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Winter 2005  (January, February, March 2005)


Newsletter of the Greater Lowell Genealogy Club


Upcoming Events:


January: Saturday, January 22, 2005 from 1pm to 3pm at the Pollard Library, Lowell.   Speaker Marcia Melnyk will present a lecture on “Overcoming Brick Walls”.


February:  Saturday, February 26, 2005 from 12 pm to 2 pm.  General Meeting at the BillericaLibrary.  Please Note time difference!


March:   Saturday, March 19, 2005.  We will be attending a meeting of the Essex Society of Genealogists, Inc. (See below)


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.  More information will follow in the next newsletter.


January meeting:   Marcia Melnyk writes: Has your research come to a standstill?  Are you having trouble finding additional records for your ancestors?  Were your ancestors “dropped by aliens” or do they disappear into thin air?  If you have encountered any of these situations or are at a loss as to where to look next this lecture is for you.  We will cover new ways to look at the research you have already done, discover new avenues for records, and methods for overcoming obstacles to your research.  Looking at the data you have accumulated in a different way often presents clues that you may not have seen before.  Have you truly exhausted the information you already have for clues or have you overlooked important facts?  Come and learn some new tricks to jump-start your research and get you on the right tract!  Hope to see you at the meeting!  We think Marcia will be an exciting speaker!


February meeting:  General meeting.  Please bring in the places where you have done research in the New England States., especially the little bits of odd information regarding researching in these areas.  (For instance, loss of records due to fire or flood and what you did to overcome these problems.) We would like to make a list for the benefit of all members.  If you can not attend the meeting, please send your list to Maureen at or Karen at


March meeting:  We have made  arrangements for our club to attend another meeting held by the Essex Society of Genealogists, Inc. (E.S.O.G.). 

The March 19 meeting will begin at 1:00 PM with lunch beginning at 12:00.  The guest speaker will be Ms. Marcia Melnyk speaking on the topic of, “Immigrant Research Strategies”.

Our club members can visit the Lynnfield Library (9-1) first (18 Summer Street).  Then go next door to the meeting.  When you go down the stairs, you will see their greeting committee; just tell them you are a guest.  You may bring lunch and eat there, many E.S.O.G. members do.  There is coffee and desserts (small donation accepted).  There are no restaurants nearby to eat.  Note, you don’t even have to eat there, but if you go that distance to use the Library you may get hungry.  There is a brief business meeting before hand.

The Lynnfield Library has a genealogy room with a very nice assortment of resources.  The former library director was a genealogist and Barbara believes the former director selected the most useful books for the collection.  Not only are there books covering all of New England, but also New York and Canada.  The stacks are open, so you can take anything and make copies (.15 each)

Directions:  Take Route 3 south to 95/128 north.  Get off at Lynnfield/Wakefield exit.  Take a right and follow Main Street through town for approximately 2-3 miles.  At the center of town (a tiny shopping complex on left), take a right onto Summer Street at the old cemetery.  The Library and Church are on the left next to the town green.   You can park in the church lot where there is plenty of parking.



April meeting:  Chelmsford  Public Library.  This month we will be showing a video, Genealogy 101 by Rootsweb with Rhonda McClure.  This video is 1 hour of Rootsweb instruction and ˝ hour of Ancestry. com.  Barbara viewed the video and couldn’t believe how much great information was included and how much she learned.   



May meeting:  We have decided to go on a field trip to the State Archives in Boston.  This will be an all day trip, so pack a lunch.  There will be a $10 deposit required for transportation. Anyone interested in attending needs to contact Maureen or Karen by April 23.  More information will follow in the Spring Newsletter.




Past Happenings:


October Potluck 

We had an excellent turnout thanks to your Potluck Coordinator, Barbara Updyke who did a wonderful job.  With 25 people in attendance , we thoroughly enjoyed a wide range of delicious food.  We also presented to the members in attendance a list of lectures given by Marcia Melnyk.  They voted on which lecture to have presented at the Janury meeting.  Since we had a tie, we have arrangements to have both lectures.  The January meeting will be “Overcoming Brick Walls”.  By coincidence, E.S.O.G. is presenting the other top choice in March.  We have made arrangements to attend that meeting where “Immigrant Research Strategies” will be presented. 

Members in attendance:  Karen Jeffers, Barbara Updyke, Peg Leedberg, Diane Laferriere, Maureen Famolare, Terry Masson, Yvonne and Ed Miller, Sandra and Al Dudley, Diane Shields, Ed O’Toole, Bob and Reba Beatty, Iona and Bob Henderson, Madeleine and Don Pattershall, Edna King, Laura and Roland Bedard, Ann Casey, Bill Cheetham, Barbara Poole, and Mehmed Ali.

By the way, if you are missing two potholders, call Karen.  She would love to return them. 


November Meeting:

Bad news – we went back down to seven people.  We enjoyed watching the video, Painless Organization for genealogists by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack.  If any one would like to borrow this video, contact Barbara Poole at  We also enjoyed seeing and talking about the research Peg Leedburg and Diane Laferriere have done.

In attendance:  Maureen Famolare, Barbara Poole, Diane Laferriere, Peg Leedberg, Karen Jeffers, Don and Madeleine Pattershall. 





Karen and I would really love to receive items of interest for the Spring Newsletter, so here are our e-mail addresses:

Maureen –

Karen –

We love stories, hints, queries or interesting web sites. Heck, just about anything you want to send us, we’ll use IT!  Thanks.



We have decided to summarize an article by Richard A. Pence.  The original article can be found in its entirety at

The original article was syndicate in 1977 and again in 1982 by the Register and Tribune Syndicate. 



The Archives and its branches have passenger arrival records beginning in 1820 (they were not required before that date). To request a search of the passenger arrival records, write the Reference Service Branch (NNIR) and request forms for ordering passenger arrival records. The important information you will need includes approximate date of arrival of your ancestor, port of entry, and - if possible - the name of the ship. There is a charge for this service.

If your ancestor lived in one of the "public land" states (30 states, primarily from Ohio west) and bought land directly from the federal government, you can request a search of the National Archives Records. You will need to furnish your ancestor's full name, the state in which he or she acquired land, whether the land was acquired before or after 1908, and, if possible, the legal description of the land by section, township and range. If you don't have a legal description, describe its location as precisely as you can. There is a fee for this service and it may take several weeks to process your order.




The records maintained by each county or other local jurisdiction are valuable sources of family information. Land records, wills and probates, other court records and vital statistics are just some of the materials available to the genealogist.

Unfortunately, many of these records have been lost by fire or, perhaps, carelessness. And in most states, birth and death records weren't kept until this century. Marriage records are often available for much earlier years.

In general, early records for most of New England are fairly complete.

Most Massachusetts vital records have been published. In the South, however, many early records weren't centrally kept or were lost or burned.

In most states records of interest to genealogists are kept in the state archives, the state library and a land office. County records not transferred to the state archives are usually found in county courthouses. In New England some records, particularly vital records, are kept in town halls.

Many state libraries have developed information sheets that will help you begin your research. There are also published genealogical research guides available for many states.

The government publication, "Where to Write for Vital Records," gives specific information on the location of these records. Issued periodically, it is available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, or can be found in many libraries. It lists information by state and includes the repository, address and cost of each certificate.

"The Handy Book for Genealogists" is a particularly helpful guide. It contains information on local record sources, including published state and local histories, lists of libraries and historical societies, county maps of each state, a listing of counties, with records available in each and whom and where to write for them, date the county was formed and its parent counties, and a rundown of available census records and indexes to them. Available from Everton Publishers, P.O. Box 369, Logan, UT 89321.

You can find out what records are available in a county by writing the county clerk. (The exact county official in charge of various records varies from state to state; a letter addressed to the clerk will usually be passed on to the proper office.)

If you can provide a specific name and an approximate date for a document (deed, birth, death, marriage, will, etc.), the clerk can find and copy the record for you at a nominal fee (usually about $3).


While vital records are the most important records for genealogists, their availability varies widely from area to area, as previously mentioned.

An additional problem is that information found in them is not always accurate. Early records may not be complete, the person providing the information may have given inaccurate data either intentionally or by mistake, or other errors have occurred in copying or indexing.

If a parent gave the information for a birth certificate, you can assume it is accurate. Beware, however, of information provided for a death certificate.

A person giving such information for his grandfather often didn't know the pertinent information asked, such as date and place of birth, or gave confused information. As an example, a great uncle provided information for the death certificate of his father (my great grandfather) and in the blank for the decedent’s mother's maiden name (a sorely needed piece of information for me) is listed my great uncle's mother's name, not that of his father's mother.

While the date of death given on a death certificate is usually accurate, the cause of death may not be as complete as you'd like even though furnished by a coroner or doctor. The cause of death for one of my ancestors is listed as "apoplexy" (stroke). Under "contributory causes," the doctor wrote "drunkeness" and under "how long" he entered "many years"! (A story begging to be learned! Follow-up led to an obituary which recounted a trip to town the Friday night before he died and the wrecking of the buggy on the way home; the obituary was diplomatically silent about the cause of the accident.)

Marriage records are usually dependable, since the persons involved supplied the information. However, sometimes folks fudged about their ages - either because they were too young to marry without permission of their parents or they didn't want the clerk to know exactly how old they were. My father was married a few months before his 21st birthday and gave his age as 21, thus avoiding the hassle of getting his father to sign. And Dad went to a neighboring county for the marriage license, knowing that his home county would verify his age against his birth record.


Probate records are important for genealogists. Among the earliest available, they help document family relationships and dates of death. A will may list the wife and/or husband and all the children by their given names, may include some grandchildren's names and the married names of daughters and their husbands' names. Sometimes, though, you'll find one that simply says "my beloved wife" and "all of my children" without naming any of them. Remember, too, that a particular son or daughter may have previously been provided for and the absence of a name in a will does not necessarily mean a person was not an offspring of the deceased.

If no will can be found, you must search for other papers. Usually you will find court orders appointing an administrator or executor. If a person left a will, he often named an "executor" of the will and the court required that person to post a bond. If a person died "intestate" (without a will), then the court usually appointed an "administrator." Thus the use of executor or administrator in court records indicates whether a will was left. Most counties have indexes of executors' and administrators' bonds. If you search long enough and hard enough you can almost always find some court record of a person's death - at least those who owned property, for there had to be some disposition of that property.


Sometimes the answer can be found in deeds, although these usually do not contain genealogical information. At a minimum, deeds help you establish where your ancestors lived and when. Occasionally you will find family references such as "the same land which I inherited from my father, Samuel, as his eldest son and heir." Also, some land records, particularly those for settlement of estates, may list heirs. If your ancestor conveyed "an undivided fifth interest" in a piece of property it would indicate that he and four other heirs, likely his siblings, may have inherited the property.

Deeds can also help establish whether an ancestor was married, since the sale of land requires the wife's consent. The absence of a wife's name indicates the seller was unmarried at the time. In one case, I was unable to find the date of death for an ancestor's wife prior to his remarriage to another woman. To complicate matters, both women had the given name Elizabeth. However, careful checking of deeds involved in his many land transactions revealed a period of about two years when he sold land without a wife signing. This information revealed the approximate dates of the first woman's death and his later remarriage.

While most counties have accurate indexes of deed records, usually these are a "grantor" (seller) index and a "grantee" (buyer) index. Other persons who may be mentioned in a deed are not indexed and the information you are looking for may be "lost" in one of dozens of deed books. I once solved a perplexing genealogical problem for another person quite by accident. She wrote wanting to know if perhaps two of her ancestor's daughters had married into the Pence family since the two families were neighbors. They hadn't. But one day while checking a deed for some land my ancestor had bought, I discovered all of the information relating to the marriages of her ancestor's children. Turned out that the land was being sold by her ancestor's heirs, one of whom was a daughter whose existence and married name were unknown. The deed was indexed under the name of the unknown daughter's husband along with "et al" - "and others." Naturally, the persons she was looking for were among the "others." Moral: You may have to check deeds for in-laws of your ancestors as well as those for neighbors in order to find that elusive fact.



Another useful record found in courthouses is the record of guardian bonds, or orphan's bonds. These can establish the parentage of a person who was a minor and help establish dates of death for the parent or parent. Note that it was not necessary for both parents to be deceased for a guardian to be named. This was sometimes done in cases where a minor child was an heir to a grandfather's estate through the deceased parent or if a mother was remarrying. In both cases, and in others, the guardian was appointed to protect the child's rights to the estate. I've also noted cases such as one where a person was named guardian of two orphans who had the same last name as he. Instead of being niece and nephew, as might be expected, they turned out to be his own children. He was named guardian in order to take custody of their portion of their mother's inheritance from her father's estate.


Because this is January of 2005 Karen and I thought we would give everyone


Just a gentle reminder…..


Dues run from January to January , so this means dues for 2005 are being collected now.


P.S.  If you do not have a current membership card, you have not paid 2005 dues.


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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.


Name    __________________________________________




Phone   __________________________________________

E-mail  __________________________________________


Send form and check to:

Greater Lowell Genealogy Club

c/o Karen Jeffers

35 Franklin Street

N. Billerica, MA  01862-1441