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  • The Weekly Genealogist

  • Vol. 15, No. 12
    Whole #575
    March 21, 2012
    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.

    * NEHGS Database News
    * A Note from the Editor: More on Surname Changes
    * Name Origins
    * This Week’s Survey
    * Spotlight: Gallaudet University Library Deaf Collections and Archives, Washington, D.C.
    * Stories of Interest
    * Now Available: The Genealogist’s Handbook for New England Research, 5th Edition
    * Upcoming Education Programs
    * NEHGS Contact Information


    NEHGS Database News
    by Sam Sturgis, Digital Collections Administrator, and Ryan Woods, Director of Internet Technology

    Jewish Cemeteries in Massachusetts

    NEHGS is pleased to add eight new cemeteries to the Jewish Cemeteries in Massachusetts database. The new cemeteries include: Kehillath Jacob, Mohliver, Olita, Sons of Benjamin, Polonnoe, and Pultusker cemeteries in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, Framingham-Natick cemetery in Natick, Massachusetts, and Agudas Achim cemetery in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.

    The records in this collection are courtesy of the American Jewish Historical Society – New England Archives, who, in collaboration with the Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts, maintain records for 105 Jewish cemeteries in Massachusetts. Records range from 1853 to present.

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    A Note from the Editor: More on Surname Changes
    by Lynn Betlock, Editor

    We received many responses to our recent survey and column on surname changes. Below is a sampling of reader comments.

    Dave Cummings of Cleveland, Tennessee: One of my Irish lines is Higman, or so I thought. I hit a brick wall about 1850–1860, when I could find no Higmans anywhere. Fortunately, I found the ancestral name was actually Hickman. The Hickmans were in Northern New York in the 1840s and 1850s, and it seemed the name just became Higman. Then I practiced my best Irish brogue and found Hickman can be pronounced Higman. My second example is of a place name change, but the principle is the same. Researching my ancestor Elias Sage, who ended up in Northern New York, I read affidavits collected there testifying to his Revolutionary War service. Several said Elias had earlier lived in Saundersfield, Massachusetts. I looked at maps and could not find a town of that name. A more experienced researcher suggested that the key to the puzzle might be the Massachusetts accent, and that the town in question might be Sandisfield. She suggested I practice a Massachusetts accent to hear how the name might sound.

    Elden J. Johnson of East Jordan, Michigan: A French-Canadian family moved to the country where I live (Antrim County, Michigan) many years ago. They spelled their name “Paradis.” The “s” was silent. Americans who didn’t pay attention to the “s” pronounced and spelled the name “Parody.” Others pronounced the “s” and it became “Paradise.” All three versions are in use today.

    Joseph F. Thompson: Not until I became interested in genealogy did I realize that my Scottish immigrant ancestors, who came to Quincy, Massachusetts, in the late 1870s, spelled their name “Thomson.” Before I learned this, I had only researched people with the “Thompson” spelling. Learning about the surname change taught me an important lesson about being flexible and open to many possibilities when doing genealogical research.

    T. Langford: Beware of descendants changing ancestral names! A number of relatives insisted our Hindorff ancestors name was originally "von Hindorff." Document research could find no such name. Pursuing "Hindorff" however eventually found that Nancy Vaughn, who married P.G. Hindorff, proudly referred to herself as Nancy Vaughn Hindorff and descendants wrote it down the way it sounded: Nancy von Hindorff! Well, it sounded good!

    Coincidentally, some interesting postings about surname changes have also been taking place recently on two genealogy blogs. You can visit Marian Pierre-Louis’s blog, Marian’s Roots and Rambles, on the topic, “Ellis Island: Did They or Didn’t They?” and Judy Russell’s blog, The Legal Genealogist, under “What’s in a Name?

    For those who would like to weigh in on this topic, please visit the NEHGS Facebook page or the NEHGS Discussion Boards to post your comment or story.

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    Name Origins
    by Julie Helen Otto, Staff Genealogist

    ABI (f) Hebrew. Mother of Hezekiah, King of Israel. In colonial America, ABI could also function as an abbreviated version of ABIGAIL or a phonetic version of that name’s nickname ABBY. Abi Birge, dau. of John [Jr.] and Esther (Peirce) Birge, b. Deerfield, Mass. 22 Aug. 1774, m. Orin Rogers 22 March 1797 at nearby Charlemont (NEHGR 161 [2007]: 137, 137n).

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    This Week's Survey

    Last week’s survey asked whether you receive the HTML or text version of this enewsletter. (More than one answer could be selected.) The results are:

    93%, I receive an HTML version of TWG by email.
    5%, I receive a text-only version of TWG by email.
    3%, I read The Daily Genealogist blog and TWG archives at the NEHGS website.
    1%, I subscribe to the TWG RSS feed or have another method of reading the enewsletter or blog.

    This week's survey asks whether you have ancestors who were textile mill workers. Take the survey now!

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    Spotlight: Gallaudet University Library Deaf Collections and Archives, Washington, D.C.
    by Valerie Beaudrault, Assistant Editor

    Gallaudet University Library Deaf Collections and Archives, Washington, D.C.

    Gallaudet University was first incorporated in Washington, D.C., as the Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind in 1857. Its first superintendent was Edward Miner Gallaudet, the son of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, founder of the first school for deaf students in the United States. In 1864, Congress authorized the school to confer college degrees and Edward Gallaudet was made president. Ninety years later in 1954, through an act of Congress, the institution was renamed Gallaudet College in honor of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet.

    Deaf Library Collections and Archives
    According to its mission statement “The Gallaudet University Archives is responsible for the institutional memory of the University and also strives to preserve the memory of the global Deaf Community.” The collection includes artifacts, photographs, films, papers, periodicals, books, and other items.

    A number of the online resources may be found under Genealogy Resources on the website. Click on the Genealogy Resources link in the site’s contents list on the left side of the page to access them. The genealogy databases include the following:

    Gallaudet University Alumni Cards
    This collection comprises approximately 4,650 alumni cards for the period from 1866 through 1961. The cards include the name, class, degree, married name, and subsequent degrees for these individuals. In addition the cards may also contain information such as residence, occupation, accomplishments, and dates of marriages and deaths. Many contain a wealth of information. The database is organized alphabetically. You can search by keywords in several fields, by title, personal name, and class year. You can also browse the database. The results returned include a thumbnail image of the index card. Click on the thumbnail to enlarge the image.

    Columbia Institution Statistics
    There are two Columbia Institution Statistics databases on the website that cover 1857 through 1897 and 1898 through 1950. The databases include student statistics compiled by the Registrar’s Office. Click on the first letter of the student’s surname to view an alphabetical list of students with surnames beginning with that letter.

    Faculty Staff Cards
    The faculty and staff database covers the period from 1866 to 1944. The data fields include last name, first name, position, date of appointment, birth date, if known, and additional remarks. The additional remarks field includes such information as date retired, date fired, date promoted, maiden name, and so on. It appears to include all staff — dentist, cook, bookkeeper, waitress, chambermaid, and laundress as well as instructors.

    Fay Index
    This database indexes a 528-page report compiled by Dr. Edward Allen Fay titled Marriages of the Deaf. As noted on the website, this report was compiled due to discussions at the third convention of the National Association of the Deaf in 1889. Its president, Edwin Hodgson, “cited the need for statistical analysis about the Deaf to either refute or confirm Alexander Graham Bell's theory that intermarriage among the Deaf led to a greater chance for a couple to have Deaf children.” This report contains a wealth of genealogical information. There are two alphabetical indexes: one to men and one to women by maiden name. Click on the first letter of the surname to view the list. The data fields include last name and first name of husband, then wife (or wife, then husband), folder code, and Fay code.

    Pennsylvania School for the Deaf Applications, 1824–1938
    The Pennsylvania School for the Deaf was a residential school in Philadelphia which operated between 1820 and 1984. This database is an alphabetical index to applications to the school. Click on the first letter of the student’s surname to view the names. The data fields include last name, first name, year, box number, and notes.

    Vital Records
    This database is an index to vital record events found in more than forty deaf community newspapers and lists published or collected between 1847 and 2001. Most of the later sources of information are from lists such as Gallaudet University Alumni Association Obituaries and the National Fraternal Society of the Deaf Death List. The index can be searched by last name, first name, and maiden name. You can limit the search by year, state, country, and source by using the drop down lists. The data fields in the search results vary by source and type of event, but they always include the source and publication date.

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    Stories of Interest

    A New Window on Bay State’s Vital Records
    The Holbrook Microfiche Collection has been purchased by, and more than nine million records, over half of the collection, is now online.

    Where Was the Bracket Born? It's a Cultural Icon, but Nobody Knows Who Invented It; E.R. Seymour Gets a Bye in Round Two
    An article on tournament brackets references brackets on family trees as a possible origin, and features a photo of a Spinola family tree from the NEHGS manuscript collection.

    Years Later, He Brought her Passport Back
    How a passport lost over fifty years ago made its way back to its owner.

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    Now Available: The Genealogist’s Handbook for New England Research, 5th Edition
    Edited by Michael J. Leclerc
    Publisher: New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston
    Copyright: 2012, Softcover, 7 x 10, 432 pp. Price: $24.95

    Delve deeper into your New England roots with this indispensable how-to guide and directory. Learn the ins and outs of New England research while locating records in repositories, libraries, and genealogical societies across Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. This new fifth edition also features introductory essays explaining research basics and resources unique to each state, nearly eighty state and county maps, a listing of each town’s parent and daughter towns, and a new user-friendly design.

    Order your copy today! For more information, call 1-888-296-3447or email the NEHGS Book Store.

    Classic Reprints

    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:

    • A Brief History of John Valentine Kratz and a Complete Genealogical Register (Item P4-H17151, $53.50)
    • Descendants of Valentine Hollingsworth Sr. (Item P4-H14766, $44.00)
    • Genealogical History of the Family Semple From 1214 to 1888 (Item P4-H23367, $24.00)
    • Town History of Weare, N.H., from 1888 (Item P5-NH0205H, $37.50)
    • History of Clarendon, N.Y., 1810-1888 (Item P5-NY0149H, $44.00)


    Search the entire Classic Reprints catalog. 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

    April 2012 New Visitor Welcome Tour
    99-101 Newbury Street
    Saturday, April 7, 10–11 a.m.

    Starting your family genealogy can seem a little daunting, with so much information to be found in so many locations. Let NEHGS help you make sense of it all by attending a free tour for members and non-members. This orientation and tour introduces you to the NEHGS research facility, and the records and resources available within the building. Free

    Genealogical Research in Connecticut
    99-101 Newbury Street
    Wednesday, April 11, 10–11 a.m.

    Join Christopher Child, genealogist of the Newbury Street Press, for an exploration of genealogical research in Connecticut. Learn more about the records, resources, and strategies you need to discover information about your Connecticut ancestors. Family history researchers of all levels are encouraged to attend. Free

    Portuguese and Azorean Immigration: Records and Resources in Massachusetts
    99-101 Newbury Street
    Friday, April 13, 12–1:30 p.m.

    Join us for a lunchtime program about Portuguese and Azorean immigration. We’re highlighting NEHGS’s recent acquisition of microfilmed Azorean records, including Catholic Church and civil records (primarily birth, baptism, marriage, and death records from the 16th through the 19th centuries).

    First, Sonia Pacheco, Librarian/Archivist at UMass Dartmouth, will present "Preserving and Promoting Ethnic Heritage, Identity, and Representation in the U.S., a brief history of Portuguese immigration to the United States," and share the resources available at the Ferreira-Mendes Portuguese-American Archives at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.

    Then, Michael J. Hall of FamilySearch will demonstrate how documents can be used to reconstruct the history of a family, and the importance of preserving all documents for the family historian, in "Immigration of Azoreans to the United States: Through the Documents of One Family." Follow the journey of the Brilhante Family from Relva, Sao Miguel, Azores, to Fall River, Massachusetts. The story of Azorean immigration, told through the eyes of Antonio Brilhante, will unfold through photos, newspaper accounts, government and religious records, and personal documents created in the Azores and the United States. Free.

    More information can be accessed by visiting the events page on

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    NEHGS Contact Information

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    Copyright 2012, New England Historic Genealogical Society
    99–101 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02116

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New England Historic Genealogical Society
99 - 101 Newbury Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02116, USA

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