoyed the most about family history is learning about our ancestors� stories�what their lives were like and the kind of people they were�beyond the standard names, dates and places on the family tree.
Most surprising genealogical find:
It is hard to pick a single �most surprising� find; almost every week I run into something unexpected, especially in court records. Did you know, for example, that Quaker women were taking their clothes off in public in 17th-century Massachusetts as a protest tactic against policies of the Puritans? Or that Scottish war prisoners were exiled to America in the mid 1600s and sold as slaves to English colonists? More surprising true stories like these are �out there� in the archives, waiting to be discovered, which keeps me always interested in the next research project.
If you could find the family history of any historical great, who would it be and why?
I would like to know more about the family of a man who should be more famous: Thomas Danforth of 17th-century New England. Anyone who studies Puritan Massachusetts inevitably runs across Danforth�s name in court records and other documents. For 50 years he was at the center of New England government�as a judge and legislator, Deputy Governor of Massachusetts, President of the United Colonies , Harvard College official, and many other roles�and although he had his faults, he was one of the busiest, hardest-working men of his time. We have Thomas Danforth to thank, perhaps as much as the later Founding Fathers, for laying the foundations of the free United States that emerged in the 18th century. But surprisingly, few of Danforth�s personal papers have survived�unless they are still in an attic of one of his descendants!�so I am always on the lookout for more records about him and his family.