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  • The Weekly Genealogist

  • Vol. 11, No. 33
    Whole #440
    August 19, 2009
    Edited by Michael J. Leclerc and Valerie Beaudrault

    Greetings from the New England Historic Genealogical Society! This newsletter has been sent to people who asked to receive it. If you would like to unsubscribe or change your email address, please click on the link at the bottom of the email and follow the instructions provided.

    NEHGS collects, preserves, and interprets materials to document and make accessible the histories of families in America.

    * Obituaries
    * Volunteer for the Massachusetts Freemason Index Project
    * Research Recommendations:
    * Name Origins
    * New On
    * Spotlight: North Carolina Family Records Online
    * Stories of Interest
    * Question of the Day
    * Used and Remaindered Book Sale
    * Upcoming Education Programs
    * NEHGS Contact Information



    Two longtime supporters of NEHGS passed away in recent weeks:

    Harry Edward Figgie, Jr., 1923–2009

    Harry Edward Figgie, Jr. of Hunting Valley, Ohio, died July 14, 2009, aged 85 years. An NEHGS member since 1984, he was also a member of the Ewer Society. His paternal grandparents, who eventually settled in Cleveland, were from the Linth Valley in Canton Glarus, Switzerland. Three of his mother’s grandparents were born in England, but one was Orissa Ann (Lamphere) Phillips, through whom he descended from a large cluster of early New England families. In 2007, Newbury Street Press published The Ancestry of Harry E. Figgie, Jr. of Cleveland, Ohio, based on his own and commissioned research.

    Mr. Figgie was born in Cleveland, Ohio, October 28, 1923, son of Harry Edward and Violet (Phillips) Figgie. After serving in Gen. Patton’s Third Army in Europe in World War II, he returned to school, receiving a B.S. degree in Metallurgical Engineering in 1947 from Case Institute of Technology, an M.B.A. from Harvard in 1949, an M.S. in Industrial Engineering from Case in 1953, and a J.D. from Cleveland Marshall Law School in 1954. From 1953 until 1962, Mr. Figgie worked at the consulting firm, Booz Allen Hamilton, where he became one of the country’s leading cost reduction experts. In 1963, he took over the Automatic Sprinkler Corporation of America, which later changed its name to ATO Inc., and then to Figgie International. Mr. Figgie was the author of several books, including, most recently, How to Build a Billion Dollar Company from Scratch (Ruder Finn Press, 2008). He also wrote the bestseller, Bankruptcy 1995 (Little Brown, 1992), in which he warned of the dangers of spiraling federal deficits, and The Cost Reduction and Profit Improvement Handbook (AMACOM, 1990), which taught a generation of executives the straightforward management techniques that made the dozens of companies he was associated with so successful.

    He is survived by his wife Nancy V. (Furst), two sons and seven grandchildren.

    Thaxter Parks Spencer, 1921–2009

    Thaxter Parks “Ted” Spencer of Waltham, Mass., died July 11, 2009, aged 88 years. He inherited a large trove of family papers, letters and photographs, chiefly concerning his maternal ancestors, the Thaxter and Parks families. Beginning in 1949, he gradually donated these to the Society, where they now make up the Thaxter Parks Spencer Collection (described in detail in New England Ancestors, 9:1, Winter 2008). Last year, while the collection was being processed, what is believed to be the earliest photograph of Helen Keller with one of her dolls was discovered, resulting in international press coverage.

    Mr. Spencer was born in Boston June 25, 1921, son of Graham Parks and Hope Thaxter (Parks) Spencer. Receiving an A.B. degree in 1943 and an LL.B. degree in 1949, both from Harvard, he was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1949. He served in the U.S. Navy in both World War II and Korea, and was later active in the U.S. Naval Reserve. Shortly after receiving his law degree he became associated with the New England Mutual Life Insurance Company, where he spent his entire professional career, retiring as vice president and counsel. Mr. Spencer is survived by two nieces and a nephew.

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    Volunteer for the Massachusetts Freemason Index Project

    Even if your Freemason ancestor wasn’t as well-known as Paul Revere, searching membership records might be the key to chipping away at a family brick wall. With the advent of a new project to index membership cards for the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, the oldest Masonic jurisdiction in the western hemisphere, NEHGS is about to simplify the search process. Since Maine was part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts until 1820, early members from that state are also included among these cards.

    The Boston-based Grand Lodge, which celebrated its 275th anniversary in 2008, has amassed more than 400,000 membership cards dating back to the founding. The Society’s volunteer cadre is busily at work reviewing scanned images of the cards, extracting relevant information from each, and placing it in a spreadsheet. The resulting searchable database of Freemasons will be posted on, offering a valuable resource for tracing family members who joined the fraternal organization in Massachusetts.

    Interested in helping out with indexing the Mason cards? The only requirement is having Microsoft Excel or Works spreadsheet software already installed on your home computer. If you are interested in assisting us with this valuable project, please contact NEHGS volunteer coordinator Helen Herzer at or call 617-226-1276. You can find out more about the Grand Lodge at

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    Research Recommendations:
    by Michael J. Leclerc

    I recently came across this pair of websites, and I must say that they are very interesting for those who enjoy American history. They are both run by Kevin Katz, a social studies teacher with the School District of Philadelphia, who clearly knows more than a bit about his subject matter. contains a wide variety of postings on presidents, wars, famous speeches, time periods, and important figures in the history of the United States. Kevin’s wit is apparent in his postings. For example, in a recent post about the Apollo Moon Landing, he talks about buying Tang to celebrate the anniversary. In discussing the recent birth of his baby, he posted the following quote from Ronald Reagan: “Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.”

    Kevin’s background as a teacher rings through, and many of the posts are geared towards educators, although those with a general interest in the subject will still find them interesting. He posts links to informative resources, such as the Backstory with the American History Guys call-in radio program ( In addition his general musings, he posts interesting historical facts and quotes in the sidebars.

    The companion is primarily geared towards educators, with sample lesson plans and resources. Kevin is clearly interested in the use of primary documents in teaching, and genealogists will find the links to primary resources very helpful. These sites will prove of great assistance to those interested in putting their ancestors in historical context.

    There are a number of historical timelines on the site, such as The Making of the Constitution and The Texas War for Independence. You can also find links to sites where you can create your own timelines.

    One of my favorite parts of the site provides links to quotes. I leave you with the following from Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence from Philadelphia. I think it holds special interest to those tracing their American ancestors:

    “A pioneer is generally a man who has outlived his credit or fortune in the cultivated parts.”

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    Name Origins
    by Julie Helen Otto

    NELLIE (f): Common nickname for ELLEN or ELEANOR. Extremely common in the mid- to late nineteenth century.

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    New On

    ACGS Index of Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials

    This index to records of Roman Catholic Church baptisms, marriages, and burials was provided to NEHGS by the American-Canadian Genealogical Society. The original records are contained in ACGS repertories, which are available from AGCS as hard-cover publications or on CD. The index entries in this database each refer to the number of the original repertoire (e.g., "RP113"), which lists the entire record. The repertoires may be purchased through the ACGS online catalog, or individual repertoire pages may be ordered through the NEHGS photocopy service. If ordering pages from the NEHGS photocopy service, be sure to include the name of the individual, the type of record (baptism, marriage, or burial) and the repertoire number.

    This week, we are releasing records from 21 churches in New Hampshire, including 135,792 baptisms, 63,185 burials, and 90,425 marriages. (Records from 21 New York State churches were released on June 24, 2009.) We will add records from Massachusetts and Vermont churches in the future.

    Early Maine Deeds & Wills —Just added: Volumes 6–10

    This database is based on the CD-ROM of the same title issued by NEHGS in 2006. From the introduction to the CD-ROM:

    This database includes the contents of William M. Sargent's Maine Wills 1640–1760, published in 1887, and York Deeds, published between 1887 and 1910. These two sources constitute a vast amount of primary genealogical and biographical data on Maine's earliest settlers. Until it achieved statehood in 1820, Maine wills and probate records were filed in the office of the county Registrar of Probate — a practice derived from Massachusetts. In 1687 York County began to record wills and other probate documents in a separate set of books apart from the court records and deeds. The York County Deeds include land conveyances recorded between 1647 and 1737 and mention not only people who lived in what is now Maine but many others who were either moving in or out. This database contains alphabetical lists of the grantors and grantees, and names of other persons mentioned. The transcription and publication of the original volumes of Maine wills and York deeds was made possible by acts of the Maine State Legislature, and for this all genealogists with ancestors in colonial Maine owe a debt of thanks.

    This database installment includes Volumes 6–10 of York deeds, consisting of 18,948 names and 1,639 pages. Volumes 11–18 will be added in the future.

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    Spotlight: North Carolina Family Records Online
    by Valerie Beaudrault

    The digitized records found in the North Carolina Family Records Online collection are from the holdings of the North Carolina State Archives (NCSA) and State Library of North Carolina (SLNC). The collection currently contains more than 200 Bible Records from the more than 2,000 copies of family Bibles donated to and held by the North Carolina State Archives. The scanned images in the collection were made from photocopies or photostats created over the past 80 years by the staff of the NCSA. The North Carolina Family Records Online collection also includes the SLNC's six-volume Marriage and Death Notices. This set contains indices of marriage and death announcements from five North Carolina newspapers for the period 1799 to 1893: the Raleigh Register, North Carolina State Gazette, Daily Sentinel, Raleigh Observer and News & Observer.

    Researchers can browse through the digital collection’s images by family name or by location.

    First click on the Browse by Family Name tab. This will open an alphabetical-by-surname index page. If more than one family name is listed in the title, there may be multiple links to the particular Bible record. It should be noted that only the family names mentioned in the record's title are listed in the index, which is, therefore, not all inclusive. Many family names mentioned in the text of the records, are not reflected here. Records having a red asterisk are new as of August 14, 2009. To view a record, click on the name link. This will open a page with links to the family record images.

    First click on the Browse by Location tab. This will open a page with a map on which there are orange “people” icons indicating geographical locations mentioned in family records in the collection. Currently there are 711 records related to the United States, 35 related to Europe, 5 to Asia, and 1 each related to Australia and South America. Click on the cluster of icons to bring up an enlarged map showing groups of and individual icons. Click on the individual icon to open a box with a link to the specific digitized family Bible record.

    The following descriptive information is provided for each record in the collection: title, date, subjects, place, time period, description, index terms, local call number, physical characteristics, collection, type, language, format, digital collection, digital format, and audience.

    The collection can be searched by keyword, by topic, or by date. The keyword search can be limited by the fields found in the item description. Topics include, but are not limited to, African Americans, Air and Rail Transportation, various wars (American Revolution, American Civil War, Spanish American War, World War I and World War II), Governors, Legislators, Obituaries, Photographs, and Witchcraft. The date ranges in the date search comprise pre-1600, fifty-year increments to 1900, and post-1900.

    The North Carolina Family Records Online collection is part of the larger State Library of North Carolina Digital Repository ( Click on the Resources link on the homepage to access these collections and many others. The collections in the digital repository look at various aspects of North Carolina life and history.

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    Stories of Interest

    Nude Dude
    Many people know Kenny Burck, an active Ohio genealogist and former Federation of Genealogical Societies board member. And many of you may be familiar with his son Bobby, who goes by the more popular name of The Naked Cowboy. The New Yorker magazine recently ran a story about Bobby and his genealogist father.

    Good Age: Mystery of the Grave Marker is Solved with Readers' Help
    Sue Scheible reports in the Quincy, Mass., Patriot Ledger of a "lost" grave marker.

    Marblehead Uncovers Letter from Rising Star
    Members of the Marblehead historical commission recently found a letter dated September 19, 1775, from Elbridge Gerry, accepting his seat in the Continental Congress. Gerry later served as Vice-President of the United States and as governor of Massachusetts.

    Closet Relics Spur Genealogy Project to Solve Mystery of Shasta Pioneers
    The engraved Masonic sword belonging to his great-grandfather John Henry Foster set Paul Foster on a journey of discovery that culminated last weekend with the inclusion of his great-great-grandparents, Jacob and Adeline Forster (John Henry Foster's parents) on the official Pioneer Plaque list of the Shasta County Historical Society in California.

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    Question of the Day

    Each day (M-F), David Lambert, the NEHGS Online Genealogist, will post an interesting "Question of the Day" on http:/// to share with you. We hope these questions will be valuable and beneficial in your research. Check back daily for new questions and answers or read through our archives. What follows is a question asked this week. You are invited to submit research questions to David Allen Lambert at Please note that he will make every effort to reply to each message, but will respond on a first come, first-served basis. In some cases, he may need to refer individuals to the NEHGS Research Service for more in-depth research services for a fee. You can view more questions of the day at

    I was wondering if you could tell me about the 1840 Pensioners Census. My ancestor was a veteran of the War of 1812; would he be on it?

    The majority of the 1840 pensioners fought in the Revolutionary War. Most veterans of the War of 1812 were not pensioned until after 1871; however, there were some exceptions. Where the main portion of the household is only enumerated by age ranges, the pensioner was listed with his or her exact age. This is the first census to record the exact age of an individual. The 1850 census started enumerating all household members by their exact age.

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    Used and Remaindered Book Sale

    The NEHGS Sales department will be having a sale on used and remaindered books starting Thursday, August 20, 2009. Used book titles cover a wide variety of subjects, and remaindered books have had prices slashed up to 80%.

    To receive a copy of titles, prices and ordering instructions, please send an email with the word “AUGUST” in the subject line to Please note that this list will NOT be available until 5:00 PM EST on Thursday, August 20. This sale will run through Tuesday, August 25. 2009, while supplies last.

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    Upcoming Education Programs

    Each year the Society presents a number of dynamic lectures, seminars, and tours for genealogists and the general public. Programs are held at 99 Newbury Street unless otherwise indicated. For more information, please contact Ryan Woods at 617-226-1226 or

    You can view a full listing of upcoming programs:

    Seminars and Tours

    Scottish Family History Research Tour
    Sunday, September 20–Sunday, September 27, 2009
    Discover the origins of your Scottish ancestors with the inaugural NEHGS research tour to Edinburgh. This week-long intensive research program will be based out of Scotland's two premier genealogical repositories, The National Archives of Scotland (NAS) and the General Register Office for Scotland (GROS). Together these neighboring repositories house the major collections of government and vital records for more than 700 years of Scottish history. The main holdings of NAS include records created by the government of Scotland beginning in the twelfth century, including records of the crown and parliament; legal registers; court documents; and records of the Church of Scotland. Vital records, including births, marriages, and deaths from 1855 and parish registers from 1553 to 1854, are maintained by the GROS. Program registration includes lodging at the Sheraton Grand Hotel and opening and closing dinners.

    Salt Lake City Research Tour
    Sunday, October 25–Sunday, November 1, 2009
    Join NEHGS for our thirty-first annual research tour to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Along with more than 70 other participants, you are invited to take part in an intensive week of research where you will be aided by expert staff. Daily programming also includes computer tutorials for accessing the library card catalog, research tips and techniques lectures, personalized consultations and group dinning events.

    For more information about NEHGS programs, visit or email

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    NEHGS Contact Information

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