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  • Question of the Day Archive
    July 2009

  • July 1, 2009

    I'm trying to trace my lineage back to Ebenezer Severance, b. 8 Sept 1752 in New Hampshire. His son, Stevens S. Severance was born 14 July, 1798, I assume in New Hampshire. I have two possibilities for Stephen's son, Alonzo Clark Severance, born 1827. One source says born in Ossipee, Carroll, New Hampshire; the other source says born in Brockton, MA. The Alonzo Clark Severance I am looking for is the father of my great-grandfather, William Herbert Severance, born 11 Aug 1858 in Brockton, MA.

    The birth record for the community you mention in 1827 is now Brockton, Massachusetts. However previous to 1874 it was known as North Bridgewater. The vital records for North Bridgewater are published as part of the Vital Records of Brockton, Massachusetts to 1850. A birth from that era will simply give the name and date or birth of the child, with the names of the parents. The birthplace of the parents cannot be confirmed through a birth from that era. You may wish to look for the death record of the man born in 1827, it has a greater likelihood of confirming where his parents were from. This also depends on the reliability of the informant at his time of death. NEHGS also has a microfilm of the Town Records of Ossipee, N.H. which includes ear markings, inventories, tax lists, town minutes, marriages 1805-1808, 1812-1814, 1819-1820 and family records 1778-1814. Since this birth did not occur until 1827 it may not be covered in this microfilm. If you interested in viewing it at NEHGS the call number is: F33/N458, the LDS Microfilm number for this is 0015272.

    July 2, 2009

    I am researching families in the city of Newburyport, Massachusetts. Can you recommend 20th century newspapers on microfilm?

    The Boston Public Library Microtext Library has one of the largest collections of Massachusetts newspapers. Among the collections you will find the following Newburyport papers from the 20th century:

    Newburyport Item (1900-1915)
    Newburyport Morning Herald (1900-1915)
    Newburyport Leader (1908-1911)
    The Newburyport Daily News & Newburyport Herald (1900-1952)
    The Newburyport Daily News (1952-1962) The Daily News (1962-present)
    Merrimack Valley Sunday (1997-present)

    To find out more about the Boston Public Library and their hours go to may also wish to contact the Newburyport Public Library as to their holdings on microfilm as well. They can be reached online at:

    July 6, 2009

    I am looking for microfilms of the East Boston District Court records from the 1910's and 1920's. Does NEHGS have these for researchers?

    These district court records are not on microfilm at NEHGS. They have not been microfilmed or digitized yet. In fact only a partial sampling of the surviving case dockets records exist.

    If you would like to consult about a certain case that may survive contact the Supreme Judicial Court Archivist - Elizabeth Bouvier at the following address:

    Elizabeth Bouvier, Head of Archives
    Suffolk County Courthouse
    Three Pemberton Square
    16th Floor
    Boston, MA 02108

    July 7, 2009

    Can you tell me what the occupation “Hog reaver” is?

    This occupation is generally spelled “Hog reeve” and can also be referred to as field driver or a Hayward. This occupation was the job of rounding up the stray livestock in the town. If you for instance lost an animal it was generally taken to the town pound. You would pay the costs involved for the catching and feeding of the animal. Though the “Hog reeve” is not generally seen in New England anymore, you do have a “Dog Catcher” in most communities who puts the stray dogs in the town pound.

    July 8, 2009

    While visiting relatives in Maine over the Fourth of July weekend. I was given a pin that may have belonged to my great-grandfather. This is a small star shaped pin with “Baptist S.S.” on it. Is this named for a ship called the Baptist or a branch of the church?

    I believe what you have is a child’s pin that simply means Baptist Sunday School. However for the sake of curiosity I will see if my readers have any other thoughts.

    July 9, 2009

    I am looking for old Boston school records for a relative. During my last trip to Boston I used census records and found a photograph of all of the homes she had lived in until she was 18. I am hoping to find school records based on addresses that I have collected in hopes of finding a school photo.

    If she attended schools in Boston that were closed you can acquire the records from the Boston City Archives. If the school is still open many of these schools maintain their earlier records. There are occasionally school photos attached to the records but not very often before the early 20th century. You can reach the Boston City Archives at:

    Boston City Archives
    201 Rivermoor Street,
    West Roxbury, MA 02132
    Telephone: 617-635-1195
    Web Site:

    July 10, 2009

    One of my great-grandfathers played bass violin in the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) for some years in the 1880s and 1890s. Our unpublished family story concerning his departure from the orchestra has to do with a musicians' union. Who might have records about the early history of the musicians' union that organized (or tried to organize) the BSO in the 1890s?

    I spoke with the BSO on your behalf. Their Archives team would be happy to assist you with your question. They have extensive records regarding performers, and no doubt could clarify your Union question as well. BSO 617-266-1492/ Ask for the education and archives department.

    July 13, 2009

    My ancestors attended the Anglican Church in St. John's Newfoundland. I am looking for records from the 18th century. Can you tell me what is available and where? Is there a cemetery located nearby?

    The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist has been in existence since 1699. The records of Births, Marriages and Death survive as early as 1752. According to the church history there was an earlier book stolen in 1812 and never recovered. The records are at the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador called "The Rooms". The cemetery is located on a slope below the cemetery. The cemetery was closed in 1849 and now there are very few gravestones that survive. There is one gravestone from the 18th century that was unearthed and is now inside the church.

    July 14, 2009

    While visiting a cemetery in Brooklyn, New York I came across a small bronze flag holder with the initials AUSWV. Do you know what fraternal organization that might be associated with? I thought it may be Australian War Veterans perhaps, but it had an American flag.

    The AUSWV is an American organization. This acronym stood for the American Union Spanish-America War Veterans. This was a fraternal organizations established for Spanish-American War Veterans.

    July 15, 2009

    While at the "The Rooms" the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador we discovered that it is not allowed to print microfilm of church records, or photocopy original or photocopied church records. This policy is also true with digital cameras.

    If your ancestors attended a Methodist Church in Newfoundland it is very possible those records are now in the custody of the Archives of The United Church of Canada Newfoundland and Labrador Conference. For the cost of $1.00 per page you can make a request for a baptism, marriage or burial to be copied. Make sure you have consulted the records before at "The Rooms" to confirm it does exist. There is also a small postal fee involved. Make your inquiries to:

    Leona Laundry
    The United Church of Canada Newfoundland and Labrador Conference
    320 Elizabeth Avenue
    St. John's, Newfoundland
    A1B 1T9

    They are located near Memorial University and have limited volunteer hours so call ahead before a visit.

    July 16, 2009

    How I can find where in New York City my father’s family is buried? The family name was Scotto, and they came from Procida, Italy.

    First, obtain official death records for family members; these records should name the cemetery in which they were interred. If you lack death dates, there are over nine pages of Scottos in the New York City death index for 1891 to 1948. You can search these at To order a certified copy of a death certificate, contact the Department of Records and Information Services, 31 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007; 212-788-8580. You can also download an order form at

    July 17, 2009

    My grandmother lived near John Garand who was inventor of firearms in the 20th century. Do you know how I can find out where he is buried? Apparently in his plot is a child from her sister's family.

    According to the firearms inventor John Garand was buried at Hillcrest Park Cemetery in Springfield, Massachusetts. To contact the Hillcrest Park Cemetery you can call 413-782-2311. They are located on 895 Parker Street in Springfield.

    July 20, 2009

    I believe that my ancestor’s cousin was on the battleship Maine when it sunk in 1898, is there a listing of those who perished? Also where would he be buried?

    There is a listing of the crew of the battleship USS Maine and those who perished online at: The names of those who perished are indicated with an asterisk on this website. In February of 1899 approximately 150 of the 266 sailors who perished on the Maine were laid to rest in Colon Cemetery in Havana, Cuba. Their remains would be disinterred in December of that year and reinterred at Arlington National Cemetery. Those who survived the explosion but would later die at hospitals were buried in Key West, Florida.

    July 21, 2009

    I am looking for 18th Century City Directories for Massachusetts town and cities. Does the New England Historic Genealogical Society have these online?

    The only community in Massachusetts with directories from the 18th century in Boston appeared in 1789. This was followed by directories in 1796, 1798, and 1800 which was still technically the 18th century not the 19th century. In 1989 NEHGS published First Boston City Directory (1789) including extensive annotations by John Haven Dexter (1791-1876) which was edited by Ann Smith Lainhart. This publication added genealogical material that was not included in the original volume, making this periodical easier to determine the identity of a resident.

    July 22, 2009

    I believe that my great-aunt was divorced from her first husband in Maine sometime around World War I. Can I confirm this when I visit NEHGS next week?

    NEHGS does have a microfilm index to divorces on the fourth floor Microtext Library that occurred by county between 1893-1982. The indexes can be found under call number F18/M344. These are only an index; you will need to contact the individual county for the docket for the divorce. If you have a specific county you locate please ask our genealogists on the reference desk.

    July 23, 2009

    Can you tell me if I have a fraternal connection with an item I located? While going through my great-grandfather's trunk I came across a small gold pin with what appears to be three owls sitting on a wreath. I would think nothing of it but I also found a piece of stationery with the same emblem, but not describing the organization.

    What I believe you have is a membership pin for the International Order of Owls. This fraternal organization was formed in Saint Louis, Missouri in 1890. Some historians consider it another offshoot of the Freemasons; however it was not affiliated with the Masons. A short history of the "OOO" can be found with an image of the pin you described online at:

    July 24, 2009

    I understand that President John Adams' brother lived and died in Holbrook, Massachusetts. Apparently he is also buried there, but I find it hard to believe because Holbrook came about later in the 19th century.

    You are correct about Holbrook becoming a town in 1872 from the town of Randolph. Randolph was incorporated as a town in 1793 from Braintree. When John Adams' brother Elihu Adams died while serving in the Continental Army in 1776 his body was interred at what is now the Union Cemetery at 199 Union Street, Holbrook, Massachusetts. The Union Cemetery has burials which date back to at least 1754, and is still an active cemetery.

    July 27, 2009

    I have copies of pages from the Presbyterian Witness Vital Statistics. There are two abbreviations which I do not understand. They are “inst.” which occurs in HILTZ Caroline D. 22nd inst. at Lawrencetown, w/o Samuel Hiltz. P.W. Sat 31 May 1873, Vol. XXVI No. 22, p. 176 and “ult.” which occurs in HILTZ Elizabeth M. 29th ult. Thomas Merson, by Rev. Alexr. Stuart at Lawrencetown, P.W. Sat 9 Feb 1861, Vol. XIV No. 6, p. 23. Could you please tell me what these abbreviations mean in the context in which they were used? The abbreviations listed with these volumes does not include these particular abbreviations.

    In regards to your question on “inst.” and “ult.” I hope my description below will be of some help.

    - HILTZ Caroline D. 22nd inst. at Lawrencetown, w/o Samuel Hiltz. P.W. Sat 31 May 1873.
    “Inst.” is abbreviated for “instant” referring to something occurring within the same time frame.
    Therefore Caroline died on the 22nd of the same month the obituary was dated the in May 1873.
    - HILTZ Elizabeth M. 29th ult. Thomas Merson, by Rev. Alexr. Stuart at Lawrencetown, P.W. Sat 9 Feb 1861.
    “Ult” is the abbreviation for the Latin word “ultimo” which means last. Therefore Elizabeth died the previous month of when her obituary was published.

    July 28, 2009

    Some of my family resided in Everett, Massachusetts, from around 1912 until the 1940's. Some of them are buried there at the Woodlawn Cemetery.  Can you recommend a newspaper for Everett, and where I can find it online? 

    I am unaware of any Everett newspapers for that time frame being available online. You can search The Boston Globe for the years 1872-1925 online from the Boston Public Library (BPL) at Any resident of Massachusetts can obtain a BPL card free of charge. Death notices for residents of surrounding communities are published in this paper. 

    The following Everett newspapers are available on microfilm in the Microtext Library at the Central Branch of the BPL in Copley Square: 

    Everett Herald and Republican (1885 to 1940)

    Everett Gazette (1913 to 1937)

    Everett Daily Tribune (1927 to 1928)

    Everett News Gazette (1928 to 1949)

    Everett Leader and News Gazette (1941 to 1949)

    Everett Republican (1893-1913)

    July 29, 2009

    I am searching for the father of my father-in-law, Alexander Steuart-Menzies or perhaps Alexander Stuart Menzies, who fought in the Zulu War and was wounded by an assagai (Zulu spear). He never married my father-in-law´s mother, Ethel Jessie Fraser, and she was disinherited on this account. I am told he (mezies) served in the Seaforth Highlanders, but I do not find them listed as a company serving in the Zulu War. Menzies died in a bicycle accident in Ireland about 1895. When I was in Edinburgh, I asked in the War Museum in Edinburgh Castle for an address where I could find listed the soldiers who fought in that War and was given two e-mail addresses on a slip of paper. This paper had disappeared before I could get to a computer. Can you give me an address where I can obtain the names and information about soldiers (I believe he was an officer) in the Zulu War.

    Those records for the Anglo-Zulu War would be under the custody of the Public Record Office in London, England. A good place to find about which soldier’s records survive from the British War Office Records is online at: you are having trouble locating records on his specific regiment the Public Record Office can also be of use in this capacity. They should be able to tell you the location of the regiment from the time it was formed until it was disbanded. If you believe he was an Officer you may wish to examine the record holdings available in this collection:

    July 30, 2009

    I am looking for a probate that occurred in Dutchess County New York in 1755 that I have located in your index. Can you advise me on what has been microfilmed and what address I can write to for my own examination of this problem?

    Dutchess County, New York was formed November 1, 1683 and retains their original records. These probates are kept at the Dutchess County Surrogate's Court, 10 Market Street, Poughkeepsie, New York 12601, or by telephone (914) 486-2235. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah has a roll of microfilm for Wills 1751-1796 under microfilm call number # 913659. This microfilm can be borrowed and used at NEHGS or any Family History Center nearest you.

    July 31, 2009

    Military headstones for the Civil War seem to have two styles I have noticed. Some have “Comrade” on the back with full name and dates, and then others have a military shield with just the name and regiment or vessel. Why are they different?

    I have spent a lot of time visiting cemeteries in the northeast. What I have found is the stones with “Comrade” on the back and names and dates were erected by the Grand Army of the Republic chapter in that community. This was confirmed with local newspaper stories relating to the same. These were generally erected for members who could not afford a marker, or were buried in a G.A.R. plot. After the early 1870’s it appears to be more common to have a U.S. government issued headstone. These marble stones of the same dimension usually have a federal shield with just the name and dates upon it. There are applications for Federal headstones covering the years 1879 to 1903 on National Archives microfilm series M1845 (22 rolls of microfilm). They are arranged alphabetically by the name of the veteran the stone was being ordered for. This database and images of these cards are now on under their military records section.



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