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  • 2004 Archive

  • Vol. 6, No. 50
    Whole #196
    December 10, 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


    * New Databases on
    * New Research Article on
    * Give to the NEHGS Annual Fund!
    * Access to Birth Records Threatened
    * New 2005 Circulating Library Catalog Now Available
    * Holiday 2004 Issue of New England Ancestors Magazine Now Online
    * Give Back to your Community Through NEHGS Institutional Memberships
    * New England Boston Genealogy Tea Party
    * Recognizing Excellence in Family History Writing
    * The Andrew Parris Digital Project
    * Upcoming Genealogy in a Nutshell Lectures at the NEHGS Library
    * Favorite - and Black Sheep - Ancestor Feedback
    * NEHGS Contact Information

    New Databases on

    Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910

    Added this week: Records for 1863

    The latest installment in this ongoing database includes actual records from 1863 (vols. 159-167). The indexes, which were previously added to the database, include name of individual, town or village of event, year of event, and volume and page number of the original record. The records themselves include much more information.

    For detailed information about this database, please refer to the link found on the database search page (see link below) titled "Introduction to the Massachusetts Vital Records 1841-1910 Database." Here you will find a link to a chart displaying records currently available and those forthcoming.

    The "Introduction" contains information that will contribute greatly to the success of your searches and answers common questions about these records and our database. If you have questions that our article does not address, or if you are having difficulty with this database, please email

    Search Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910 at

    Alphabetical Index of the Births, Marriages and Deaths Recorded in Providence, Rhode Island

    Published by the city in twenty-five volumes from 1879 to 1945, this series provides names, dates, and the volume and page numbers of the statistic in the city records. We will continue to add volumes from this series to over time.

    Most Recent Addition:
    Volume 14 - Births from 1901 to 1910


    The entire series can be viewed at the NEHGS Research Library, call number F89/P9/P86/1879. Volumes 1 through 8, 10 through 14, 17, 18, and 20 through 22 may be loaned to NEHGS members through the Circulating Library.


    Search Alphabetical Index of the Births, Marriages and Deaths Recorded in Providence, Rhode Island at

    New Research Article on

    Thinking Genealogically

    Subtle Hints and Euphemisms
    by Lora Pallatto

    You know that nagging feeling. Maybe it's intuition, maybe it's indigestion. But when it isn't a case of lunchtime gone bad, it's time to look more closely at the data you've assembled. You know you've gotten good information, but there's an unsettling sensation . . . something is not . . . quite. . . right.

    As they say in psychology class, listen to your gut feelings.

    Shame is a powerful emotion. It lingers long after painful events and can raise any number of stumbling blocks for a family researcher. To avoid an unpleasant memory (or clean one up) a source may be surprisingly silent on facts you are relatively sure they ought to know. Or they may tell "white lies" and use euphemisms when you ask for information.

    There are subtle hints that can help you become aware of when a source is being purposefully vague or downright misleading. One way to pick up on a reluctant informant is to listen for what you don't hear in the conversation when you are conducting an interview. If your subject is stonewalling in an area where you think they reasonably should know some answers, there may be a sensitive situation behind the silent treatment you're getting.


    Read the full article at

    Give to the NEHGS Annual Fund!

    Please remember NEHGS in your gift-giving this year with a donation to the 2005 Annual Giving Campaign. Making a gift to the Annual Fund is easy, it's tax-deductible, and it's the most important thing you can do to ensure that we continue to serve you and your research needs.

    One example is the Society's website, We are committed to offering you this wonderful research tool, which costs us millions of dollars to maintain and requires the largest revenue stream by far in the history of our non-profit organization. In order to offer our full range of services - research facility, circulating library, research services, educational programs, publications, and website - we must convince far more of our members who enjoy NEHGS to become donors to the Society.

    For your convenience, we now offer online giving on our secure website; please visit to utilize this quick and easy method of giving. We very much appreciate your help.

    Access to Birth Records Threatened

    The threat of further restrictions and the possibility of outright denial of access to vital records have loomed over the heads of genealogists for years. Records vital to researchers are proving more difficult and more costly to obtain, while concerns over privacy and identity theft continue to mount.

    The most serious challenge to accessibility was recently submitted to the House of Representatives in the form of bill HR.10, which has passed through the House and is now included in a Senate bill known as S.2845. If the bill passes, individuals requesting birth records would be required to provide the name on the certificate, the date and location of birth, the mother's maiden name, and substantial proof of their own identity. Additionally, if the requester is not named on the birth certificate, the state will require the requester to present legal authorization to request the birth certificate before issuance.

    In October, David Rencher, chairman of the Record Access and Preservation Committee, a joint committee of the National Genealogical Society (NGS) and Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), sent a letter to the bill's sponsor, Congressman J. Dennis Hastert, recommending an amendment to the bill that made a distinction between certified and non-certified copies and excluded records more than 100 years old. This recommendation was ignored, and will not be considered by the Senate as part of S.2845.

    In the most recent RootsWeb Review newsletter, readers were encouraged to write to their senator and suggest an addition to Sec. 3061 (b)(1)(A)(iii). The proposed addition would read who is alive on the date that access to their birth certificate is requested, which would be added as number (iii), under (A), in the excerpt from the bill shown below.

    The term 'birth certificate' means a certificate of birth--

    (A) for an individual (regardless of where born)--
    (i) who is a citizen or national of the United States at birth; and
    (ii) whose birth is registered in the United States; and

    (B) that--
    (i) is issued by a Federal, State, or local government agency or authorized custodian of record and produced from birth records maintained by such agency or custodian of record; or
    (ii) is an authenticated copy, issued by a Federal, State, or local government agency or authorized custodian of record, of an original certificate of birth issued by such agency or custodian of record

    NEHGS strongly urges all of its members and readers of eNews to join the effort in allowing reasonable access to vital records for research purposes. Please take a moment to write your senator and suggest the addition to the bill noted above. For a list of email addresses of U.S. senators, visit

    The full text of S.2845 can be read at Type S.2845 in the bill number window and then select item # 3; then go to subtitle B - Identity Management Security; chapter 2 - Improved Security for Birth Certificates.

    For more information on this and other issues regarding records of interest to genealogists, visit the FGS Records Preservation and Access Committee page at

    New 2005 Circulating Library Catalog Now Available

    The 2005 edition of the two-volume Circulating Library Catalog set is now available for purchase through the Sales Department. Updated to reflect over 2,000 titles that have been added to the Circulating Library since the last edition was published in early 2002, the catalog features over 840 pages of genealogies, local histories, tapes, videos, reference books, and other listings. Sold as a set, the catalogs are priced at only $15, plus shipping. Although we cannot guarantee shipments in time for Christmas, we suggest that NEHGS members treat themselves to these volumes to help launch their 2005 research. Order online at or by phone (toll free) at 888-296-3447, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (Eastern time).

    Holiday 2004 Issue of New England Ancestors Magazine Now Online

    The latest issue of New England Ancestors magazine is now available on NewEngland Highlights of this issue include:

    • A special focus on Scottish research, including "Online Scottish Research using Original Records and Major Indexes;" "Resources for Scottish Genealogy at NEHGS;" and a sequel to Diane Rapaport's "Scots for Sale" article.
    • A commemoration of the Society's forty-year anniversary on Newbury Street with a look back at our previous headquarters on Ashburton Place and the move to our current facilities.
    • A discussion of research methods and sources for seventeenth-century Congregational Church and "church-related" records in Plimoth Colony, the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, and related settlements.
    • Helpful tips on locating and identifying ancestral homes.
    • Gary Boyd Roberts' Further Additions and (a few) Corrections to Ancestors of American Presidents."

    Read the latest issue of New England Ancestors magazine at


    Give Back to Your Community Through NEHGS Institutional Memberships

    If your local library or historical society does not yet have an institutional membership with NEHGS, you may wish to consider offering to purchase one for them in the spirit of holiday giving. You will introduce your community to the benefits of online research at and much more!

    For $150, your favorite library, historical society, or other organization, will receive the following:

    • Access to databases and other members-only areas online
    • Subscriptions to the Register and New England Ancestors magazine
    • Borrowing privileges to the NEHGS Circulating Library

    More information about NEHGS institutional memberships is available online at, or contact NEHGS Member Services at or toll-free at 1-888-296-3447. It is a thoughtful gift that many in your community will appreciate through their local library or society.

    New England Boston Genealogy Tea Party

    Friday, January 14, 2005

    The History Section of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) of the American Library Association (ALA) will host the New England Boston Genealogy Tea Party on Friday, January 14, 2005, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., in Boston during the ALA Midwinter Meeting. The one-day educational seminar will take place at the Boston Public Library's national landmark McKim Building. Located in Copley Square, the venue is a convenient walking distance from Hynes Convention Center.

    Learn from experts in the field of New England ancestry research about the Irish and Irish-Americans in New England, specialized reference sites and sources, and online genealogy. Take an insider's tour of the Boston Public Library to see its famed fine art, manuscript, and rare book collections and much more.

    The Genealogy Tea Party will be moderated by Carole Callard, recipient of the 2003 Filby Genealogy Librarian Award and genealogy specialist at the Library of Michigan. Speakers include three NEHGS staff members: Marie Daly, director of library user services, will present Irish in New England; librarian and genealogist David Dearborn, FASG, will present New England Sources; and Laura Prescott, director of marketing, will talk about the NEHGS website, A catered breakfast and lunch will be provided.

    Come spend the day exploring the rich history of Boston and ancestry of New England in a centuries old historical setting! Registration fees: RUSA member $95; ALA member $140; non-member $215; student/retired member $57. More information is available at

    Recognizing Excellence in Family History Writing

    The International Society of Family History Writers and Editors (ISFHWE) is sponsoring its annual Excellence in Writing competition to recognize excellence in genealogical columns and articles. The contest is open to both published and unpublished authors, but all entrants must be members of ISFHWE. Entrants may join ISFHWE at the time of their contest submission.

    The contest has four categories:

    * Newspaper Columns (published in 2004)
    * Articles (published in 2004)
    * Genealogy Research Story (original, unpublished article)
    * Want-to-be Writer/Columnist (original, unpublished material)


    Winners in each category will be awarded a cash prize and a certificate. The awards presentation will take place at the Gala ISFHWE Awards Banquet to be held at the National Genealogical Society conference in Nashville, Tennessee, June 1-4, 2005. (Those unable to attend will receive their awards after the conference.)

    Entries must be received by the coordinator no earlier than 9 February and no later than 23 February 2005. Send entries and a check for the appropriate entry fee and membership dues to:

    ISFHWE 2005
    6584 Red Fox Rd.
    Reynoldsburg, OH 43068-1631

    For more information, visit

    Alexander Parris: Nineteenth Century Architect

    Alexander Parris (1780-1852) was one of the better-known architect-engineers in Massachusetts during the first half of the nineteenth century. Many of the buildings for which Parris was responsible are well known and still standing today. His buildings in the Boston area include Faneuil Hall Market (Quincy Market), Watertown Arsenal, several buildings at the Boston Navy Yard in Charlestown, and the Bunker Hill Monument, among many others. During the 1830s Alexander Parris worked for the U.S. Treasury Department designing and building lighthouses and beacons up and down the East Coast from Maine to Florida. He was the chief engineer at the Portsmouth Navy Yard (New Hampshire) at the end of his career.

    Many of us have seen structures up and down the eastern seaboard that were designed and engineered by Alexander Parris. A visit to the Alexander Parris Digital Project ( will give you some sense of the scope of this man's work. The Alexander Parris Digital Project is a project of the State Library of Massachusetts and six other repositories in Boston - Boston Athenaeum; Boston National Historical Park; Charlestown Navy Yard; The Boston Public Library; Historic New England; and the Massachusetts Historical Society. The project has produced a website with a searchable online archive, which contains images and transcriptions of more than four hundred items connected with Alexander Parris. The materials include architectural and mechanical drawings, specifications, correspondence, and accounts, for the period from 1803 to 1851.

    Click on the Search icon on the site's homepage to begin your exploration of the archive. You will find links to two lists on the search main page. One list is of Alexander Parris's projects and the other is a list of 300 personal names found in the documents in the archive. Many of the individuals mentioned in the documents were associated with Parris's engineering and construction projects. To access the site's search form, click on the Search Archive link. The documents in the archive are full-text searchable. Use the drop-down lists to search for specific projects or individuals.

    As noted on the Parris Projects page of the website, additional materials related to Alexander Parris may be found in a number of other repositories in Massachusetts, including NEHGS. The Alexander Parris Papers (MSS A P37) collection at NEHGS is comprised of letters and diaries covering the period from 1812 to 1851. During the War of 1812, Parris served as a superintendent of the Corps of Artificiers of the US Army. He was stationed at Sacketts Harbor, Plattsburgh, New York. The papers contain over sixty letters written to Alexander Parris during the War of 1812. These letters are filled with names and information about soldiers in the Corps, reports of recruitment successes and woes, and news from home. There are even letters from widows seeking their late husbands' final pay. The collection includes one letter written by Captain Parris and a diary that he kept in 1839. In one entry he writes about going down in a diving bell to view repairs to a landing slip in Portsmouth Harbor, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. There are a number of letters that Alexander Parris wrote about his experiences in Portsmouth in 1839 that may be found in the Alexander Parris Digital Project Archive. Search for Portsmouth in the Search Body of Document box to find the letters.

    Alexander Parris was a very interesting and talented man. Through his work he made contact with many individuals. Through his service during the War of 1812 he was in touch with and in charge of many more. You never know where you might find a reference to your ancestors. Visit the Alexander Parris Digital Project at to see if they are there. The State Library welcomes feedback about the usefulness of the project materials to your genealogical research. And, when you are in Boston, you can visit the R. Stanton Avery Special Collections department at NEHGS to see if your ancestors can be found in the Alexander Parris Papers.

    Upcoming Genealogy in a Nutshell Lectures at the NEHGS Library

    Last Nutshell Lecture of 2004!
    "From Pearl Harbor to the Middle East: Post World War I Military Research" with David A. Lambert on December 11.

    Many of us have heard stories of our relatives' exploits and tragedies in the more recent wars. We have parents or grandparents who fought in World War II or the Korean War, or siblings who fought in Vietnam. And now a new generation of soldiers have experienced war in the Middle East. NEHGS military expert, David Lambert, will discuss researching the military records of twentieth-century veterans.

    First Nutshell Lecture of 2005!
    Bridging the Atlantic: Finding the English Origins of Your Ancestors with David C. Dearborn on January 5 and 8, 2005

    Many Americans can trace their New England ancestors back to the immigrant from England, but stop at the water's edge. NEHGS genealogist David Dearborn will guide your quest across the ocean for English immigrants, from colonial times to the nineteenth century.

    All lectures take place at 10:15 a.m. at the NEHGS Library in Boston. Advance registration is not necessary.

    For more details about NEHGS education events, please visit our online Education Center at 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 Favorite Ancestor
    by Robert Davenport of Los Angeles, California

    William Cullen Bryant, in his Letters of a Traveler, tells the following story of my ancestor Moses Comstock.

    He prided himself on the strict and literal fulfillment of his word. On one occasion he had a law suit with one of his neighbors before a justice of the peace, in which he was cast and ordered to pay ten shillings damages, and a shilling as the fees of the court. He paid the ten shillings and asked the justice whether he would allow him to pay the remaining when he next passed his door. The magistrate readily consented, but from that time old Comstock never went by his house. Whenever he had occasion to go to church or to any other place the direct road to which led by the justice's door, he was careful to take a lane which passed behind the dwelling and at some distance from it. The shilling remained unpaid up to the day of his death, and it was found that in his last will he had directed that his corpse should be carried by that lane to the place of interment.

    NEHGS Contact Information

    We strongly encourage you to email this newsletter to others who might be interested. To subscribe or view back issues of eNews, please visit

    To view the website of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, please visit

    To become a member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, please visit

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