Newton City Hall 5 February 2016

Newton City Hall 5 February 2016

FindMyPast comes through again with something to keep us busy on a snowy New England day. Remember what I said just two posts ago about FindMyPast going aggressively after the American Market?  I just learned from a posting on Dick Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter that FindMyPast announced at RootsTech that it is launching the largest online collection of U.S. marriages in American history with over 100 million records dating from 1650 t0 2010. The work on this project is not completed, but FindMyPast is making the first 33 million of these records available to anyone who wants to use them for free through February 15th.  To learn more details, click on the link above to Dick Eastman’s article. Once you take a look at the article, go to  http://www.findmypast.com and try out the records.

vea/5 February 2016
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy

A member of our local genealogy club just emailed  to tell me about an offer from the New England Historic Genealogical Society. They are offering free access to Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont vital records (birth, marriage, and death records) until the end of January. They are promoting their free guest memberships. It’s worth checking out if you have ancestors in these three states, even if you’ve already found information in places like Ancestry or FamilySearch.  NEHGS has materials and collections you will find nowhere else.

To find more details about their guest (free) memberships, check out their American Ancestors website.

Below is the information posted about the offer on the American Ancestors website.

Good to Meet You, 2016!

Register free as a Guest User to get access to three of our most popular vital records databases for the month of January 2016.

Guest User accounts allow web visitors to use a limited suite of AmericanAncestors.org databases and access content such as making purchases from the online store. To receive unlimited access to all 250+ million records and other benefits, become a member of NEHGS.

In addition to the standard suite of databases available to guest users, other new databases may be available to guest user for a limited time. To see the complete list of databases currently available to guest users, visit the advanced search page and use the “free” check box.

vea/22 January 2016
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy

Imagine having family and local history articles available online, at your finger tips.

Imagine having family and local history articles available online, at your finger tips.

I spotted this on several of my genealogy feeds. It’s a perfect way to spend a snowbound weekend (or to celebrate NOT getting snowed in). I’d like to share some thoughts about FindMyPast.  Although FindMyPast is a British company that has been emphasizing British genealogy, it is now going aggressively into the U.S. market, looking to acquire materials that will attract Americans.  It has established it’s American headquarters right next door to Newton in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

One of their impressive projects is connecting the PERSI Index to the actual articles cited and making it available online. PERSI stands for Periodicals Source Index and is considered to be the largest genealogy and local history periodicals index in the world. It covers a large number of American periodicals. The Allen County Public Library in Indiana has been doing this indexing project since 1986. The index covers articles published as far back as 1847.  Note that I said index. If you wanted an article, you could contact ACPL and pay to have the article copied for you. You could also use your own local library’s Inter Library Loan Service to obtain a copy of an article of interest. FindMyPast is attempting to connect the index to the actual articles online. This is a copyright nightmare.  They have to track down the owners of the copyright and then get permission to put it online — for every single article. This process becomes even more complicated when the periodical has gone out of business. How far have they gotten? You can find out for yourself free by checking it out over this free weekend.

So even if you don’t have British ancestry, you still  want to check out this site and not just for the PERSI information cited above.  I emailed FindMyPast last night to clarify some points and they answered by this morning.  At this point in time they make available over 2 billion records globally. 850 million of those are U.S. records. Sounds like enough to keep us all busy over a snowy weekend!  And the price is certainly right.

I am including additional material provided by FindMyPast below. It gives you a more detailed description of the range and types of records they offer.

From FindMyPast:

We’re delighted to announce that from 7am this Friday 22nd until 7am on Monday 25th (EST), our world records* will be available for anyone to view, completely free of charge.

You’ll be able to explore…

… As well as millions of other records that will give everyone the opportunity to explore their family history, and bring their past to life.

We’re here to help you every step of the way. If you’re just getting going, make sure to take a look at our failsafe interview to mine your relatives for clues. You’ll be able to begin populating your tree, and start your hunt for more names to add to it.

If you’re new to exploring our collections you might find our guide to Birth, Marriage and Death records a useful starting point, as well as our new video guides, which offer useful tips on getting started with records, building a family tree, getting started with hints, and much more!

If you’re looking for a little inspiration, or are curious to see what other explorers have discovered in their past, take a look at our discoveries for some ….

Tracing your family history with Findmypast offers you the chance to discover things about the past which shaped who you are today. Start this weekend, and see where your tree takes you.

*Please note that access to the 1939 Register has not been included and pay as you go credits will be required in order to unlock household records. Terms and conditions apply.

vea/20 January 2016/updated 22 January 2016
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy

Internet Archive's special book cradle for digitizing books

Internet Archive’s special book cradle for digitizing books

Conservation.  Preservation.  What’s the difference?  These two words are often used interchangeably, but they do mean different things. I often found myself getting confused by the two terms, so I contacted the Boston Public Library.  Stuart Walker, a Book Conservator at the BPL provided this clarification. “Preservation encompasses all the range of things people (such as conservators) do to maintain collections or individual items in the best condition possible.  This includes cleaning, temperature and RH control, education of the public, pest management, disaster preparedness and recovery planning, mass deacidification programs, digitization, etc. etc.  Conservation refers to specific repair work on materials, whether whole collections, or individual items.”

1891 Newton City Directory with Container Plus Separate MapAs you pull together your family documents, photographs, letters, and other materials, you may discover that some have deteriorated. If not now, they may over time. Paper has all sorts of enemies — dampness, heat, light, fire, insects, rodents, even the acid that can be part of the paper itself.  If you look at an old book and see the pages crumble as you turn them, the book is made of highly acidic paper, often from pine wood.  If you look at a book made of older paper, say around the 1770s, it will often be in very good shape.  Why? It’s made using bleached rags, hence the term rag paper.  Photographs pose problems as well.  And newspaper clippings become brittle very quickly.

Durant-Kenrick House, October 2010What if you are concerned about family heirlooms, furniture or even an historic home.  Organizations such as Historic New England (formerly know as The Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities) are deeply involved in the conservation and preservation of houses built during specific periods and everything that goes into them — clothing, quilts, wall paper, curtains, furniture, cooking utensils, farming implements…

Think about the critical written records of your family, the photographs, the family heirlooms.  To be available to future generations, they must all be preserved and damaged ones may be able to be repaired (conserved).  If this is a concern, you should consult a person with experience in this field for advice. This is not a do-it-yourself project. It is better to leave something alone than to unintentionally do more damage.  “First do no harm” applies to family archives as well as to doctors.

QUICK TIP:  NEVER, EVER use tape on anything you want to save.  Just look at an old book that has been repaired with tape or photographs that have been added with tape.  Tape ruins whatever it touches.


WEBSITES (Just click on the website of interest)

Digital Commonwealth and the Boston Public Library

“Preserving, Protecting, Preserving Family Treasures” from the Library of Congress

FamilyArchives.com  Getting Started

Northeast Document Conservation Center 

American Library Association

Historic New England Library and Archives

Preservation at Historic New England

BOOKS (Just click on the title of interest to see a book’s status)

Baldridge, Aimee.  Organize Your Digital Life: How to Store Your Photographs, Music, Video, and Personal Documents in a Digital World.  Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2009. 006.6 B19O

May-Levenick, Denise S. How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia, and Genealogy Records. Cincinnati, OH: Family Tree Books, 2012. 929.1 L57H

Preserving Local Writers, Genealogy, Photographs, Newspapers and Related Materials.  Edited by Carol Smallwood and Elaine Williams.  Lenham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 2012.  025.84 S63P

Taylor, Maureen Alice.  Preserving Your Family Photographs:  How to Care for Your Family Photographs – From Daguerreotypes to Digital Imaging.  Lexington, KY: Picture Perfect Press, 2010.  771.46 T21P

vea/7 January 2016
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy





In the Newton Free Library’s December Newsletter is a very succinct, well written description of four databases that are made available through the library by the City of Newton. The author is Cathy Balshone, another member of the Reference staff here at the library.

e-RESOURCES for You: Genealogy and More*

American Ancestors:  Access records collected by The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS). View centuries of records that will help trace ancestors as far back as our first American settlers. Use filters to narrow by century and country of origin. Make use of practical aids like family tree templates and research tracking logs. In library use only.

Ancestry Library Edition: Important genealogical reference sources, census and other records are now available online. Explore by Location offers an interactive map listing specific resources by geographic search. Other bonus features include Learning Center and Charts and Forms. Make a memory book from yearbook photos to spark family stories! In library use only.

HeritageQuest Online is equally engaging for students, writers, history buffs and genealogists. Primary source material from census, bank, war and pension records will add context and interesting detail to your writing or research. Available remotely to Newton residents with a Newton library card.

Digital Newton: offers a large collection of Newton materials. Assessed Polls list registered voters, Blue Books and City Directories list residents and street addresses. There are also high school yearbooks, biographical pamphlets, diaries and more. Available remotely to anyone: http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/digitalnewton.  CB

Not from Newton?  Check your own local library to see what they offer. Subscription databases may be provided at no cost through your local library.  Also note that no matter where you live, you can check out Digital Newton.  It’s free.  No cost. No subscription fees.

Quick Tip: Always remember to check the resources that are local to places where your ancestors lived. Local public libraries often have both written and human resources that can be made available to you,  even if that library is a thousand miles away. All you have to do is check them out  — and that includes their librarians.  Local librarians may know of a descendant of one of your ancestor’s siblings still living near by. (Some members of the family may have been happy to stay put.) Or that local library may have a collection that includes material about your family. You may strike gold if only you dig for it. VEA


*Bold face has been added.

21 December  2015/vea and cb
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy


Christmas VillageAre you looking forward to getting together with your family this year or are your feelings mixed?  Do people tend to rehash the same old disputes, comparisons, unsolicited advice, etc.?  Why not work at mixing things up? Get people sharing their family stories.  How?

Think a bit about the people who are coming. Getting family members curious about things they’ve never thought about before could be a good start. Think about the family as a whole. Where does each guest fit into the family?  Get people thinking about this family of theirs.  How far back do their memories go? Whose memories reach back the furthest? What are they curious about?  Who shares common interests?  Does one generation know information or skills they could share with a different generation? (Not just older to younger, but younger to older as well.) Do you have old family friends coming?  They probably share a few memories with members of your family that you might not know.

The Basics

Before people get together, do you have addresses, email addresses, and/or telephone numbers for all the family members at the gathering?  Collect them when people get together.  It’s also a good time to ask family members how to get in touch with other family members you’ve “always meant to contact.”

In the course of the day, you might want to ask if anyone at the gathering has done anything with the family’s history or know anyone in the family who does or did. You might be surprised at the answers you get.


I don’t think anything gets people talking faster than looking at old photographs. Do you have old family photos? Do you have any family stories about the people in them?  You could get the ball rolling by bringing some and recounting a few stories.  Hear what other people have to say. Write down their stories.  Or you could have paper pads available for people to write the stories, information or photo identifications themselves.  They should add their names so you know where the information came from. Go through after everyone has gone and just date the notes with the current date.  You know the circumstances now, but will you know where these notes came from and when ten or fifteen years from now.

You could ask people who are the oldest relative they have a photograph of. Or what is the subject of the oldest photograph they own.  Maybe they would be willing to share a copy of it.

If you are having the gathering in your own home, you might set up a collection of photographs, even if it’s just a three ring notebook with photos in acid free plastic sleeves. (You want both to protect the photos and keep them from getting mixed up.) You could set up one with older family photos.  You could set up another with people or places that need identification.  You could set up one with pictures of holidays past. If other people are bringing photos, keep them separate and protected at all times so they can all go back to their rightful owners in the same condition that they came in.  If you have a flatbed scanner set up that you use, you could ask the owner of a photograph if they would be willing to let you scan it (and return it) before they leave.

If you are in another relative’s home, look around for family photographs or other memorabilia.  Ask questions about them. You may not know some of the people in the photo.  You may know the people but not where it was taken or the circumstances.  There is always a question you can think of to get a story or at least more information.

I’ve seen suggestions about setting up a slide show of family photos on a computer or other device.  I always like the idea of flipping through the real deal.  You can go at your own pace or flip back when one photo reminds you of a story connected to another.  Though getting younger people to help you set up something technical that you can use for family to check later would get them involved.  Kids and teens are rarely asked for advice and they know things we don’t.  Helping us might get them curious about what we are doing and why we want to collect these things called stories.

Family Group Sheets and Pedigree Charts

If you want a quick visual about where people fit in the family, think family group sheets and pedegree (ancestor) charts. If you have already filled out family group sheets and pedigree charts, it might be fun to have them handy to go with the photos.  If you haven’t started yet, you might want to bring blank ones to have people fill out for them and their kids (or their parents). This is where the family group sheets really come in handy.

Talking with Relatives

270. Do not assume anything.  Always ask, especially if you are asking about something specific. Some people might really enjoy recounting memories or stories they know about growing up during or participating in historical events like the Depression, World War II, the sixties, Vietnam… For others it might bring up very difficult or traumatic events they do not want to discuss. Respect their wishes. Also don’t assume if an older relative has a problem with short term memory, that they can’t participate.  Their long term memory might be just fine.

 Two questions you might want to ask could be “Who is the oldest family member you remember?” “What do you remember about them?”

Do you know anyone interested in cooking that might be willing to help those involved with the preparation?  If the cooks don’t want someone “mucking about” with their recipes, would they be willing to share the recipes and/or talk about the memories that go with them while they are cooking? Where did they get the recipe? If not from a family member, maybe from an old cookbook.  Do they still have it? Would they be willing to have their picture taken while cooking? (Digital camera anyone?)

If they are bringing food and you know they made it and didn’t buy it, you could ask them if it’s a family recipe. If it’s something that they discovered, you have a new family story in the making.  Do they have other family recipes that they’ve made or stories about cooking, especially around the holidays?  And sometimes you can get some really good stories about buying a staple for the holiday feast.

Do not make the mistake of only asking the older women about cooking and the men about World War II. Men cook too and women who lived through it have home front memories.  You may also be surprised to find that staid Aunt Sadie was in the military during wartime and stationed overseas.  Remember what I said about not assuming anything.

Be prepared to the inevitable dispute or two or three.  Take down the different forms of a story or identification as well as the names of those contributing each.  It’s good to have them all and some of the details may be able to be researched at a later date.

Another idea I had is to ask everyone to help you create a timeline of events that they remember and roughly when it occurred.  You might be surprised at how far back it goes.

Afterwards: Ideas to Consider

Set up a place online for family access to photographs or stories. Blogs, Facebook (with security filters), Flickr (especially albums), Pinterest, Instagram.  Always check a site’s security filters before you set one up or use one set up by another family member.

You could continue the discussion through emails, perhaps by mailing out a question to everyone who’s interested.  One question at a time should be sufficient.  Just make sure you have a file for them on your computer and you also print out a copy. If some people are really getting into this, they could adopt and research a husband and wife among your known ancestors.

If people give you feedback, do the same for them.  And always thank them, with a handwritten thank you note if possible.  Even the younger generations are impressed with that.  They may never have received one before.

You are building your family story – story by story.  In the short run, you may end up with an interesting, enjoyable family holiday. In the long run you may be building stronger bonds between family members and between generations that could last well into future generations.  It takes work to have fun. And think of the rewards.

4 December  2015/vea
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy

Tailors of TomaszowOn Wednesday, November 18th at 7:00 pm, there will be a program on The Lost Society of Polish Jewry. The program centers on The Tailors of Tomaszow: A Memoir of Polish Jews. The book was researched and written by Allan Chernoff and his mother, Rena Margulies Chernoff.  Mr. Chernoff will be the presenter. His mother, Rena Chernoff, is among the youngest survivors of the holocaust. The work is a communal memoir and history that begins by describing the prewar life of Tomaszow and its vibrant Jewish community. It then goes on to describe the mounting terror that was part of the systematic destruction of this same community during World War II. How did a small remnant of Tomaszow Jews survive first the Nazi occupation and then the concentration camps?  In the lecture, Mr. Chernoff will examine myths of the Holocaust and explore difficult questions such as: Why were most Jews poorly prepared to resist the Nazis? How did some survive? Heidi Urich, president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston, will speak about the programs and resources available at the JGSGB. Reference librarian Ginny Audet, will briefly discuss Holocaust-related books owned by the Newton Free Library. A book signing will follow with books provided by New England Mobile Book Fair.

If you come into the library during the month of November, be sure to check the display that was put together about the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston in conjunction with the Chernoff lecture .  It will be in the display windows as you walk into the Reference area of the Atrium just off the front lobby of the library.  The JGSGB has put together an impressive display.


12 November  2015/vea
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy




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