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  • The Weekly Genealogist

  • Vol. 17, No. 18
    Whole #685
    April 30, 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 Database News
    * New at Online Learning Center
    * A Note from the Editor: The Influenza Epidemic of 1918
    * Spotlight: Vital Records Indexes, Louisiana State Archives
    * The Weekly Genealogist Survey
    * Stories of Interest
    * Save 15% on Portable Genealogists, Plus New Title
    * Upcoming Education Programs


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

    Essex County, MA: Probate File Papers, 1840–1881

    We have updated our Essex County, Massachusetts, Probate Record database to include records dating from 1840 to 1881. With the addition of these years, the collection now contains 58,037 cases filed between 1638 and 1881. The cases range in length from one to more than 1,200 pages, with a total of more than 950,000 individual file papers. This database was created from digital images and an index contributed to NEHGS by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Archives. The probate cases include wills, guardianships, administrations, and various other types of probate records.

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    New at the Online Learning Center

    Watch How-To Videos and Lectures
    Want to learn how to get the most from How to write and publish your family history? Or how to find your early New England ancestors? Our video series, featuring NEHGS experts, can help!

    Archived Webinars
    Watch previously broadcast webinars on topics ranging from using to Irish research to writing and publishing your family history. (Videos range from 45 minutes to a little over an hour in length.)

    Brief Video Lectures
    Get a quick introduction to best practices in genealogy, identifying Civil War ancestors, and more. Created in partnership with Family Search. (Videos are approximately 10 to 15 minutes long.)

    How-To Videos
    Want to learn how to save searches on, or how numbering works in ahnentafel or Register-style publications? Our short how-to videos can help! (Videos are approximately 2 to 3 minutes long.)

    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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    A Note from the Editor: The Influenza Epidemic of 1918
    by Lynn Betlock, Editor

    The Weekly Genealogist survey on April 9 asked readers about heroic ancestors. (The question was a follow up to a previous one on black sheep ancestors.) We received a number of written responses to the question, some of which were published on April 16. NEHGS genealogist Marie Daly wrote a story about her grandmother’s heroism during the Influenza Epidemic of 1918, which we are featuring today.

    Many accolades have deservedly gone to first-responders who risked their lives by running toward catastrophic danger to rescue the injured, the stranded, and the lost. But there have also been many other unsung heroes among us—doctors, nurses, clergy, and ordinary men and women—who knowingly exposed themselves to virulent disease to care for the sick and dying. My grandmother was among these heroes.

    In 1918, a newly mutated and virulent influenza strain killed twenty to forty million people worldwide. Approximately 675,000 Americans died from the flu, ten times more than were killed in World War I. Boston was the first city in the country to be affected, and it suffered the most losses. The contagion first appeared among returning sailors and spread rapidly. Located next to Boston, densely populated Cambridge, with a large percentage of immigrants, was overwhelmed. My mother, then a child in Cambridge, recalled the wail of ambulance sirens day and night.

    Exhausted doctors worked around the clock, but medical care was mainly palliative. Although temporary hospitals were established, most afflicted people could not get into hospitals and lay morbidly ill at home, cared for by family members. Typically, a patient would come down with chills and fever on the first day. By the next day, the blue-tinged victim would be gasping for breath. By the third day, the patient would be dead, asphyxiated by the massive amounts of fluid in his or her lungs. The flu killed 2.5% of people who contracted the disease, a case mortality rate much higher than in previous outbreaks.

    The epidemic peaked in September and October, and by November, Cambridge had reopened schools and theaters, and people began taking public transportation and attending church services again. In December, a rebound epidemic occurred. My grandmother, Mary Ellen (Steele) Kelly, was 38 years old, and lived in a triple-decker with her husband, a Cambridge police officer, and her two daughters, ages eight and three years. Her neighbor contracted influenza and lay dying and alone. By December, people knew how dangerous the infection was, and other neighbors refused to help the woman. My grandmother voluntarily stepped forward to care for the dying neighbor. She knew all too well that she was risking her life to help the woman. The neighbor soon died, and, within a day, my grandmother, Mary Ellen (Steele) Kelly, contracted the flu; she died three days later.

    We have medals to acclaim the bravery and sacrifice of soldiers and first responders. We have only our memories of our unrecognized heroes who demonstrated similar virtues in the face of more insidious peril. We should hold these heroes in our hearts and record their courageous deeds for posterity.

    For more information:

    The American Influenza Epidemic of 1918–1919: A Digital Encyclopedia offers a searchable archive of more than 16,000 photographs and documents, and accounts of the epidemic in fifty American cities.

    The Great Pandemic: The United States in 1918–1919 includes documents, illustrations, and an account of the situation in each state.

    The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 provides a brief overview of the epidemic, with links to additional information.

    The Pandemic Influenza Storybook contains personal recollections submitted by survivors, and their families and friends.

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    Spotlight: Vital Records Indexes, Louisiana State Archives
    by Valerie Beaudrault, Assistant Editor

    Vital Records Indexes, Louisiana State Archives

    The Louisiana State Archives are located in Baton Rouge, the capital city of Louisiana. The Archives have made vital records indexes available online. Click the Online Public Vital Records Index link to access the databases.

    Louisiana Death Records
    This index primarily covers 1911 through 1962; however, it does contain older records for some parishes. Certified copies of microfilmed death certificates from 1911 and later are available for a small fee. The basic search is by name; advanced search options include last name, first/middle name, parish, age, month, day, and year. Search results are sorted alphabetically by the deceased’s last name. The data fields in the search results include year of death, age, month, day, name, parish, page and volume number, and a link to order a copy of the certificate.

    Louisiana Birth Records
    The birth records index covers 1819 to 1912, plus records for births as early as 1790 in Orleans County. It should be noted that the law in many parishes did not require the keeping of birth records until 1918; therefore, the index is not comprehensive. Certified copies of microfilmed birth certificates from 1819 to 1912 only may be ordered for a small fee. The basic search is by name; advanced search options include last name, first/middle name of the child, mother and father, parish, month, day, and year. Search results are sorted alphabetically by the child’s last name. The data fields in the search results are year, month, day, baby name, mother’s name, father’s name, parish, page and volume number, and ordering link.

    Orleans Parish Marriage Records
    The Orleans Parish marriages index covers 1831 through 1962. Certified copies of microfilmed marriage certificates from 1870 to 1962 only may be ordered for a small fee. The basic search is by name; advanced search options include last name, first/middle name of the bride or groom, parish, month, day, and year. Search results are sorted alphabetically by the groom’s last name. The data fields in the index are year, month, bride’s name, groom’s name, parish, page and volume number, and ordering link.

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    The Weekly Genealogist Survey

    Last week’s survey asked if any of your ancestors lived in what is now New York City. 4,032 people answered the survey. The results are:

    • 54%, Yes, at least one of my ancestors lived in what is now New York City.
    • 35%, No, none of my ancestors lived in what is now New York City.
    • 11%, I am not sure.

    This week’s survey asks if your family was affected by the Influenza Epidemic of 1918-19. Take the survey now!

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    Stories of Interest

    New Award—and Cousins—for Doris Kearns Goodwin
    “Tracing family roots is increasingly difficult in China as urbanization swallows up temples and graveyards,” and younger and older generations are separated by an urban/rural divide.

    Through the Screen: British Pathé Opens its Archives
    “Cinema newsreel maker British Pathé has made all of its 85,000 films, spanning 1896 to 1976, available on YouTube. One writer takes you on a personal tour of the archives.”

    Nightly Viewers Share Their 1964 World’s Fair Photos and Memories
    Last week NBC Nightly News aired a story on the 1964 New York World’s Fair and asked viewers to send in their own photos from the event. This link allows you to see the story and the submitted photos.

    Irish Roots: Pre-1901 Censuses Launching Today
    On Monday the National Archives of Ireland introduced all of its pre-1901 census holdings on its website. Unfortunately, as columnist John Grenham explains, those holdings represent only a portion of the original records.

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    20% Off Essential New England Titles

    The Bookstore at NEHGS is offering 15% off our popular Portable Genealogist series, including our newest title, Seventeenth-Century New England Research by David Curtis Dearborn.

    Prior to 1700, the European population of New England was still sufficiently small and compact enough to be manageable from a genealogical standpoint. In many cases, town vital records, church, colony, court, probate, land, military, and tax records have not only survived, but have been abstracted and published. Seventeenth-Century New England will direct you to the most relevant and useful resources—including study projects, scholarly resources, and finding aids—for tracing your seventeenth-century New England ancestors.

    The Portable Genealogist series by the experts at NEHGS cover a variety of topics. These four-page laminated guides fit easily in your research files and can travel with you.

    To get your 20% discount, enter the code PG514 into the coupon field of your online order (or mention it when calling 1-888-296-3447). And, as always, the price of the Portable Genealogists includes free USPS 1st Class shipping!

    *Prices good through 5/10/14, while supplies last. Offer cannot be combined with any other discounts, including the NEHGS member discount.

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    Upcoming Education Programs

    New Visitor Welcome Tour
    When: Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 10 a.m.
    Where: 99–101 Newbury Street, Boston, Mass.
    Free and open to the public.

    This free orientation and tour introduces you to the resources available at the NEHGS research facility, located on Newbury Street in Boston.

    Founded in 1845, NEHGS is the country’s oldest and largest nonprofit genealogy library and archive. With more than 15 million artifacts, books, manuscripts, microfilms, journals, photographs, records, and expert staff to help you navigate it all, NEHGS provides the access you need to research your family history.

    Writing and Publishing Seminar
    Last chance to register!
    When: May 15–16, 2014
    Where: 99–101 Newbury Street, Boston, Mass.

    Join the experts at NEHGS to learn best practices and helpful tips in order to turn your research into a publication. Workshops during this two-day program include goal-setting, using genealogical style, working with images, and adding narrative to your genealogy. In addition, participants will learn about working with editors and publishers, and about the nuts-and-bolts of completing family history publications. Learn from a team of skilled writers and editors with decades of experience in publishing family histories. Two one-on-one consultations with NEHGS publications staff are included in the registration.

    More information and registration

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    NEHGS Contact Information

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    Copyright 2014, 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

© 2010 - 2014 New England Historic Genealogical Society