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  • Question of the Day Archive
    October 2009

  • October 1, 2009

    I recently received the Civil War record for my great-great-grandfather. It states he was discharged "by reason of permanent lameness of left leg owing to partial con[-]raction of flexor muscles of thigh, the result of injury" The letter in question doesn't really look like any other lowercase t or f, but might be a capital f. What do you think they mean? I know from other records he was not in battle the whole time he served. I also know it was right after Gettysburg (July 9) and right before his company was starting a huge journey. Also other secondary records mention his job during the war was a "hospital attendant" - what might that be?

    The word in question is “contraction”.

    Transferred to 2d Co., 2d Battln. [Battalion] V.R.C. [Veterans Reserve Corps], October 9, 1863, by reason of permanent lameness left leg owing to partial contraction of flexor muscles of thigh, the result of injury.

    You also asked what he did as a Hospital Attendant. He would have served as an assistant in the hospital, perhaps working light duty in the day to day operations of the field hospital. My own great-uncle was injured during the war and had attendant duty while serving in the V.R.C. [Veterans Reserve Corps] during the Civil War.

    October 5, 2009

    Is it true that part of the Mayflower may be included in a building in England?

    In Buckinghamshire, England there is a 17th century barn located in the village of Jordans. Jordans is located within the parish of Chalfont St. Giles parish. The owner of this barn in the 17th century purchased timbers from a ship called the Mayflower that was being broken up for salvage. There is some debate about this building I have heard over the years; however it is known to be a tourist destination for many descendants of the Pilgrims of Plymouth. On the English Heritage site Images of England there is photograph online of the barn:

    October 6, 2009

    What does P.R. mean in Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850 database on your website?

    P.R. is not as common as the abbreviations G.R. (gravestone record) and C.R. (church record), but also a valuable source for genealogists. The P.R. stands for private record, and was usually presented to the person or committee compiling the records at that time. Many were not part of NEHGS or any historical society’s collection. The "Private Records" contained data from family bibles, account books, or diaries.

    October 7, 2009

    Recently, I received information on my grandfather including school records from Worcester Poly Tech. The records list a prep-school, Oakwood Seminary. Can you give me more information on Oakwood Seminary?

    I believe the school you are referring to is now called the Oakwood Friends School. According to the Oakwood Friends School website, “History - On October 18, 1898, thirteen former pupils of the Oakwood Seminary met and voted to become the "Oakwood School Alumni of New York City." The first president was Lindley Leggett, Class of 1889, and the first annual dinner of the new association was held on March 23, 1899 at the St. Denis Hotel in NYC. At that meeting, the name was changed to the "Oakwood Seminary Alumni Association."

    I would contact Nancy Doolittle in the alumni department at

    October 8, 2009

    I have been helping someone in the UK trace a relative who had come to America in the 1890s. I found him in the 1900 census at the Massachusetts Reformatory in Concord. Do you know if there are any records from that facility available for genealogists?

    I have contacted the Massachusetts State Archives where I use to work in the 1980's. I can remember boxing up these very records you mentioned while I was an intern there. The record case files date back to 1884, and they will take a look at the records. You will not be permitted to obtain any medical related files, but Prison/Reformatory records are accessible pre-1930. When you contact the Archives send your request in writing. Include as much as you can discuss about the inmate and your relationship to him.

    Mailing Address: Secretary of the Commonwealth
    Massachusetts Archives
    220 Morrissey Blvd.
    Boston, MA 02125

    An act in 1852 established this Reformatory in Concord, Massachusetts. Brief description of the enactment here.


    October 9, 2009

    Do you know of a genealogical society for the descendants of the accused victims of the Salem Witch Trials?

    There is a group called the Associated Daughters of Early American Witches (founded in 1987) -
    The following information on the requirements appears on their website:

    The PURPOSE of this Society shall be:

    1. To search for and preserve the names of those accused of witchery in that portion of Colonial America now the United States of America.

    2. To locate the living female descendants of all witches who were accused in the American colonies prior to published records of same.


    A woman must be at least sixteen years of age and able to prove descent from an ancestor or ancestress who was accused or tried or executed for the practice of witchcraft prior to 31 December 1699.

    In 1975 there was a group called "Son of a Witch" which is no longer in existence according the
    Hereditary Society Blue Book.

    Army Record

    October 13, 2009

    I understand that the Army records for World War I soldiers in St. Louis were destroyed during a fire in the 1970’s. Can you tell me what would be on a typical card from the Adjutant General’s Office from an individual state? You had written about these records before, but I was wondering what the card might supply?

    Recently I was given a copy of a New York State Adjutant General Service card for a World War I veteran. The following are the columns in question:

    Name; service number; where enrolled at; age at entrance [into the service]; rank; home address; where, when, rank, and duration served; remarks (physical description, place of birth); date of discharge; rank at discharge.

    October 14, 2009

    My ancestor is listed in the U.S. censuses of 1910 and 1920 as residing in the Foxborough State Hospital, in Foxboro, Massachusetts. I believe that his wife divorced him around 1920. Where could I see the record of commitment with his diagnosis? What medical and legal records might be available on him?

    Mental health records in Massachusetts are not open for inspection. Even when you are a family member, there is considerable red tape. For instance, my own grandfather was committed to the Rutland [Massachusetts] State Sanatorium in the 1940s. Even though this was a state tuberculosis hospital, the records are still closed.

    I contacted the Massachusetts State Archives to see if they had records for state hospitals. In most cases the answer is yes; however, the archives informed me that the Foxboro records are now under the custody of the Taunton State Hospital. The latter’s phone number, 508-822-7551, is connected to an answering machine. The mailing address is Taunton State Hospital, 60 Hodges Ave. Ext., Taunton, MA 02780.

    Prior to 1922, Massachusetts divorces were handled on the Superior Court level. If you know the county and the year you suspect the divorce occurred, you can contact Elizabeth Bouvier, Archivist, Judicial Archives, 16th Floor, High Rise Courthouse, 3 Pemberton Square, Boston, MA 02109.

    October 15, 2009

    I have found a news clipping that states the following, “Massapoag Lodge 424 N.E.O.P. took in several new candidates at their meeting last Tuesday evening.” Can you help me determine what N.E.O.P stands for?

    The N.E.O.P. stood for the New England Order of Protection. The Massapoag Lodge was the local lodge that served members in the Canton and Sharon, Massachusetts area. The Boston headquarters of this organization merged in 1968 with the Woodmen of the World. For images of the medals for this organization go online to:

    October 16, 2009

    My ancestor is listed in the Chelsea, Massachusetts Vital Records. He was a Revolutionary War soldier and died in 1822. When I contacted the cemetery where he was buried I was told no one was buried there in the 1820's. I do not understand; can you help?

    Many times when a cemetery was opened families would rebury loved ones who had died earlier. In a local cemetery in my hometown the main cemetery was started in the 1850’s. However, when I surveyed this same cemetery I found a gravestone and burial from 1799. This was a child of a couple who wished to have their infant reburied from the older town cemetery in their new lot. What you need to explain to the cemetery is that you are looking for a burial for an individual with his name, not from the 1820’s but from the 1850’s forward. The Vital Records of Chelsea, Massachusetts to the year 1850 were published in 1916. When this book was compiled someone visited and transcribed a gravestone standing in the newer cemetery. This memorial was standing at least in 1916, and hopefully is just an oversight with the cemetery records once you explain the situation of a “reburial” to them.

    October 19, 2009

    Can you recommend a website with access to cemetery records free of charge? My primary focus at this time is New York State cemetery records.

    I would suggest the following:

    1) Contact the community that has the cemetery.

    2) Ask for the town historian from the town clerk’s office. They will often be the contact for who has transcribed the cemeteries, or where you can locate the burial records.

    3) Find out if the public library has a manuscript of the cemetery inscriptions.

    4) search out the cemetery name, you might find a “free” website that deals with the inscriptions. I would use and make a “photo” request from the cemetery you need. Also I would suggest the website Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK). I was able to put a request on that site and in 2 weeks got a photo of a gravestone in Michigan for my ancestor. The website for RAOGK is the site and it is for free to use.

    October 21, 2009

    While examining the 1824 directory of Boston I found my ancestor was a Talow distributor. What would that be as an occupation?

    Tallow is “suet or fat of animals of the sheep and ox variety”. McDonalds used Tallow oil in the cooking process of it French fries before it switched to vegetable oil. Tallow was often used to make candles and in the production of soap. So he may have been a candle maker, or dealt with the distribution of suet or animal fat for production purposes.

    October 23, 2009

    I am working with a microfilm of the parish records of Rillington, Yorkshire, England. There is extensive water damage to the era I am searching. Do you know if they may have been published before hand?

    The records you speak of no doubt have earlier damage from over a century or more. A 20th century transcription if available may have the same problem. In regards to Rillington, Yorkshire there are also copies that were sent from the parish called "Bishops Transcripts". An annual copy of all baptisms, marriages and deaths are likely to fill in the blanks. I often use a combination of both records when thye are hard to read or missing. The Bishops Transcripts for Rillington can be viewed on [Family History Library microfilm 918409, Item 1.]

    October 26, 2009

    My father told me he was discharged at Camp Funston in Kansas at the end of the First World War. Can you tell me if records might exist for this event in his military career? I do not have any of his paperwork, and his other records were destroyed in a fire in the 1970's in St. Louis.

    You should be able to acquire his discharge papers from the Kansas Adjutant General's Office. However Camp Funston was located in Riley County, Kansas. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City has microfilmed discharges registered in Riley County.

    Discharges, v. 1 1919-1923 v. 2 (p. 1-375) 1935-1945 [Family History Library Microfilm # 2056880 Items 2-3 The Adjutant General's Office in Kansas can be reached at:

    October 27, 2009

    How can I locate an image of the last War of 1812 veteran? I understand that he was living in New York when he died. There is a story that he may be related to my family and believe I might have a picture of him in my family photos but he is only identified as "last War of 1812 soldier".

    The veteran who is regarded as the last American War of 1812 is Hiram Cronk (1800-1905). A small biography can be found with a photograph of the veteran online at:

    October 28, 2009

    Can you tell me what the occupation of a "plate layer" did? I found this on an 1851 British Census recently but I am a little confused what this occupation was. Do you suppose it had to do with porcelain manufacturer?

    The term "platemaker" actually refers to one who maintained railroad tracks. This and other old occupations that I have often found on British census records can be answered online at: There are many occupations that you may have never seen before; it is an interesting site to explore.

    October 30, 2009

    My ancestor was a Confederate officer and captured after Gettysburg. I understand he was held at a prisoner of war camp on an island in Ohio. Can you help me collect more information?

    Officers of the Confederacy were imprisoned on Johnson's Island in Sandusky Bay on Lake Erie in Ohio. There is a website now for the Friends and Descendants of Johnson's Island Civil War Prison. The following link will bring you to a page regarding research on prisoners of war: You can send a request to for more information on a POW in your family who was held there.

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