Spring 2005 (April, May, June, July, August 2005)
Newsletter of the Greater LowellGenealogy Club
April: Chelmsford Public Library. Saturday, April 23, 2005 from 1pm to 3pm. Rootsweb video by Rhonda McClure. This is an excellent video.
May: Saturday, May 14, 2005. Trip to the Massachusetts State Archives.
June-Aug: HAVE A GREAT SUMMER!
May meeting: Field trip to the State Archives next to the Kennedy Library in Boston. The archives contain vital records up to 1910, court records for probate, divorce, adoption, and naturalization, and MA military records. This will be an all day trip, so pack a lunch. Anyone interested in attending needs to contact Maureen or Karen by April 23 using the form on last sheet or by phone or e-mail.
January Meeting: Except for the threat of a snow storm we had a wonderful meeting. In fact, we could have stayed and stayed and stayed, just listening to Marcia Melnyk’s lecture on Overcoming Brick Walls. She was a superb speaker who gave us many new ideas for crumbling brick walls. We all have them, don’t we, and certainly need help finding them. Although, Marcia’s theory is that they will be found only when they want to be!
Marcia answered many questions from the audience. Members in attendance:
Bill Cheetham, Ann Casey, Diane Shields, Mary Latham, Yvonne and Ed Miller, Terry Masson, Don and Madeline Pattershall, Karen Jeffers, Barbara Poole and Maureen Famolare. Guests: Judy Sylvia and Tara Greaves.
Extra handouts from Marcia are available, contact Maureen.
February Meeting: We had a very interesting February meeting. Albert Dudley, a member in good standing, presented the members in attendance with a fantastic list of research sites in New England. In fact the list is so good we decided to include it with the newsletter. This is why we try to have general meetings – so worthwhile information can be exchanged. We hope more members can come to future meetings to give and exchange ideas. After all, this is why we formed the club in the first place! Members in attendance:
Barbara Updyke, Albert Dudley, Sandra Dudley, Mary Latham, Helen Bunney, Barbara Murphy, Laura Bedard, Karen Jeffers and Maureen Famolare.
March Meeting: We attended a meeting of the Essex Society of Genealogists in Lynnfield. Those of us that attended were treated to another fantastic lecture by Marcia Melnyk.
This lecture was on Immigrant Research Strategies. We all have them, don’t we, and certainly need help finding them! Although, Marcia’s theory is that they will be found only when they want to be!
Members in attendance: Shirley Orr, Marilyn Day, Bill Cheetham, Barbara Poole, Diane Shields, Barbara Updyke, Karen Jeffers, Laura Bedard and Theresa Dionne
We would like to welcome the following :
Rosemary Nunnally, Pembroke, NH
Barbara Murphy, Billerica, MA
William Hardy, Lowell, MA
Frederick Barnes, Fairfield, CA
President – Maureen Famolare –
978-663-6491 – Jimsmoe@comcast.net
Vice President - Diane Laferriere -
978-649-3855 – Kazthecat@msn.com
Secretary – Barbara Poole -
Treasurer – Karen Jeffers – 978-663-3664
Information – P-L-E-A-S-E
If you have any ideas for speakers, day trips or general meetings, OR if you have any interesting tidbits of information contact:
Maureen – Jimsmoe@comcast.net
Karen – KAJeffers5@aaahawk.com
We love stories, hints, queries or interesting web sites. Heck, just about anything you want to send us! Thanks.
Tidbits from Barbara Poole:
Visits or calls were made to several local libraries to inquire about genealogy subscription databases on their public computers.
The Lowell(Pollard) Library has AncestryPlus.
The Chelmsford (Adams) has AncestryPlus and NewEnglandAncestors.
The Billerica Library has Heritage Quest (for Billericaresidents only).
The Tewksbury Library has AncestryPlus and NewEnglandAncestors.
The Westford Library has Heritage Quest (for Westford residents only) and AncestryPlus,
The Dracut Library will have something, once they move back to the new building in the fall.
Note: NewEnglandAncestors.org is the New England Historic & Genealogical Society’s (NEHGS) site. Among the records are the Mass. Vital Records, 1841-1910, many are scanned, and all are indexed (this is an on-going project), scanned pages of the Register from 1847-1994 and many other databases. The Heritage Quest has most censuses, books and other resources. The AncestryPlus (is similar to regular subscriptions, but is for libraries)
Some interesting Free web sites to check out:
http://www.anybirthday.com -- Insert somebody’s name or zip code, and if you are lucky a birth date will appear. I did it for several deceased ancestors with a very unusual name, and it worked.
http://www.gravematter.com -- Cemetery listings for several New England states with photos.
http://www.familyoldphotos.com -- Interesting site with good information. You could get lucky!
http://www.ipums.org/usa/voliii/tEnumInstr.html Enumerator Instructions for the census years 1850 to 2000. Go to home site for additional useful information.
We have decided to summarize an article by Richard A. Pence. The original article can be found in its entirety at http://ftp.rootsweb.com/pub/roots-1/genealog/genealog.fhsearch
The original article was syndicate in 1977 and again in 1982 by the Register and Tribune Syndicate.
This is the final installment
COURTHOUSE RESEARCH TIPS
As always, be sure to take complete citations when extracting wills, deeds or other court records. Witnesses or those who gave bond for certain transactions should also be recorded, for these may have been relatives.
Remember that in the early years of our country, many people could not read or write, so watch for variant spellings of the name you are searching. Often names were recorded as they sounded to clerks. This is how the name Bentz became Pence in most parts of the U.S.(The German "B" is often pronounced as "P.") Most often the spellings we use today were the result of an accident,
not a deliberate effort. It's probably not worth your while to look for a court record for a name change, for it was seldom done. Likewise, people who spell
a similar surname different from you may be related to you, while those who spell it the same may not.
A few years ago, notice was taken of the legal name change made by a prominent person. A Johannes Hart Pence lived in New Jersey in colonial times. One of his sons, out of deference to his grandmother's maiden name, began using Hartpence as his surname. Generations later, a member of this family, remembering the story about the name having been changed in early days, went to court to have it changed back to "the old way." That's why a presidential candidate has the name Gary Hart instead of Gary Pence!
Another thing to watch for is translation of names. The German Zimmerman became its English equivalent, Carpenter, for example.
You also need to watch for misspellings of place names, particularly in deeds. In searching for the spot where an ancestor lived, I kept finding it described as being "at the foot of Rich Mountain." No such place could be found on any map, old or new, in the area. I finally figured out why. The ancestor was German and if he described the land to an English clerk, he would describe it with a German accent. If the word was pronounced "rich," what might the correct word be? Answer: "Ridge." Sure enough, Ridge Mountainwas on the map and the land was located.
And, in earlier times, the boundaries of the counties were constantly changing. Thus, in order for you to concentrate your research in the proper place, you need to know the geographic history of the areas you are interested in.
For instance, some of my ancestors lived for many years in Shenandoah County, VA. This county was created in 1772 from a portion of Frederick County, which in turn was created in 1738 from orange and Augusta counties - both of which were carved out of other counties. And today, the land on which they lived is located in Page County, which was created from Shenandoah County in 1833. Therefore, depending on the dates involved, you might have to search the courthouses of three or more counties to find the appropriate record for an individual.
Everton's "Handy Book" (mentioned earlier) can provide you with information about the formation of counties.
Family Bibles or information on tombstones are excellent records - but there are some things you have to be careful about. For instance, Bibles usually are accurate family records, but you should check the date the Bible was printed. If it was printed in 1850 and contains family birth, death and marriage records back into the 1700s, obviously someone wrote these records long after the fact and may not have known the facts or remembered accurately, or even could have been told the wrong information.
Also, you should check the handwriting carefully. If several entries are in the same shade of ink in almost identical handwriting, it's a good sign those entries were made at the same time and probably not concurrent with the event. The date of the last nearly identical record is probably closest to the recording date.
Tombstones, too, are sometimes erected many years after a person dies and therefore might contain erroneous dates. Or the stonecutter could have erred or been given the wrong information. Be careful, too, of printed compilations of cemetery records (this applies to other published material, such as marriage records), because errors can be made in copying, indexing or publishing. A book on one cemetery contains entry for one of my wife's ancestors, including this quote: "son of N.B." This contradicted other information and it was not until much later - when I had someone recheck the stone for me - that I learned the correct inscription was: "Erected by his son, W.B." This fit what I had previously believed.
When copying cemetery inscriptions, be careful not to misread numbers or letters. The number 4 is often carved with a light horizontal line that wears away leaving what looks like the number 1 or 7. Other numbers that are easy to misread: 3 and 8, B and 6, 5 and 3. Letters usually are more distinct, but C, G, D and O can be confused. Mar and May are hard to distinguish, as are Jul and Jun. When copying, place a question mark over letters or numbers you are unsure of.
Be sure to record surrounding stones, for they can provide clues to family relationships. Look for markers outlining family plots and note the names of all those buried within the plot. A woman who was a widow for a number of years, or a bride who died young, might be buried with her parents, and others with different names may be related.
Many cemeteries will not be well cared for and will be badly overgrown. The best time to search is the early spring or late fall when the foliage is thin and the weeds short. Helpful equipment for "tombstone hunting" includes carpenter's chalk (for rubbing over letters to make them easier to read), a putty knife to scrape debris off fallen stones, a scrub brush to clean stones, a crowbar to turn heavy stones, perhaps an axe to clear away underbrush or a shovel to dig away from sunken stones, and a camera to record unusual stones.
Even if your ancestor is buried in an unmarked grave, if you know the cemetery he or she is buried in you can sometimes get information about him from cemetery records. Write a library or historical society near the cemetery to learn if such records are available. Larger city cemeteries usually have a sexton who maintains such records. If one exists for the cemetery you are interested in, that is the person to contact.
Marriage notices, obituaries and birth announcements are often found in newspapers - if you are willing to spend the time to hunt through them. A few are indexed, but most require a page-by-page search. You'll need to know where the family lived and the approximate date of the event you are interested in.
Some local libraries have microfilm or other copies of early newspapers and many state libraries have extensive collections. The Library of Congress has an excellent collection of early American newspapers.
If you know the place and date of marriage, birth or death, you can usually get a copy of any mention of it (at least for more recent years) by writing newspapers in the area. Your library probably has a directory of newspapers in the U.S.
"Newspaper Indexes: A Location and Subject Guide for Researchers," 3 vols., by Anita Cheek Milner (Scarecrow Press, Metuchen, NJ), lists newspaper indexes by state, county and town, indicating the repositories in which they can be found.
If you know the religious affiliation of your ancestor, you should try to find out what records are available for the churches in the area where he or she lived. Records vary widely from denomination to denomination. Some may be housed in a national or state repository; others are found on closet shelves of the current church secretary.
"A Survey of American Church Records," by E. Kay Kirkham (Everton Publishers, Logan, UT), is a guide to the location of church records that have been published or deposited in public archives.
There are countless other sources for genealogical information - literally too many to be considered. Your local library is a good resource in discovering some of them. It will likely have several books on genealogical research, all of which will give you additional ideas. It also may subscribe to a number of genealogical periodicals. Take time to check through a few of these. One feature in many of them is a section with queries about "lost" ancestors. I've received a lot of help by writing to those searching the same lines as I am. In fact, one of the pleasant things about genealogy is the willingness of its practitioners to share their findings with you.
If you get stuck on a particular line, placing a query in a genealogical publication may yield results. If you follow this route, BE SPECIFIC. Saying you will "exchange information on the Baker family" won't bring many responses because readers won't know who it is you are looking for or if they have information that will help you.
Try this approach: "Need parents of James L. Baker, born OH 1812, married Sue Allen in Bartholomew County, IN, in 1837; lived Warren County, IN, 1850 census. Who were his parents? Hers? Was George Baker, Bartholomew County 1850 his brother or cousin?" [NOTE: I made up all of the foregoing information, but after this article began appearing in local newspapers, I got a response to it!]
If you write others seeking information, remember your mail manners. Because you're asking them to help you, you should make it easy for them. Ask questions precisely. Include as much information as necessary to identify the individual you are interested in, but don't include extraneous material. A short, to-the-point letter will get a response. One dealing with a variety of subjects will be set aside because of the extensive work involved in answering it.
Be responsive to the needs of the individual you are writing and offer information you may have that could be of help. Offer to pay the cost of copies of material you request or to reimburse for out-of-pocket expenses. And it's customary when writing to seek information to include an SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) for the reply.
Keep a copy of the letters you send, for it may be difficult from the reply to tell what you said in your request. And it's a good idea to keep a log of incoming and out-going letters, including a notation as to when particular letters were answered.
I am interested in attending the May 14, 2005 trip to the Massachusetts State Archives in Boston.
___I am willing to drive in Boston.
___No way am I driving in Boston!
Please check your preference!
My name is__________________________________
Phone number is______________________________
Send form to Karen at the address on the bottom of this page
If you do not have a current membership card, you have not paid 2005 dues.
The membership rates are as follows:
___ $10.00 per Individual
___ $20.00 for a Family
___ $5.00 per Senior (age 62 and over)
Enclosed please find $_________ for 2005 dues.
Send form and check to:
Greater Lowell Genealogy Club
c/o Karen Jeffers
35 Franklin Street
N. Billerica, MA 01862-1441