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Ask a Genealogist: The difference between various colonial oaths.

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Question:

What are the differences between the Freemans Oath, The Oath of Allegiance and the Oath of Fidelity in the Massachusetts Bay Colony?

Answer:

Reply from Rhonda McClure, NEHGS Genealogist                                   

The history of oaths in the American Colonies actually requires the researcher to go back to the early 1600s under King James. After all, those who were living in the colonies were still technically British subjects.

Upon their arrival in Plymouth Colony, William Brewster and the additional chief men as they were called agreed to take the Oath of Supremacy, acknowledging the King of England as the highest supreme office “of this realm.” Brewster and company though hoped that the administering of the Oath of Allegiance which also called the King the lawful and rightful king of the realm and denied the power of the Pope. It also made those who took it swear to be obedient to the King and to not try and overthrow the King or be involved with any attempts to assist the Pope in overthrowing the King of England. In essence it was to acknowledge the King of England as the supreme ruler and head of the church and to swear allegiance to this person in all things.

In the early 1620s, The Oath of Allegiance and Fidelity was actually a single oath given in Plymouth Colony. This applied primarily to Plymouth Colony which was not actually a New England Colony. It lacked a Charter and its government functions were actually those of a Corporation. The Oath of Allegiance and Fidelity required that the individual taking it not enter into any action or say anything that could lend itself to the overthrow or the destruction of the “Colonie, or Coporation of this towne Plimouth in New England.” Interestingly enough it never mentioned the King of England.

By 1636, every freeman (any established member of the colony who was not under legal restraint) was required to take the Oath of a Freeman which swore allegiance to the sovereign lord “King Charles, his heires & successors” in addition to doing nothing to overthrow the Colony of “New Plymouth. By 1658 the Oath of a Freeman was revised to omit King Charles and reverted back to the “State and Government of England” in addition to continuing not to do anything to cause the destruction of New Plymouth.

Sir Henry Rosewell and his associates were granted a charter 4 March 1628/29. The charter mentioned individuals in charge and business was conducted for Massachusetts Bay Colony in London until 1630 when Govenor John Winthrop was chosen.

Massachusetts Bay Colony took a slightly different approach to the Oath of a Freeman, in that they required that in order to become a freeman, the person must first be a church member, which usually meant of the recognized churches. This law was agreed to in 1631 in Salem and then modified slightly in 1632 to prevent civil magistrates from being elders in the church. Additionally, once the Oath of a Freeman was taken this individual was allowed to vote.

Massachusetts Bay Colony also required, beginning in 1634, that any man age 16 or above who had been or planned to be a resident in the colony for six months, who was not “infranchized” be required to take the Oath of Residents. This oath admitted that the person understood they were bound by the laws of the colony, and that in addition to being protected by them, that the person taking the oath would be bound by those laws and follow them.

The earlier Oath of a Freeman was revoked at the general court held at Boston May 14, 1634 and a new Oath was written into the record and required of freemen going forward. Those who had taken the earlier oath were no longer bound to it.

The Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society issue of October 1921 has transcribed all of these oaths and describes the history and many of the requirements of the oaths and those who took them.


Ask a Genealogist: Researching vital records in New York State.

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Question:

I am having a difficult time finding birth, marriage and deathdates for a number of ancestors from NY State (Nassau, New York,Rockland, Orange, Albany, Oneida, Essex and Oswego counties.) Iread on your site that you have a popular trip to the NYS Archives.While I can't afford to go on the trip, do you have any advice forme to go to Albany on my own and look for the data I want? I feelthat I'm a seasoned researcher and can negotiate my way well enoughif you can steer me in the right direction.

Answer:

Reply from Rhonda McClure, NEHGS Genealogist                                                            I would recommend that you familiarize yourself with the New York State Archives holdings by visiting their web site and looking at their Research < http://www.archives.nysed.gov/a/research/index.shtml > and Genealogy <http://www.archives.nysed.gov/a/research/res_topics_genealogy.shtml> pages.

The more you understand of their holdings, how to access the records upon your arrival at the archives, and what limitations they may have in regard to years available, etc., will make your trip more successful.

One thing to keep in mind is that vital records for New York in the 20th Century may be restricted. New York is not an “open record” state and as such they impose restrictions as to when a record is available to someone outside of immediate family. It varies by record type. Also not all of the records are going to be housed at the State Archives. There may be indexes, but then the records themselves may need to be requested through courthouses or the Vital Statistics Office, which will only take an order, but will then process it and mail it.

The index to some of the records for New York County, which is only Manhattan, may be found through the abstraction projects done by the Italian Genealogy Group <http://www.italiangen.org/>.

However, few of the records that you need will be available online. If you are fortunate, they may be available through the Family History Library to your local FamilySearch Center. To find out what they have, visit FamilySearch.org <https://familysearch.org/> and search the Catalog for the places you mentioned.


Ask a Genealogist: Scottish prisoners and Killecross Ross of Ipswich

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Question:

My first relative to New England was known as Killecross Ross, there are many derivations of this name. He was possibly a prisoner taken by Cromwell's army in Scotland (1640-1650) and indentured to Samuel Symonds upon arrival in Ipswich, Massachusetts Bay Colony (before 1652). I am trying to find where he came from in Scotland, when he was born and who his parents were. I am planning a trip to Scotland this spring and would like to preplan where I might find this information. I have subscribed to the Scotland's People website and had no luck finding anything helpful. Where should I concentrate my efforts? Where might I find records of Killecross Ross's birth about 1630-1640 in Scotland? How and where might I find which ship he came to New England on? Where might I find who his parents were? 

Answer:

Reply from Alice Kane, NEHGS Genealogist

Thank you for your query about Scottish prisoners and Killecross Ross of Ipswich. For your information, you may find the articles "Scots Prisoners and the Relocation to the Colonies, 1650-1654" at http://www.geni.com/projects/Scots-Prisoners-and-their-Relocation-to-the-Colonies-1650-1654/3465  , and "Scots for Sale" at http://www.americanancestors.org/scots-for-sale/  of interest though they do not list your ancestor specifically. A search through English documentation of Scots prisoners taken and what clans took part in the conflicts, as well as review of records or histories of the identified clans as to who were taken as prisoners will yield possible matches and their parishes to focus on. Most vital registrations are recorded in parish records of the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) since the mid-1500s until 1855 when civil registrations began, however, the overall search for a birth or baptismal registration may be difficult as some old parish registers did not beginning recording vital information in Highland parishes until the early 1800's.

Ask a Genealogist: Researching 20th century Connecticut newspapers

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Question:

I would like to know if it is possible for me to obtain Massachusetts and Connecticut newspaper articles pertaining to my father's murder which occurred on April 20, 1954 in Hartford, Connecticut.

Answer:

Reply from Alice Kane, Genealogist

Digital images of the Boston Daily Record are available on GenealogyBank.com, which is a subscription website for historical newspapers and more. While NEHGS does not subscribe to this service, I am attaching a PDF copy of the pertinent page from my own log-in. The Boston Public Library’s Microtext Department (700 Boylston Street, Boston, MA, 02116; phone: 617-859-2018) also holds microfilm copies of that newspaper’s complete run of issues and has a photocopy service. As to the Bridgeport Post, GenealogyBank.com does not have images of the date you are interested in. The Connecticut State Library (231 Capitol Ave., Hartford, CT, 06106; phone: 860-757-6500; web: http://www.ctstatelibrary.org/topics/newspapers  has the most complete holdings of this newspaper that covers your date of interest.

 

Ask a Genealogist: In Search of Foster Care Records

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Question:

In the early 1940's my mother and her 3 siblings were placed in foster care in Massachusetts (they were all under age 10). My mom stayed in the same foster home until she married at age 27, none of the children were ever adopted. My mother never saw her father again until his funeral in 1959. She saw her mother once or twice; she died in 1961. Would there be any paperwork accessible to her that might describe the reasons they were taken from their parents?

Answer:

 In regards to your question, there may be some information available as to why your mother and her siblings were placed in foster care. If parental rights were terminated, it would have had to go through the court system. Court records may contain information as to why rights were terminated. Many records involving children have been sealed and may require a court order. Contact information for Massachusetts Probate and Family Court by county can be found at http://www.mass.gov/courts/courtsandjudges/courts/probateandfamilycourt/courthousesbycounty.html . The Department of Children and Family in Massachusetts may also have information on how to obtain records from that time period. Contact them at dcfcommissioner@state.ma.us, 617-748-2000.

Often children were placed in foster homes from private agencies and children's homes throughout Massachusetts. Massachusetts state law only requires retention of records for twenty years after discharge from a facility, some retain at least partial information in their files. If a private agency or home was involved, you may want to contact them and ask if any records still exist.

Ask a Genealogist: Researching in 18th century Rhode Island.

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Question:

I have hit a huge brick wall. I am trying to connect Jabez Bromley with a father? I know Jabez married Martha Pendleton both were born approx. 1746-1752.There where from Westerly, R.I. but they also moved to Connecticut, I believe that Jabez Bromley is the son of William Bromley 1721 but can not find the proof.

Answer:

Reply from Alice Kane, NEHGS Genealogist

Conducting a census study may be useful in pinpointing ancestor locations. Once a location is confirmed for your subject, determine who and where are the other households of the same surname living in the area--make lists or use a spreadsheet to keep the details organized. Comparing these families over the course of several census years may reveal clues as to relationships which can then be verified though study of probate, land, and town records. Also, when there are no direct records available for a particular person, you might try reviewing the family of the spouse. In addition to available family genealogies, studying in-law family members through analysis of assembled data from probate, land, and town records could yield direct information about your subject. For example, at their deaths siblings of a spouse may make bequests to nephews and nieces living in other areas, thus documenting their names and locations. Land transactions by a bride's father, during or after his lifetime, can be helpful in documenting the names and locations of the husbands of other daughters as well as the sons. Town records sometimes recorded the vital information of whole families, or documented the activities of an ancestor active in governing the town or who regularly offered needed services or goods. Town and county histories may prove useful as well since they often have biographical sketches of descendants of the area's first settlers.

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