Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Location, Location, Location’ Category

Newton Free Library in Autumn

Please note: Classes are always on a Monday night, usually from 7:00 to 8:30 pm.  Classes will not always be in the same room.  They will either be in Special Collections or in the ITTC (aka the computer training center) on the second floor. Check each class below for its location. Registration is required and will usually start at the beginning of the month before the class is being offered.  Call a reference desk at 617-796-1380 to register.

Class: Bare-Bones Genealogy for Beginners: Starting from Scratch

Date: 9 January 2016

Room: Special Collections

Description: The emphasis of this first class of the new year will be on setting up your family history and how to start your research. I will begin by explaining family group sheets and then expand from there. This will not be a computer-based class. You will be introduced to strategies of organization, citing living people as sources, and where to look for more information that you (or someone in your family) may already have. Computer genealogy will be slowly introduced into the mix in February (Mother Nature permitting).  Registration is now open.  (Limit: 15)

Class: Starting Your Genealogy Research Online with Census and Vital Records

Date: 6 February 2016

Room: ITTC Room

Description: When people start going online to research their family history, the first documents they usually come across are the United States census (generated by the federal government) and birth, marriage, and death records (generated locally).  I will discuss these documents in the context of computer-driven research. Some records can be used as proof of a relationship. Others are only signposts toward more reliable information. Tips relating to online research in general will also be incorporated. Registration will be open at the beginning of January. (Limit: 12)

Class: Tracking Your Ancestors Using Local Resources — Yours and Theirs

Date: 13 March 2016

Room: Special Collections

DescriptionTypically, you begin your family research with the resources closest to you, including your public library.  But you shouldn’t stop there. This class is about tracking your ancestors in the towns and cities, counties and states where they actually lived. Here is where fresh discoveries are made, obstacles are broken down, and wonderful stories can be discovered. How do you track down digitized collections, special records, newspaper articles, books, and/or manuscripts that have been generated locally about local people, families, and events? I will discuss how to uncover online the resources available in places you’ve never visited.  You will learn how to find libraries and history and genealogy societies relevant to the communities you are researching. You may discover relatives still living there, perhaps some you know nothing about and who may be working on a parallel track in a genealogy quest of their own.  Eventually you may decide that there are places you want to actually visit. As you identify the localities you need to search, the focus and the scope of your project may shift and expand — prepare yourself for surprises. Registration will be open at the beginning of February. (Limit: 15)

vea/2 December 2016/vea
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  
http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Newman Congregational Church, East Providence RI (2012). Photograph by Kenneth C. Zirkel.

Newman Congregational Church, East Providence RI (2012). Photograph by Kenneth C. Zirkel.

I was recently doing some online research relating to the records of the Newman Congregational Church in East Providence, Rhode Island.  A number of my ancestors, though Massachusetts residents, attended this church. I always wondered how a church in Rhode Island became the church of choice for families in Massachusetts, especially in an age when horses and walking were the two main means of transportation. I decided to do some investigating. As it turns out, the church began its existence in Massachusetts and has actually gotten around quite a bit in the intervening years.

To begin at the beginning, according to the Newman Congregational Church itself and the East Providence Historical Society, the church was founded in 1643. (But, according to the Rhode Island Historical Society, it was founded a bit earlier, in 1641.) It was built on land that was originally part of an area known as Seacunck, then renamed Rehoboth by a community of new settlers, English Puritans. Rehoboth was officially established as a town in 1645.  In other words, the church has been around for quite awhile, 370 years, give or take.

The Newman Congregational Church remained in place for the first 170 years of its history. Then in 1812 Rehoboth’s borders changed. The western part of Rehoboth split off and became Seekonk. The church was on Seekonk land and became part of this new town. To complicate matters further, Seekonk and Rehoboth were part of an area that had been a bone of contention between Rhode Island and Massachusetts since the colonial period. In 1861 the United States Supreme Court awarded part of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, to Seekonk. According to the Rhode Island Historical Society, in “1862, the western part of the town of Seekonk was set off to the state of Rhode Island, and renamed East Providence.” When the dust settled, the Newman Congregational Church was now in an entirely different state. The church moved from Rehoboth to Seekonk, within Massachusetts, and then to East Providence, Rhode Island — without moving, physically that is. To complicate matters still further, the church’s address is listed as being in Rumford, which is actually a section of East Providence. Details such as these can be confusing to those researchers not used to the idea that divisions and villages such as Rumford can be parts of towns and cities rather than entities unto themselves.

In my classes I am always stressing the importance of local history and knowing the borders and boundaries for the locations where ancestors lived. What do you do if you can’t find records where you expect them to be? Look at a period map. Check the town or city history. If your ancestor’s family lived near a border, they may have belonged to organizations or attended religious services across that border in another town or county or state or province. Then again, it may be the border that changes.  As the saga of Newman Congregational illustrates, “location” can be a most changeable factor, encompassing people and their homes and even their places of worship. Though this is the first instance that I’ve found of a church having border issues, I have a hunch it won’t be the last.  And that, by the way, is how my Massachusetts ancestors ended up going to a Rhode Island church.

 

Additional sources consulted:

Historical Data Relating to Counties, Cities, and Towns in Massachusetts, prepared by William Galvin, Secretary of the Commonwealth. Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1997. “Rehoboth, Bristol County” pp. 96-97; “Seekonk, Bristol County” pp. 103-104.   MASS 974.4 M38H  Note: Only the 1920 and 1948 editions of this reference work are available at Internet Archive.

History of Fall River: With Notices of Freetown and Tiverton as published in 1841 by Orin Fowler; Together with a Sketch of the Life of Rev. Orin Fowler, an Epitome of the Massachusetts and Rhode Island Boundary Question, an Account of the Great Fire of 1843, and Ecclesiastical Manufacturing, and Other Statistics. Fall River, MA: Almy and Milne Printers, 1862. “Massachusetts and Rhode Island: Boundary Question” pp. 67 – 71. Title linked to copy at Internet Archive.

 

vea/23 September 2016
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  
http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net

 

 

Read Full Post »

Map that you see on the main wiki page at FamilySearch.org

Map from the main wiki page at FamilySearch.org

Our ancestors had a tendency to move around.  If they didn’t, we probably wouldn’t have so much trouble finding their records.  When you track people from state to state, you start noticing what holds true for finding records in one state is not necessarily true in another.  Different types of records were kept during different periods in different places.  For example, those who are used to the time frame of New England vital records, which can go back as far as the 1600s, are startled to find that New York state started saving birth, marriage, and death records at a far later date.  New York finally passed a law requiring the collection of vital records in the 1880s, but it was very slow to be implemented. You can still have difficulty finding them in a number of New York towns during the early part of the 20th century.

When you start to follow your ancestor into a new state, you need to do some homework or you may miss key information. Otherwise you could hit a brick wall that you’ve unwittingly constructed yourself. So how do you find out which records were kept when and where they are located? One very good source is Ancestry’s Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources. You can check information on the various types of records available under each of the fifty states. This book is available in the Newton Free Library’s Special Collections Room for quick consultation or a more detailed read. But if you are working elsewhere and you don’t want to interrupt your work to look for a book, you have a simple alternative.  Red Book is available online at the following live link. Click on it and read away.  http://www.ancestry.com/wiki/index.php?title=Red_Book:_American_State,_County,_and_Town_Sources

But what about records outside the United States?  There are a very large number of books on family history research that deal with specific countries and even areas within a country. But for now you want to know how much trouble you are going to have tracking your line back to another country. You just want to get a general lay of the land. This is where FamilySearch’s wikis are invaluable.

If you have done much research in genealogy at all, you learn that, besides Ancestry, FamilySearch.org is one of the most extensive databases for genealogical records. The nice thing about FamilySearch is that, unlike Ancestry, it is free. Upon first discovering FamilySearch you will no doubt zero in on searching for records and thus might be likely to miss all its other resources. If you focus on the very top of its home page (as of July 2016) and run your cursor over the word “Search” you will see a dropdown menu. At the bottom of that menu you will see the word “wiki.”  Click on it and you see a map and an invitation to search the wiki by place or topic. For countries such as England that have a huge amount of literature written about researching ancestors, the topic is made manageable by the way FamilySearch sets up its main wiki page for each country.

But where do you find information for other countries where the records may not be so easily accessible?  Anyone who saw America Ferrera’s segment on TLC’s cable program “Who Do You Think You Are?” understands how difficult such a search can be, even when you have help. She was searching for information on her father’s family in Honduras, a quest made especially challenging because of the problems of record preservation by both local as well as national governments.  Specifically, where do you find basic information on the existing records of countries whose history has been filled with internal conflict?  FamilySearch’s wiki is an excellent place to start. Check out Honduras, or any other country of interest, to see what FamilySearch has done with it.  There are a number of links to information, records, and online help. Just as you would consult maps before taking a trip, it’s a good idea to know something about where you are going before you get there.

 

vea/29 July 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

Read Full Post »

The Art of Research and How to Find Local Resources

DSC05030 Genealogy Files by FamilyA curiosity about family history always starts with a question, a need to know.  It can start with a question we ask ourselves or something that is asked of us. Once engaged, we may ask relatives about the individuals who make up our family and are our ancestors. We then look at what we have and what is missing. We form more questions. What do we want to know? What piques our curiosity? One family? One ancestor?  One question expands into several. What quest are we on? What pieces of information do we want to discover?  Where do we think they are likely to be?

websites VerticalHaving committed ourselves to find the answer, we often continue our genealogy quest by going online. We could be looking for books relating to our ancestors in an online catalog or searching databases for records. Many libraries pay for subscription databases such as Ancestry, American Ancestors, and Heritage Quest so their patrons can use them at no cost.  If we want to get started on our home computer, FamilySearch.org is a good option. FamilySearch.org has millions of records online and access is absolutely free.  It was created and is maintained by those members of the Mormon Church particularly interested in family history. This site is just as important as Ancestry to check. As we become more experienced we also discover websites that are especially useful for our particular areas of research, favorites that we keep returning to.

Front of Library 17 October 2012At some point, inevitably, we come up empty handed and are not sure what to do next.  This is when we turn to people or institutions that we think can help us. These include public libraries, historical societies, genealogy/family history societies, town clerks, librarians, archivists, and subject specialists. We discover many of our personal contacts by first going through the institutions that employ them. It is likely we will first consult the institutions that are nearest to us geographically. Think, however, of your ancestors. Most of them probably moved around, some fairly frequently. Don’t overlook the importance of local history and genealogy resources in the areas where they lived.

Interested in learning more about a location, you may start by looking up a town or city of interest on the Internet. You may also consult books like The Genealogist’s Address Book and American Libraries Directory for likely places to send your question.  Once you discover a likely contact, you need to do two things: check out your contact online and organize your question. To find more information about your contact, see if the institution has a website or a blog, a Facebook or Twitter page.  Learn a bit about what it does and the information or collections it has. Why do you think this institution can help you? Once you check it out, do you still think it can help? Find out if there are guidelines for asking questions. Does it list a preferred email or postal address? Now back to your specific question:

The Importance of Questions

115 Larger Question MarkA question sent by email or through the post should be succinct and to the point while at the same time providing enough information for your contact to work with. Telephone queries may be fine to double-check contact information and hours, but for family research you need to offer a certain amount of detail. Questions that include information such as family names, dates, and places are best exchanged in writing. Anyone who has dealt with census records knows the myriad ways this material can be misheard and misspelled. Your question and accompanying information need to be written.  If you desire an answer, how you pose your question is critical.

Here are some tips for what to include in your question from someone who answers them (me).

  1. Focus specifically on what you want to find out. For example, if you are seeking information about a person, let your contact know the full name of the person you are researching.
  1. What specific piece of information do you want to know? If you are researching a person, do you want to find a birth or marriage or death record? Think about what you are using these records to discover. Are you using them to find parents’ names? Say so in your correspondence. Do not think just of the record you are looking for, but of the information you need. It will be easier for your contact to think of alternate sources for the information needed if they become necessary.
  1. Do you already have other information that would narrow the search to the correct person? Do you have family members (spouse, children, parents) or dates and/or locations of birth, marriage, or death? Include them in your query.
  1. What makes you think the specific person or institution you are contacting has the information you are looking for?
  1. Let your contact know which sources you have already checked. You want the person to help you by covering new territory, not rehashing what has already been searched.
  1. Restate succinctly what you would like your contact to do.
  1. Don’t forget to end with a thank-you. Remember that the people you contact have many demands on their time. Be polite and let them know you appreciate their spending some of this time helping you.

A GOOD EXAMPLE OF HOW TO PUT TOGETHER A QUERY

Consider the following email as a model for how a query can be constructed, question by question.

Who are you researching?

I hope that you might be able to help me locate information on my great uncle, [full name] b.[birth date]. His son [same name, Jr.] b.[birth year] – d.[death year] worked for the city of Newton for many years.  Note that the writer not only gave me a very specific question, but also let me know another critical piece of information.  There were two men, father and son, with exactly the same name. The son worked here for many years – hence I may find other records under the name I am researching that pertain to a different person.

What specifically do you want to find out about the person you are researching?

My goal is to locate the death record and burial place of [first name] Sr.

What additional information do you have that might help?

The last-known record that he personally filled out was a WWII registration card in [nearby town] in [year], however  Why are you checking in this location? he was listed in the your city’s directory [page number given] in [year of directory] living at [address] with his son. My correspondent was able to find a copy of the directory, probably online, before she contacted the library.

What research have you already done?

I do not believe that he had a Social Security number as there is no SS death index entry for him. Although he registered for both WWI and WWII, there is no service record for him.  I have spoken to the State Archives, Boston Veteran’s Services, WWI museum in Concord, Military records, NARA, all surrounding towns, our family cemetery records, Find A Grave, Ancestry, Familysearch.org, Social Security Administration office, and pretty much all other resources within my ability. Many people will not have done this extensive amount of research. But whatever you have done, put down. You do not want resources you have already seen rechecked. Given time constraints, this will result in new sources having gone unchecked.

What would you like me to do?

I hope that you might have access to additional directories, perhaps an obituary database or another means to search for the death of [full name of person being researched].

Thank you for your assistance,

[Your name and contact information]

Newton City Clerk's Office 2010Results: When I went to the City Clerk’s Office, I found no record for the father. I found no obituary on our Newton Graphic newspaper microfilm for the son, as well as no death record.  (By the way, when I pay a visit to the City Clerk’s Office, I always bring a family group sheet as a reminder to write down additional information I discover. It is always a paper version. For me, having something in your hand is a better prompt than if it’s buried on a laptop or tablet.)  I found the marriage record of the son and records for the birth of four children (grandchildren of the man she was researching). She did not have information on two of the children and she did not have the marriage record. I checked for other information in a private subscription I have that pointed the search to a bordering town.

Now, how about an example of a bad query:

I have a whole lot of [fill in any surname] with a ton of [fill in common given names] and I don’t know how to put them together.  I’m enclosing printouts from Ancestry that put most of these people in Newton at various times.  Can you help me figure out how or if they fit on my family tree?

Most people would put a query like this in the circular file. No librarian has enough off-desk time to answer a question like this.  I send such a correspondent a two-page letter explaining how to research and put together a family tree, in addition to a list of basic steps, family group sheets, and an ancestral/pedigree chart.  This has often helped clarify the thinking of the person sending the original question. As a result, I have received rewritten queries I can work with, often accompanied by a family group sheet.

An Added Place to Post a Query

Did you know you can also post a query to multiple people at once using an online message board?  Some websites also allow you to do this. If you are using this type of resource, it is important to know the site’s rules and regulations for posting a query.  Some sites will restrict the subjects or locations they will allow. They may have a specific format or word limit.  Be respectful of the places that allow you to do this and follow the rules.  You will dramatically increase your chances of getting an answer and you may even make new friends in the process.

vea/20 May 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

 

Read Full Post »

City directories have long been a staple of genealogical research. You can find people through a directory’s alphabetical listing of residents and neighbors through the street listings. Until recently, to see the directories for the City of Newton required a trip to the Special Collections Room at the Newton Free Library or a search of the more limited  online selections at sites such as Ancestry.com.  Now the City of Newton has made its directories for the years from 1868 to 1934 directly available through Digital Newton.  Click on the live link below. http://www.newtonma.gov/gov/clerk/archives/geneological_research/city_directories.asp Additional years will be added as they become available.  You will also find Newton’s Assessed Polls (a directory of potential voters) and Newton’s Blue Book (not as extensive as the directories) on this same page.

Above you will see a photograph of the 1890 Newton City Directory.  I photographed this particular directory to make a point about another use of city directories.  The United States Census is taken only every ten years. City directories are often published every other year. They help fill in the gaps between censuses. The 1890s in particular are critical years for the influx of immigrants to America.  Unfortunately almost all of the 1890 census was destroyed by fire. If you know a likely area of settlement for your  immigrant ancestors during this period,  city directories will be a key source for some of the information you are seeking.  If they settled in Newton, you can now find them online.

The Newton City Directories are keyword searchable, but only by using an  Adobe Acrobat search. You can also look through the directory pages much like a regular book.  You can search one page after another or you can jump around using the pdf  format to  go to a specific page.

Look for  a table of contents at the front of a directory. Use it to see how the directory is set up. Just as you would with any other printed genealogical resource, make sure you read the introduction.  You also need to find the key to abbreviations used in the book to understand everything it is telling you. The directories include other articles and listings that will  give you a deeper sense of the life of the city during the period you are researching. Look for those in the table of contents as well.

For additional information on using city directories you should check out City Directories: Who Lived Where and When?   I also recommend other articles on various topics you will find at the authors’  Genwriters site under the GenGuides listing.  They are very informative reads.

Good luck on your research.

vea/26 July 2011/updated 19 March 2012/updated 7 July 2017
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com


Read Full Post »

Taken by vea The Curious Genealogist September 2010
The Newton Quilt Displaying 13 Newton Villages

The short answer is that it depends: on who is doing the counting, for what purposes the count is being done, and when (what year) the count was done.  Currently it appears that thirteen villages are recognized.  These include Auburndale, Chestnut Hill, Newton (Corner), Newton Centre, Newton Highlands, Newton Lower Falls, Newton Upper Falls, Newtonville, Nonantum, Oak Hill Park (includes Oak Hill Village), Thompsonville, Waban, and West Newton. 

The City of Newton’s website shows a map listing fourteen villages. This map splits up Oak Hill Park and Oak Hill into two separate villages.  When a site lists only twelve villages, Tompsonville (the smallest village) is usually the one dropped.  Such sites include the Jackson Homestead’s site and the Planning Department’s brochures covering the history and attractions of each the village. 

In 1972 the City recognized only ten villages, combining a number of them. These included Auburndale, Chestnut Hill, Newton (including Newton Corner and Nonantum), Newton Lower Falls, Newton Upper Falls, Newton Highlands, Newton Center (including Oak Hill Park, Oak Hill Village, and Thompsonville), Newtonville, Waban, and West Newton.  In 1986 the Newton Village Study: Report for the City of Newton, Massachusetts lists fourteen villages, adding Newton Four Corners as a village. 

A website article that reiterates the thirteen villages of Newton, complete with references, can be found at the Newton Citizen’s website.  Click here to view.   Clicking on any site above that is not in black should get you to that site.  I did one final important check on the number of Newton villages, with David Olson, the current City Clerk, who confirmed the number thirteen as the correct number.

vea/5 November 2010
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass.
http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com

Read Full Post »

It is very simple to mistake the villages of Newton for individual Massachusets towns if you are not familiar with the city.  I recently looked at  a 1927 New Hampshire death record.  It listed the last known town of residence as Newtonville.  That certainly looks like a town, but the fact that it is a village within a city may make it more difficult to track.  It is something to keep in mind while researching, whether you are looking for records relating to Newton or any other location. Sometimes the village name will give you a clue, such as Newtonville.  Other times, as in a case like Auburndale, you might have to do a little hunting.

Is there any help out of this quagmire? For Massachusetts, yes.  Historical Data Relating to Counties, Cities and Towns in Massachusetts has been compiled and published by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts since the 1920s.  The most recent edition, published in 1997, has a very useful index where you can check a name to see if your location is a village that is part of a town or city or an actual city or town.  It also gives you state, county, city and town boundaries changes.  Consulting this helps prevent searching for records in the wrong place. (I have an ancestor that I thought had moved three times. He stayed put. It was the state boundary that moved.) For help with even more archaic locations, the state also provides a website: Archaic Community, District, Neighborhood, Section, and Village Names in Massachusetts.  Click on the highlighted areas for more information on the book and to get to the website.

Have fun.  I mean that seriously. Location histories can be fascinating, especially in this neck of the woods.

vea/5 November 2010
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass.
http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com

Read Full Post »

A Genealogist In The Archives

FINDING ANSWERS AT THE NEWTON FREE LIBRARY http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net Newton, Massachusetts

Boston 1775

FINDING ANSWERS AT THE NEWTON FREE LIBRARY http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net Newton, Massachusetts

Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter

The Daily Online Genealogy Newsletter

The Legal Genealogist

FINDING ANSWERS AT THE NEWTON FREE LIBRARY http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net Newton, Massachusetts

Nutfield Genealogy

FINDING ANSWERS AT THE NEWTON FREE LIBRARY http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net Newton, Massachusetts

One Rhode Island Family

My Genealogical Adventures through 400 Years of Family History