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  • Vol. 15, No. 45
    Whole #608
    November 7, 2012
    Edited by Lynn Betlock, Jean Powers, and Valerie Beaudrault


    Greetings from the New England Historic Genealogical Society! 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: Disaster Stories from Readers
    * Name Origins
    * The Weekly Genealogist Survey
    * Spotlight: Herkimer County, New York, Resources
    * Stories of Interest
    * Classic Reprints
    * Upcoming Education Programs


    NEHGS Database News

    Connecticut Vital Records Update

    Connecticut Vital Records to 1870 (The Barbour Collection)  

    Newly added to Connecticut Vital Records to 1870 (The Barbour Collection): Durham (1708–1852), Hebron (1708–1854), Killingly (1708–1850), and Ridgefield (1709–1850).

    Compiled from an original Lucius Barnes Barbour typescript in the NEHGS special collections, this database currently contains records for the towns of Branford, Canterbury, Colchester, Danbury, Derby, Durham, Fairfield, Farmington, Glastonbury, Greenwich, Groton, Guilford, Haddam, Hartford, Hebron, Killingly, Killingworth, Lebanon, Lyme, Middletown, Milford, New London, Norwalk, Norwich, Plainfield, Preston, Ridgefield, Saybrook, Simsbury, Stamford, Stonington, Stratford, Suffield, Wallingford, Waterbury, Wethersfield, Windham, Windsor, Woodbury, and Woodstock.

    The complete Barbour Collection contains records of marriages, births, and deaths in 137 Connecticut towns from the 1640s to about 1850 (some towns include records up to 1870). These records were collected, transcribed, and abstracted by Lucius Barnes Barbour (Connecticut Examiner of Public Records, 1911–1934) and his team of researchers between 1918 and 1928. Mr. Barbour was an NEHGS member from 1907 until his death in 1934. This set of typescripts was donated to NEHGS by Mr. Barbour's wife and children in 1938. Remaining towns will be added to the database over the next year.

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    A Note from the Editor: Disasters and Our Ancestors
    by Lynn Betlock, Editor

    Last week’s article about how disasters may have affected our ancestors prompted a number of reader emails. Below is a selection:

    John D. Tew of Purcellville, Virginia: Even before the frequent mention this past week of the infamous hurricane of September 1938, I knew about that storm from family stories. Like Sandy, that hurricane occurred during a full moon and a higher tide than usual because of the autumnal equinox. The storm roared up Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay, wreaking havoc and taking lives as it went. The Bay caused a funneling effect and the surge rose to sixteen feet above normal tides, and more than thirteen feet of water was left in some parts of downtown Providence. More than 600 people were killed. When I was a pre-teen I often looked at my grandmother's special edition photo magazine that showed the utter destruction that occurred in Providence, elsewhere in Rhode Island, other parts of New England, and Long Island. My father was sixteen at the time and his parents were out of town when the storm arrived. He came home from school and when he couldn’t find his younger brother he went out into gale force winds to find him. He had the foresight to put on a football helmet before he left and it gave some protection from flying debris. He finally found his brother at a friend's home playing in the cellar, completely oblivious to the danger raging outside. My father grabbed his brother and, without wasting time for explanation, almost dragged him home.

    LaBeth Hayden Pondish of Prescott Valley, Arizona: As a native of Texas City, I have been aware of the 1947 explosion from my early childhood. I was three and a half years old and living two miles from the explosion when it occurred, and the concussion of the explosion and the black smoke filling the skies are my earliest childhood memories. My father, L. M. Hayden, who passed away last year at the age of 96, had vivid memories of helping to pick up bodies and body parts after the explosion. His story is published in the memorial volume, We Were There: A Collection of the Personal Stories of Survivors of the 1947 Ship Explosions in Texas City, Texas. When I was growing up, most people who had survived the explosion spoke about it very little. When I attended the fiftieth anniversary observation in 1997, I found it gratifying to find that these people became celebrated eyewitnesses who were given a chance to tell their stories to an appreciative audience.

    DeAnna B. Jernigan of Alabama: I am surprised you didn't mention "the year with no summer" (1816) which prompted many in New England to leave for the Northwest Territory and other places west. My own Chase ancestors left Maine for Ohio after that disaster.

    Grant Hayter-Menzies of Sidney, British Columbia: The only family disaster story that comes to my mind is that of my great-great-grand uncle Peter Walker. Described as a gambler by the more severe members of his Scottish family, he was the first of my Scottish relatives to come to California, to invest in oil wells. He happened to be in San Francisco, sleeping in his hotel room, when the 1906 earthquake struck. He later remembered coming to on the street — the hotel was a shambles — and just began walking, he didn't know where, surrounded by fire and smoke and mayhem. It was then he realized that exactly half his clothes had been torn off. I wish we knew more about his adventures.

    Mary Gilchrist of Solon, Iowa: Your survey about ancestral experiences with natural disasters caused me to check most of the boxes. I have actively sought natural disasters and astrophysical phenomena to add color to thumbnail sketches of ancestors. One of my ancestors lived through the infamous hurricane in Galveston in 1900 by having the entire family lean on the door while the water washed through the crack underneath. Another moved to Tennessee from South Carolina in 1833, "the year the meteorites fell," and that knowledge inspired me to learn that the November Leonid meteor showers were spectacular in 1833, 1866, and 1900. Although meteor showers were not disasters, the populace was afraid that the world was coming to an end because it was so light and there were so many flashes and fireballs. And some of my ancestors’ relatives were killed in tornados with some pretty extraordinary stories. I also have speculated about the experiences ancestors must have had living in places and times where I know disasters occurred. These include Iowa County, Iowa, where a huge meteorite struck in the 1870s and southwestern Ohio in 1812, at the time of the New Madrid earthquake. I urge other genealogists to examine locations and dates to find out what disasters their ancestors might have experienced. I speculate that my ancestors had resilience because of their trials and tribulations.

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    Name Origins
    by Julie Helen Otto, Staff Genealogist

    RUFUS (m) (Latin red): William II “Rufus” (d. 1100) succeeded his father, William I “the Conqueror,” as King of England in 1087 and was killed by an arrow while hunting in the New Forest. The name, used as a nickname (for red-headed or ruddy men, presumably) throughout medieval Europe, was revived as an English proper name in its own right in the late eighteenth century. Rufus Allen, b. Bellingham, Massachusetts, 27 Nov. 1824, was a son of Samuel and Polly (__) Allen.

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    The Weekly Genealogist Survey

    Last week’s survey asked what natural disasters significantly affected your ancestors’ lives. 2,909 people answered this survey. The results are:

    • 28%, Blizzard
    • 14%, Drought
    • 9%, Earthquake
    • 17%, Fire
    • 18%, Flood
    • 21%, Hurricane
    • 9%, Tornado
    • <1%, Tsunami
    • 2%, Volcanic Eruption
    • 8%, Other
    • 39%, I am not aware of a natural disaster significantly affecting my ancestors.

    This week’s survey asks if your ancestors emigrated from Ireland due to the Great Famine (1845–1852). Take the survey now!

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    Spotlight: Herkimer County, New York, Resources
    by Valerie Beaudrault, Assistant Editor

    Herkimer County is located in central New York State. Its county seat is the Village of Herkimer.

    Herkimer County Tombstone Inscriptions  

    The Herkimer County Tombstone Inscriptions webpage contains burial information from cemeteries located in a number of different towns, including Columbia, Danube, Fairfield, Frankfort, German Flatts, Herkimer, Litchfield, Little Falls, Manheim, Newport, Norway, Ohio, Russia, Salisbury, Schuyler, Stark, Warren, Webb/Wilmurt, and Winfield.

    The website offers links to more than 100 burial and/or cemetery databases. Some of the links will take you to databases on other websites. (Please note that some of the external links to other sites no longer work.) Click on the cemetery name link to view the list of individuals buried in the cemetery. In some cases you will also find brief histories and/or photographs of the cemetery. A few of the databases, such as those for the town of Norway, index burial permits rather than tombstones. Some cemeteries have more than one burial database, and some have only partial listings while others are more complete.

    In addition to the town-specific cemetery databases, you will find four databases containing countywide burial records. The information for three of them was taken from the Proceedings of the Board of Supervisors of the County of Herkimer for 1903, 1910, and 1911. The fourth database was created from a volume titled Abstracts of Graves of Revolutionary Patriots.

    Herkimer County Historical Society

    The Herkimer County Historical Society is located in Herkimer. The society has made some resources available online. Click on the links in the contents list on the left side of the page to view them.

    Town Histories
    Brief histories of the county’s twenty towns (stated above) were extracted from Nathaniel Benton's 1856 History of Herkimer County.

    Family Histories
    Click on the Family Sketches link to open a new page that provides alphabetical links to the sketches. The biographical information comes from History of Herkimer County by George A. Hardin and Frank H. Willard, published in 1893.

    On the society’s website you will also find a brief history of Herkimer County, some stories of interest, and the contact information for Herkimer County town historians.

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    Stories of Interest

    Witness Transcripts from Cocoanut Grove Fire Released
    In advance of the seventieth anniversary of the November 28, 1942 fire at Boston’s Cocoanut Grove nightclub which killed 492 people, the Boston Police Department has recently released transcripts of interviews with survivors. The Boston Public Library has digitized transcripts of 148 interviews conducted from November 29 to December 11, 1942. They are available at

    Bring Out Your Dead: In Recording Who’s Buried Where, History Comes Alive
    Over the past twenty years “cemetery reader” Maggie Rail of Spokane, Washington, has transcribed gravestone inscriptions at approximately 500 cemeteries.

    Artifacts Found at Air Force Base May Be Tied to Revolutionary War
    “In recent years, archeologists have uncovered several musket balls, a shoe buckle, a knife, and other Colonial-era artifacts on land that is part of the Hanscom Air Force Base property [about twenty-five miles west of Boston] . . . Part of the Hanscom property extends near the site of a battle known as ‘Parker’s Revenge,’ which took place hours after the dawn clash on Lexington Green . . . Around 1:30 p.m. that day, Captain John Parker and his Lexington militia unit ambushed the British as they returned to Boston from Concord.”

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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:

    • Collateral Ancestry of Stephen Harris, born September 4, 1798, and of Marianne Smith, born April 2, 1805, Item P4-S13419 ($28.00)
    • History of Hartford, Vermont, July 4, 1761–April 4, 1889, Item P5-VT0025H ($52.50)
    • Winders of America: John Winder, of New York, 1674-5; Thomas Winder, of New Jersey, 1703-34; John Winder, of Maryland, 1665–98, Item P4-H27771 ($31.50)
    • History of Hillsdale, Columbia County, New York, Item P2-8252500 ($59.00)
    • Old Gravestones of Ulster County, New York, Item P2-8251000 ($70.00)

    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

    Getting the Most Out of the 1940 Census 
    99–101 Newbury St, Boston
    Wednesday, November 14, 6–7 p.m.

    Join Online Genealogist David Allen Lambert for an in-depth look at using the 1940 Census online. Now that the census is indexed and searchable after going public in April 2012, how can you make sure you're getting the most out of it? Attend this free lecture to find out more.

    Free and open to the public.

    Scrapbooking Your Family History
    99–101 Newbury St, Boston
    Saturday, December 1, 2012, 10–11 a.m.

    Genealogist Marcia Melnyk presents ideas, tips, and resources for turning your family history research into a memorable scrapbook or presentation piece, just in time for the holiday season.

    Registration: $15. Register online

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

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