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  • Question of the Day Archive
    June 2009

  • June 1, 2009

    Question:
    I am trying to determine what the phrase “gavelkind tenure” means in a English land transaction.

    Answer:
    This term refers to when the real estate holdings of a deceased parent are divided among all male heirs equally. The female and illegitimate children were excluded from receiving any portion from the estate under this English law which was abolished in 1925.

    June 2, 2009

    Question:
    My ancestors lived in Everett, Massachusetts before World War I, and are buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Everett. Aside from vital records do you have any material that may help me locate where they lived. I have some addresses from births and marriage records but would like to know from voter lists where they lived.

    Answer:
    Thank you for your note. You may wish to contact Everett City Hall regarding registry of voter records. However you can determine street addresses from the Everett, Massachusetts City directories NEHGS has on microfiche. We have the following years before and after World War I : 1889-90, 1902-1904, 1906, 1908, 1910, 1912, 1914, 1916, 1920, 1922-34, 1938, 1940. These are located on the Fourth floor at the NEHGS Microtext Library under call number: F74/E9/E94.

    To reach Everett City Hall go online to: http://www.ci.everett.ma.us/

    June 3, 2009

    Question:
    Where can I find the Connecticut 1798 Direct Tax?

    Answer:
    According to the Connecticut Historical Society Museum in Hartford, Connecticut they have the files you need. They have the Direct Tax for Connecticut in 1798 for the counties of Hartford, Middlesex, New Haven, New London, Tolland and Windham. There are missing Direct Tax records for the counties of Fairfield and Litchfield. To contact the Connecticut Historical Society Museum go to: http://www.chs.org/

    June 4, 2009

    Question:
    I will be visiting NEHGS soon and plan on searching vital records for Middleboro, Massachusetts in the 19th and 20th centuries. Can you tell me what newspapers pre-1920 I can locate for Middleboro at NEHGS?

    Answer:
    NEHGS does not have an expansive collection of newspapers titles in our Microtext library. We are only a short walk from the Boston Public Library where you can find the following titles for Middleboro newspapers at their Microtext Department.

    Namasket Gazette (1852-1857), Middleboro Gazette (1857-1859), Middleboro Gazette and Old Colony Advertiser (1859-1868). You may also wish to contact the Middleboro Public Library for their holdings post 1868. They can be reached at: http://www.midlib.org/index.htm.

    June 5, 2009

    Question:
    Can you tell me about the organization called the “Free African Society”? It appears in an obituary I just received for a sibling of an ancestor.

    Answer:
    The Free African Society was a support and beneficial organization established for African Americans in Philadelphia in 1787. This group supported its members with insurance to pay for their burials, and also financially cared for the elderly or impoverished families of African American descent. To learn about the preamble of this organization you may wish to go to: http://www.auburn.edu/~lakwean/hist2010/doc1787_freeafrsoc.html.

    June 8, 2009

    Question:
    I am looking for an online or published map showing ancient Britain during Roman occupations. I can find small sections of major cities, but not an overall one. At one of your lectures I believe you discussed and showed one.

    Answer:
    Thank you for your note. The map is an online resource at: www.bibliographics.com/MAPS/BRITAIN/THUMBS.htm

    You may also wish to consult another collection of early maps, not from the Roman era but very useful at: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~genmaps/index.html

    June 9, 2009

    Question:
    Over the weekend I discovered I am related to the Hawes family of colonial Dorchester, Massachusetts. Can you suggest something that might be current research into this family. I never thought I would break this line so I am excited to find out more from NEHGS.

    Answer:
    According to Martin E. Hollick’s book New Englanders in the 1600s (Boston, Mass., NEHGS, 2006) there is a recent publication you might wish to consult. Raymond Gordon Hawes has compiled The Richard Hawes Genealogy: Richard Hawes ca. 1606-1656/7 of Dorchester, Massachusetts and his wife Ann and Some of their descendants through Thirteen Generations (Baltimore, Maryland, Gateway Press, 2003). You can consult this book at NEHGS under call number: CS71/H39/2003.

    June 10, 2009

    Question:
    Looking through the letters of my grandfather it mentions he had a silent movie actor in the family. All I can tell from the letters is that a second cousin named Joe Greybill was in a movie called “Billy was a Coward”. Do you know a biographical source that may aide me in finding out more?

    Answer:
    Your distant cousin was in fact a silent movie actor. His name appears to have been Joseph Graybill not Greybill. He did in fact star in a 1911 movie called “Bobby, the Coward, and played the role of a “thug”. Joseph was born ca. 1882 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and died at New York City August 3, 1913. Joseph appeared in eighty two movies between 1909 and 1913 when he died. You can find out a full list of his movies at: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0337033/

    The Internet Movie Database can be a great source for those undertaking one name studies by searching for all actors of a given surname.

    June 11, 2009

    Question:
    Can you explain to me a cemetery dilemma? My family plot was purchased at a cemetery in New York state in 1883. I am unclear on the headstone why there are names and dates that pre-date 1883?

    Answer:
    Thank you for your note. What has probably occurred is one of two things. When the lot was purchased there were other family members removed from older cemeteries to this plot. Or these names and dates are cenotaphs (a memorial without a burial present) for loved ones that are interred elsewhere. If you can locate the caretaker of this New York cemetery they may have an internment card reflecting the removal and reburial of the individuals in question.

    June 15, 2009

    Question:
    While reviewing the notes of my great aunt I found a photocopy of a page I am uncertain of. Can you help me figure what it came from ? The title on the top of the page is “MIDDLESEX COUNTY AND ITS PEOPLE” but I do not know anything more about the book. The page in question is 106, and it has a biography of Dr. Alva Harding Warren who I believe is the brother my great-grandfather’s wife.

    Answer:
    I just so happen to have this set of books in my office. The full title of this book by Edwin P. Conklin is Middlesex County and Its People – A History. This a five volume set was published in 1927 by Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc. in New York.

    The page you mentioned is in volume three of that series, what you may not realize is there is a portrait of Dr. Warren on the next page. If you would care to consult this volume the call number at NEHGS is F72/M7/C7/1927.

    June 16, 2009

    Question:
    Our ancestor was in the Civil War serving from New Hampshire. In a box of his personal keepsakes from the war I found a button which I do not know if it is from the Civil War or not. Do you know what a button with an eagle and AVO or AVC stands for and how old it might be. On the back I can make out Philadelphia as the maker. This would have been something I assume my ancestors picked up off the battlefield?

    Answer:
    Your ancestor picked up a button belonging to a member of the Confederate Army. The initials AVC stand for the Alabama Volunteer Corps. This button was produced before the Civil War by the Lambert & Mast Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. According to John F. Graf, Warman’s Civil War Collectibles (Iola, Wisc., Krause Publications, 2003) this button is worth around $400. A nice memento of the Civil War that I am happy to clarify for you and your family.

    June 17, 2009

    Question:
    I couldn't believe how easy it was to find my great-great-grandfather William Fleming. His gravestone reads: William Fleming, husband of Mary, East Boston, April 5, 1848; a 24-year native of Dronmore, Co. Tyrone, Ireland. At the end of that it had g.r.4. When I went down to the MA Archives, I was told that this came off a gravestone. When I clicked on the g it said grave record Catholic cemetary, North Cambridge. I then went to Malden, Holy Cross cemetary and looked up William Fleming; there was no record. I also sent a request to the City Hall in Cambridge and they said there was no record. Am I looking in the wrong places? Any help would be greatly appreciated. G.F.

    Answer:
    Thank you for your note. The cemetery in question is actually located in Cambridge not Waltham. The inscription was done before 1914 from a gravestone in the North Cambridge Catholic Cemetery (aka) St. John’s Cemetery, (aka) Rindge Avenue Cemetery. It is located at 244 Rindge Avenue in North Cambridge. Their telephone number is 781-322-6300. The Boston Catholic Archdiocese Archives has gravestone inscription records from 1845-1877; burial records 1846-1877; and grave lot sales from 1845-1881. You can reach the Boston Catholic Archdiocese Archives online at: http://www.bostoncatholic.org/Archives.aspx Because William died in East Boston, is the reason you did not find the death certificate of William in Cambridge. NEHGS has microfiche of these early Boston deaths if you would like to examine them the next time you visit. The call number for this set of microfiche is F73.25/M37.

    June 18, 2009

    Question:
    Can you explain to me why my great-grandfather purchased a “plumber” from a dentist. I have an old receipt from the 1890’s and I am quite puzzled by this.

    Answer:
    What your ancestor purchased from his dentist was probably not a plumber but a “plumper”. A plumper was a small round piece of ivory placed in the mouth to fill in the spot of missing teeth.

    June 19, 2009

    Question:
    Are there records available for the Newton Home for Orphans and Destitute Girls? Are they available from a distance? My great grandmother is listed in the 1880 census in this home. It was located on Hovey St., Newton, MA. J.A.

    Answer:
    Thank you for your note. The records for this home for girls are not in the holdings of the NEHGS library, nor do they appear in the collection of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. The records may however survive with the Rebecca Pomeroy Foundation in Newton. According to their website (http://www.pomroy.org/) the history of the Rebecca Pomeroy Association is shared with the Newton Home for Orphans and Destitute Girls - The "Newton Home for Orphan and Destitute Girls" was opened in 1872. After the death of its first matron, the home was chartered in 1884 as the "Rebecca Pomroy Newton Home for Orphan Girls". Its mission was to "care for, train, and educate destitute and orphan girls, and aid them in procuring means of self-support". In 1939, the charter was amended to include "the establishment and maintenance of a community center in Newton, and to offer and provide health-building, educational and recreational opportunities and guidance to people of all ages in the community." In 1955, the organization’s name was changed to "The Rebecca Pomroy Foundation, Incorporated," and it began to take its current form. You can contact the Rebecca Pomeroy Association via: Rebecca Pomroy Foundation, Inc. P. O. Box 66066 Auburndale, MA 02466, or by e-mail at: inquiries@pomroy.org

    June 22, 2009

    Question:
    What is the meaning of an “indirect tax” that was applied to my ancestor’s estate in 1892?

    Answer:
    An “Indirect Tax” was applied to goods that were in the process of being produced. This is often the case with manufactured goods. Perhaps your ancestor had placed a manufacturing order before his/her death and it had been applied to the debts against the estate.

    June 23, 2009

    Question:
    I am wondering where I can obtain the record of my deceased grand uncle who was a Mason from the Boston area in the 1920's. How much does this cost, and what can I find.

    Answer:
    You can contact the Grand Secretary's Office for the Massachusetts Grand Lodge in Boston for your request. The card you receive will contain his full name, date and place of birth, and dates of his lodge admission. If he was an active member his date of death should also be included. If he has a common name you will wish to give an approxiamate date of birth. There is no charge for this service.

    Contact the Grand Secretary's Office at:
    The Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Massachusetts
    186 Tremont St Boston, MA 02111
    (617) 426-6040
    (800) 882-1020 (Within Mass.)

    June 24, 2009

    Question:
    I have a family bible which, from context and the handwriting of the first entries, I believe was first being used around 1871 by a couple married in 1869. The bible, however, has no publication date. Is there a history of American bibles/publishers source that could help date it? The available data from the title page is: "The Holy Bible ... The Text conformable to the Standard of the American Bible Society. Philadelphia: Claxton, Remsen & Haffelfinger, 819 & 821 Market Street."

    Answer:
    I would suggest you first contact the American Bible Society in New York. They have a library and archives of thousands of historic bibles. You can reach their Library Services Supervisor – Jacquelyn Sapiie at jsapiie@americanbible.org, or by phone 212-408-1203. If this does not work I would suggest searching pre-1870 Philadelphia City Directories for the publisher Claxton, Remsen & Haffelfinger to see when their offices were located on 819 & 821 Market Street.

    June 25, 2009

    Question:
    A member of my family was a Pullman porter in the 1930’s. Do you know where I can find information on this relative.

    Answer:
    Thank you for your note. A recent publication by Lyn Hughes entitled An Anthology of Respect: The Pullman Porter National Historic Registry has a listing of all African-American Pullman porters from the late 19th century through 1969. NEHGS is currently ordering this publication. If you would like more information on this book go to: http://www.aphiliprandolphmuseum.com/anthology-of-respect.htm.

    June 29, 2009

    Question:
    I recently found a letter written by my 2g grandmother which mentioned that my 4th great grandfather had taught at West Point. He was born in Scotland in 1770 so I'm guessing he immigrated here around 1790. Where would I go to research early records at West Point to see if this information is true?

    Answer:
    If your ancestor was teaching at West Point Military Academy he would have been employed after 1802. You will want to contact the Archivist of West Point, c/o Garrison Commander, Bldg. 681, U.S. Military Academy, West Point, NY 10996. There is a very interesting online history of West Point put together by the Smithsonian Institute online at: http://americanhistory.si.edu/westpoint/

    June 30, 2009

    Question:
    I am trying to find a website to look up my dad's original nationalization information. I have a renewed copy that does not give me the info of when he came into this country. He has passed away and his papers I have now show it was done originally on Nov 14 1950 Fairfield Co Bridgeport, CT. Is there a website you know of I can go to?

    Answer:
    There are currently no online resources for your dad’s Connecticut Naturalization from the 1950’s. You will want to contact the New England Regional Branch of the National Archives in Waltham, Massachusetts. They are the repository for the Connecticut Naturalizations from that time period. They do offer a copy service to acquire the documents you require.

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