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Ask a Genealogist: Researching in New Salem, Massachusetts.

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Question:

I am searching for the parents of my ancestor, Sarepta Wheeler.  According to my sources she was born in 1805 in Massachusetts (New Salem I think).  She was married in New York in 1826 to Alvin Hudson Thomas. She died in 1849 in Pike, New York - I have a record of that.   I have exhausted all the sources I know about.  I would appreciate any information or leads you can give me.

Answer:

By Rhonda McClure, NEHGS Genealogist

If you have exhausted the New Salem Vital Records to 1849 published volume, then it is possible that either she wasn’t born in New Salem or that her parents did not make it into town to register her birth with the town clerk.
If you are absolutely certain that she was born in New Salem, you may need to hire a professional researcher to view a manuscript of the abstracted records of New Salem’s First Congregational Church. This typescript is available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Unfortunately it has not been microfilmed and is not available online. You can find out more about this at the catalog entry https://familysearch.org/search/catalog/320225?availability=Family%20History%20Library

You may also want to investigate where the original church records are for New Salem. It is possible that they are housed at the Congregational Library in Boston. Their web site is www.congregationallibrary.org

If you are not certain that she was born in New Salem, then you will want to begin with the Wheeler families living in New York in the town where Sarepta Wheeler married Alvin Hudson Thomas. It is likely that she was still residing with her parents when the marriage took place, and as such the Wheeler families living there become a high priority. You would want to look for probate records for those Wheeler fathers (and mothers if they outlive their husbands) and see if they mention a daughter Sarepta Thomas.

Finally, if you haven’t done so already, you will want to contact the New York Town Historian for the town in which Sarepta was married to see what information they have on Wheeler families in that town. The town historians are charged with gathering information about the town they are assigned and that includes information about the families. These individuals are very helpful. You can find out more about this unique resource of New York by visiting http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/services/historian/winslowdoc.html 

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