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  • Question of the Day Archive
    April 2009

  • April 1, 2009

    Question:
    Is there a place online for free that I can determine if my ancestor’s cousin served in the Civil War from New Hampshire?

    Answer:
    Thank you for your note. You can search both Union and Confederate soldiers for free online thanks to the volunteer efforts in conjunction with the National Parks Service.

    The website is searchable by the soldiers name at: www.civilwar.nps.gov/cwss/

    Ultimately, they will include Navy veterans for both the Union and Confederate as well. Currently besides the Army they have a database of approximately 18,000 African American navy veterans. During the 1990’s hundreds of volunteers transcribed the National Archives images of service jacket cards for this database.

    April 2, 2009

    Question:
    In Along the Coast of Essex County, a guide book by the Junior League of Boston, p. 112, it says: "2. Atlantic Avenue [Rockport] This is the cabin which Joshua Norwood is said to have built on Gully Point. It was moved to this location later and has since provided a popular subject for artists." The accompanying photo is of Motif #1.

    My question is, is there any truth to this and, if Motif #1 was built by Joshua Norwood, which Joshua Norwood?

    Answer:
    I am well aware of the Rockport landmark. To this actual history of it I am unclear. There is a write up on the building at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motif_Number_1

    Have you ever contacted the Rockport Public Library or Historical Society? That would be my first place to search for the specific history of Motif # 1. It would appear from the Wikipedia article it was built in the 1840s. Does this date work to confirm the builder could be Joshua
    Norwood?

    April 3, 2009

    Question:
    In a probate for my ancestor it mentions expenses for “funeral gifts”? Can you explain what funeral gifts are?

    Answer:
    It was common in the 17th through 19th century to find allocations in a probate for such items. These consisted of mourning apparel such as rings and gloves. Often the rings would have the name or initials of the deceased inscribed upon them.

    April 6, 2009

    Question:
    While visiting at NEHGS I used your in house access to http://www.ancestry.com/ and found a reference to my great-grandfather from Massachusetts born in 1879 for a World War II Draft. Why would that be there he was too old? And I can not find another ancestor equally as old living in Florida which is peculiar.

    Answer:
    The database you mentioned consists of men born on or after April 28, 1877 and on or before February 16, 1897. This was the Fourth Registration for the draft in World War II and is commonly referred to as the “old man’s draft”. Not all of the Fourth Registration draft cards exist. Sadly the following states including Florida were destroyed before they were microfilmed: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

    April 7, 2009

    Question:
    Often while reading old deeds I come across the measurement of rods, poles, and chains. Can you tell me what this would roughly translate into feet or inches?

    Answer:
    The unit of measurement for rods and poles are the same and equal 16 and one half feet. A chain was 100 links or 66 feet. And there are four rods or poles that equal the distance of a surveyor’s chain.

    April 8, 2009

    Question:
    One of the New Hampshire families I am a tracing traveled to Nevada in the era of the Civil War. Are there any 19th century state census for that area?

    Answer:
    For Nevada the earliest state census is a territorial census taken between 1862-63. According to Ann S. Lainhart’s book State Census Records (Baltimore, MD., Genealogical Publishing Co., 1993) it claims this is only partially complete. After statehood in 1864 there were two state censuses taken in Nevada in 1872 and 1875.

    The 1872 Census is available from the:

    Office of the Secretary of State
    Nevada State Capitol Building
    101 North Carson Street, Suite 3
    Carson City, NV 89701 Phone: 775-684-5708
    Email: sosmail@sos.nv.gov

    The 1875 Census is available from the:

    Nevada State Library and Archives
    100 N. Stewart St.
    Carson City, NV 89701-4285
    (775) 684-3360
    http://nevadaculture.org/nsla/

    April 9, 2009

    Question:
    My ancestor Samuel Heard lived in Quebec, Canada. I understand that his diary was deposited with other papers at NEHGS. I am willing to join as a member to see this. Can you tell me more about it?

    Answer:
    Yes his diary is part of the R. Stanton Avery Special Collections. The diary for Samuel Heard (1773-1815) of Newport and Hull, Quebec. This journal was kept briefly between July 21, 1814 – May 1815. This journal chronicles his trip from Newport to Hull with descriptions of the farms, mills, the construction of a distillery; and reference to the Battle of Chippewa. The call number for this diary is Mss 810.

    April 10, 2009

    Question:
    My ancestor was Clement Briggs who came over on the Fortune in 1621. I see that his occupation is listed as a “fellmonger”. What is this occupation? Most of my ancestors were simply carpenters and farmers so I am intrigued!

    Answer:
    The occupation of a fellmonger was someone who removed the hair off animals hides before being tanned. This occupation is also occasionally referred to as a tanner. For a detailed description of the how your ancestor produced his goods go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fellmonger

    April 13, 2009

    Question:
    The indexes of the Massachusetts marriages has me a little confused. My ancestor and his wife were listed in the index in three communities? I will send you the citations to check. Why would they be listed in so many places?

    Answer:
    Thank you for your question. This confusion arises from time to time with marriage indexes. My suggestion would be to examine each entry, not knowing the varied amount of detail each town clerk recorded. In the case of your relatives the groom was from Braintree, the bride was from Milton and they were married in Boston. Both the communities of the bride and groom recorded the marriage having occurred in Boston. And the city clerk of Boston recorded the marriage as it occurred in the city limits.

    April 14, 2009

    Question:
    How can I find the following information to meet the requirements of the Mayflower Society? (1) Confirmation of the marriage of William Soule (b. May 19, 1774, Bristol, Maine), to Mary “Polly” Thompson on Oct. 18, 1796, in Avon, Maine, and the date of her death. (2) The birth of their son, William Soule Jr. on Oct. 7, 1803, in Avon.

    Answer:
    At NEHGS, we have the vital and town records of Avon, Maine. Sometimes earlier records pertaining to a family are included in the vital records. Such may be the case with your 1796 Avon marriage. You can access these records in person or through NEHGS Research Services by requesting the Avon, Maine, town and vital records (1801-1831), NEHGS call number: F29/A92/A96.

    April 15, 2009

    Question:
    While reviewing a probate for my ancestor from Maine I noticed an item in his inventory I don’t recognize. Can you explain what a “driving pyke” is?

    Answer:
    I believe what the inventory is referring to is a “driving pike”. This device consisted of a metal or wooden rod with a steel hook. This was used for pulling and positioning logs as they were send down the rivers to lumber mills.

    April 17, 2009

    Question:
    Still working on the family history of my Felt relatives. My question is: does your library have any collection of manuscripts, papers, etc. of Joseph B. Felt, author of Annals of Salem, or any idea of where they might be? I found in Hartford CTHSM&L a collection of papers of John E. Morris, who compiled the Felt Genealogy (1893), and in his research for that, it appears he had access to J.B. Felt's "extensive collection of family records."

    Answer:
    Thank you for your note. We do not have any manuscripts at NEHGS directly dealing with Joseph Barlow Felt’s work on the Felt family. I also confirmed they are not with the Phillips Library part of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. I did locate some of his personal papers for you however. There is a collection of the Shaw family papers at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. containing material by Felt. His wife was original Abigail Shaw. Within the description of the collection it is stated that Felt family is represented and more specifically: “Includes sermons and other papers (1822-1832) of the Rev. Joseph Barlow Felt relating to New England”. This manuscript also has various items of correspondence relating to the Felt family. To access this collection at the Library of Congress reference refer to: Shaw family papers, 1636-1892. The collection consists of 650 items within four containers, and is also available on four reels of microfilm.

    April 21, 2009

    Question:
    The other day I was visiting NEHGS and had much success with the Norfolk County Massachusetts probate. The Family History Library microfilmed only the record books not the file papers. Can you tell me if I need to visit the Massachusetts State Archives of the Norfolk County Probate Court in Dedham, Massachusetts?

    Answer:
    The probate file papers for Norfolk County are not at the State Archives nor are they at the county seat in Dedham. The file papers for Norfolk County Probate from 1793 to present are located at a satellite officer in Canton, Massachusetts:

    Norfolk Probate and Family Court
    35 Shawmut Road
    Canton, MA 02021
    http://www.ncpfc.com/

    April 22, 2009

    Question:
    While reading the Civil War letters of a local soldier who served in the Union Army he mentioned two weapons he fired. One of these I have determined is a Springfield rifle, the other referred to his friend Henry's repeater.

    Answer:
    Actually I believe he is referring to the manufacturer not the owner. The Henry Repeating rifle was being used by the Union Army by 1862. These repeating rifles were produced by Benjamin Tyler Henry's factory in New Haven, Connecticut. A website you might want to visit on this popular firearm is: http://www.henryrepeating.com/index.cfm

    April 24, 2009

    Question:
    In a city directory I noticed my ancestor worked for an "express company". Later he was an operator for a trolley car. Can you tell me what he may have done while working for an express company?

    Answer:
    This is an occupation similar to today's Federal Express or UPS services of the 21st century. An express company offered a way to transport packages large or small within a local area. My grand-uncle Alexander L. Poor (1878-1920) owned and operated DeCrow's Express Company in Mattapan, Mass. He started with the company as a driver or sometimes referred to as a teamster. It would be hard to determine if your ancestor was a clerk or a driver for the express company, but further investigation may clarify that from another city directory or his obituary.

    April 27, 2009

    Question:
    While looking online at images of a set of 18th century Daggett gravestones I see the location listed as Tishmoo. I can not locate this area, and was wondering if you knew where this cemetery might be.

    Answer:
    This location name is a spelling variation of a section of Tisbury, Massachusetts referred to as “Tashmoo” [reference: Historical Data Relating to Counties, Cities, and towns in Massachusetts. (Boston, NEHGS, 1997), p. 115. Within the town of Tisbury is located a Daggett Family Cemetery at 325 West Spring Street. The dates of death should appear in the published Vital Records of Tisbury, Massachusetts to the end of the year 1850. Within the death records the reference of G.R. 9 refers to the Daggett cemetery. Hopefully the dates from the images you have seen match this.

    April 28, 2009

    Question:
    While transcribing a gravestone in Massachusetts I came across a fraternal inscription: U. O. OF. I. O. I. with three stars and a wreath. Do you know what it stands for?

    Answer:
    The inscription I believe is U.O. OF. I. O. L (the last letter being an L not I). This stands for the fraternal organization United Order of Independent Odd Ladies. This was the female equivalent to the Odd Fellows. Their purpose was "... to unite fraternally in Love, Union and Charity, all acceptable white women of Protestant faith, of good moral character, sound bodily health, temperate habits and a reputable calling, who believe in a Supreme Being, Creator, and Preserver of the Universe."

    April 29, 2009

    Question:
    My grandmother had a small hand colored print of a place called “The Tory Den”. Upon close examination it would appear this page was from a book, then hand water colored. Can you tell me where it came from and where it was located perhaps?

    Answer:
    Thank you for your question on “The Tory Den”. From your scan this appears to be the same frontispiece that appears in the book by E. LeRoy Pond, The Tories of Chippeny Hill, Connecticut [Farmington, Conn.] A brief account of the Loyalists of Bristol, Plymouth, and Harwinton, who founded St. Matthew’s Church in East Plymouth in 1701. (The Grafton Press, New York, 1909). The description of where the Tory Den was located in 1909 “It lies in the Ledges, and is backed by a tall cliff, facing southeast toward Chippeny Hill, which an agile climber can scale in less than a minute. Ferns, and briers, and sweet smelling things that you will fail to recall the names of , grow over the entrance. Within the impression is that of considerable length. Two lines of seven men could sit facing each other beneath the roofs of rock; three could stand upright where the rocks are highest. The quickest way for them to escape would be for the two southernmost men to turn to the south and, stooping, walk out; and for the one northern-most man to turn to the north and crawl out. The floor of the cave is dirt which washed down from the neighboring cliff”. If you are interested in this book we have it in our Local History Library on the 5th floor [NEHGS Call # F104/B8/P7/1909

     

    April 30, 2009

    Question:
    My question concerns a place called Sac Harbor. Do you know where it is located? An ancestor died there during War of 1812. Also, do you know where the pension files for the War of 1812 are located?

    Answer:
    Thank you for your question on the War of 1812. The location you mentioned is not Sac Harbor but Sag Harbor, New York. This town was attacked by the British during the War of 1812 on July 11, 1813. The pension files for the War of 1812 are currently at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. (http://www.nara.gov/). An index to those who received pensions was published by Virgil D. White, Index to War of 1812 pension files. (Waynesboro, Tenn.: National Historical Pub. Co., 1989). We have this index available at NEHGS under the call # E359.4/W48/1989. Since you are also interested in those who died during the War of 1812 this publication may interest you: Peterson, Clarence Stewart, Known military dead during the War of 1812 (Baltimore, 1955) available at NEHGS under the call # E359.4/P48/1955.

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