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  • The Weekly Genealogist

  • The Weekly Genealogist
    Vol. 14, No. 39
    Whole #550
    September 28, 2011
    Edited by Lynn Betlock, Jean Powers, 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.

    * Change in Access to Maine Vital Records
    * NEHGS Database News
    * The Clamorgans: A Lecture at NEHGS
    * Tips from Weekly Genealogists
    * Name Origins
    * This Week’s Survey
    * Spotlight: Charlotte County, Florida, History Collections
    * Stories of Interest
    * Black Families in Hampden County, Massachusetts, 1650-1865, Revised Edition
    * Upcoming Education Programs
    * NEHGS Contact Information


    Change in Access to Maine Vital Records

    Today, September 28, 2011, a new law on accessing vital records in Maine will take effect. The law changes the one hundred year closure set by law in 2010 to seventy-five years for birth records, fifty years for marriage records and fetal death records, and twenty-five years for death records. Family members and genealogists with a state issued researcher ID card will be able to access these closed records.

    Accessing Vital Records in Maine, a six-page document written by Maine Genealogical Society Vice President Helen A. Shaw, CG, provides a detailed look at the new law, how to access original vital records in Maine, and what resources researchers can and should use before accessing original records. A link to a PDF is available on the Maine Genealogical Society’s website.

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    NEHGS Database News
    by Sam Sturgis and Ryan Woods

    Ireland: Session Book of Aghadowey, 1702–1725

    In 1905, J. W. Kernohan, Secretary of the Presbyterian Historical Society in Belfast, Ireland, transcribed the first twenty-three years of the session book for Aghadowey, County Londonderry, Ireland, at the request of a member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. The member subsequently donated Mr. Kernohan’s transcription, which covers the period from 1702 to 1725, to NEHGS. (The manuscript begins in 1702; earlier years are lost.)

    In the summer of 1718, a number of ships bearing passengers from Coleraine and Londonderry, Ireland, arrived in Boston — the first organized mass migration of Irish and Scots Irish people to America. Among these passengers were Presbyterians from the Aghadowey area and their minister, Reverend James McGregor. Many of the Aghadowey immigrants eventually established the community of Londonderry, New Hampshire. A good history of this migration is available at The 1718 Migration.

    A session was composed of the ministers and elders of a congregation. Session records cover financial, legal, and disciplinary matters. A good discussion of the types of topics that may be addressed by the session is located in Short History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland by Prof. John M. Barkley, M.A., Ph.D., D.D., F.R.Hist.S. Many session books have been microfilmed and are available at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. However, the Aghadowey Session Book has not been microfilmed and is available only at the Presbyterian Historical Society, Church House, Fisherwick Place, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

    Charles Knowles Bolton, in his book Scotch Irish Pioneers in Ulster and America (Boston: Bacon and Brown, 1910), described the acquisition of the Agahadowey Session Book by the Presbyterian Historical Society and the contents of the book. Bolton’s description is available online at Scotch Irish Pioneers in Ulster and America.

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    The Clamorgans: A Lecture at NEHGS

    The Clamorgans: One Family’s History of Race in America by Julie Winch
    October 19, 6 p.m., NEHGS

    In her multigenerational history of the unforgettable Clamorgan family, Julie Winch traces how one family navigated race in America from the 1780s through the 1950s.

    The Clamorgan clan traces to the family patriarch Jacques Clamorgan, a French adventurer of questionable ethics who bought up, or at least claimed to have bought up, huge tracts of land around St. Louis. On his death, he bequeathed his holdings to his mixed-race, illegitimate heirs, setting off nearly two centuries of litigation. The result is a window on a remarkable family that by the early twentieth century variously claimed to be black, Creole, French, Spanish, Brazilian, Jewish, and white. Winch’s remarkable achievement is to capture in the vivid lives of this unforgettable family the degree to which race was open to manipulation by Americans on both sides of the racial divide.

    Julie Winch is a professor of history at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She is the author of A Gentleman of Color and Philadelphia’s Black Elite.

    The talk at NEHGS (99-101 Newbury St., Boston) is free and open to the public. No registration is required.

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    Tips from Weekly Genealogists

    With this issue of The Weekly Genealogist, we introduce a new occasional feature: “Tips from Weekly Genealogists,” which will allow us to showcase some of the collective wisdom of NEHGS members and subscribers.

    Assessing Information on Death Certificates
    by Charles Carter Morgan, West Windsor, New Jersey

    Do you ever think twice about the information contained in a birth or death certificate? I didn’t until I began to find discrepancies.

    I knew that my grandmother passed away while napping on her couch in Wayland, Massachusetts. Her death certificate stated that she died in Newton, Massachusetts. By asking questions, I learned that her official place of death was Newton, since her death was officially determined there.

    When I requested the death certificate of a distant relative, I found her date of death was listed as July 17. On a subsequent research trip to that area, I examined the original records, only to find that the real date of death was July 16. Upon inquiry, the office issued a new death certificate with the correct July 16 date.

    Another death certificate from the same jurisdiction stated that my great-grandfather’s date of birth was “April 27, 1838” and date of death was January 27, 1916. But the original record contained only the following: date of death: “Jan 27, 1916,” date of birth “April 27th" and age “78” yrs. Spaces for months and days were left blank. The person who completed the death certificate inferred the date of birth incorrectly by subtracting 78 from 1916 to arrive at the 1838 year of birth. But since my great-grandfather died in January before his April birthday, the year of birth should have been 1837. After I inquired about it, the office issued a new certificate listing the exact information shown on the original record, without inferring a date of birth.

    These experiences taught me to be wary of the information listed on birth and death certificates. When obtaining a certificate, I now request an exact transcription without inferences. With an exact transcription, any inferences are up to me. I also check the original records whenever possible.

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    Name Origins
    by Julie Helen Otto

    SELISSA (f): Selissa Scott (b. 1789), daughter of Samuel and Selah (Ballou) Scott of Bellingham, Mass., apparently married there 16 June 1831 Asa Hall, Esq. Her name may have been a variation of SELAH (her mother’s name), derived by adding the archaic Greek suffix –issa to create a fancier version of the name. Other “archaizing Greek” names include CLARISSA (from CLARA), MELISSA (from adding “issa” to “mel-”, the Greek root for “honey”), etc. The original names need not be Greek.

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    This Week's Survey

    Last week’s survey asked about the devices you use to read books electronically. The results are:

    • 58%, laptop or desktop computer
    • 36%, Amazon Kindle
    • 15%, Tablet (including the iPad)
    • 11%, Barnes & Noble Nook
    • 10%, Smartphone (including the iPhone)
    • 4%, other
    • 3%, Sony Reader
    • 2%, Kobo E-Reader
    This week's survey asks whether you’ve paid for genealogical research. Take the survey now!

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    Spotlight: Charlotte County, Florida, History Collections
    by Valerie Beaudrault

    Charlotte County History Collections

    Charlotte County is located in southwestern Florida. It was formed from DeSoto County and established in 1921.

    The Charlotte County History Collections website contains genealogical records, family histories, historical photographs, “Florida-themed postcards,” newspaper articles, and many other items. Click on the Browse the Charlotte County Florida Genealogical Society Collection link to view them. The website includes the following:

    Charlotte County, Florida, Marriages, 1921–1941
    This guide to Charlotte County, Florida, marriages was compiled and published as a project of the Charlotte County Genealogical Society. The guide covers the period from 1921 to 1941. There are two alphabetical indexes in the volume, one organized by groom’s surname and one by bride’s surname. The data fields in the indexes are groom name, age, and residence, bride’s name, age, and residence, and marriage date.

    Charlotte Harbor Cemetery, 1992
    This volume is a compendium of available records and transcriptions for local cemeteries, which were compiled by the Charlotte County Genealogical Society. The records are organized alphabetically by surname. The data includes full name, date of birth, date of death, and location of burial plot. There is also a roster of veterans’ burials.

    Indian Springs Cemetery in Punta Gorda, Florida, 1886–2004
    There are more than 2,000 burials at Indian Springs. The records are organized alphabetically by surname, by section of the cemetery. The records include birth and death dates and, in some cases, a transcription of an obituary.

    Charlotte Memorial Gardens, Interments & Inurnments, 1959–2001
    Charlotte Memorial Gardens Cemetery was established in 1959, and the Charlotte Memorial Funeral Home, within the cemetery, was established in 1987. The data in this volume was drawn from cemetery records and obituaries collected by the Charlotte County Genealogical Society. The information in the record may include name (plus maiden name) and age of the deceased, date and place of birth, date and place of death, funeral home, date and place of burial, survivors, veteran status, and the name and date of the newspapers in which obituaries appeared.

    Lt. Carl A. Bailey Memorial Cemetery and Other Early Black Burials
    This volume published by the Charlotte County Genealogical Society is a compendium of records and transcriptions of the Lt. Carl A. Bailey Memorial Cemetery in Cleveland, Florida, and other early “black” burials in Charlotte County. There is an alphabetical listing of those buried in the cemetery by surname, which includes full name, birth date and death date. There is a military veterans’ roster and some burial listings from other cemeteries.

    The Cemeteries of Fort Ogden, DeSoto County, Florida
    This volume contains burial information for three different cemeteries in Fort Ogden: The Fort Ogden Cemetery, The Ziba King Family Burial Ground, and two Jernigan family plots. The records are organized alphabetically by surname by cemetery. The data includes full name, date of birth, date of death, and plot location information. There is also a roster of military/veteran’s burials.

    There is also a collection of genealogical articles from various years that were written by Society members and published in the Sun Herald Newspapers, as well as individual family archives.

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    Stories of Interest

    Permanent Record: Untold Stories from a Stash of Depression-Era Report Cards
    After Paul Lukas found a collection of report cards from the Manhattan Trade School for Girls, he decided to try to find family members of the students — and then share the experience on his blog and on Slate.

    For the Dying, A Chance to Rewrite Life
    An end-of-life treatment called dignity therapy encourages the creation of a formal written life narrative. The psychiatrist who developed this treatment observes that, “The stories we tell about ourselves at the end of our lives are often very different than the stories that we tell about ourselves at other points.”

    This New York Times series “revisits and reconsiders America's most perilous period — using contemporary accounts, diaries, images and historical assessments to follow the Civil War as it unfolded.”

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    Black Families in Hampden County, Massachusetts, 1650-1865, Revised Edition

    Now available! Black Families in Hampden County, Massachusetts, 1650–1865, Revised Edition, by Joseph Caravalho.

    This extensively researched and expanded volume chronicles the lives of African American individuals and families who lived in the area now known as Hampden County in western Massachusetts, between the years 1650 and 1865. Author Joseph Carvalho III has relied on a wide variety of sources — including church records, ministers’ journals, family papers, court records, newspapers, U.S. and Massachusetts census reports, military and pension records, city directories, and cemetery records — to piece together family relationships. As a result of additional research, the revised edition includes noteworthy new material. This compilation of genealogical, biographical, and historical information not only brings these individuals to life but also provides the student of regional black history with a comprehensive view of the community at a pivotal time in history.

    The book is priced at $29.95 (or $26.96 for NEHGS members), plus shipping. To order, please follow the link above or call 1-888-296-3447.

    Did you know that the NEHGS Book Store offers library-quality copies of over 10,000 rare and out-of-print books? Some titles ordered by recent customers include:

      • The Collins Family . . . Record of the Descendants of William Collins and Esther Morris from 1760 to 1897 (Item P4-S06339, $26.50)
      • Genealogy of the Splawn and Collins Family, 1600–1960 (Item P4-S24222, $17.00)
      • King's Mountain and Its Heroes: History of the Battle of King’s Mountain, North Carolina, October. 7, 1780 and the Events which Led to It. (Item P5-NC1500H, $57.50)
      • Ogden Family History in the Line of Lt. Benjamin Ogden of New York (1735–1780) and His Wife Rachel Westervelt (Item P4-H20421, $30.00)
      • List of Persons Whose Names Have Been Changed in Massachusetts 1780–1892 (Item P5-MA0148H, $49.50)

    You can search the entire Classic Reprints catalog online. If you would like a list of FAQs and search tips for the Classic Reprints catalog, simply send an email with "Classic Reprints" in the subject line to

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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 99–101 Newbury Street unless otherwise indicated. For more information, please contact call 617-226-1226 or

    View a listing of upcoming programs.

    Seminars and Tours

    Salt Lake City Research Tour
    October 30 – November 6, 2011

    Be a part of the annual NEHGS research tour to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. You are invited to join fellow researchers and NEHGS members for a week of intensive research aided by expert staff. Lectures relating to organizing your materials, accessing the library catalog, and other research tips and techniques are included along with group dining events and personal consultations. (Please note: Rooms for the tour are no longer available at the Radisson Hotel.)

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    NEHGS Contact Information

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    Copyright 2011, New England Historic Genealogical Society
    99–101 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02116

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