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  • The Weekly Genealogist

  • Vol. 17, No. 14
    Whole #681
    April 2, 2014
    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 Annual Benefit Honors Doris Kearns Goodwin
    * NEHGS Database News
    * New at Online Learning Center
    * Catching up with Vita Brevis
    * ExtremeGenes Family History Radio Features NEHGS
    * A Note from the Editor: Black Sheep Ancestors
    * Spotlight: Rapid City Society for Genealogical Research, South Dakota
    * The Weekly Genealogist Survey
    * Stories of Interest
    * Great Migration Sale
    * Upcoming Education Programs


    NEHGS Annual Benefit Honors Doris Kearns Goodwin

    Join us for a special evening with Doris Kearns Goodwin at our Annual Benefit Dinner on Friday, April 25, at the Taj Boston hotel, overlooking Boston’s picturesque Public Garden.

    The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian’s keynote address, “Everlasting Legacies,” will discuss how “the people we love will live on so long as we pledge to tell and retell the stories of their lives.”

    Author of six critically acclaimed books, including recent bestseller The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism, Doris Kearns Goodwin will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award in American History and Biography.

    Proceeds of the dinner will benefit the Society’s capital campaign, Connecting Families. Advancing History.

    A champagne reception for patrons of the dinner will be hosted before the event. Space is limited. For more information, or to register, please visit

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    NEHGS Database News
    by Sam Sturgis, Digital Collections Administrator, and Christopher Carter, Digital Collections Coordinator

    Vermont Birth Records to 1871

    Our Vermont vital records database now contains pre–1871 birth records filed at the state level. These records are currently held by the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration. Names of parents have also been indexed, when available.

    The records held in this collection refer to the statewide index of vital records maintained by the Vermont State Archives. Town clerks were required to send copies of vital records to the state beginning in 1857. The state government began creating a statewide index to these records in 1919. The original vital records are still held at the town level. It may be possible to obtain a copy of the original record by contacting the corresponding town clerk’s office.

    Databases in Progress

    Databases scheduled to be released in the near future include The Thwing Collection: Inhabitants and Estates of the Town of Boston, 1630–1800; Essex County, MA: Probate File Papers, 1841-1881; and the next set of the Barbour Collection of Connecticut Vital Records, covering the towns of Columbia, Marlborough, Sherman, and Wilton.

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    New at the Online Learning Center

    FREE Webinar:

    Access the Expertise at NEHGS from Home
    Thursday, April 10, 3 p.m. EST
    Presented by: Chief Genealogist David Lambert and Director of Research Services Suzanne Stewart
    Cost: FREE

    Hit a brick wall in your research? Need help locating, accessing, or using records? Want to organize your family papers? The experts at NEHGS can help! Chief Genealogist David Lambert and Director of Research Services Suzanne Stewart will explain how our staff of experts can assist you through our “Ask A Genealogist” email service, consultations by phone or in person, and our research-for-hire program—all of which you can access from home. Register today!

    Irish Resources at NEHGS

    Learn the basics of Irish genealogy and build the groundwork for your research using the resources at NEHGS—both onsite and online. Watch Irish Resources at NEHGS (1:09:46, presented live on March 25, 2014, by NEHGS Archivist Judy Lucey).

    Our growing Online Learning Center contains subject guides on a variety of genealogical topics, informative videos, webinars, online courses, and more. Stay tuned for more resources in the coming weeks and months! If you have questions or feedback, please contact Online Education Coordinator Ginevra Morse at

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    Catching Up with Vita Brevis

    Interviews were a new feature in Vita Brevis last month. Scott Steward spoke with Marilynne K. Roach about her new book, Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials, and Jean Maguire interviewed Senior Genealogist David C. Dearborn, who retired in March after 38 years at NEHGS.

    Several new authors debuted in Vita Brevis in March. Deborah Rossi wrote about conserving the frame of an historic family tree chart; Helen Herzer offered newspapers as a substitute for New York vital records; D. Brenton Simons explored the witchcraft threat in seventeenth-century New England; Lael Dalal described the travels and travails of an Iraqi Jewish family in the mid-twentieth-century; Marie Daly outlined the features of the first mass Irish migration to America; Emily Baldoni wrote of the uses of the Social Register in genealogical research; Rhonda McClure discussed last names and historic occupations; and Ryan Woods described serendipitous family encounters in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

    Also in March, Leah Walczak reported on the Winter Weekend Getaway; Alicia Crane Williams and Helen S. Ullmann reviewed the progress of the Early New England Families and Western Massachusetts Families in 1790 study projects; Robert Charles Anderson broke down the components of assorted Great Migration populations; and David Allen Lambert wrote about his research on Stoughton’s Punkapoag Indian and African American families.

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    ExtremeGenes Family History Radio Features NEHGS

    ExtremeGenes Family History Radio recently featured NEHGS Senior Research Scholar Gary Boyd Roberts in an episode titled “Gateway Ancestors” (episode #35). Gary discussed the fascination of royal ancestors, from “snob appeal” to issues of social mobility in America.

    Last month, NEHGS Genealogists Rhonda McClure and David Allen Lambert appeared in episodes on celebrity genealogy (episode #31—Rhonda’s segment begins at 13:28) and genealogical research “war stories” (episode #27).

    ExtremeGenes Family History Radio is the commercial undertaking of Scott Fisher, long-time radio morning show host, author, and passionate amateur genealogist. Listeners can tune in weekly to new broadcasts from ExtremeGenes by visiting and clicking on “PODCAST” in the navigation bar.

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    A Note from the Editor: Black Sheep Ancestors
    by Lynn Betlock, Editor

    Genealogists and non-genealogists alike are often fascinated by their “black sheep” ancestors. Of course, this interest doesn’t stem from approval of crimes and misdeeds. Instead, researching black sheep ancestors can often be more exciting than investigating more virtuous forebears. Ancestors who were scoundrels can capture the imagination and bring color and pathos to a family history. I doubt many people muse about why ancestors stayed on the straight and narrow path throughout their lives. Considering those forebears who didn’t follow the rules—and why they did not—is a lot more thought-provoking. In addition, black sheep ancestors—particularly those who were actual criminals—may have generated additional records, such as court documents and newspaper accounts. Generally, no extra records are created when a person is a good and upstanding citizen (with the exception, perhaps, of good citizenship awards). The often rich and detailed records about black sheep ancestors might not only give information about transgressions but also provide insight into family circumstances not likely to be found anywhere else.

    In the early 2000s, we regularly featured readers’ black sheep ancestor stories in both New England Ancestors magazine (the predecessor to American Ancestors) and the e-newsletter. In fact, the black sheep stories (along with “my favorite ancestor” stories) were so popular that we ran at least one in the e-news almost every week for about two-and-a-half years, from March 2003 to October 2005. I recently read through the stories in our e-newsletter archive and found a host of reasons why someone might be pegged as a black sheep ancestor: adultery, bigamy, child abandonment, counterfeiting, desertion from the military, murder, and theft. The results of this week’s survey, which asks whether readers have black sheep ancestors, should produce interesting results. Unfortunately, the survey can’t answer the question of how many readers have black sheep ancestors and don’t know it!

    Below is a selection of related resources:

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    Spotlight: Rapid City Society for Genealogical Research, South Dakota
    by Valerie Beaudrault, Assistant Editor

    Rapid City Society for Genealogical Research, South Dakota

    Rapid City, located in southwestern South Dakota, is the county seat of Pennington County. The Rapid City Society for Genealogical Research has made a number of resources available on its website in PDF format. Click the Records tab to access them.

    Mortuary Records Index
    Behrens’ Mortuary records cover 1879 to 1971 (early records contain more information than later ones). The data fields are last name, first name, death date, age, where buried, and number. Additional data, drawn from the 1880 census, 1890 reconstructed census, the 1900 census, and Eka Parkinson’s newspaper readings (1879 to 1923), are provided.

    Pennington County, South Dakota Residents and Land Owners, 1890
    The Rapid City Society for Genealogical Research searched local land records, tax lists, school records, mining records, newspapers, and a number of other sources to attempt to reconstruct the 1890 U.S. Federal Census for Pennington County. The results of their research were published in a book titled Pennington County Residents and Landowners—1890, indexed in this database.

    Obituary Indexes
    The obituaries in this alphabetical index are drawn from The Rapid City Journal from 1968 through 2012. The data fields include name, age, death, location, cemetery, and obituary date. The society will look up obituaries for individuals whose names appear in the database.

    Cemetery Readings
    This section of the website contains burial databases for seventeen cemeteries in various counties in South Dakota, including Pennington County. One cemetery is located in North Dakota.

    Deceased Rapid City Classmates—1962
    This database of students from the Rapid City High School class of 1962 who died between graduation and 2012 is compiled from a book titled Deceased Classmates, Rapid City High School Class of 1962 Cobblers, Gone But Not Forgotten. The data fields include name, date of birth, and date of death.

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    The Weekly Genealogist Survey

    Last week’s survey asked about your familiarity with the genealogical practice of “double dating”. 4,046 people answered the survey. More than one answer could be selected. The results are:

    • 48%, I understand the concept of double dating.
    • 29%, I am somewhat familiar with double dating.
    • 9%, I am confused by the concept of double dating.
    • 14%, I have never heard of double dating.

    This week’s survey asks about black sheep ancestors. Take the survey now!

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    Stories of Interest

    New Tools to Track Your Family Health History
    “As knowledge grows about inherited causes of disease, new efforts are under way to help patients construct a simple but important research tool: the family health history.”

    New York Public Library Puts 20,000 Hi-Res Maps Online & Makes Them Free to Download and Use
    The New York Public Library announced the release of “more than 20,000 cartographic works as high resolution downloads.” The maps can be accessed through the library’s Digital Collections page.

    Extraordinary Collection of 5,000 WWI Photographs Salvaged from Rubbish Dumps by a Former Dustman
    “Bob Smethurst of Sussex, England, assembled his WWI collection by saving discarded photographs and memorabilia he encountered during his 36 years as a garbage collector.”

    Birthplace of WWII Icon “Rosie the Riveter” at Risk
    “The World War II bomber plant in Michigan that gave birth to the icon Rosie the Riveter needs an infusion of cash to save the site from being demolished.”

    Color Photographs of Imperial Russia Reveal a World Lost to History
    “Between 1909 and 1915, [photographer Sergei Mikhailovich] Prokudin-Gorskii crisscrossed the Russian Empire via train, taking photographs of 11 different regions.” The Library of Congress purchased the complete collection of Prokudin-Gorskii’s work from his sons in 1948.

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    Sale on Boston History Titles

    The Bookstore at NEHGS is offering 20% off Great Migration works. Visit our Great Migration store to view all the titles!

    To receive your discount, please enter the code GM414 into the coupon field, or mention when calling to order at 1-888-296-3447.

    Offer good through 4/12/14, while supplies last. Discount cannot be combined with other offers, including the NEHGS member discount. Prices do not include shipping. Mass. residents add 6.25% sales tax.

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    Upcoming Education Program

    Nova Scotia Research Tour
    Registration deadline is approaching!
    When: June 22–29, 2014
    Where: Halifax, Nova Scotia

    Travel to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to trace your ancestors in Atlantic Canada. Let NEHGS experts David Allen Lambert and Judith Lucey, as well as local historians, guide you through the vast resources at the Nova Scotia Archives and other local repositories. The tour includes lectures, consultations, a walking tour of Halifax, group events, and a day trip to the charming harborside town of Shelburne.

    More information and registration

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    Copyright 2014, New England Historic Genealogical Society
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New England Historic Genealogical Society
99 - 101 Newbury Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02116, USA

© 2010 - 2014 New England Historic Genealogical Society