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  • #11 Royal Descents, Notable Kin, and Printed Sources: NEHGS Manuscripts Covering Towns and Regions

  • Having talked last week about "printed primary records" this week I wish to discuss some of the Society’s best and most used manuscripts. These fall generally into four categories – those covering towns and regions; treating individual families; containing the papers of major 19th and 20th century genealogical scholars; or covering largely English, noble European or royal families. This column will treat those manuscript collections covering towns and regions. Future columns will cover collections in the other three categories.

    Proceeding alphabetically by author the first collection is Charlotte Helen Abbott’s "Early Records of Families in Andover [Mass]", 14 volumes plus 15 reels of notes, the original of which is at the Andover Historical Society. The quality of this collection is medium leaning to good; much more detail could be obtained from local deeds, wills, and court records. The next two collections are the notes of Charles Edward Banks and Clarence Winthrop Bowen on families of Martha’s Vineyard and Woodstock, Connecticut. The former, 25 vols. of "Settlers of Martha’s Vineyard," contain the family data used in volume 3 of Banks’ history of the island, but also include an additional unpublished generation. The Bowen collection, 11 cartons, consists of all materials for the 8 published volumes of Genealogies of Woodstock Families, and was a gift from the American Antiquarian Society. Included are much additional data on families Hayward-Z, covered in the last two vols. (ed. by D. L. Jacobus and W. H. Wood after Bowen’s death). The first six books in this set covered all branches of all families in Woodstock and surrounding towns (esp. Pomfret). The last two volumes, covering over half the alphabet, treat only those families in Woodstock proper and only so long as they lived there.

    The Walter E. (and Lottie A.S.) Corbin and Fred E. Crowell collections – the former 60 linear feet of records and compiled genealogies for central and western Massachusetts, the latter New Englanders in Nova Scotia – were both microfilmed, in 1982 and 1979 respectively. I reviewed Corbin in Register 139 (1985): 150-55 and Crowell in Register 135 (1981): 67. The Corbin collection is I believe the largest regional assemblage of New England source material ever amassed by professional genealogists. Included are genealogies of all residents of Northampton (outlines only, by Sylvester Judd) and Pittsfield (much more detailed, by Rollin H. Cooke) plus family data also for Belchertown, Southampton, and Wales. This 55-reel collection is now available in many libraries. So too is the Crowell collection, which covers the patrilineal New England ancestry – but not Nova Scotia descendents - of 650 or so immigrants to Nova Scotia in the 18th century. Crowell estimated, I might note, that 600 or more additional families could also have been included. Banks, Bowen, and Crowell do not abstract wills or deeds and all have some errors (Crowell more than a few). Each however is immensely useful and by far the best source for its area.

    The Gilbert Harry Doane collection consists of 38 Hollinger boxes, 23 of which cover families and records of Fairfield, Vermont (a full 7 the Hungerford family). The Abbie L. and Gustavus A. Hinckley collection, part of which is now being transcribed and edited, consists of 12 volumes of Barnstable town and vital records, 9 volumes of Barnstable County probate records, and assorted other Barnstable materials. The Waldo Chamberlain Sprague collection has also been partly microfilmed; the 6100 cards comprising Genealogies of the Families of Braintree, Massachusetts 1640-1850 is thus widely available (I reviewed it in Register 139 [1985]:155-58). Other parts of the collection, one of our very best in overall quality, include Thayer (8 vols.) Wales, and Curtis genealogies, and Braintree, Quincy, and Randolph vital records through 1850.

    The last two collections I wish to mention are middling in quality but still useful. Eugene F. Weedon compiled 86 volumes, over 10 small ledgers, and several notebooks covering families (and including some source records) of Berwick, Maine and Somersworth, New Hampshire. Hamilton Wilson Welch compiled over 250 notebooks on "Early Families of Scituate and Neighboring Towns". This last collection is comprehensive but undocumented, with dates only in years, no will or deed abstraction, and no biographical notes.

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