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  • 2004 Archive

  • Vol. 6, No. 26
    Whole #172
    June 25, 2004
    Edited by Rod D. Moody and Valerie Beaudrault

    Greetings from the New England Historic Genealogical Society! This newsletter has been sent to NEHGS members and friends who have subscribed to it, or submitted their email addresses on various membership and sales department forms and website notices. NEHGS recognizes the importance of its members' privacy, and will not give away, sell or lease personal information. If you would like to unsubscribe or change your email address, please click on the link at the bottom of the page and follow the instructions provided.

    Copyright 2004, New England Historic Genealogical Society
    101 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02116


    * Help Us Launch a New and Improved!
    * New Databases on
    *Research Article on
    * NEHGS Member Survey Results
    * Come to Dublin with NEHGS!
    * Recent Circulating Library Acquisitions
    * Genealogical Workshop at University of Massachusetts
    * LDS Managing Director Receives DAR Historic Preservation Award
    * Upcoming "Genealogy in a Nutshell" Lectures at the NEHGS Library
    * Favorite - and Black Sheep - Ancestor Feedback
    * NEHGS Contact Information

    Help Us Launch a New and Improved!

    The current version of was launched in November 2001, and it has been a major success. The site launched with 2 million names in 2 databases, and it has grown to over 83 million names in 2,000 databases. There are currently more than 150,000 visitors viewing over 1.2 million pages each month.

    The addition of so much data combined with the subsequent increase in visitors has taken our now three-year-old system close to its maximum capacity. In response to the increased load, the Society is in the midst of a redesign of the website. We are also taking this opportunity to respond - with actions - to the feedback we have received from our members over the years. The revamped site will be easier to navigate, search results will arrive faster, the search engine will be more robust, and it will take advantage of other new technologies that were not available three years ago. The new website is scheduled to launch later this year.

    We are now looking for volunteers to assist us in beta testing this new version of Each beta tester will receive information on how to access the beta site. Testers will receive specific instructions for accomplishing certain tasks, and also be asked to provide general feedback. We are expecting the beta testers to seek out - and find - software bugs, typographical errors, formatting problems with the data, broken links, or other quality issues with the proposed new release. We also want to know what you think of the new design and its navigability. Is it easy to find what you need? What do you think of the look and feel of the site? Different areas of the site will be tested at different times, and we will request reports back from beta testers within seven days of a testing request being sent out. We will provide an easy-to-use online form for testers to report their feedback to us.

    Ideally, the beta testers will represent a cross-section of our members' technical skills and computer systems. All levels of genealogical experience are welcome; we need both computer novices and technical experts. Finally, we would like to utilize volunteers using older Windows 95 and Windows 98 computers as well as those with the latest Windows XP systems. Macintosh users are especially encouraged to volunteer to be beta testers. We also hope that some of these beta testers will have two or more computers that can be used for testing.

    If you would like to volunteer to be a beta tester for the New England Historic Genealogical Society, please send an email to Please state your name and mailing address and write a sentence or two describing your level of computer and genealogical knowledge. (We do not need a lengthy resume.) Finally, please describe your computer(s) to be used: CPU speed, operating system, amount of memory and approximate age of the computer (feel free to let us know if you don't know all of the technical information and we will try to help). We will notify selected beta testers in advance of their testing schedule. We want to verify that you will be available for testing during the scheduled timeframe. If you are temporarily unavailable, we will place your name on a waiting list for future testing efforts.

    The efforts of the beta testers will ensure that we have the highest quality product available for our members to use. We look forward to the release of the redesigned website later this year.


    Michael J. Leclerc
    Director of Electronic Publications

    New Databases on


    Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850
    New Additions - Ashburnham, Auburn, Boylston

    At the turn of the twentieth century NEHGS was instrumental in the effort to purchase books of vital statistics to the year 1850 for the 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. By 1945 the vital records for over 200 of these municipalities had been published. Many of these volumes were added to in weekly installments during 2002. This marked the first time these records were made available online in their original context, including the original source citations.

    The newest additions to this database are the towns of Ashburnham, Auburn, and Boylston, all located in Worcester County.

    The Vital Records to 1850 series is available at the Research Library, and most volumes are available to NEHGS members through the Circulating Library. The call numbers for these volume are as follows: Ashburnham: REF F74/A8/A8/1909; Auburn: F74/A9/R4/1900; and Boylston: F74/B56/B85/1900.

    Search Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850 at



    Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati Profiles

    Twenty-Five New Sketches!

    The Society of the Cincinnati was established in 1783 by and for the officers in Continental Service. It was organized in fourteen constituent societies, one of which is the Massachusetts Society. Membership in the Society of the Cincinnati was extended to the officers of the Continental Army - as well as Continental Navy and Marine officers - who had served until the end of the war, plus those who had been declared no longer needed by acts of Congress and those who had served honorably for three years during the war. Also eligible were the oldest male lineal descendants of officers who died in service. The officers of the French Navy and Army who served with the American Army were also entitled to join. This database contains information on those Massachusetts officers eligible for membership. Absence from this list does not conclusively exclude eligibility.

    New sketches are now available for the following individuals: Rufus Putnam, Jeduthan Rawson, George Reab, Abijah Richardson, John Rowe, Winthrop Sargent, James Sawyer, Samuel Leslie Scammell, James Scott, Edward Seagrave, Charles Selden, James Sever, Henry Sewall, Thomas Seward, Benjamin Shaw, Samuel Shaw, William Shepard, William Shepard Jr., Daniel Shute, Calvin Smith, Ebenezer Smith (Capt.), Ebenezer Smith (Lt.), John Kilby Smith, Joseph Thompson, and Edward Turner.

    Search the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati Profiles at


    Abstracts of Probate Records, Greenfield, Massachusetts, 1814 to 1873

    These records were transcribed as part of a larger effort to collect various records of Greenfield. The type of records included are primarily guardianships and depositions given by heirs of Revolutionary War pensioners. The original handwritten manuscript also includes transcriptions of cemeteries, church records, and Bible records. The manuscript was donated to NEHGS in 1915. The compiler is unknown.

    The original handwritten manuscript is part of the R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, call number MSS MS 70 GRE 31.


    Search Abstracts of Probate Records, Greenfield, Massachusetts, 1814 to 1873, at


    Cemetery Transcriptions from the NEHGS Manuscript Collections

    New this week: Transcription of Bourn Cemetery, in Somerset, Massachusetts.

    Source: Contribution by current NEHGS member Richard Bourne.

    Search Cemetery Transcriptions from the NEHGS Manuscript Collections at

    Marriages Performed by Rev. Stephen Peabody of Atkinson, New Hampshire

    The Reverend Stephen Peabody was the first minister in the town of Atkinson, Rockingham County, New Hampshire. He was born November 11, 1769 and died May 23, 1819.

    This database was drawn from handwritten extracts of entries in Rev. Peabody's original diary concerning marriages solemnized by him at Atkinson from 1789 to 1814.

    The extracts are part of the R. Stanton Avery Collections at NEHGS, call number MSS A 3281.


    Search Marriages Performed by Rev. Stephen Peabody of Atkinson, New Hampshire, at




    Master Search

    Master search all databases at

    Research Article on

    In this week's eNews we conclude last week's article from the archive, "Often-Overlooked Repositories of Massachusetts" by Maureen Taylor.

    A brand new Canadian research article titled "Canadian Materials in the NEHGS Circulating Library," authored by Michael J. Leclerc, may be found on the website. NEHGS members may access this article by visiting

    "Often-Overlooked Repositories of Massachusetts" by Maureen Taylor

    We have repeated the introduction from the previous installment to provide context for those who missed the first part.

    Boston is not the only place to find great repositories of genealogical resources on your Massachusetts ancestors. There are plenty of wonderful libraries and archives from just outside the city to the New York border. So where should you look? It depends on what you seek. Here is a list of some often-overlooked repositories to add to your itinerary when you decide to look for your family tree. The beauty of using a local archive, library, or historical society is that they tend to concentrate their collections on a particular area. That means you will find localized manuscript collections, unpublished genealogies, and perhaps even have an opportunity to discuss your research with a town historian. This is by no means the whole list; use Elizabeth Petty Bentley's Genealogist's Address Book (GPC, 1998) and Marcia Melnyk's Genealogist's Handbook for New England Research, Fourth Edition (NEHGS, reprint 2001) to find more places to visit in your search for your Massachusetts roots.

    Here are some tips for getting the most from your visit

    * Contact the facility to verify hours and rules for usage.
    * If they have a website, prepare for your visit by using it to familiarize yourself with their holdings.
    * Bring identification with you (and your membership cards to genealogical societies). You might be asked for them.
    * Some of these repositories are open free to the public while others charge a day fee.

    National Archives, Northeast Region
    100 Dan Fox Drive
    Pittsfield, MA 01201
    (413) 445-6885

    Among the many holdings of this facility are passenger arrival records for the ports of New York (1820-1957); Boston (1820-1943); New Bedford, Massachusetts (1902-1942); Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1880-1882); Portland, Maine (1893-1943); miscellaneous Atlantic, Gulf and Great Lakes ports (1820-1873); and St. Albans, Vermont (Canadian border crossings, 1895-1954). Use the general website for the National Archives for information on using the materials in their collection.

    New Bedford Public Library
    613 Pleasant St.
    New Bedford, MA 02740
    (508) 991-6275, ext. 15

    This public library has microfilm of newspapers, passenger lists for the port of New Bedford, city directories, periodicals, and many volumes of local history. New Bedford was an important whaling town in nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the library acknowledges this history by featuring a searchable online database containing a comprehensive index to the men that went on the whaling voyages and the ships that they sailed on from 1810 to 1860. The information in the database is a direct word for word transcription of crew lists, shipping papers, and contracts for the voyages. You may search by crewman name, ship name, remarks, departure date, port of registry, and whaling ground. You can also find information on individual crewmen, when searching by residence, rank, even hair and skin color! The staff at the library is very helpful and has created guides to many of their collections to make your research easier.

    Newburyport Free Library
    Newburyport Archival Center
    94 State St.
    Newburyport, MA 01950
    (978) 465-4428

    This research facility focuses on Newbury and Newburyport families. They have a good collection of local history publications and indexes.

    Old Colony Historical Society
    66 Church Green
    Taunton, MA 02780
    (508) 822-1622

    If you are looking for an ancestor in southeastern Massachusetts before 1850 then this is one place you must visit! Local city directories, newspapers, manuscripts, and maps are just some of the strengths of this library.

    Peabody Institute Library
    Danvers Archival Center
    15 Sylvan Street
    Danvers, MA 01923
    (978) 774-0554

    According to its website, the Danvers Archival Center "was the first of its kind to bring together such a large collection of public and private records of a single community for purposes of preservation and accessibility to researchers." The center also claims to house "the most extensive collection of materials relating to a single municipality in New England." Their collections include the local history holdings of the Danvers Historical Society, the library, churches and town organizations, and town records. They also keep printed and manuscript collections on the history of Danvers, Salem Village, and the witchcraft trials.

    Phillips Library Peabody Essex Museum
    East India Square
    Salem, MA 01970
    (979) 745-1876

    This library has a goldmine of information for researchers with ancestors in Essex County. Their website lists some of their holdings such as "…all the Essex County court records from 1636 to 1820, including the court records from the 1692 witchcraft trials. More than a linear mile of manuscript materials include journals, diaries, account books, farm business records, and correspondence, a vast collection of old newspapers printed in Essex County, as well as business and personal records of many historic figures in Essex County." They even accept general email queries at

    Worcester Public Library
    3 Salem Square
    Worcester, MA 01608
    (508) 799-1655

    This library contains a large collection of local history material on the Worcester area including yearbooks, histories of churches and businesses, city directories, and newspapers. It also has extensive general genealogical resources such as census documents and passenger lists. Their website includes links to online resources that family historians will find useful.

    Nearly all public libraries in Massachusetts have local history collections. You might be missing an opportunity to conduct research in your ancestors' hometown if you don't contact those facilities first. Not only do they usually have clipping files and even archives, public libraries are great resources for reference materials and Internet resources that you might overlook. Private libraries and local historical societies also collect useful material. Before you rush to large institutions to research those Massachusetts family members, examine the resources where they originally settled. You might be surprised at what you discover.


    NEHGS Member Survey Results

    It's time for another roundup of NEHGS survey results! Here are the questions, the results, and some comments from a recent survey concerning your research interests. Participants were allowed to select multiple choices for most questions in the survey.

    Please be assured that any personal information that you provide for our survey is completely confidential and is not shared with - and cannot be accessed by - anyone outside of NEHGS. Occasionally we will feature anonymous comments by survey participants in this e-newsletter. Thank you for taking the time to complete our monthly web surveys - your responses help NEHGS serve its members better.

    Which states or provinces are most important to your genealogical research?

    The state of Massachusetts was the most important with 79%, followed by New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine, the Midwest, and the Mid-Atlantic region.

    In what regions, other than the United States and Canada, do your research interests lie?

    England, with 82%, took the honors in this category, followed by Ireland, Scotland, Germany, France, and other regions (primarily the Netherlands and Wales).

    What time period are you most interested in?

    A fairly close race, with 18th century (36%) winning by a nose over 19th century (31%) and 17th century (22%).

    During what time period in your research do you hit the most brick walls?

    An even closer finish, with 18th century (37%) beating out 19th century (35%) by less than 2%. The 17th century came in at 17.5%.

    Which of the following research topics are of interest to you?

    Online genealogical research ranked highest out of the choices given with 86%, census records research elicited a 69% response rate, and 55% chose military research. Other top topics were "getting to the next step in genealogy," "useful software tools for genealogical researchers," and digital imaging.

    Finally, while nearly 80% of you have placed an online query, only 9% maintain a personal genealogical website.

    Our open-ended question was: "What areas or ethnicities have you found to be the most challenging or most interesting in your research?" Here are some of your responses:

    "17th and 18th centuries are pretty well documented as 19th century people were proud of their ancestors; however, they didn't write about themselves and can be very hard to trace even with the help of the US Federal Census from 1850 on."

    "Trying to prove that my grandfather was part Native American and was raised by a stepmother."

    "Pommern, Germany (it no longer exists, overwhelming amount of its records disappeared or destroyed during/after WWII, especially around Kreis Greifenhagen, where a big part of my family were from in the 1800s. Ireland - most of the records from the early 1800s destroyed. If only someone could talk to the old people there who still know about the families..."

    "I cannot find paternal grandmother's mother! (I KNOW she had one!!)"

    "[Most] challenging: Scots in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Carolinas, Maryland, Kentucky Germans in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Maryland. [Most] interesting: French and Dutch in New York, English in Connecticut, and Massachusetts."

    "Hard to say! I enjoy learning each new one as the need arises."

    Stay tuned for more survey roundups in future issues of NEHGS eNews. Take this latest survey by visiting

    Come to Dublin with NEHGS!

    August 15-22, 2004

    Research opportunities abound during this one-week research tour to Dublin! The tour features guided research at various repositories in central Dublin, including the National Library of Ireland, the National Archives of Ireland, the General Register Office, the Registry of Deeds, the Valuation Office, and more. In addition you will benefit from genealogical lectures and informal consultations throughout the week with NEHGS director of library services Marie E. Daly; Dublin-based independent researcher Eileen M. O'Duill, MA, CGRS, CGL; and Massachusetts State Archives reference librarian Janis P. Duffy. Special activities include a guided tour of the James Joyce exhibit at the National Library, a "behind the scenes" orientation to the National Archives, and a reception with the Lord Mayor of Dublin.

    Lodging will be at Trinity College, in the heart of Dublin's cultural, retail, and entertainment center and within walking distance of many of the repositories and other institutions.

    For more information on this seminar or to download a registration form, please visit, email or phone toll-free 888-286-3447.

    Recent Circulating Library Acquistions

    By Alexander Woodle, Circulating Library Director

    The Circulating Library has received the following new books, which are now available for loan to NEHGS members.

    An Irish Genealogical Source: Guide to Church Records produced by Public Records Office of Northern Ireland. CS496/N67/I75/1994.

    Irish parish registers are important sources for baptisms, marriages, and burials as civil registration only began in mid-nineteenth century. The book begins with a brief narrative regarding the history of church records. The guide is organized alphabetically: first by civil parish and then by churches within each parish. It contains information on what records are available for each church, where they are located and the record format. There is an appendix that lists indexes to church records that are available.

    Early New York Naturalizations: Abstracts of Naturalization Records from Federal, State, and Local Courts, 1792-1840 compiled by Kenneth Scott. F118/S363.

    Naturalization laws were initiated in the United States following the Revolution in 1790 and underwent many changes in the ensuing decades. This book includes the names of between 14,000 and 15,000 individuals naturalized between 1792 and 1840. The introduction provides an inventory of the different records found in the various courts of New York and describes how they are organized.

    Williams Genealogy: Matthew, Thomas, Miles and Swain, 1623-2003 by Fred Russell Williams, Jr. CS71/W72/2003a.

    This extensive volume treats the four Williams lines in separate chapters, and includes an index; appendices, which are also indexed; and a helpful "how to" page explaining the Register format.

    The author spent six years compiling the genealogy, which includes 26,000 entries. He intends to continue to update this database.

    The History of Rehoboth, Bristol County, Massachusetts; comprising A History of the Present Towns of Rehoboth, Seekonk and Pawtucket, from their settlement to the present time; together with sketches of Attleborough, Cumberland, and a part of Swansey and Barrington to the time that they were severally separated from the original town by Leonard Bliss, Jr. F74/R3/B6/1836.

    This rare book is a new addition to our Rehoboth-area holdings. Mr. Bliss compiled this book on vacations while attending college over 168 years ago! He states: "…the whole has been written in the few short intervals of relaxation afforded by a profession which ... may be supposed to allow to the mind few moments suited to the business of composition."

    The narrative details the history of the Rehoboth area. It is incredible in its detail and should prove an interesting read for those interested in the area's history. Content includes divisions of land recorded with names drawn from proprietors records; an account of King Phillip's War, including names of participants and financial contributors to the war effort; and lists of those who served in different governmental capacities during the Revolutionary period; as well as an ecclesiastical history and biographical sketches.

    As always, if you have any questions about using the Circulating Library, please call, toll-free, 888-296-3447, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Eastern time) or email To learn more about the Circulating Library and borrow books online, please visit

    Genealogy Workshop at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst

    Digging up the Family Tree: A Hands-On Genealogy Workshop will be offered on July 14-16. This three-day workshop is being offered by Continuing Education at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst through its "Summer Breaks" program.

    Workshop participants will learn about basic methods and resources for genealogical research from a number of experts, including Kay Sheldon, past president of the Massachusetts Society of Genealogists and of the Swedish Ancestry Research Association. Gary Boyd Roberts, genealogical author and senior researcher at the New England Historical Genealogical Society, will give the keynote lecture on July 15.

    Workshop lecture topics include family history, historic account books, and family names and crests. There will be a trip to the National Archives branch in Pittsfield, MA; a tour of genealogical records at the W.E.B. DuBois Library on the University campus; and a visit to Historic Deerfield.

    The workshop is open to the public. Registration for the three-day workshop is $250, or $40 for the keynote lecture by Mr. Roberts. If you would like more information about the Digging up the Family Tree program or would like to register, call Linda S. Honan at 413-545-2396.

    LDS Managing Director Receives DAR Historic Preservation Award

    Richard E. Turley, managing director of the Family and Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is the recipient of the Historic Preservation Award from the Daughters of the American Revolution. Mr. Turley oversees the Church Archives and Records Center, the Church History Library, and the Museum of Church History and Art, which collectively contain the world's largest collection of resources for the study of Latter-day Saint history. He also serves on the Church's Historic Sites Committee, which oversees the restoration and operation of important historic sites across the United States.

    Under Mr. Turley's direction in 1999, the Family and Church History Department launched the website, which provides genealogists free access to databases containing nearly a billion names. The website currently averages over eleven million hits per day. He also oversees the production of LDS compact disc products.

    The Historic Preservation Award was presented to Mr. Turley by President General Linda Tinker Watkins, USDAR, at a dinner on April 23 in Salt Lake City.

    Upcoming "Genealogy in a Nutshell" Lectures at the NEHGS Library


    The 2004 "Genealogy in a Nutshell" series continues with:

    * "New England Town Records" by David Dearborn on July 7 and 10

    * "Death by Lightning - the Shocking Facts!" by Julie Helen Otto on July 14 and 17

    All lectures take place at 10 a.m. at the NEHGS Library in Boston. Advance registration is not necessary.

    Download a pdf of the June NEHGS Events Calendar by clicking this link -  

    For more details about NEHGS education events, please visit If you have questions, please call Member Services at 1-888-296-3447 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Eastern time), Monday through Friday.

    Favorite - and Black Sheep - Ancestor Feedback

    Each week we ask the questions "Who is your favorite ancestor? Who is your favorite black sheep ancestor? Why?" If you would like to contribute information on your favorite and/or black sheep ancestor, please send your story in 300 words or less to Rod Moody at Thank you to all past and future contributors!

    Please note that NEHGS does not verify responses.

    We are almost out of Favorite Ancestor stories! Submit yours today!

    My Interesting Ancestor

    By Aileen F. Brewer of Green Valley, Arizona

    Apparently, England's Henry VII was uncontrolled. He gave full scope to avarice and as he became older was encouraged by his absolute authority. He ignored all thoughts of shame or justice. He had found two ministers, Sir Edmund Dudley and Sir Richard Empson (my ancestor), perfectly suited to second his tyrannical inclinations and to prey upon his defenseless people. The two men were lawyers, Empson being of mean birth, of brutal manner, of an unrelenting temper; Dudley was better born and better bred, but equally unjust, severe and inflexible. By their knowledge of the law these men were qualified to pervert the forms of justice to the oppression of the innocent, supported by the authority of the King.

    At first, they observed the appearance of the law to give indictments to those who they intended to oppress. Those persons were thrown into prison but never brought to trial and were required to pay heavy fines and ransoms to gain their freedom. By degrees the law was forgotten. The two ministers arrested and brought men before them and others in a court of commission where, without trial or jury, decrees were issued in the form of fines, ransoms, etc. If a jury was called, the jurors were fined or themselves imprisoned if they did not decide in favor of the ministers' decisions. The whole system turned into a scheme of oppression. Even the King's wards could lose possession of their lands without payment of exorbitant fees. Great sums were added to the coffers of King Henry VII.

    At first, the purpose of the King's two ministers was to amass money for their King, but it was soon that plus bringing people under their authority. Rents and lands were seized as a penalty. Inquisitors and informants were rewarded.

    When Henry VII became ill and was concerned about death and his sins, he tried, by distributing alms and establishing religious houses, to atone for his crimes and to purchase a reconciliation with his maker. It would seem that he was remorseful for the abuse by Empson and Dudley, but not enough to stop them. Henry VII died of consumption after a reign of twenty-three years and eight months, at the age of fifty-two.

    Henry VIII began spending the money Henry VII had so tyrannically amassed. A proclamation was issued to encourage complaints and the rage of the people was let loose on all who had so long exercised tyranny over them. In order to calm the uproar, Henry VIII had to find someone to take the blame. Empson and Dudley were most exposed to public hatred and were immediately summoned before the council. Empson made a shrewd apology for himself. He said that he and Dudley had only done what they had been ordered to do by the King and were therefore blameless themselves.

    Empson and Dudley were sent to the Tower and soon brought to trial. Trumped up crimes were said to have been committed by the two men, such as treason and plotting to kill Henry VII; crimes that were improbable and impossible. In January 1510, the false inquisitions against Empson and Dudley were declared void. The two were, nevertheless, put to death upon Tower Hill in August of 1510.

    Bibliography: Encyclopedia Americana, 1954; The History of England by David Hume, Esq., pub 1879, Vol. III, pg. 62-81

    NEHGS Contact Information

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