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  • The Weekly Genealogist

  • Vol. 15, No. 16
    Whole #579
    April 18, 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
    * 2012 Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife Conference
    * A Note from the Editor: Interpreting the Value of the 1940 Dollar
    * Name Origins
    * This Week’s Survey
    * Spotlight: Digital Newton, Newton Free Library, Massachusetts
    * Stories of Interest
    * Classic Reprints
    * Upcoming NEHGS Education Programs
    * NEHGS Contact Information


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

    Massachusetts Vital Records, 1914 Deaths

    The 1914 death records for Massachusetts are now available on This update to the Massachusetts Vital Records, 1911–1915, database includes 112 volumes of death certificates with 62,780 searchable names.

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    2012 Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife Conference
    The Irish in New England
    Deerfield, Massachusetts
    June 22–24, 2012

    The Irish in New England is a three-day conference of seventeen lectures on the Irish presence in New England, from the early eighteenth century to about the middle of the twentieth. Beginning with issues of immigration and the Irish diaspora, the program addresses the work typically associated with foreign-born Irish families: railroad building, domestic service, and groundskeeping. Other sessions deal with Irish-born merchants and mariners; Revolutionary-period Irish loyalty and law enforcement; Irish suffrage; and folklore and memory. The conference concludes with a session on the growth of Irish neighborhoods and charitable societies, and the work of Irish craftsmen, artists, and entertainers.

    An optional program on Irish genealogy will be offered on Friday afternoon, 2 to 4:30 p.m., by Marie Daly and Judith Lucey of NEHGS, entitled, “A Virtual Way to Tipperary: Researching Irish Ancestors Online.”

    The seminar program is available online. To register, visit the website or print the program and complete and mail the last page. Reservations are limited and will be accepted in the order received, and must arrive on or before June 10. For information and phone reservations, contact Julie Orvis Marcinkiewicz at 413-775-7179 or

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    A Note from the Editor: Interpreting the Value of the 1940 Dollar
    by Lynn Betlock, Editor

    Reader Philip Hermann, a professional genealogist and educator, wrote to say that after he found his relatives in the 1940 census, he realized that he needed to understand the impact of inflation. Several questions in the 1940 census make it necessary to interpret the value of money in 1940 relative to its value today. Mr. Hermann looked into this topic and wrote the following helpful piece.

    The Value of the 1940 Dollar
    by Philip Hermann

    A few questions in the 1940 census required answers in dollar amounts. Under “Household Data,” the value of a home or monthly rent was recorded. Under “Employment Status,” “Income in 1939” was listed.

    To fully understand the dollar amounts in the 1940 census one needs to consider inflation and convert the 1940 dollar amounts to 2012 dollars.

    Below are comparisons, made using the U.S. Department of Labor’s inflation calculator, between 1940 and 2012 dollars. (The inflation calculator allows you to compare dollar amounts for any year between 1913 and 2012.)

    1940 Dollars 2012 Dollars
    $1 $16.26
    $1,000 $16,261.64
    $10,000 $162,616.43

    For some context, here is a list of common goods and their prices in 1940 dollars, taken from

    Pork roast .39/lb.
    Ground beef .55/lb.
    Coffee .42/lb.
    Bananas .11/lb.
    Nylon hose .20 pair
    Men’s suit $24.50
    Sealy mattress $38.00
    Ford Super Coupe $1,395.00
    Average Home $3,920.00
    Average Salary $1,725.00


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    Name Origins
    by Julie Helen Otto, Staff Genealogist

    PHILETUS (m) (Greek beloved, Latinized): An apostate Christian condemned by Paul (II Timothy 2:17, 18), Philetus nevertheless had some New England namesakes in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including Andersonville casualty Philetus Barnum (about 1835-1864) of Middlebury, Conn.

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    This Week's Survey

    Last week’s survey asked how far you lived from where your closest immigrant ancestors settled. The results are:

    9%,   I live within 10 miles of where my immigrant ancestor settled.
    7%,   I live within 25 miles of where my immigrant ancestor settled.
    8%,   I live within 50 miles of where my immigrant ancestor settled.
    9%,   I live within 100 miles of where my immigrant ancestor settled.
    10%, I live within 250 miles of where my immigrant ancestor settled.
    10%, I live within 500 miles of where my immigrant ancestor settled.
    10%, I live within 1,000 miles of where my immigrant ancestor settled.
    37%, I live more than 1,000 miles from where my immigrant ancestor settled.
    <1%, I do not know.

    This week's survey asks about which century you’d choose if you could time travel to visit an ancestor. Take the survey now!

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    Spotlight: Digital Newton, Newton Free Library, Massachusetts
    by Valerie Beaudrault, Assistant Editor

    Digital Newton, Newton Free Library, Massachusetts

    The City of Newton is located in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, just west of Boston. The Newton Free Library has made a number of historical resources available on its website through Digital Newton. The materials in the collection “reflect the civic life of and provide insight into Newton from the 19th through the early 20th century, a time when Newton was transforming from agriculture to industry and becoming a suburban Boston residential community.” The collection is a work in progress. More images will be added as funding allows. To view the resources, click on the menu bar tabs. Resources include:

    Assessed Polls, Blue Books, and City Directories
    This section contains three image collections which list the names and addresses of Newton’s citizens and businesses. The first consists of published lists of registered voters and their polling districts for most years between 1884 and 1942. The second collection comprises the Blue Books, lists “of the leading residents, societies, etc. with street directory and new map” for most years between 1892 and 1927. The third collection contains digitized Newton city directories for many years between 1868 and 1934.

    Images of Historic Newton
    To view photographs, click on the Images of Historic Newton tab and select a collection from the drop-down list. Sixteen image collections have been digitized and uploaded to the site. Subjects include various Newton villages (Waban, Auburndale, Newton Corner/Nonantum, etc), family albums, glass negative collections, and more.

    Early Books
    In the Early Book Collection you will find digitized offerings from the library’s manuscript collection. Among the items are the diary of twelve-year Esmond Rice; the journal of Edward Jackson, who traveled to California during the Gold Rush; the manuscript eventually published as The History of Newton, 1630-1880 by Samuel Francis Smith; a history of the Newton Fire Department; and the 1906–07 diary of Newton Mayor Edgar W. Warren; and others.

    High School Year Books
    This collection contains Newton High School yearbook photographs for 1885, 1890, 1895, and 1900. Names are not recorded for the 1885 and 1890 images, but do appear with the 1895 photographs. In addition to photographs of individual students graduating in 1900, there are also “group photographs, autobiographical questionnaires, letters and telegrams addressed to the class at the time of their 25th reunion.”

    Historic Maps
    The Historic Maps collection consists of six maps of Newton. There are maps of the city from 1908, 1912, 1913, and 1918, an 1878 map of Newton Centre, and a map of Newton Corner likely drawn up by Thomas B. Proctor around 1869.

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    Stories of Interest

    Deep Research Went Into Sedgwick Project
    The Kyra Sedgwick episode of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., researched by NEHGS’s Rhonda R. McClure, features quotes by NEHGS President and CEO D. Brenton Simons.

    Unknown No More: Identifying a Civil War Soldier

    How researchers discovered the identity of a nameless Civil War soldier pictured in a compelling photograph.

    Bee Readers Tell Tales of Heirloom Furniture
    Readers of the Sacramento Bee sent in stories of a favorite piece of furniture, with many of those tables, chairs, and desks having traveled many miles and many generations.

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    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:

    • Records of the Town of Tisbury, Massachusetts, Beginning June 29, 1669 and Ending May 16, 1864 (Item P5-MA0500H, $87.00)
    • Records of the First Church at Dorchester, Massachusetts, in New England, 1636–1734 (Item P5-MA0526S, $27.50)
    • Probate Records of Lincoln County, Maine, 1760–1800 (Item P5-ME0256H, $47.00)
    • Old Houses of the Ancient Town of Norwich, Connecticut, 1660–1800, with Maps (item P5-CT0105H, $67.00)

    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 NEHGS Education Programs

    Colonial New England’s Colorful History, with Historian Roger Thompson
    Back Bay Events Center, 200 Berkeley Street, Boston
    Sunday, April 22, 9:30 a.m.– 4:45 p.m.

    The first generations of New England colonists left behind surprisingly colorful records. Colonial historian and scholar Roger Thompson will share his many years of research into the daily lives of early New Englanders, including in-depth studies of town settlement, religion, court records, crime and violence, the role of women, and the region’s relationship with England. In his books Sex in Middlesex: Popular Mores in a Massachusetts County, 1649-1699; Divided We Stand: Watertown, Massachusetts, 1630-1680; Cambridge Cameos: Stories of Life in Seventeenth-Century New England; and his most recent work, published by NEHGS, From Deference to Defiance: Charlestown, Massachusetts, 1629-1692, Mr. Thompson uses rigorous scholarship to bring this vibrant world to life. The day will conclude with a retrospective on Mr. Thompson’s illustrious career, spent exploring this fascinating period in our nation’s history.

    Roger Thompson is emeritus professor at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, England, where he taught American Colonial History for thirty years. He has also taught at many other distinguished institutions, including Eton College and several major American universities. Mr. Thompson is the author of ten books on English and early modern American history.

    Cost: $85 (includes continental breakfast). Please register by April 20, 2012. Register online.

    Come Home to New England – Session 1
    99-101 Newbury Street, Boston
    June 11–16

    Only two days left for early registration rates! One of NEHGS’s most popular programs, Come Home to New England is an intensive week of family history discovery and education at the Society’s headquarters in downtown Boston. NEHGS experts provide individual consultations and useful lectures to guide researchers of all levels in their family history explorations. Participants also enjoy group meals and social events, making every moment of this fun-filled week a chance to learn more about your family history.

    Tuition: $675 for registrations received through April 20, 2012. $750 after April 20, 2012. Register online.

    Salt Lake City Family History Research Tour
    Salt Lake City, Utah
    October 28–November 4

    Spaces are filling fast! You won't want to miss our thirty-fourth annual research tour to the world-renowned Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Let the experts from NEHGS help you navigate the collections of the largest genealogical library in the world. In this intensive week of research, consultations, lectures, group meals, and other activities, you'll explore the resources of the Family History Library with support and guidance to help you make the most out of your visit.

    Tuition (includes seven nights’ lodging at the Salt Lake Plaza Hotel): single, $1,550; double (shared lodging with another participant), $1,350 per person; double with non-researching guest, $1,850; commuter (no lodging), $775. Register online.

    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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