American Ancestors New England Historic Genealogical Society - Founded 1845 N.E. Historic Genealogical Society Seal View Your Shopping Cart Join NEHGS
Go

Ask a Genealogist

RSS Feed

Ask a Genealogist: Divorce record research.

 Permanent link
 

Question:

Looking for records on Joseph Garfield, and wife Dolly Varnum Abbott. They had a son Joseph B. Garfield in 1816-17. I believe they may have separated ordivorced before 1820 or Joseph, Sr. may have died.

Answer:

Reply by Alice Kane, Genealogist.

Older divorce records are often held by state archives where the divorce occurs.  Vermont's State Archives & Records Administration (Secretary of State Office, 1078 U.S. Rte 2, Middlesex, Montpelier, VT, 05633-7701; phone: 802-828-2308; email: archives@sec.state.vt.us) holds a transcribed index of divorces but the town clerk in the couple's town holds the original decrees.  Additionally, many of these records are digitally available on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.  In New Hampshire, divorce proceedings are held by the clerk of each county Superior Court, but pre-1938 divorce records are held by the NH Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics (Health and Welfare Building, 6 Hazen Drive, Concord, NH, 03301; phone-603-271-4651).  An index to these pre-1938 divorces is available on microfilm from the Family History Library; a copy of these  microfilms is held at NEHGS Library on the 4th floor at F33.N454 (catalog entry at  http://library.nehgs.org/record=b1006621).  In Massachusetts county Supreme Judicial courts handled divorces until 1887 when such cases were transfered to Superior court; beginning in 1922 Probate and Family courts heard divorces concurrently with Superior courts.  Early divorce records through 1922 (and their indexes) for most counties are held on microfilm at MA State Archives (220 Morrissey Boulevard, Dorchester, MA, 02125; phone: 617-727-2816; email: archives@sec.state.ma.us).   

 

Ask a Genealogist: Researching Catholic Cemeteries in Boston, Mass.

 Permanent link
 

Question:

Can you offer me some guidance regarding Catholic cemeteries in Boston, Massachusetts?  I understand that a member of your staff has transcribed certain Catholic cemeteries around Boston.

Answer:

Reply from Marie Daly, Senior Genealogist.

Thank you for your question regarding the cemeteries I havetranscribed. The first one I did in the late 1970s was the MountAuburn Catholic Cemetery in Watertown, Massachusetts. I did not doa very good job, and printed only 4 copies. They are at theArchdiocese Archives, the Watertown Public Library, Mount AuburnCemetery and NEHGS. The burial records and many photos for thiscemetery are on www.findagrave.com.

The next cemetery I transcribed was Bunker Hill Catholic Cemeteryin Charlestown, Massachusetts. I did not photograph the 150gravestones in the cemetery. But I transcribed them, located theburial records, and looked up the death records of the peopleburied there. I have it in a Word file at work, and I can dolookups.

The current cemetery I have been working on is the CambridgeCatholic Cemetery on Rindge Ave. in North Cambridge. I havephotographed about 600 gravestones. You need to determine at whatcemetery your ancestors is buried, since these cemeteries includeburials from all over the Boston area.

Ask a Genealogist: Researching a colonial New England ancestor.

 Permanent link
 

Question:

Is there any reliable data in your files regarding the parentage of Nicholas Jacobs, who came to Massachusetts in June 1633 on the ship Elizabeth Bonaventure, John Graves, Master, Nicholas settled ultimately in Hingham, Massachusetts.

Answer:

Reply from Judith Lucey, NEHGS Archivist

Thank  you for your recent submission to "Ask a Genealogist". You are trying to find a reliable source which documents the parentage of Nicholas Jacob, settler of Hingham in 1633.  The one definitive source that treats Nicholas Jacob with authority can be found in Robert Charles Anderson's work The Great Migration Begins, 1620-1633, Volume II, pgs. 1069-1071 published in 1995. In this genealogical sketch, Mr. Anderson confirms his origins from Hingham, England but no parents or birth record is listed. This means, to date, no authoritative source has uncovered the identity of Nicholas Jacob's parents. If parents had been identified through a primary source such as a baptism in a parish register, Mr. Anderson would have included it in Jacob's sketch. I checked our online journal collection of genealogical periodicals and there is no other research on this.

The Richard Jacob and Winifred Chamber identified in many online family trees appears to be false. One can easily disprove this by simply looking at the facts you mention in your question. Richard Jacob dies in 1578 and this date appears to be a documented fact based on a will, etc. It is presumed based on his 1628/1629 marriage in England that Nicholas Jacob was born around 1604. The family of Richard and Winifred are of the wealthy, peerage class and appear to be well documented. It is not uncommon to attach a family of such prominence to an early immigrant to New England. When in doubt you should always take the undocumented online information with a grain of salt and seek out primary and well cited secondary sources in your research.

I see by your form you are not a member. If you would like a copy of the above genealogical sketch, Ancestry.com has digitized these volumes at

http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2496

Ask a Genealogist: Researching the USCC in the Civil War.

 Permanent link
 

Question:

My husband's great-grandfather was in the Mass. Christian Commission during the Civil War. I can't find anything about where they went to serve. I also don't have his journal or number that was assigned to him. Where did the Mass. unit of the Christian Commission serve in the Civil War?

Answer:

Reply by Alice Kane, NEHGS Genealogist

Thank you for your query about the Massachusetts ChristianCommission, a state division of the United States ChristianCommission (USCC).

An overview history of the USCC appears in Wikipedia(URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Christian_Commission). Many persons serving with the USCC were Protestant ministersand members of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) whoworked collaboratively with the U.S. Sanitary Commission (anothercivilian relief organization) to provide supplies, medical servicesand religious literature to Union troops.  For anecdotalaccounts about the commission and its work, the MassachusettsHistorical Society (1154 Boylston Street, Boston, MA, 02215-3695;phone: 617-536-1608; web: www.masshist.org) holds thecollection "Civil War Correspondence, Diaries, and Journals" thatincludes the correspondence of Henry Mitchell Whitney who joinedthe USCC after his infantry service ended.  A guide to thiscollection is available at http://www.masshist.org/collection-guides/view/fa0244. You may wish to use the National Union Catalog of ManuscriptCollections search portal at http://www.loc.gov/coll/nucmc/oclcsearch.html tolocate archive and library holdings of diaries and correspondenceof other USCC members, using the commission's name insidequotations as the search term.  The USCC is also mentioned incontemporary publications such William Schouler's AHistory of Massachusetts in the Civil War (E. P. Dutton& Co., 1868; digital edition at https://archive.org/details/historyofmassach00scho),and in modern works such as This Republic is Suffering:Death and the American Civil War (by Drew Gilpin Faust;Knopf, 2008).  The USCC itself commissioned a narrative reportof its activities:  The Annals of the United StatesChristian Commission by the Rev. Lemuel Moss (J. B.Lippincott & Co., 1868; digital edition at https://archive.org/details/annalsofunitedst00moss)has a chapter devoted to describing the activities of theirrepresentatives in the field that use selected excerpts from formalreports, journals and diaries.

 

For specific record resources that may mention your ancestor,look for the records of the YMCA organization to which he might bea member of, or an affiliating organization of the USCC like aspecific Christian denomination's relief group besides the YMCA. In the Boston area, records of the Young Men's ChristianAssociation of Greater Boston are held by  NortheasternUniversity (Archives and Special Collections, 92 Snell Library 360Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA, 02115; phone: 617-373-2351; email:archives@neu.edu) with afinding aid at http://www.library.neu.edu/archives/collect/findaids/m13find.htm. Records of the U.S. Sanitary Commission maycontain lists of where they provided services and by whom. These records are held by the New York Public Library'sManuscripts and Archives Division in the Humanities and SocialScience Library (Schwarzman Building, Brooke Russell Astor ReadingRoom, Third Floor, Room 328, Fifth Avenue at 42ndStreet, New York, NY 10018-2788; phone: (917)275-6975); the collection is identified under MssCol 3101,with a finding aid at http://www.swcwa.com/Links/Educational_Info/Women_-_War/Civilian_Guides/USSC-wwgs.pdf

 


 

 

Ask a Genealogist: Searching for a possible adoption record in Massachusetts.

 Permanent link
 

Question:

 I am looking for information on my Grandmother's birth. I would really like to find out what her birth parents names were. No one in my family has any information on her except that she was adopted by a family named "Hayden" along with another child named "Richard" that moved to California and that her birth surname was "Duffy". Would like to know the names of my Grandmother's parents and were they we're from?

Answer:

Reply from Jeanne Belmonte, NEHGS Genealogist

In Massachusetts, adoption records are sealed by the court when finalized and a new, amended birth certificate is issued showing the adoptive parents and new name if any. This amended certificate would be crossed referenced with the original that was issued at birth.
It is possible to obtain an original birth certificate. Information contained on the original birth record would contain at least the name of the birth mother and possibly the address or town where she was living at the time of the birth. It may or may not contain the name of the birth father.

To begin your search you may want to start with obtaining a copy of her original birth record and a copy of the one issued when she was adopted, as this will give information as to where her adoptive parents were living at the time. This information can be helpful in determining which county the adoption took place.

The Archives hold Massachusetts Vital Records to 1920 for all towns and counties in Massachusetts so her 1919 Boston birth record should be located there, and cross referenced with the amended one issued when she was adopted. Since you are not located within visiting distance, they do offer research services. You can contact the Massachusetts State Archives research services at http://www.sec.state.ma.us/arc/arcres/residx.htm for more information. Adoptions for Boston were carried out the Suffolk County Probate Court. If the adoption was finalized in Suffolk County there would be a probate court case on file. I did a quick search of the book Arthur Sullivan’s "Index Probate Records, Suffolk Co., MA 1910-1922" Boston, MA: 1927, 2 Vol.'s (Reprint by NEHGS) and did not find a Heyward or Duffy in the index. She may have been adopted in another county or outside Massachusetts. 

To determine the agency from which she was adopted may take more digging. There were several homes for unwed mothers as well as organizations that placed children for adoption during that time. The records of these homes often contain more information that what is on the birth record. The largest ones have well documented records. Massachusetts adoption records are held for 99 years. If the records were not destroyed or lost to time, your grandmothers may still exist.

The Boston Children’s Friends Society, has donated their records from 1833-1960 to the archives at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A finding aid is available at http://openarchives.umb.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p15774coll8/id/141. The finding aid lists the information contained in each box of records. Included in this information are adoptions that took place at the time your grandmother was placed. You will have to contact the library to find out if they offer any research services or any part of the collection has been digitized.

The Home for Little Wanderers has been in existence since 1865, and has over time merged with many of the other smaller charitable institutions providing service to children, including adoption, children in need and families. You may want to contact the home to inquire if your grandmother was adopted through them. http://www.thehome.org/

St. Mary’s Home for Unwed Mothers. https://sites.google.com/a/stmaryscenterma.org/stmaryscenterma/home/history-of-st-mary-s

The House of Mercy at 244 Townsend Street, Boston Massachusetts, was a home for maternity for unwed mothers. They under the organization of the Protestant Episcopal Church, the diocese may have information regarding St. Mary’s. You may want to contact the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts for information. http://diomass.org/.

The Archdiocese of the Catholic Church in Boston operates Catholic Charities. This agency has placed children since 1903 in Boston and opened otherbranches in the towns and cities surrounding the greater Boston are beginning in 1916. The website has several pages devoted to the services they provide to adopted children and birth parents who searching. You may want to contact them to ask how to obtain records from 1919. https://www.ccab.org/postadopt.html


Ask a Genealogist: Researching cemeteries in Holbrook, Massachusetts.

 Permanent link
 

Question:

Can you let me know if there are any old cemeteries in the town of Holbrook, Massachusetts? I plan on visiting there soon.



Answer:

Reply from David Allen Lambert, NEHGS Chief Genealogist

Thank you for your question regarding the old cemeteries in Holbrook, Massachusetts. The oldest cemetery in Holbrook is the Union Cemetery (established ca. 1754) located at 199 Union Street.  The only other cemetery in the town is the Wendell Cemetery (established ca. 1815) located at 1030 South Franklin Street.  You will find entries for both of these cemeteries on www.Findagrave.com  NEHGS has gravestone inscription manuscripts for both of these cemeteries if you are interested this hyperlink will bring you to our catalog: http://library.nehgs.org/search~S0?/dCemeteries+--+Massachusetts+--+Holbrook./dcemeteries+massachusetts+holbrook/-3%2C-1%2C0%2CB/exact&FF=dcemeteries+massachusetts+holbrook&1%2C5%2C

Ask a Genealogist: Looking for 19th century Boston criminal records.

 Permanent link
 

Question:

Are there any surviving arrest records for the Civil War period? If so, how would I access them? Thank you very much for your help.

Answer:

Reply from Alice Kane, NEHGS Genealogist

The Boston Police Department does have an archive (1555 Hyde Park Avenue, Hyde Park, MA, 02136; phone: 617-343-5166) which holds some historical records, however, much of its holdings relate to contemporary police records from the 1980s and forward, and is not open to the public. The few historical records at the police department archive are being digitized by the Boston Public Library and other sponsors, so give Archivist Margaret Sullivan a call to find out what is available and where to access the images. While the Boston City Archives (201 Rivermoor Street, West Roxbury, MA, 02132; phone: 617-635-1195; email: archives@cityofboston.gov)  holds the records of the Charles Street Jail in Boston for 1862-1990 (finding aid: http://www.cityofboston.gov/Images_Documents/Guide%20to%20the%20Charles%20Street%20Jail%20records_tcm3-30030.pdf ), Police Department records in city archives custody date from the 1870s and forward. The Massachusetts State Archives (220 Morrissey Boulevard, Dorchester, MA, 02125; phone: 617-727-2816; email: archives@sec.state.ma.us) holds some county level records, so you may wish to query the reference archivist there for information about Suffolk County Sheriff records. At NEHGS the library holds microfilm copies of the records of the State Prison at Charlestown, MA, covering 1805-1930 that were microfilmed by the Family History Library (film numbers 1977970 through 1977973). Our online library catalog entry can be viewed at http://library.nehgs.org/record=b1094918  for the reel descriptions.

Alternately, you may wish to follow the arrest story in 19th century Boston newspapers. The Boston Public Library's Microtext Department (700 Boylston Street, Boston, MA, 02116; phone: 617-859-2018) holds a comprehensive collection of Boston newspapers on microfilm; their list can be viewed at http://www.bpl.org/research/microtext/BostonNewspapers.pdf . Contemporary Boston court records may give details about what fine or punishment the person received for his offense. Send an inquiry with details about the arrest case to Elizabeth Bouvier, Head Archivist for the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Archives (3 Pemberton Square, 16th floor, Boston, MA, 02108; phone: 617-557-1082; email: elizabeth.bouvier@sjc.state.ma.us) to find out whether the arrest led to a court appearance.

Ask a Genealogist: Researching an 18th century Boston resident.

 Permanent link
 

Question:

Question: William Kennedy published in Boston, Mass. his intention to marry Mary Butler on December 8, 1762. How can I find out when they married and where they came from?

Answer:

Reply by Alice Kane, NEHGS Genealogist

Thank you for your query about William Kennedy and MaryButler. At their deaths, probate records for William and Mary mayinclude bequests or have references to family members other thantheir children, who then can be studied for clues about yourcouple.  Similiarly, if either owned land, deed records willlist the names of all persons involved in the transaction;posthumous transactions appear with "Estate of..." as an added namenotation in indexes.  Probate and land records for them can befound in the counties in which they lived.

In the years before and after the marriage intention is filed, areview of Boston town and selectmen's records, as well as landdeeds, might yield references to William Kennedy and/or Kennedysand Butlers living in Boston who might be relatives of the couple. The Boston Records Commissioners transcribed and publishedmany early Boston records as city document reports, which areavailable online.  The specific URL links for these Bostonworks are: 

Boston Selectmen's Records: 

 Boston Town Records: 

 In the event that either William or Mary were recent arrivals toBoston, volume 29 of these reports include a list of shipsarriving in Boston 1715-1769 with passengers' names (URL: http://www.archive.org/details/volumeofrecordsr29bost).  For Boston/Suffolk county deeds, FamilySearch has animage database of Massachusetts land records available at https://familysearch.org/search/collection/2106411. While not searchable by name as yet, images of grantor and granteeindexes are available for each county in addition to the recordbooks.  

 To assist in the review of land and probate for Kennedys andButlers who might be related to your couple, you may wish to alsolocate a copy of the CD-ROM database produced by NEHGS and theMassachusetts Historical Society containing Annie Haven Thwing'scomprehensive work on families in pre-1800 Boston, TheInhabitants and Estates of the Town of Boston,1630-1800,  and her book The Crookedand Narrow Streets of Boston, 1630-1822.  The CD-ROM isstill available for sale from Picton Press, and is describedat http://www.pictonpress.com/product/view/1971.

New England Historic Genealogical Society
99 - 101 Newbury Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02116, USA
888-296-3447

© 2010 - 2014 New England Historic Genealogical Society