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  • 2004 Archive

  • Vol. 6, No. 35
    Whole #181
    August 27, 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


    * Kudos to Beta Testers!
    * New Databases on
    * Research Article from the Archive
    * NEHGS Library Hours Change
    * Important Announcement for Users of Our Discussion Forums
    * Featured Website: Mystic Seaport
    * Connecticut Genealogy Seminar and Literary Awards Contest
    * NEHGS Research Tour to Salt Lake City
    * Careers at NEHGS
    * "Genealogy in a Nutshell" Takes a Vacation
    * Favorite - and Black Sheep - Ancestor Feedback
    * NEHGS Contact Information

    Kudos to Beta Testers!

    The website team at NEHGS would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all of the beta testers that have assisted us in troubleshooting the new version of They have discovered and reported critical issues and their comments and suggestions have helped us immensely. The countdown has begun for the launch of the new site, and we are confident that you will be very pleased with the finished product. Keep checking the home page for a major announcement to be made very soon!

    New Databases on

    The Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati - Free Database!

    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. Eligibility was based on the officer's length and terms of service.

    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.

    The following member profiles were added to the database this week: John Allan, Asa Graves, John March, John Nixon, Benjamin Ray, Edward Seagrave, Josiah Smith, Silvanus Smith, Joshua Thomas, Joseph Washburn, Nathan Watkins, Thomas Weeks, Edward White, Timothy Whiting, and Samuel Whitwell.

    Search the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati Profiles.



    Cemetery Transcriptions from the NEHGS Manuscript Collections


    New this week: Transcriptions of the Old Church Graveyard in Pepperell Center, Massachusetts

    Source: "Pepperell Center, Mass " Handwritten manuscript, compiled by Mary L.P. Shattuck. Call number MSS MS 70 PEP 1.

    Search Cemetery Transcriptions from the NEHGS Manuscript Collections.




    Research Article from the Archive


    The Barbour Collection - What's In It, and What's Not

    by Harlan R. Jessup

    Originally Posted September 12, 2002


    Connecticut’s Barbour Collection of Vital Records has a justly deserved reputation as one of the most comprehensive of such statewide compilations. To help you use it most effectively, this article tells a little of its history, describes where and in what format the collection can be examined, and outlines the history of vital records legislation in the state. It also lists sources for several significant omissions from and corrections to the collection.

    A Brief History of the Collection

    Lucius B. Barbour was appointed Connecticut’s examiner of public records in June 1911. With a desire to compile the state’s vital records, he began transcriptions himself, and he worked with different sponsors to publish the records of several towns. The pace of this approach was impossibly slow, and he hired James N. Arnold, the compiler of Rhode Island vital records, using Barbour family funds. Arnold was to copy the vital records in the possession of each town clerk of Connecticut. By 1932 this compilation was complete, each record was typed onto an index slip, and an alphabetical listing was prepared for each town. Sadly, Lucius B. Barbour died in 1934, just two years after the completion of this work.

    What’s In It and Where to Find It

    There are over one million slip entries for vital records in some 439 trays at the Connecticut State Library ( Besides the core Barbour Collection itself, these slips include entries from eight towns previously published and from six private compilations of vital records. A copyist typed the slips from the handwritten transcriptions by Arnold and others. As with any transcription, a few errors were introduced, but each entry cites the specific source and this facilitates reference to the primary record.

    The Barbour Collection is listed alphabetically in a separate book for each of the 137 towns, including records for Norwich and Woodstock supplementing those published earlier. The State Library holds a copy of each book, and a copy was sent to each town clerk. The town books are labeled “The Arnold Copy” and are known to many town clerks only by that name.

    The slip entries, covering the entire state alphabetically on seventy-nine reels, and the books for each town on seventeen reels are available on microfilm through the Family History Library ( and in many repositories. The Genealogical Publishing Company of Baltimore recently published the town books in paperback format. The complete fifty-three volume series is available in many libraries, and individual volumes may be ordered from the publisher.

    View the entire article.


    NEHGS Library Hours Change

    We wish to remind you that starting September 1, 2004, the NEHGS Library will no longer be open to the public on Sundays. Although we were gratified initially by the response of members and visitors, we have found that very few members took advantage of this time frame, so we have decided to discontinue Sunday hours until further notice.

    In another change, effective Tuesday, September 7, 2004, the library will begin opening at 10 a.m. on weekdays. On Saturdays it will open at 9 a.m. as usual.

    The delayed weekday opening will permit our staff genealogists to offer more customized service to members by answering email inquiries, offering telephone consultations, or performing tutorials and contract research.

    New Research Library hours will be as follows:

    Tuesday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    Wednesday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
    Thursday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.*
    Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    Closed Sunday and Monday
    *Winter hours: November 1 through March 31, Thursday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    Important Announcement for Users of Our Discussion Forums

    Please note that all messages currently archived in the discussion forums on will be deleted when we switch to our newly-redesigned website. A new and improved discussion forum system will be implemented as part of the update, which unfortunately cannot accommodate the existing messages in our current forums.

    If there is information of value to your research in our discussion forums we urge you to copy it to another program right away. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope that you will enjoy our new and improved discussion forum format coming this fall.

    Featured Website: Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea

    The Mystic Seaport website ( is rich in information and research resources. To access the resources, click on the Research icon on the home page. On the main Research page you will find links that include Highlights of a number of collections, Online Experiences, Online Catalogs, and Resources.

    Click on Online Experiences and then on the Library Digital Initiative link to access the Initiative's home page. Collections digitized through this initiative include American Maritime Westward Expansion, 19th Century American Merchant Marine Digital Library (which includes the Ship and Yacht Registers), and Immigration Images. Items in these collections include correspondence, individual and family papers from the manuscript collections, diaries, ship registers, maps, ships plans, and passenger logbooks, to name a few. A number of these items have been transcribed so that they may be searched as well as viewed. To get a sense of the wide range of subject areas that comprise the Mystic Seaport online collections, click on the Subject List link. Support for these projects has come from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Gladys Brooks Foundation, the Library of Congress, and the National Park Service Maritime Heritage Program.

    The American Maritime Westward Expansion Collection comprises materials centered on the theme of how and why people traveled west and what they did once they arrived. While many people traveled overland, others traveled completely by sea or by both land and sea to reach their destinations. The materials, which come from a number of individual collections, look at the events, culture, beliefs, and personal experiences related to westward expansion from a marine perspective. Most materials included here date from the mid-to-late nineteenth century. The items that have been digitized include account books, journals, logbooks, letters, shipping papers, and much more. A selection of nautical charts has also been included. This collection is hosted on both the Library of Congress and Mystic Seaport websites. You will find links to both host websites on the Maritime Westward Expansion Collection home page.

    The 19th Century Merchant Marine Digital Library currently contains over 100,000 digital images. As described on the website, the focus of this project is on "merchant vessels of the nineteenth century, the people who owned and sailed them and records pertaining to them." The digital collection for this project consists of Ship and Yacht Registers. Marine travel and transport played a prominent role in populating and serving the needs of the people of the United States. Access to ship registers may be able to assist you in your genealogical research if your ancestor was affiliated with a merchant ship or emigrated across an ocean. The registers may be accessed either from the Library Digital Initiative home page or via the 19th Century Merchant Marine Digital Library link. Digital images of the registers in the collection may be viewed by clicking on the register’s link. In addition, the Ship and Yacht Register database can be searched by vessel and by shipmaster.

    Immigration Images: The collections of the Museum of America and the Sea at Mystic Seaport include images of many ships that brought immigrants to the United States during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These images have now been made available online via the Immigration Images Collection. You browse through the Vessel List and the Steamship Line List, name by name. Clicking on a vessel name link will bring up images of and detailed information about the vessel. You can also search the collection by vessel or steamship line name.

    Connecticut Ship Database, 1789 – 1939: The United States Customs Service has maintained records that are useful for research on vessels. During the 1930s the Works Progress Administration compiled and transcribed vessel registration data from many customs districts. And much it was then published. The Connecticut data was not. In 1999 the G. W. Blunt White Library, with support from the National Park Service Maritime Heritage Program, created the Connecticut Ship Database 1789-1939, which includes the following Connecticut customs districts: New London/Stonington, New Haven, Bridgeport/Fairfield, and Hartford/Middletown. Currently, this database contains the records for about 15,000 vessels and the people associated with them. The project is ongoing and will continue until all of the personal names from the records have been added to the database. The database provides a variety of information about each vessel and the names of owners and masters. You can run a Vessel Search by vessel name, a People Search by the last name of the person or the name of the company that owned it or an advanced search by keyword or by a specific data field. Search results include not only the vessels names but also the people associated with the vessel.

    The information provided in this article should help you get a jumpstart with your research on the Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea website. There is a wealth of information that is just a few clicks away. Enjoy!

    Visit the Mystic Seaport website at

    Connecticut Genealogy Seminar and Literary Awards Contest

    The Connecticut Society of Genealogists, Inc. (CSG, Inc.) presents an all day seminar, "Growing Your Family Tree," designed to help in researching and recording your family tree. The seminar will be held on Saturday, September 25, 2004, at the Holiday Inn, Washington Street, North Haven, Connecticut. Speakers and lecture topics for the seminar include:

    Roger D. Joslyn, CG, FASG, "A Sibling is a Small, Crawling Animal - Help Among the Collaterals"

    Meldon Wolfgang, III, lifelong genealogist and owner of Jonathan Sheppard Books, "Birds of a Feather"

    Anita A. Lustenberger, professional genealogist, certified genetic counselor, author, and NEHGS trustee, "Using DNA in your Genealogical Research"

    John W. Konvalinka, computer genealogy specialist, "Traditional vs. Computer Based Genealogy Research"

    The program runs from 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. with registration beginning at 8 a.m. In addition, exhibitors offering a variety of genealogical reference materials will be set up in the seminar area.

    The registration fee for the conference is $40, but you can save $5 if you register before September 1. Registration deadline is Wednesday, September 22. Morning coffee and a box lunch are included in the price of the seminar. To register or for more information, call 860-569-0002 or visit the CSG, Inc. website at

    The Connecticut Society of Genealogists, Inc. has just announced its eighteenth annual Literary Awards Contest. Entries are being solicited in the following categories: Genealogy, Family History, Resource Publication and Fledgling Essay, which is open to student grades nine through twelve. All entries must have some relevance to New England. The contest deadline is February 15, 2004. Winners will be announced at the CSG, Inc. Annual Meeting in May 2005. For further information call 860-569-0002 or write to CSG, Inc., PO Box 435, Glastonbury, CT 06033-0435.

    NEHGS Research Tour to Salt Lake City

    October 10-17, 2004

    NEHGS invites you to join its twenty-sixth annual research tour to Salt Lake City, taking place October 10-17, 2004! Let our experienced staff genealogists and other recognized experts in the field assist you with your research in the largest genealogical repository in the world - the Family History Library! Lectures on genealogical topics, personal one-on-one consultations with staff, computer tutorials on the Family History Library and online genealogical research, guided research in the library, and group meals are included in the weeklong program.

    NEHGS staff genealogists and guest consultants will be stationed on each floor of the Family History Library for scheduled personal research consultations. There will be plenty of time in the course of the week to confer with them about research questions and concerns.

    Lectures during the week include:

    * "Library Orientation and Guided Tour of Joseph Smith Memorial Building" by Jane Knowles Lindsey
    * "Urban Research" by David Dearborn, FASG
    * "Dissecting A Probate Packet" by Ruth Quigley Wellner
    * "Your Roots in the British Isles: Finding, Tending, Mending" by Jerome E. Anderson
    * "Genetics and Genealogy" by Christopher Child

    Computer classes (Monday and Tuesday) include:

    * "FHL Computer Orientation: Accessing the Card Catalog, the IGI, and the Pedigree Resource File" by Jane Knowles Lindsey and Ruth Quigley Wellner
    * "Researching on the Web: Using and Other Online Resources" by Ruth Quigley Wellner and Jane Knowles Lindsey

    The Family History Library is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Monday, 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and is closed on Sunday.

    Get more information or download a registration form


    Careers at NEHGS

    NEHGS is currently seeking to fill the position of Member Services Assistant. Please visit our careers page for further details.



    Genealogy in a Nutshell Takes a Vacation

    There are no Nutshell lectures scheduled for the month of August. Lectures will resume in September with

    "Getting the Most from the Family History Library Resources" with David A. Lambert on September 8 and 11

    Many NEHGS patrons are familiar with the large collection of genealogical materials at the Society. But a lesser-known NEHGS service to members and visitors is the ability to borrow microfilms from the vast collections of the LDS Family History Library. Please join David Lambert as he describes how to borrow films and use the powerful online databases on the LDS website

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

    For more details about NEHGS education events, please visit our education page. 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.

    My Black Sheep Ancestor
    by Nancy Backus Detrick of Cincinnati, Ohio

    My black sheep ancestor is my great-great-great grandfather, William Sill, who in 1805, murdered his father-in-law, Captain William Sterling, in Lyme, Connecticut. Captain Sterling's wife, Jemima Sill Sterling, was not only William Sill's mother-in-law, but also his first cousin. The families lived in an area near Lyme, Connecticut, known as Sterling City. Captain Sterling was one of the most prominent men of the town. He held many of the town offices, and was a captain of the 6th Co. Trainband, 3rd Regt., Connecticut State Militia. William Sill married Jemima Sterling, his first cousin once-removed, in June 1789.

    The story of the murder is taken from the Sterling Genealogy (Higginson, 1996, 2003), by Albert and Edward Sterling, which quotes the New London Connecticut Gazette for July 24, 1805:

    "On Monday last, was committed to prison in this City, William Sill, for the murder of his Father-in-law, Capt. William Sterling. Mr. Sill has for a number of years been troubled with the hypochondria and in consequence has had frequent recourse to opium and, occasionally, to ardent spirits.

    "From the too frequent use of these, he has been subject to delirious turns which generally lasted three or four days. One of these fits attacked him on Saturday last and his wife, as she had before done, fled for safety with her children, to her father's house. Early on Monday morning, Capt. Sterling partly for the purpose of getting some clothes for the children and for finding the situation of his son-in-law, went to the house, accompanied by his son and a neighbor.

    "They found Mr. Sill apparently rational and in unusual good spirits. Capt. Sterling took a seat directly facing a bedroom door and Sill soon after went into the bedroom, but immediately returned with a loaded gun in his hands, which he instantly discharged at Capt. Sterling. The contents lodged in his bosom..."

    The same paper, in an issue of August 7, 1805, notes: "...Sill had for some considerable time harbored a very pointed and increasing disaffection of his father-in-law..."

    Sill was tried for murder at Norwich, the county seat, in the autumn. The trial was a sensation and people came from all parts of the county. Sill's attorney was ex-governor Roger Griswold, "who made so eloquent a plea to the jury, that in spite of the undoubted guilt of the defendant, he was acquitted." The strain the trial took upon Griswold was so great that his health was impaired and he died not long after. Many people thought it was God's judgment upon him. William Sill died in 1849 at the age of 88 in Saybrook, Connecticut

    In 1968 my family and I visited Lyme. We found several of the Sterling homes still standing. The William Sill house was in good repair. An old man was sitting on a barrel in the front yard when we pulled up. This, we later learned was Gilbert Miller, the owner. We got out to ask if we could take a picture and were told "there was a murder here, you know." My father said, yes, he knew, and added, "It was my great-great grandfather who killed my great-great-great grandfather!" Well, Gilbert was rather taken-aback that we had spoiled his story!

    About five or six years later, I visited the area again with my husband. And Gilbert was again in the front yard. When we stopped he came up to tell the murder story. I said that it been committed by one of my grandfathers. Gilbert said "You were here before, weren't you?"


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