Archive for the ‘Genealogy’ Category

State- and County-wide Genealogical Books and Resources

for Providence County, Rhode Island

Comprehensive overviews

Map of Providence County, 1936. From John Hutchins Cady, Rhode Island Boundaries 1636-1936 (Providence, Rhode Island Tercentenary Commission, 1936), p25.

Map of Providence County, 1936. From John Hutchins Cady, Rhode Island Boundaries 1636-1936 (Providence, Rhode Island Tercentenary Commission, 1936), p25.


  • Sterling, John E. North Burial Ground, Providence, Rhode Island, Old Section 1700-1848. Greenville, Rhode Island: Rhode Island Genealogical Society, 2000.
  • Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Commission. Search Web Databases. Database. http://www.rihistoriccemeteries.org/ : 2015. [builds on more than a century of work by Rhode Islanders such as James N. Arnold and John Sterling to offer a compiled index to what were previously separate resources. Click on “details” for the entry to see further info and, sometimes, a picture.]
  • Rhode Island Historic Cemetery Commission. Map of Rhode Island Cemeteries: http://www.rihistoriccemeteries.org/cemmap.aspx [a very helpful map to many of the Rhode Island cemeteries – some are very tiny and away from the road. Clicking a location brings up the cemetery information.]

Census records

[In addition to the federal census 1790-1940, there are specific census collections for Rhode Island.]

  • Bamberg, Cherry Fletcher. “Early Rhode Island Censuses.Rhode Island Genealogical Society website. http://www.rigensoc.org/cpage.php?pt=32 : 2015.
  • Bartlett, John R., “arranged by.” Census of the Inhabitants of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations 1774. 1858. Reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co, 1969. [Access on Ancestry.com at http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=3081 ]
  • Chamberlain, Mildred M. The Rhode Island 1777 Military Census. Baltimore: Clearfield, published under the direction of the R.I. Genealogical Society, 1985. [Access on Ancestry.com at http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=49316 ]
  • Holbrook, Jay Mack. Rhode Island 1782 Census. Oxford, Mass.: Holbrook Research Institute, 1979.
  • MacGunnigle, Bruce C. Rhode Island Freemen, 1747-1755. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1982.
  • Rhode Island. “Rhode Island, State Censuses, 1865-1935.” Database with images. Ancestry.com. http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=4721 : 2015 [no 1895 state census available. Be sure to check out the 1865 census whenever possible; it is incredibly thorough. When searching by time period on Ancestry.com know that all years are indexed under “1935.” When looking at the 1905 cards, go to the NEXT card to see the back of each card – 1905 collects some important data including birth date.]
`905 census for Catherine (Young) Ross, my gg-grandmother. The only record of her birth date.

1905 R.I. census for Catherine (Young) Ross, my gg-grandmother – the only record of her birth date.

  • Rhode Island. “Rhode Island, State Censuses, 1885-1935. Database with images. Familysearch.org. http://www.familysearch.org : 2015 [note: no 1895 state census available].
  • Waterman, Katherine U., transcriber. “The Rhode Island Census of 1782.” New England Historic Genealogical Register, volumes 127 (1) (January 1973) through 129 (4) (October 1975). [this is preferred to the Bartlett book, above, as explained in Cherry Fletcher Bamberg’s article at the top of this section.]

Church Records

Court records

  • Fiske, Jane Fletcher. Gleanings from Newport Court Files 1659-1783. Boxford, Massachusetts: 1998.
  • Fiske, Jane Fletcher, transcriber. Rhode Island General Court of Trials 1671-1704. Boxford, Massachusetts, 1998.
  • Rappaport, Diane. New England Court Records. Burlington, Mass.: Quill Pen Press, 2006. [a guide to finding records in the New England states]

Early settlements

  • Anderson, Robert Charles. The Great Migration Study Project, including The Great Migration Begins (3 volumes) and The Great Migration (7 volumes). Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995-2011. [this is the most authoritative compiled source for the earliest New England settlers, arriving 1620-1640. Many original Rhode Island settlers first arrived in Massachusetts during those years. Try the master index: The Great Migration Directory to be sure you are seeing all entries.]
  • Austin, John Osborne. One Hundred and Sixty Allied Families. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2009.
  • Austin, John Osborne. The Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island; Comprising Three Generations of Settlers who Came Before 1690. With Additions and Corrections. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1978. [The most important book in early Rhode Island genealogy. Always use a version with the additions and corrections; there are some notable mistakes in the 1885 original which is available online.]
  • Bartlett, John Russell. Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in New England. Volumes 1 – 10. Reprint, New York: AMS Press, 1968. [contains many personal details including date of freeman status, military appointments, state purchases from residents, tensions between towns, roads, and criminal matters. Can be accessed online, see http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/records-of-the-colony-of-rhode-island/  ]
Title page from Records of the Colony of Rhode Island, volume 1.

Title page from Records of the Colony of Rhode Island, volume 1.

  • Bowen, Richard LeBaron. The Providence Oath of Allegiance and Its Signers 1651-2. Providence: Issued from the General Court of the Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, 1943.
  • Field, Edward. Tax Lists of the Town of Providence During the Administration of Sir Edmund Andros and His Council 1686-1689. Providence: Howard W. Preston, 1895.
  • Godfrey Memorial Library, comp. “American Genealogical-Biographical Index (AGBI).” Database on-line. Ancestry.com. http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=3599 Original data: Godfrey Memorial Library. American Genealogical-Biographical Index. Middletown, CT, USA: Godfrey Memorial Library. [A complied index to many of the holdings of the Godfrey Memorial Library (a genealogy library in Connecticut); an index of names. Also available at larger genealogy libraries in hard copy (over 200 volumes). Once a citation is found, Godfrey has a photocopy service where they will, for a fee, copy the particular item that was cited. Content includes the Genealogy Column of the Boston Transcript, which is likely to contain a reader query about an ancestor and, possibly, in a subsequent entry, an informed response from a genealogist.]
  • Rhode Island Land Evidences, Volume 1, 1648-1696. ABSTRACTS. Providence: 1921. [access online: https://dcms.lds.org/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE7738541 ]


  • Bayles, Richard Mather, ed. History of Providence County, Rhode Island. 2 volumes. New York, W. W. Preston, 1891. [access online at Hathitrust.org: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009580123 ]
  • Parker, J. Carlyle, compiler. Rhode Island Biographical and Genealogical Sketch Index.   Turlock, CA, Marietta Publishing Co., 1991. [a handy guide to various “mug books” published in the late 1800’s, useful if your ancestor was prominent during that period. ]


  • Taylor, Maureen A. Rhode Island Passenger ListsPort of Providence 1798-1808; 1820-1872 Port of Bristol and Warren 1820-1871; Compiled from United States Custom House Papers.  Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1995.
  • Ancestry.com. “Rhode Island, Indexes to Naturalization Records, 1890-1992.” Database on-line. Ancestry.com. http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2897

Manuscript and archival collections


  • Ancestry.com. “U.S., Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865”. Database on-line. Ancestry.com. http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1666
  • Chapin, Howard M. Rhode Island in the Colonial Wars: A List of Soldiers and Sailors in King George’s War 1740-1748 and A List of Rhode Island Soldiers and Sailors in the old French & Indian War 1755-1762. 1918 & 1920. Reprint, Genealogical Publishing Co, 2010. [access online: https://dcms.lds.org/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE3190801]
  • Cowell, Benjamin. Spirit of 76 in Rhode Island, or, Sketches of the Efforts of the Government and People in the War of the Revolution. 1850. Reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1973. [Cowell assisted many veterans with their pension applications in Rhode Island in the decades leading up to the publication of the book.]
  • Peirce, Ebenezer W. Peirce’s Colonial Lists: Civil, Military and Professional Lists of Plymouth and Rhode Island Colonies, 1621-1700. Reprint, Baltimore: Clearfield, 2001.
  • Rhode Island Historical Society. Register of Seamen’s Protection Certificates from the Providence, Rhode Island Custom District 1796-1870. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1995.
  • Rhode Island in the American Revolution: A Source Guide for Genealogists and Historians by Eric G. Grundset for the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR Source Guides on the American Revolution Series No. 4), 2014.  [An excellent bibliography – not limited to military – also covers any materials from that era]
Rhode Island in the American Revolution, A Source Guide for Genealogists and Historians

Rhode Island in the American Revolution, A Source Guide for Genealogists and Historians

  • Smith, Joseph Jencks. Civil and Military List of Rhode Island. 1647-1800. Providence: Preston and Rounds, 1900. [See also New Index to the Civil and Military Lists of Rhode Island by Joseph Jencks Smith, 1907.]


[The most needed newspaper resource for Providence County would be an indexed, digital archive of The Providence Journal since 1829. This does not yet exist.]


Vital Records

  • Arnold, James N. Vital Records of Rhode Island, 1636-1850. Volumes 1 – 21. [for a guide to all volumes, and links, see http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/free-r-i-vital-records/  ]
  • Beaman, Alden G. Rhode Island Vital Records, New Series. Volumes 1 – 13. [Some coverage in Newport, Washington, and Kent Counties only. Vital records often gleaned from other types of records, like gravestones or probate. May be useful as an index to seek out the original record to make your own interpretation. ]
  • “Rhode Island Births and Christenings, 1600-1914. “ Abstracts. org. https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1675525 : 2015. [“compiled from a variety of sources” “not complete for any region.”]
  • “Rhode Island, Deaths and Burials, 1802-1950. “ Abstracts. org. https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1675536 : 2015. [“compiled from a variety of sources” “not complete for any region.”]
  • “Rhode Island, Marriages, 1724-1916.” Abstracts. org. https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1675538 : 2015. [“compiled from a variety of sources” “not complete for any region.”]
  • Torrey, Clarence Almon. New England Marriages Prior to 1700. Volumes 1 – 3. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2011.   [Torrey is essentially a bibliography of any mention of the married couple in various older sources. Consult the sources noted for specifics. Use the most recent edition of Torrey available to benefit from modern additions and corrections.]


The newly renamed Mary Elizabeth Robinson Research Center of the Rhode Island Historical Society, Hope Street, Providence.

The newly renamed Mary Elizabeth Robinson Research Center of the Rhode Island Historical Society, Hope Street, Providence.

[Additional note: Rhode Island families can be found in any of the major U.S. genealogy journals, or statewide journals. For instance, Vermont and New York State were common destinations for those who left Rhode Island around 1800. Try the journal search at the NEHGS AmericanAncestors.org site. ]



  • Keach, Howard A. Burrillville: As It Was and Is. Providence: Knowles, Anthony & Co., printers, 1856.

Central Falls  

  • Haley, John Williams, Roscoe Morton Dexter, Mrs. Herbert Gould Beede. The lower Blackstone river valley; the story of Pawtucket, Central Falls, Lincoln, and Cumberland, Rhode Island; an historical narrative. Pawtucket, R.I.: E.L. Freeman Co., 1937.


  • Clauson, J. Earl. Cranston: A Historical Sketch. Providence: T.S. Hammond, 1904.


  • Balfour, David W and Joyce Hindle Koutsogiane. Cumberland by the Blackstone: 250 Years of Heritage. Virginia Beach: The Donning Company: 1997.
  • Ray, Judith Jenckes. Founders and Patriots of the Town of Cumberland, Rhode Island.  Baltimore : Gateway Press, 1990. 
  • Rhode Island Historic Preservation Commission. Historical and Architectural Resources of Cumberland, Rhode Island. RIHPC: 1990.
  • Simpson, Robert. North Cumberland: A History.[Chelsea, Vt.] : [Acorn Press], [1975].
  • Sprague, Abigail A. (Field). “Abigail Sprague’s History of Cumberland.” Mss. 1023. The Rhode Island Historical Society Research Center, Providence, Rhode Island.

East Providence

  • Conforti, Joseph. Our Heritage: a history of East Providence. White Plains: Monarch, 1976.


  • Faig, Kenneth W, Charles C. Beaman, Casey B. Taylor. Early Historical Accounts of Foster, Rhode Island. Glenview, Ill.: Moshassuck Press, 1993.


  • Fiske, Jane Fletcher, transcriber. Glocester 1778 Tax List: “A List of the Polls and Estates Real and Personal of the Proprietors and Inhabitants of the Town of Glocester in the State of Rhode Island.” Rhode Island Roots, volumes 19 (1993) through 20 (1994).
  • Perry, Elizabeth A. A Brief History of the Town of Glocester, Rhode Island. Providence: Providence Press Co, 1886.


  • Nebiker, Walter, Russell Wright, and the Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission. Preliminary survey Report: Town of Johnston. Providence, R.I.: Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission, 1976.


  • Greene, Welcome A. Historical Sketch of the Town of Lincoln, in the State of Rhode Island. Central Falls, R.I.: E.L. Freeman, 1876.

North Providence

  • Angell, Frank C. Annals of Centerdale In the town of North Providence, Rhode Island Its Past and Present. 1636-1909. By author, 1909.

North Smithfield

  • Nebiker, Walter E. The History of North Smithfield. North Smithfield Bicentennial Commission, 1976.
  • Rhode Island Historic Preservation Commission. Historical and Architectural Resources of North Smithfield, Rhode Island: A Preliminary Report. Providence: RIHPC, 1980.


  • Historical Sketch of the Town of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, prepared by Rev. Massena Goodrich. Originally Pawtucket, R.I., 1876, reprinted Heritage Books, 2012.


  • Bamberg, Cherry Fletcher. 1776 Census of Providence, Rhode Island. New England Historic Genealogical Register, 159 (Jan 2005): 12-24 and (April 2005) 141-154.
  • Hopkins, Charles Wyman. Home Lots of the Early Settlers of the Providence Plantations. 1886, reprinted Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co, 2007.
  • Lemons, J. Stanley. Baptists in Early North America: Volume II, First Baptist Church in Providence. Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2013.
  • Mayhew, Linda L. “Gleanings from Rhode Island Town Records: Providence Town Council Records, 1770-1788.” Rhode Island Roots. Special Bonus Issue 2006 (April 2006).
  • Mayhew, Linda L. “Gleanings from Rhode Island Town Records: Providence Town Council Records, 1789-1801.” Rhode Island Roots. Special Bonus Issue 2007 (April 2007).
"Gleanings" - special issues of Rhode Island Roots.

“Gleanings” – special issues of Rhode Island Roots.


  • Grandchamp, Robert. “With Their Usual Ardor”: Scituate, Rhode Island and the American Revolution. Westminster, Maryland: Heritage Press, 2006.
  • Mayhew, Linda L. “Gleanings from Rhode Island Town Records: Scituate Town Council Records, 1731-1786.” Rhode Island Roots. Special Bonus Issue 2011 (April 2011).


  • [Fiske, Jane Fletcher, transcriber?] Smithfield 1778 Tax List: “A List of the Polls and Estates Real and Personal of the Proprietors and Inhabitants of the Town of Smithfield in the State of Rhode Island.” Rhode Island Roots, volumes 21 (1995) through 23 (1997).
  • Sanborn, Melinde Lutz. “Smithfield, Rhode Island Death Records Culled from Probates.” New England Historic Genealogical Register 146 (October 1992): 343-351.
  • Steere, Thomas. History of the Town of Smithfield from its Organization, in 1730-1, to its Division, in 1871. Providence: E.L. Freeman, 1881.


[Additional note: various city directories are also available on Ancestry.com: http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8778 ]

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Choosing a gift for a genealogist can be puzzling.  Loved ones and, especially, relatives want to be supportive but don’t know how.  To those who search for that perfect idea, maybe one below will be right for your favorite genealogist.  This is an update and consolidation of all previous lists.

Electronic and computer gadgets

  • 1. Lifechat headphones for listening to webinars or group chats on the computer.  
  • 2. Cocoon Grid-It keeps small electronics together when traveling (also available on Amazon)
  • 3. WD My Passport Ultra 1TB Portable External Hard Drive  will help your genealogist keep data in storage in case of a computer problem.  This year, there are optional edge and cord combos to jazz it up.
  • 4. Eneloop rechargeable batteries by Panasonic, size AA, with a charger and case, would be good for a person who already has a Flip-Pal.  Try Amazon or other retailers.  I also like AA batteries that re-charge in any USB port.  These would be great in a computer mouse, for travelers, in case the mouse batteries died.
  • 5. USB flash drives.  8gb or 16gb should be fine.  Look for sales.  Combined with the lanyard, below, from Staples, this would make a terrific tech gift in the $10 range.
USB Drive lanyard would make a great gift, with an 8G flash drive to go with it - probably under $10 total.

USB Drive lanyard cord.  Flash drives sold separately.

Paper and stationery gifts

  • 6. A canvas or quilted bag, with zipper and inside pockets, for carrying notebooks, camera and supplies.
  • 7. Special markers for genealogists.
  • 8. Genealogists love being organized (even if, well, they’re not!)  Try the Brother Printer PT70BM Wireless Personal Handheld Labeler.
Brother Printer PT70BM Wireless Personal Handheld Labeler

Brother Printer PT70BM Wireless Personal Handheld Labeler

  • 9. Clip board. A clipboard, a pad, and a pencil can be brought into most archives, even if nothing else can, and a clipboard serves as a writing surface when at a microfilm machine or library.
  • 10. 97.8% of genealogists love office supplies.  OK I made that up.  But this little book of sticky Redi-Tag Divider notes was love at first sight.
Redi-Tag Divider Notes would be handy when working in books or notebooks.

Redi-Tag Divider Notes would be handy when working in books or notebooks.

About photos and archives

  • 12. Maybe a simple Canon Camera in the $100-$125 range.  In the end, cheaper than paying for photocopies.
  • 13. Camera digital SD memory cards.  And a little case to put them in, like this or this.  I really need these.  Just sayin.
  • 14. For the genealogist who serves as the family archivist (which is all genealogists), my friend Bernadine had a good experience with photo supplies from universityproducts.com, for instance, their archival storage boxes. When she phoned them, they were helpful.
  • 15. I like this Canoscan scanner for pictures and papers, but you might be able to find a cheaper one that you like.
  • 16. I like my Flip-Pal mobile scanner – it runs on batteries and records onto a memory card – no computer needed until you are ready to review and store the pictures. Many genealogists really covet these. A more sophisticated user would probably also like the Eye-Fi SD card to make the Flip-Pal pictures upload directly to a computer.
  • 17. Family Photo Detective by Maureen Taylor helps genealogists figure out those old family photos, and I also like Denise Levenick’s new guide, How to Archive Family Photos: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize and Share Your Photos Digitally.
A versatile choice for any genealogist who collects old family photos

A versatile choice for any genealogist who collects old family photos

Books and magazines

Bookends from the Container Store

Bookends from the Container Store

  • 23. Genealogists enjoy reading Family Tree Magazine.  This is an especially good choice for beginners, and another recommendation for new to intermediate genealogists would be the book Family Tree Problem Solver by Marcia Hoffmann Rising.  For more experienced folks, Prologue Magazine is published quarterly by the U.S. National Archives and helps the genealogist explore federal records.
  • 24.  Higginson Books is having a sale through December 31, 2015.  This would be a good place to get a modern reprint of an old town history or family genealogy book.
  • 25. Again for experienced folks, a membership in the National Genealogical Society will include a subscription to the Quarterly.
  • 26. I always thought Ancestors of American Presidents, Second Ed, 2009, by Gary Boyd Roberts, was a really fun book.  I’m only related to boring Presidents, though.
  • 27. There are several series of folded laminated quick guides to various genealogical topics.  Check out these:  Portable Genealogist from NEHGS, Genealogy at a Glance at the Genealogical Publishing Company, and the single sheet KwikTips from PhotoTree.com.
Various quick guides are available.

Various quick guides are available.

Support genealogy small businesses

  • 31. I love the work of the Gravestone Girls.  I have a refrigerator magnet.
  • 32. Lookup the historical society for an area your genealogist is researching and see what they offer – maps are always good.  Also, the local genealogy societies usually offer publications or guides.  For instance, the Rhode Island Genealogical Society has many valuable books and cemetery guides at their online store.
  • 33. Research Mini Binder is adorable and would be good for a newer genealogist who is NOT completely computer-oriented.
Research Mini Binder for genealogy

Research Mini Binder for genealogy

  • 34. The idea of heritage cookbooks was sent to me by Wendy Grant Walter.  She recently purchased Great German Recipes and said: “in it are many dishes that I remember having as a kid that I assume my mom learned from her 1st generation German mom.”  At that same link many other cultures are covered, too. 
  • 35. Barb’s Branches has some attractive tree jewelry in an Etsy shop.  Among her interesting handmade “tree” pieces, she has the inspired idea of making jewelry from old silver spoons.  Amazing!
A pendant made from an antique silver spoon, by Barb's Branches.

A pendant made from an antique silver spoon, by Barb’s Branches.

  • 36. Every genealogist loves a beautifully executed family tree chart.  Two suggestions:
    • I have seen the work of Family Chartmasters and it is not only excellent, but each piece is tailored to the family’s preferences. Go to this link and scroll down to check out the samples.  If you have access to enough info, you could order one, if not, you could give a gift certificate and allow your genealogist to collaborate with Family Chartmasters on a wonderful end product.
    • i (chart) you makes beautiful custom ancestor charts; you send the data and they send you the file electronically, ready for you to have printed in the size you prefer.  This would have to be ordered by the genealogist, but a gift certificate (see the last few boxes on the main page) might be nice.  Thanks to Wendy Grant Walter for this idea.

Make your own gift

  • 37. Most genealogists have subscriptions, and would like magazine holders.  The pink print ones are from the Vera Bradley Outlet; the black ones are from Staples. It would be possible for a creative person to make some cute ones from boxes; there are plenty of instructions online (try Pinterest).
Magazine holders can be made out of boxes and covered with paper.

Magazine holders can be made out of boxes and covered with paper.

  • 38. Genealogists need – and lack – enough hours in the day for the endless organizing that they suddenly realize is necessary for family history.  Offer to visit for an afternoon “ScanFest” where everybody grabs a scanner or rigs up a photo station to hold a camera still, and captures those old family photos and papers digitally. Sort them first and then file in folders on the computer. And bring brownies. Thanks to genealogy’s own Miriam Robbins for the great ScanFest tradition.
Research bag, handmade.

Research bag, handmade.

  • 39. This is my “research bag” – I take it to libraries; it holds my notebook and camera and a few papers, flash drives, pencils, etc.  It’s lined brocade and filled with interior pockets on each side, and two long tape handles.  My mom didn’t make it, but she did buy it at a church fundraiser or something.  I have many bags; I use this one because it’s perfect.  For an experienced sewer this would not be that hard.

For Rhode Island genealogy

  • 40. Good news!  All 9 volumes of The Narragansett Historical Register (originally published in the 1880’s-1890’s) are back in print from Heritage Press.  Check them out!  vol.1  vol.2  vol.3  vol.4  vol.5  vol.6  vol.7  vol. 8  vol.9  How about one volume a year?

Narragansett Historical Register logo

  • 41. I heartily recommend the new book Rhode Island in the American Revolution: A Source Guide for Genealogists and Historians by Eric G. Grundset for the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR Source Guides on the American Revolution Series No. 4), 2014.  It is 200 pages of guidance on where to find Rhode Island records from the 1770’s and 1780’s, but it will not contain the records themselves – most of those are buried in archives and manuscripts.
Rhode Island in the American Revolution - A source Guide for Genealogists and Historians, by Eric G Grundset

Rhode Island in the American Revolution – A source Guide for Genealogists and Historians, by Eric G Grundset

  • 42. The most valuable book for those with ancestors in Rhode Island during the 1600’s is The Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island by John O. Austin, published by Genealogical Publishing.  It maps the first three generations of many early Rhode Island families. You can sometimes find a cheaper used copy on eBay, but be sure to buy one with additions and corrections.
  • 43. The Rhode Island Historical Society has a bookstore at the John Brown House, and online, offering my favorite print of Providence ever, President Street by Joseph Partridge, 1822. I also love Market Square.  Only $15 each.
  • 44. New England Court Records by Diane Rappaport.
  • 45. The complete three volume New England Marriages Before 1700 by Clarence Almon Torrey would be quite a thrill for any serious early New England researcher.
  • 46. A gift membership in the Rhode Island Genealogical Society is a terrific gift for the serious Rhode Island genealogist.

Trying something new

  • 47. For those new to DNA testing, and looking for an easy way to try it out, I could recommend an Ancestry DNA test kit.  Your genealogist will use the kit to submit a sample (in fact, it will be important to the genealogist to choose WHO will be sampled) which will be analyzed, and the results, available online, will show links to other individuals.
  • 48. A better choice for the same money, for a genealogist who is more experienced, is the Family Tree DNA Family Finder test kit.  Family Tree DNA gives enough information to more accurately allow you to estimate, if the right people are tested, the common source of your matches.

Caution I brake for cemeteries

Just for fun

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DNA and Me, Part III

I am still an amateur with DNA testing, but I am slowly learning.

Since my lasts posts on this subject, I have discovered another very helpful blog: Kitty Cooper’s Blog.  She has a brief manual for GEDmatch.com that I wish I had found a long time ago.

The truth is, my mom simply doesn’t have a lot of second, third and fourth cousins and her results show matches that are fairly distant, often 9th or 10th cousins, if findable at all.  I knew this all along, because even early on using Ancestry.com, I never found any of my great great grandparents in other trees, only, if anything, 3x great grandparents.  Even that was rare.

So there was no reason to expect that DNA matches would turn much up that was new.  I did find that mom matched the early families of Warwick and East Greenwich, Rhode Island, thereby firming up a theory I had about her Andrews line.  And I found a third cousin in a Martin line that had been a mystery to me.

Jessie Ruth MacLeod Murdock and husband, Louis

Jessie Ruth MacLeod Murdock and husband, Louis


I have tests on Ancestry DNA and Family Tree DNA.  I have also moved all results to GEDmatch. At first GEDmatch seemed like a total mystery to me, but I gradually started trying every feature, and it began to make more sense.

One surprising result turned up.  I had previously tested a fifth cousin in one of my mom’s mystery lines, trying to find proof of a theory that the person my gg-grandmother Jessie McLeod said was her father, William MacLeod, really was her father, despite some confusing evidence of an adoption.  The cousin was not a match for my mom, but actually their statistical likelihood of a match was fairly low, so I couldn’t make much of that.

But I tested my mother’s first cousin (I’ll call her my aunt) recently, also a descendant from the McLeod line.  She DID match the fifth cousin (in fact, he is her 12th closest match).  While looking at that match in the chromosome browser, I could also see tiny matches to my mother in the same spot that had not been strong enough to show as a real match.  So I am quite sure that William MacLeod was Jessie’s father or close relative.

Reaching people by email

I used the “People who match both kits, or 1 of 2 kits” function on GEDmatch to see which other matches the fifth cousin and my aunt had in common.  There were 10 people.  Only one had a tree.  I sent them them each a separate email.  I told them:

  • what the name and number of their test is (some people have lots of tests)
  • the names and numbers of my tests in this case
  • a picture of the matches in the chromosome browser (in this case, on Chromosome 4)
  • the couple that my fifth cousin and aunt descend from, and the names of all their children
  • my wish to know if that couple or any possible ancestors for them in Scotland were familiar
The spot on chromosome 4 where the group matched. Illustration from GEDmatch.com.

The spot on chromosome 4 where the group matched. Illustration from GEDmatch.com.

I received 3 replies.  One said her father was adopted so she had no information. Another said nothing there seemed to match what they knew.  A third said it was her husband’s test, and he was mostly Irish, which would match with some of my aunt’s lineage, and the fifth cousin’s.  It made me wonder if by some crazy coincidence the fifth cousin matches my aunt through her Irish side, but on the other hand, mom and I both match some smaller spots of that match so I am hoping this is not a coincidence.

It is hard to get people to answer DNA emails, usually, I think, because they don’t know the thing you are asking about.  Thanks to all the special sales out there, more people are testing all the time.  I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, because many have no trees on the testing sites.  I hear you can often find their tree out there somewhere, but this takes a lot of searching, especially when you consider that their version of their tree is not guaranteed to be correct, by any means.

Of course I also ran tests to find those who matched my aunt AND my mom, on both GEDmatch and FamilySearch, with no very useful results yet.  These old New England matches can be very, very far back.  It’s frustrating.


I learned recently of a new site to upload your DNA results to (they don’t test directly).  DNA.land is new, and I heard about it through various blogs (see Kitty Cooper’s post here and CeCe Moore’s here).  I uploaded mom’s test, with her permission.  I got no matches, although that’s not surprising.  I will upload additional tests (each needs their own account) soon, unless I decide there’s really not much there.  But I feel like this DNA stuff is in its infancy and I want to welcome players who have some agenda beyond simply making money.


I am learning from DNA

For instance, I now have a test for my husband.  His family background is pretty cloudy.  What surprised us was finding out that the hints he had gleaned over the years actually turned out to be true.  His Mohegan ties in Connecticut, documented a bit elsewhere by others, are found in the trees of those he is connected to by DNA matches.  His closest match happens to be in the Fowler line we were wondering about.

Someone has done a surprising amount of work on my husband’s Fowler line on FindAGrave.com.  There are copies of obituaries, pictures, and many notes.  I wrote to him to thank him but never got a reply; my husband’s grandparents are not well documented so perhaps he doubted what I was telling him.  Turns out, from DNA, it appears to be true.  Perhaps I should write again!

Questions and more questions

More so than any other genealogy avenue, DNA-related queries tends to elicit no response from so many people.  Perhaps they tested for other reasons.  Perhaps they know very little about their tree.

I try to answer the questions I get, but I almost never answer the ones that are like this: “Hi I’m Denise and I saw we have a match. Can you help me I’m looking for my family.”  What is missing from that question are the site they’re looking at, the identity of the test they’re matched to (I have 7 now), the size of the match so I don’t have to look it up, and any indication of what they know (even “I don’t know who my father is; I was born in the mid-1960’s in Maine” would be a huge improvement).  And, more often than not, I have placed a tree on all sites, but obviously they have chosen not to look for that.  But perhaps I am guilty, too.

Onward into the brave new world of DNA testing, I guess!

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Sunday, October 4 was an exciting day at the Providence Public Library, which hosted the taping of an episode of PBS’ Genealogy Roadshow, to be aired in 2016.  Kenyatta D. Berry, Joshua Taylor and Mary Tedesco are the inspiring genealogists hosting the show.

Genealogy societies and local historical societies were welcome to exhibit in the main hall where the taping was done.  So I represented the Federation of Genealogical Societies, an umbrella organization for the hundreds of genealogy societies around the country that do excellent work and are ready to help with questions.  The FGS “Society Hall” webpage can help you find a local society in an area that you are currently researching.

The day began at 8:00 a.m. for set up.  The crowds started moving in around 9 a.m. and never really stopped.  Here are some pictures from this amazing day.

The entrance to the library. Lots of tv production folks around all day. They even gave us lunch!

The entrance to the library. Lots of tv production folks around all day. They even gave us lunch!

In background, Josh Taylor showing some information to a guest. The large screen would be visible to them, but not to others in the room. I have no idea what the genealogy cases were!

Helen Smith and Pat Chappell holding the fort for the Rhode Island Genealogical Society.

A photographer getting the crowd to show some PBS love.

Beautiful Kenyatta Berry, in heels, talking to staff before her filming.

Other exhibitors at the filming.

The DAR tables were busy, and the Massachusetts Society of Genealogists also helped a lot of people.

At the end of the day, Mary Tedesco greeting the exhibitors. This was the Rhode Island Historical Society table. I also got to talk to Mary, she is really nice!

Me talking to an attendee at the FGS desk.

Me helping an attendee at the FGS desk.

We talked genealogy all day long, and it was a blast!

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I had a request recently from a reader looking for help finding his ancestor in eighteenth century Rhode Island.  The name of this elusive ancestor?  Comfort Record.  My correspondent knows quite a bit about Comfort Record, except for his origins, which may have been in Rhode Island.

The following is just general advice, and some of these steps have already been used for Comfort Record.  Of course, there is no right answer until you account for all available information and weigh each piece of evidence, even contradictory evidence, to draw a reasoned conclusion.  Sometimes only a broader search will yield results (Searching Smarter).  If you are seeking advice about the time period 1650-1750, try this post also: A Research List for 1650-1750 in Rhode Island.

Hang on, because these are not simple suggestions, and many are not available online.

A timeline

I think it’s good to start out with a full timeline of everything that’s known (more exactly, every piece of evidence you’ve found, which of course may or may not be reliable).  Ideally this would be done in your genealogy records with full source citations to help you make judgments about the sources and compare your findings.  A method I use now is detailed here (The Research Notebook).

Vital records

  • First and foremost, try James Arnold‘s Vital Records.  This will take you to about 1850. These records can also be found on Ancestry.com. Remember that Arnold abstracted record books and newspapers from around the state.  Use it as an index to help you find the actual record, through requests at a town hall, microfilm at some repositories, or through renting familysearch.org microfilm. Many Rhode Island births, deaths and marriages went unrecorded, or perhaps the records did not survive.  A spotty collection of later records are also on FamilySearch.org and the NEHGS website (for members).
  • Try using Beaman‘s Rhode Island Vital Records New Series.  These volumes are under copyright and not online but can be found in many large genealogy collections, or in local Rhode Island libraries.  Some of Mr. Beaman’s work involved making assumptions about, say, a birth from another record, like a death.  So, I would want to then find that death record and evaluate it myself.
Beaman's Rhode Island Vital Records, New Series.

Beaman’s Rhode Island Vital Records, New Series.


  • There are many tiny, obscure cemeteries scattered around the back roads of Rhode Island (and some large old cemeteries in cities like Newport).  Older graveyards can easily become overgrown and encroached upon by neighbors.  Without the amazing work of many dedicated volunteers, the situation would be far worse.  Check for graves at the Rhode Island Historic Cemetery Commission Database and FindAGrave.com.  Also check for published books of cemetery records.
  • For a burial more recent than 1800, where you know the cemetery, seek out manuscripts or files of original plot sales and maps.  Try to find everything that’s known about that cemetery’s records.


  • Learn more about Rhode Island’s early census records in these notes by expert Cherry Fletcher Bamberg on the Rhode Island Genealogical Society website.
  • Some early census records, usually incomplete, have been compiled in book form.  Mrs. Bamberg (linked above) has an excellent analysis of these resources and points to some better alternatives in her article.
    •  Rhode Island Freemen, 1747-1755: A Census of Registered Voters compiled by Bruce MacGunnigle.  Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1982.
    • Census of the Inhabitants of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, taken by order of the General Assembly, in the year 1774, arranged by John R. Bartlett. Providence: Knowles, Anthony & Co, 1858.
    • The Rhode Island 1777 Military Census transcribed by Mildred M. Chamberlain. Baltimore: Clearfield (Published under the direction of the Rhode Island Genealogical Society), 1985.
    • Rhode Island 1782 Census by Jay Mack Holbrook.  Oxford, Mass.: Holbrook Research Institute, 1979 (and this preferred version, a transcription of the 1782 census).
    • The federal census, starting in 1790, can be accessed online at many sites.
    • Rhode Island has state census records for 1865, 1875 (both available to paid accounts on Ancestry.com or, locally, at the Rhode Island State Archives) as well as 1885, 1905, 1915, 1925, and 1935.  My favorite is the 1865 state census.  It includes street names, origins, occupations, and many other great details.  And in most cases the handwriting is fabulous.

Church records

  • Apparently Comfort Record was a Baptist minister.  The thing about Rhode Island churches is that they may have been small, and a certain church may have operated quite independently, and disappeared quickly.  Read what little I know about church records here.  Finding early church records is often impossible.  “Baptist” doesn’t narrow things down much around here – Six Principle Baptists are a possibility, as well as Seventh Day Baptists.
  • I tried Colonial Clergy of New England since I happen to own the book – no Record there.
Colonial Clergy of New England.

Colonial Clergy of New England.

Letters, diaries, notes

  • Try ArchiveGrid and NUCMC for any mention of Comfort Record, his wife, any known church, or other family members in a manuscript. Also see what is related to the possible town your ancestor is from. These sources will only tell you about a manuscript; you would still have to pursue how to access the manuscript.
  • Check the Rhode Island Historical Society Research Center catalog and also check for manuscripts there.

Know your names

  • My correspondent has some experience with Record being occasionally spelled Ricord, Ricard, or even Richard(s).  I think it’s so natural for us to really believe in the surviving form of the name and discount and not seek out other possible forms or spellings, even though, if we think about it, more often than not it wasn’t even our ancestor that was filling in the document we see.  I think spelling means very little before 1850, but I often have to remind myself to try the wide variety of possibilities.
  • If much is known about the wife, that is definitely a good line of research to follow.  What happened to each of her siblings?  There may have been other intermarriages between the two families.  The wife’s place of residence at the time of the marriage is the best clue you are likely to find.  Always pull up maps for as close to the time period as you can get.  If possible, check her father’s deeds for transactions with others having that last name.
  • Examine all the names given to the children of the person you are researching.  If the wife’s family is known, match those with her parents, grandparents and siblings.  What is left?  Those are clues.
  • I think New England researchers are used to looking for older out-of-copyright family genealogy books online.  But there could be better-documented, more recent books too.  Try the book tips in the next section for locating possible recent books, and it’s always good to look at the FamilySearch.org books – even recent books on that site can be opened from a computer at your local LDS Family History Center.
Colonial Records of Rhode Island, 10 volumes, by Bartlett.

Colonial Records of Rhode Island, 10 volumes, by Bartlett.

Know your town

  • One thing that really frustrates me in my own research is having to reach into a new geographic area and do something intelligent.  Because it’s hard. Look for books, and don’t overlook this step, even though you may be thinking, well, I don’t want to know the history of EVERYONE in town, just my ancestor. That really doesn’t work, especially when such an approach has already been unsuccessful. I usually read the history of the town, noting especially land settlement patterns, industries, villages, disasters, religions, and natural resources.  Also find studies that have been done on the particular Rhode Island village your ancestor was from.
  • Check the genealogical publishers (Heritage Press, Genealogical.com, Picton Press, NEHGS and the R.I. Genealogical Society, as well as Amazon and Alibris) for books related to the town you are researching.  For instance, Elder John Gorton and The Diary of Capt. Samuel Tillinghast 1757-1766, both edited by Cherry Fletcher Bamberg and published by RIGS, are extremely valuable for East Greenwich and Warwick research.
  • Learn what resources exist for town meetings and town government.  Learn what county court records may exist.  Sometimes, materials have been abstracted or summarized in a book still under copyright – that could be quite useful. Pre-1923 books are often found online at Google Books or Internet Archive, but don’t limit yourself to those. Try the card catalog of the Rhode Island Historical Society Research Center.  I would also recommend the card catalog of the Allen County Public Library (try limiting your search to materials located in the Genealogy Department).  Even if you can’t get to those libraries, it will help to know what books exist.  Maybe your library could try interlibrary loan for you.  I often find used books on Amazon.com.  I have occasionally gone page-to-page in the town hall through old town meeting books.  This might be useful if you have a specific year in mind.  Also, don’t miss back copies of R.I. Genealogical Society’s Gleanings, containing abstracted town records.
  • Almost anyone might be mentioned in state government records, for instance, petitions by groups of neighbors hoping for bridge construction, etc.  Try the Records of the Colony of Rhode Island or if you can get to the R.I. State Archives, try their index cards to state legislative business.

The places change

  • I think most people know that early New England settlements expanded and towns were often subdivided off from original, larger towns.  But it is no easy task to always incorporate this into research.  To suspect, for instance, that a 1725 East Greenwich deed may refer to property which became part of West Greenwich in 1741.  Bookmark this useful list and map from the Rhode Island Genealogical Society.


  • Some areas of Rhode Island have a long and complicated relationship with Massachusetts.  Property and sometimes whole towns transferred between the two states.  This is especially a possible factor if your research area is north or east of Providence.  Also, some towns in Massachusetts border on Rhode Island towns.  See the link in the previous paragraph.


  • Eastern Connecticut became industrialized very early, around 1800 (particularly Norwich, Connecticut) and attracted southwestern Rhode Islanders, who left farm life and joined the booming industries.  Areas like western Coventry border eastern Connecticut towns.

Military records

  • For those who have access to the Rhode Island State Archives, the paper-only Revolutionary War index is very helpful for locating many records which are in Rhode Island repositories, not online.  Also try Fold3.com.
  • The most thorough guide to existing Rhode Island records of the Revolutionary War era is the bibliography Rhode Island in the American Revolution by Eric G. Grundset. It’s about anything from the era, not just military information.  One thing that’s so valuable about the book is that it refers to numerous articles and booklets that would be hard to know about otherwise. Your ancestor’s name is not in this book.  It’s about where your ancestor’s name might be found.
Rhode Island in the American Revolution, A Source Guide for Genealogists and Historians

Rhode Island in the American Revolution, A Source Guide for Genealogists and Historians

Journals and genealogical work


  • A good way to find evidence of a relationship to a possible father would be to examine that father’s probate record.  Some Rhode Island Probate records are newly online at Ancestry.com.  Try browsing the collection by county, although since probates are managed by town, it’s not very helpful that you then have to browse through generic titles for each county and click through to the first few pages to spot the name of the town.  Probate records are available in town halls if that’s an option, and some are on microfilm at the R.I. Historical Society Research Center or through FamilySearch.org.  Also try the final deeds for the possible father you’ve found; sometimes heirs, and their current residence, are mentioned.


  • There won’t be a lot of Rhode Island newspapers for the pre-1800 era, but you can try GenealogyBank.com.  The Rhode Island Historical Society Research Center has a wide collection of Rhode Island newspapers on microfilm, unindexed.  For very early papers, don’t hesitate to consult Newport papers even if your family lived far from Newport – it served as a state capital early on and was the center of a lot of Rhode Island interests.

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The newly renamed Mary Elizabeth Robinson Research Center of the Rhode Island Historical Society, Hope Street, Providence.

The newly renamed Mary Elizabeth Robinson Research Center of the Rhode Island Historical Society, Hope Street, Providence.

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Searching Smarter

The search

I get it.  People want to look around the web and find the parents of their third great grandmother.  They’ve had some luck with that before, finding convincing cases being made for certain family connections.  Or maybe they’ve found poor documentation and used what they found as a clue for further research and study.

But you know you’ve become a real genealogist when it’s almost never about that anymore.  When you know the places well enough to know where to start finding resources, and how to proceed. When “buried” and hard to use web records become second nature to you (like unindexed Massachusetts deeds on Familysearch.org).  When you’ve gotten used to making it out to a repository or cemetery once in a while or, if geography doesn’t permit that, using interlibrary loan to get books, putting in formal requests for records, or renting microfilms from the Family History Library.  Because actually, without a reasonably exhaustive search, you can’t make a sound judgment anyway.

I want to say one thing to all the web searchers out there:  you’re better than that.  I know that because at a certain point, even if you found something that seemed reliable, there would be a voice inside you telling you that you haven’t tried all reasonable avenues yet.  So, that birth record for Nancy Jones in a reasonable year and in the same town she got married in MIGHT be the Nancy Jones you are seeking the parents for, so that’s great, but you have a long way to go before you know that.  And even more to the point, the Nancy Jones touted in the 1888 family genealogy book – the book you were so happy to find – WON’T be the right Nancy Jones until you have done a reasonably exhaustive search of all other ways to know this fact.

City Hall, Providence

City Hall, Providence

Maybe it is already known

It’s possible someone has done documented research that might help you but you are not finding it.  Genealogy or historical journals might contain well-researched information for the family you are seeking, or they might contain transcribed records or manuscript information for the location you are working with.  But you will seldom find those in a web search – try local libraries with genealogy collections, or join some societies and receive some online journal access.  For instance, membership in NEHGS offers an online search engine for a large number of genealogy journals. National Genealogy Society membership offers online access to back issues of the Quarterly.

In my opinion the best single source of help with your research plan comes from reading the footnotes in a genealogy article for the same place and time period.  It’s an excellent way for us to learn from the pros.

Sometimes nobody knows

Or of course, there may be very little out there.  There’s something here that it takes a while to understand – and once you do, you can’t go back: maybe, just maybe, NOBODY knows.  No one on earth knows who the parents of Nancy Jones were, or has ever known since her family and friends passed away.  It’s not precisely written down, and no one has reasoned it out yet, and therefore no web search, no index search, no queries left around the internet, no calling up of those names over and over in all kinds of searches of new and better online resources, nothing will ever bring it up.

Which means it’s up to you

People write to me sometimes after they’ve been searching for YEARS for something.  Nancy Jones, Nancy Jones, Nancy Jones, over and over.  They started with vital records and vital records failed them (or even worse, they accepted the one record they found as complete proof of something).  They moved on to easily accessible old genealogy books, online records, and asking around. Maybe they called or visited a repository and asked who the parents of Nancy Jones were (wrong question, probably).  And maybe they spent a decade doing that.

Every single genealogist in the world has, at some point, been that person (I suppose the really great ones only last a month or two in that phase).  They looked in every index, it’s just not there.  It must be a Brick Wall.

Union Station, Providence

Union Station, Providence

Earning your brick walls

I’m here to say, we as genealogists have to earn those brick walls.  Chances are most of us have attended lectures, webinars, local meetings, or studied genealogy guides.  And what was talked about – maps, military records, church records, ship records, baptisms, diaries, immigration, town meetings, pensions, probates, land grants, deeds, and compiled genealogies.  And we think hey, sure, if Nancy Jones had kept a diary, that would be great, but we would have found it by now (and possibly that’s true); apparently she didn’t so diaries can’t help me.  Mark that off the list.

And we would be wrong.  Maybe the diary that would help us was kept by the wife next door, Patty Smith.  Maybe Patty Smith mentioned that Nancy’s parents, Mr and Mrs. Jones, came for a nice long visit from their new home in Tiny Town, Illinois.  With this giant clue, we should be able to find some deeds or probate from Tiny-Town and know a lot more about the parents, such as their names and (from deeds) their previous residence.  We might have found out about the diary by talking to the local historical society about what documents exist from Nancy’s neighborhood and time period.

Or maybe we know that Nancy Jones’ husband, William Stillwell, might have served in a war, but there are few records of that, and he never requested a pension.  But by not checking pension applications from others in the county, we missed the fact that Nancy’s husband was mentioned in Nancy’s brother’s application, an old man a few towns over by the name of Jones.

Armory, Providence

Armory, Providence

Possibly we have identified a few potential siblings for Nancy and poked around a bit for their stories.  But have we learned enough about each state’s census records to know how to learn more about neighborhoods in other years besides federal census years?  That may lead us to further evidence of a sibling, who just happens to have a clearer record of parentage.  Have we explored every person that Nancy’s husband ever had a real estate transaction with, to rule them out as family?

Maybe we know that the Stillwell parents were Hiram and Elizabeth.  And that Nancy and William Stillwell had five children:  William, Hiram, Nancy, Abiel and Edward.  We know where “William,” “Hiram” and “Nancy” came from.  “Edward” might help if we can find an Edward Jones.  But have we scoured the county for every instance of the odd name, Abiel?

Possibly, we knew that Nancy and her husband were buried in the town cemetery.  We have a nice picture of that.  But have we examined every other nearby burial, including unmarked graves?  Have we tried every means to find any actual cemetery plot records, including using archive and manuscript indices, and checking with local genealogy societies and archives?

Westminster Street, Providence

Westminster Street, Providence

It’s not in an index

So I am saying, the knowledge may be findable with careful planning, exploration and reasoning and yet, never found in any index. In fact, finding a clear answer to any one of the questions posed above would still have to be weighed against many other questions and answers.

As we learn more, and have a little success with planned research strategies and reasonably exhaustive searches, we sometimes find that those brick walls come down.  And when they don’t, we find ourselves learning more and more about the area, the occupations, the cultures, and the records, and we devise brand new strategies we could never have thought of at the beginning.

That’s when you know you’re doing your own research and boy, do those sketchy trees on the internet start to look weird at that point.  And the most exciting part is that, in the end, YOU are the reason that there is now a reasoned case in existence for the parents of Nancy Smith.

Something which was lost became found because of you.  I hope you find a way to publish your result, formally or informally.

Next time

In my next post, I’m going to review some strategies I might try for researching a brick wall in Rhode Island in the early 1800’s.  Stay tuned!


  • The Genealogical Proof Standard is carefully explained in Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case, 4th Edition Revised, by Christine Rose (San Jose, CA: CR Publications, 2014). 
  • The important work of weighing, comparing and recording evidence is expertly guided by Elizabeth Shown Mills in her many speaking engagements (not to be missed if you ever have the opportunity, perhaps even by purchase of a recorded conference session) and her helpful book Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, Third Edition (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2015) as well as the companion website.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/09/10/searching-smarter/

 – Photos from postcard collection of Diane Boumenot

Looking towards Warwick from Rocky Point, R.I.

Looking towards Warwick from Rocky Point, R.I.

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Every genealogist imagines that someday they will pull their family’s story together into a vivid and fascinating book, complete with pictures, that will keep even the younger generation interested.  Very seldom is that goal achieved, but I recently purchased a copy of I Come From A Place Called Home, 1882-1929 by Elizabeth Burr Marquard, and I can’t put it down. She has met that goal.

I Come From a Place Called Home [Amazon link HERE] follows the story of Elizabeth’s great-grandparents: father William Seibel, mother Sophia, and 8 children, who raised fruit in rural Monroeville, Ohio.  The normal ups and downs of a large family, the strenuous labor of farm life and the simple joy of caring about and for each other are set against a background of mental illness, as the mother becomes increasingly incompetent and dependent  as life goes on.

I Come from a Place Called Home

A story of acceptance, strength and resilience, told in conversational and very realistic detail – much, but not all of it, real – takes us from the pig-slaughtering and lye-making of the 1880s to the cars and college degrees of the 1920’s, as the family experiences their share of joy and heartbreak.  I have seldom read a book that captured my interest as much as this story.  I laughed and cried along with the family.  I recommend it very highly to all readers and aspiring family historians.

I know my genealogy friends will want to know how Liz did this.  So here are Liz’s thoughts on the process and problems that she found.

An interview with Elizabeth Burr Marquard
Can you explain how the idea for the book started?

I was fortunate to grow up in a home where family stories were always shared, particularly about my maternal ancestors, the Seibels. There was a great deal of warmth and love associated with these stories, and even though I did not know the people personally, I felt their essence. My ancestors were also savers, so I had access to their old letters, diaries, farm journals, and several manuscripts about their lives. I often told my mother, “The Seibels were such an interesting family! Someone should write a book about them.” She always responded, “That someone is you, Liz.” I carried the notion of this book in my head for about 30 years. Finally, the year I turned 50 I had one of those “bucket list” moments. I started writing. My mother was THRILLED! She was my biggest cheerleader in this endeavor, and she eagerly anticipated each chapter. Sadly, Mom did not live to see the book published. She passed away in 2011, but I made a death-bed promise to her that I would finish writing the book. It was a bittersweet moment when I held the published book in my hands for the first time, knowing that Mom was not physically here to share in this dream come true.

Other family historians will be curious – how did you manage to amass enough details to fill over 600 pages?

Some people come from families with deep pockets, but as I mention in the Acknowledgments of the book, I come from a family with “deep closets.” They were savers extraordinaire! There are letters between the sisters dating from 1910 to 1957. There are diaries and farm journals as well as a copy of the manuscript “Adventures of William Seibel Out West, 1882-1885,” which my great-aunt Hermine wrote in 1936 after interviewing her father about his youthful adventures on the Mississippi. In the 1970s, my cousin, who had developed an interest in our heritage, began a correspondence with the two surviving Seibel sisters, Hermine and Minola. Her first request was, “Tell me about my grandmother Ada.” That opened the floodgates! Both sisters wrote manuscripts about their memories. Hermine, being the 4th daughter, offered an earlier perspective of life in the Seibel household. Minola, the youngest sister, was the more prolific, writing character profiles of each family member as well as manuscripts about her memories of life on the farm, in the schools, her university and work experiences, as well as her service with the Red Cross during WW II. She also included a genealogy of our ancestors, including their hometowns in Germany and the dates of their emigration. What a treasure trove! Armed with all of this primary source material, I set about compiling it into one cohesive story. About 85% of the incidents in the book are true. I had to “embroider” other portions, for example, to demonstrate Sophie’s deteriorating mental condition. I followed the rule of one of my college English professors: “Don’t just tell me; show me! Make me feel I’m there!”

I Come From A Place Called Home - back

If one person who is no longer here could read the book, who would you want that to be?

My maternal grandmother, Ada. She died when I was only 18 mos. old, so I have no memories of her. However, in writing this book, I feel that I have come to know her. On so many occasions in her life, Ada set aside her own ambitions to fulfill the role of surrogate mother to her seven younger siblings. I doubt that she was ever thanked or that she expected to be thanked—there was a job to be done, so she did it. Ada would probably be amazed that anyone thought her life story worthy of writing a book about, but I think she was an unsung hero!

The book is a tribute to resiliency, hard work, and determination. But like every family, your family had some painful stories and some rough times. How did that shape your efforts on the book?

Some of the Seibels’ most painful moments are the most compelling—the stigma of mental illness, the aftermath of the Spanish Influenza, the anti-German sentiment surrounding WW I, the lower social standing felt by those from rural origins. These incidents allowed me to highlight the Seibels’ strength of character and the incredibly deep and supportive bonds that held the siblings together.

Was it hard to include some German chit chat in your dialogue?

I wanted the book to be authentic. I knew that my ancestors originally spoke only German but slowly transitioned to English as they assimilated into the American culture. Initially, I used the online translation website BabelFish to make the English-to-German translations for the text. However, I was aware that the translations were not always accurate. Fortunately, my job brought me into contact with a bilingual German fellow who graciously fixed all of the German translations for me. I am very chagrined to be so monolingual!

How long did the writing take? How much time was added to that for design, layout, and managing the project on the self-publishing site, CreateSpace?

I have been writing this book for 9 years. (I’m a slow writer, plus “life” has a habit of getting in the way!) In May 2015, I decided the entire Seibel saga (100 years) would be too much content for one book. I broke the story after Chapter 32 (1929) and proceeded to explore publishing on CreateSpace. From my initial decision to publish until I held the finished volume 1 in my hands was about 3 months.

Are you planning a sequel, or other books?

I am currently working on volume 2, which will continue the Seibel saga and cover the years 1930-1985 (circling back to where volume 1 begins). I foresee two books as my life’s literary output.

Describe some things you learned about research and writing along the way.

I learned that I could completely lose myself in the research, which I actually enjoy more than the writing. And it is true that you can research almost any topic on the internet—how to make soap and apple butter, butcher hogs, plant strawberries, drive a Model T, dance the Charleston, speak 1920s slang, etc.

I also learned a huge appreciation for authors–even ones whose books I don’t enjoy! Writing is time-consuming, often mentally exhausting, and even emotionally draining. On numerous occasions, I cried while I wrote. There were times when I was writing that I could feel a presence in the room with me, almost as if someone was looking over my shoulder and whispering, “Tell the story.” I included a quote by Dot Stutter on a forward page of the book that sums up this experience: “I hear ethereal whispers, persuasive, soft and still. Daughter, if you don’t remember us, who will?”

Can you talk about some resources/help you found that other family historians may not be aware of?

I found a website that lists Cleveland-area weather history since 1871. This sounds like an odd resource, but when writing about a farm family, it was helpful to check how the weather was impacting their daily lives, decisions, and economy. I also found the site “Vintage Ad Browser,” which offers ads for various subjects through the decades. Besides being just plain fun to peruse, the ads provided a perspective on various eras and helped me to mentally engage with a particular time.

Do you have a few tips about self-publishing?

I researched all of the print-on-demand publication services, and good reviews pointed me toward CreateSpace, a subsidiary of Amazon. There was no cost to publish, except when I purchase a copy of the book. Initially, I struggled with CreateSpace’s formatting template. (I read many blogs for tips.) It was very time-consuming to cut and paste 32 chapters from Word documents into their 6 x 9 format. For volume 2, I have wised up and am writing the book directly into their template and saving it in that format.

I also created a Kindle version of my book. Converting it into the proper format was a rather opaque process, complicated by trying to marry 140 images to the HTML document. Once again, blogs to the rescue!

What is your advice to others who feel they have a family story to tell in a book?

Start writing—the first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. You can revise it many times, and reading what you’ve written gets the creative juices flowing. Make the story engaging–not just a retelling of dates, facts, and events. Details bring a story to life and engage the reader. If you are fortunate enough to have older living relatives, ask them about their memories and document them. Ask them to identify the people in old photos, and then write those names (and the date if possible) on the back of the photo. Every family has stories and they need to be preserved. We can’t truly know ourselves until we know where we came from. And we all “come from a place called home…”

The stash of written documents that helped tell the family's story. In addition, there were letters and also pictures, many of which appeared in the family's book.

The stash of written documents that helped tell the family’s story. In addition, there were letters and also pictures, many of which were included in the book.

I Come From A Place Called Home is available on Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle format.

The post you are reading is located at: http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/09/03/book-about-your-family/

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The Aldrich Manuscript

I occasionally get questions from those researching their northern Rhode Island Aldrich ancestors.  George Aldrich was an early settler of nearby Mendon, Massachusetts. My Aldrich ancestors moved down into Sheldonville, Massachusetts and northern Cumberland, Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island Historical Society Research Center

Recently I visited the library of the Rhode Island Historical Society.  I wanted to look at some books and journals I had saved some notes about.  Nothing much came of that.

The Rhode Island Historical Society on Hope Street, Providence. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

The Rhode Island Historical Society library on Hope Street, Providence. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

But I overheard a conversation about photography and realized that they had eased up on their photography rules.  So that was good news.  I decided to photograph some pages of the Aldrich manuscripts that I had used in the past. I had to use a paper slip in each photo crediting the RIHS, and use the photos only for my own use.  The book is still under copyright but that would have been the case no matter what.  It’s a little hard to describe these books so I’m glad to have a chance to write down some details here.

Newly renamed the Mary Elizabeth Robinson Research Center, the library has a lot to offer in the way of unique manuscripts and special Rhode Island collections.

Newly renamed the Mary Elizabeth Robinson Research Center, the library has a lot to offer in the way of unique manuscripts, genealogy books and special Rhode Island collections. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

The Aldrich Family Genealogy

The Aldrich Family Genealogy – Descendants of George Aldrich of Mendon, MA, compiled by Ralph Ernest Aldrich (1902-1984) and his wife Pearl Lillian (Marquis) Aldrich was written over a period of several decades.  The manuscript has an unusual genealogical format which might be hard to grasp right off.

But these are the best books I’ve found on the Aldriches.  They are the only books I can recommend.  As always, I do my own research to prove relationships, but you can definitely get some clues and sources from these books.  One thing that impresses me in particular is that they correctly report that my ancestor Nathan Aldrich’s first wife, Marcy, had only one child, Anna “Nancy” – not two as is often stated elsewhere.

Here is my line of descent from my 10th great grandfather George Aldrich to my grandmother Edna May Darling:

  • George Aldrich (1605 – 1683)
  • Jacob Aldrich (1652 – 1695)
  • David Aldrich (1685 – 1771)
  • Jonathan Aldrich (1721 – 1800)
  • Asa Aldrich (1744 – 1825)
  • Nathan Aldrich (1773 – 1862)
  • Nancy Ann Aldrich (1800 – 1879)
  • Ellis Aldrich Darling (1824 – 1883)
  • Addison Parmenter Darling (1856 – 1933)
  • Russell Earl Darling (1883 – 1959)
  • Edna May Darling (1905 – 1999)

Here are some details from the RIHS card catalog about the manuscript – in 18 bound volumes:

Title: The Aldrich family genealogy : descendants of George Aldrich of Mendon, MA /
Author/Creator: Aldrich, Ralph Ernest, 1902-1984.
Call number: Reading Room CS71 .A374 1998
Physical Description: 12 parts in 18 v. ; 28 cm.
Notes: “National Aldrich Association.”
Parts organized A – K. Alphabetical within each part by given name.

  • Pt. A. George —
  • Pt. B. Joseph(2) —
  • Pt. C. John(2) —
  • Pt. D. Peter(2) —
  • Pt. E. Jacob(2) —
  • Pts. F, G, H. Others —
  • Pt. I. Families in England —
  • Pt. J. Origin of the name —
  • Pt. K. Arms, coats, shields.
    Indexes: parts B, C, D and E.

The set is divided based on the children of George Aldrich – his daughters are quickly tracked for one generation in volume one, then each of his sons Joseph, John, Peter, Jacob are covered for several generations – sometimes 4 or 5.  I found the right Nathan Aldrich easily in the index to the “Jacob” volumes.  Descendants in each of the four sons’ books are in alpha order BY FIRST NAME.  So I looked up each ancestor by first name.

Mr. Aldrich left his manuscripts to the National Aldrich Association (of which he was a founding member, see his picture and some early Association details here).  The Association retyped or copied the pages in 1998.  To the best of my knowledge these volumes exist in TWO places only (outside of any copies the National Aldrich Association might hold):

  1. The Rhode Island Historical Society Research Center, Providence. Bound volumes shelved in Reading Room.
  2. The New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston.  Manuscript 458.

As far as I can tell, they have not been microfilmed by the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, nor does any digital copy exist online that I can find. Here is the Worldcat entry.  It does not appear to be on Hathitrust or Internet Archive nor do I see any evidence that these pages were ever bound for sale.  I suspect the Association had, at one time, bigger plans for the data – but I wish they would make the pages available online.

I have learned quite a bit about my Aldrich line through this manuscript but I will need to further explore, verify and question what I’m seeing.

I enjoyed exploring this set more closely at home from the few pages I photographed.  I strongly recommend that New England researchers find a way to utilize this manuscript in one of the two repositories.

More sources

(1) The website of the National Aldrich Association has an interesting bibliography for Aldrich research. Most of the books on the list are either specifically about certain branches, or not reliable, or I am just unfamiliar with them.   The articles section farther down on the list is a unique compiled bibliography of research articles and booklets, and might be helpful, if you can access the journals. Oddly, the web page states that these volumes are unindexed, which is not true.

(2) Mr. Aldrich in his preface to volume 1, pages XiI and XIIi, reviews a list of sources and on p. IX reviews some special sources:

Several years after the huge task of this project was initiated, it was learned that Marcus Morton (7) Aldrich (1834-1914) of the Jacob (2) branch had done a large amount of Aldrich research, but had passed away before he had completed a record for publication.  Similarly, Charles Henry Pope of Cambridge, Mass. in 1916-1918 compiled considerable Aldrich data but died before having it published.  The Marcus M. Collection was safely kept by his son Frank Morton (8) (1863-1960), but was not readily available for viewing or use until mid 1961 after his daughter Florence Joanna (9) (1890-1974) had presented it to the New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Mass.  The Pope Collection was given to that Society in 1929, but general knowledge of it was not widely known.

The Marcus M. Aldrich Collection consists mainly of hand written manuscripts and quite an assortment of small notebooks.  The latter revealed a considerable number of problems in regard to lineage of quite a number of persons which remained unsolved.

Most of the genealogical correspondence of Marcus M.(7) Aldrich became the property of Earl D. (10) Aldrich (1903-1979) of the Jacob (2) branch in 1961.  Earl, very generously, shared review and use of it with others interested.

Note that this Marcus Morton Aldrich collection (NOT the books I have been reviewing here) is available at NEHGS ONLY BY APPOINTMENT since it is stored off-site.  Charles Henry Pope appears in the NEHGS card catalog numerous times but it’s hard to say which papers, if any, concern the Aldriches.

(3) Another unpublished manuscript that has information about the Cumberland, Rhode Island Aldriches is a folder in Abigail Sprague’s notes on the History of Cumberland (note – this is in the Rhode Island Historical Society library, Mss 1023).

Graves of Asa and Lucy Aldrich at West Wrentham Cemetery. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Graves of my 6x-great grandparents Asa and Lucy (Haskell) Aldrich at West Wrentham Cemetery. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/08/28/the-aldrich-manuscript/

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