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Ask a Genealogist: What was a wharfinger in the 1790's?

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Question:

I found that my ancestor is listed by occupation as a "Wharfinger" on a Suffolk County deed in 1793.  I am not sure what this occupation was.

Answer:

A wharfinger was someone who owned a wharf, or owned a share of a wharf.  You may located a deed when he purchased the wharf in the Suffolk County deeds.  NEHGS has all the early Suffolk County Deeds available in our Microtext area.  These cover the 1630's until the early 20th century.

Ask a Genealogist: Calendar use in Eastern Europe.

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Question:

What is the proper way to record a date in my database? I have a relative born in Lithuania in 1860. I've found his birth record online, which is in Julian (and Hebrew) format. Should I change the Julian date to Gregorian, or just note it's Julian, and show Gregorian as an alternate?

Answer:

 It would be easier to simply note the date as indicated in the record, making sure to document that the date is as of the Julian (or Hebrew) calendar.

As you probably know, what was the Russian Empire, which included the present Lithuania, did not adopt the (modern) Gregorian calendar until 1918 (when Russia had become the Soviet Union). Translating dates from the Julian to the Gregorian is complicated by the fact that over the centuries, the two calendars have gradually diverged. Because of recalculation and the adding and subtracting of certain leap-year days to the Gregorian calendar, the divergence between the two had reached 11 days by the 19th century, and is now 12 days.

Ask a Genealogist: Where are the certificates for Mass. VRs?

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Question:

I see on your website you have the ledger sheets for 1856 Massachusetts marriages, but where are the certificates?  I have one in our family bible.

Answer:

From 1841 to the 1910's most marriages were recorded on ledger sheets.  Usually containing 20 or more couple getting married, therefore sharing the same volume and page. If the couple wanted a copy from the city or town clerk a copy would be transcribed onto a blank certificate.  This is why you may find a certificate in your possession.  The same data for the marriage is on the ledger, and is closer to the original primary source of the record.  The certificate should be checked against the original ledger for any transcription errors.

Ask a Genealogist: What was a parity of hands?

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Question:

In the proceedings of the probate case of an ancestor in 1741 it stated - "After a parity of hands the final Last Will and Testament was approved." Can you explain what this means?

Answer:

Generally this was the event when a court officer was presented with two or more handwritten documents for comparison.  The parity of hands would be the approval that the two or more documents were clearly of the same handwriting.  It is possible the signature of the person was not on the document, but was written entirely in their own hand.

Ask a Genealogist: What was a Forge Bloomer?

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Question:

My ancestor is listed in a census with the occupation of a "Forge Bloomer".  What is this referring to, I have never heard it before.

Answer:

A "Bloomer" was an occupation of a worker in an iron forge.  The job required the worker to extract the wrought iron from the iron ore.  From there wrought iron was worked by using an hammer or rolled.

Ask a Genealogist: Memorial Day parade of 1924.

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Question:

Looking at a newspaper clipping I understand my great-grandmother gave flowers to members of the GAR and the SUV of her hometown.  This was during memorial day of 1924.  Can you tell me what groups the newspaper is referring to?

Answer:

Memorial Day formerly known as Decoration Day was the day that graves of the veterans of the Civil War were decorated.  This was often done by members of the Union survivors organization known as the G.A.R. = the Grand Army of the Republic.  The children of these veterans and their male descendants would have been able to join the S.U.V. = Sons of Union Veterans. So I am not sure if your ancestor was presenting flowers to the livig members of these organization, or assisting with the decorating of the graves at the cemetery.

Ask a Genealogist: Fined for losing a Forage Cap.

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Question:

During the Civil War was it common to be fined for losing equipment?  My ancestor lost what I think was his hat - "Forage Cap"?

Answer:

During the Civil War it was common to be fined when you lost field gear, a weapon, or a piece of your uniform.  The "Forage Cap" was the standard issue cap worn by both Union and Confederate veterans.  Another name for this headwear was a "Kepi".  If you look on "Google Images" you will see a variety of style of both Forage Caps and Kepis.

Ask a Genealogist: What is a P.R. in Mass. Vital Records?

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Question:

I was curious if you could explain what "P.R." stands for? I have seen this in the published Massachusetts Vital Records that I have copied.

Answer:

The abbreviation for a "P.R." stands for a "Private Record".  A private record is a manuscript or typescript which contains events relating to a birth, marriage or death. These private records do not relate to the records of the town or church.  They are often in the private ownership of local citizens.

Ask a Genealogist: What was an Inn of Chancery?

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Question:

I am not certain what an "Inn of Chancery" that my ancestor attended in England in the 1500's.  Can you tell me what that would have been?

Answer:

An "Inn of Chancery" was an English college that instructed scholars in basic law.  These students would later go on to attend an "Inn of Court" for further study in law.  This system of non-university training was founded in the 14th century.
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