Archive for the ‘Helpful resources’ Category

Recently, a blog reader asked me how she could take the next step to break down a brick wall by renting some microfilm records through her local FamilySearch Center (formerly known as Family History Centers).  It occurs to me that a lot of people might have this question.  In fact, I should take my own advice and rent more microfilm.

You can find the locations of the FamilySearch Centers here.

Why rent microfilm?

Basically, it’s ALWAYS right to look at primary source and original records, to not rely on indices, and to not rely exclusively on someone else’s interpretation of original records, such as in a compiled genealogy.  But I suppose many people only turn to original records when more easily accessible information has failed them.

A probate volume from North Kingstown, Rhode Island

A probate volume from North Kingstown, Rhode Island

If you live close to the locations of your ancestors, you would probably prefer to visit the original record books in person.  In southern New England, that can be cumbersome, and usually you will be on your own at a town hall or other local repository to navigate the records or, in the opposite extreme, be required to write out each request individually and have a clerk do the searching for you, returning with a photocopy and no opportunity for you to look around at nearby records.  And that assumes that you have researched the repositories enough to know where your particular record should be.  And that you are able to conduct these visits during Monday through Friday business hours.

If you live far away from your records, or if you get bogged down trying to visit the repositories you need, the local FamilySearch Center can be a simpler solution. Through the Family History Library, located in Utah, there are over a million rolls of microfilm available of records from many parts of the world.  At my location, each roll rental would be $7.50.  There are many types of records recorded on microfilm including property, probate, vital, local government, census, church, cemetery, court, tax, and military, but of course not all materials are available for all locations.

Town Hall, Westerly, Rhode Island

Town Hall, Westerly, Rhode Island

How do you find what microfilm record you need?

You will need to seriously consider what type of record set is likely to yield further information on your genealogical search.  If you are following  local society meetings, research journals, webinars, blogs, and various helpful books, you will have studied many examples of how others solved their problems.  Think about what type of records might give you new information not available elsewhere.  Decide on a strategy.

Of course, as my reader mentioned, one could always go to the Family History Center and get some assistance in deciding what microfilm to order.  You can find the locations of the Family History Centers here.  Plus, each center keeps a few materials on hand already which could be used for free.  The volunteer staff at my local FamilySearch Center are very nice.  The concern I have is that the staff person might be busy on the day you visit, or, it may not be convenient for you to visit twice, therefore, you might want to ORDER the films using the online system, wait until you hear that they have arrived at the FamilySearch Center you designated, and then go and read them.

To search and order on your own, you should spend some time perusing the online catalog.

Go to FamilySearch.org and log in (create an account if you don’t have one).

You want the CATALOG screen.

Look for the CATALOG section at FamilySearch.org

Look for the CATALOG section at FamilySearch.org

Notice that the first option for searching within the catalog is Place Name.  Try typing the town, county or state into that box.  See what comes up.  Ultimately, you may want to try all those place options.  Try searches for family names as well, or keywords.  Remember, you are looking for record SETS here, not individual records.

I typed Smithfield and used the choices that popped up to select Rhode Island-Providence-Smithfield.  This gave me the topics available, and number of record sets for each:

Microfilm for Smithfield, Rhode Island

Microfilm for Smithfield, Rhode Island

You can see the topics covered.  Clicking on a topic brings up the record sets available. Clicking on a record set shows the microfilm or microfiche numbers.  Each record set may be broken into more than one microfilm roll.

Rolls of microfilm in that collecition

Rolls of microfilm in that collection

Clicking on Deed records 1871-1916 (Smithfield, Rhode Island) brings up three microfilm rolls. IF the content had been available in other media, such as a book or on the web, that would have been noted on this screen.  But no harm, at this point, in doing a little search yourself.  If the content is available as a book, there is no way to rent that, but try looking  for that book online or in a nearby library.

Note that the last film in the list says “Item 1.”  That means that particular roll of microfilm contains additional content.  Look for this item first on the roll.

How do you order microfilm?

Clicking on the microfilm NUMBER, from the screen above, brings you to an order screen.  Be sure, at this point, that you have logged in, and that you have selected a home location for the FamilySearch Center where you  plan to read your microfilm.

Once you have loaded one or more films into your shopping cart, you can check out and pay.  You will be notified when the film arrives, and at that point you will need to go to the FamilySearch Center you selected, during open hours, to view it.  Be sure you know the date on which your film will be returned to Utah, and use it before that.

Before ordering, always be sure you check out the availability of the material online, either through the FamilySearch page for that record set, or by (for instance) googling the name of a book or record set.

City Hall, Providence, from Picturesque Rhode Island by W. Munro, 1881

City Hall, Providence, from Picturesque Rhode Island by W. Munro, 1881

Last step: visit your FamilySearch Center to read the microfilm

Check out the hours of your local center or library.  If it’s in a church building, remember that you are visiting someone’s church and dress and conduct yourself appropriately.  The entry to the FamilySearch Center is usually marked and visible from the parking lot.  I would suggest, once you get used to all this, that you further challenge yourself to learn how to copy the pages you read from microfilm onto your own flash drive so that you can take that home, and enlarge and study the pages further, and store them on your own computer.

The post you are reading is located at: http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2013/04/08/familysearch-center/

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The Boston Transcript newspaper (or Boston Evening Transcript) is sometimes cited as a source of genealogical information about New England families.  For a long time, I wondered about that.  Eventually I noted some entries I wanted to see, and accessed it on microfilm at the New England Historic Genealogical Society library and more recently, online.

The Boston Transcript

The Boston Transcript was a Boston, Massachusetts newspaper that regularly carried a page of genealogical questions and answers.  That feature ran for several decades in the late 1800′s/early 1900′s.

It is indexed in the books of the AGBI (American Genealogical and Biographical Index) published by the Godfrey Memorial Library (Middletown, Connecticut) and carried in many libraries that have significant genealogical holdings.  The AGBI, and therefore the Boston Transcript genealogy column, is also found on Ancestry.com, as an index only.

Here is what the top of the Genealogy page looks like:

The Genealogical section usually takes up one page, or less.

The Genealogical section usually takes up one page, or less.

A sample entry:

This is a simple Question entry – note that it has a number

This is an Answer entry:

This sample Answer I pulled out relates to a family that moved from Martha’s Vinyard to Lebanon, Conn. – just like my Martins

A sample Notes entry:

These notes relate to Gashet/Pitts/Godfrey – I believe these families fall in the early part of my Baldwin tree

Genealogists from around the country could subscribe to just the Monday and Wednesday papers if they chose.

You Can Access the Boston Transcript for Free

Many issues from the period 1873-1915 of the Boston Transcript are available on Google News Archives.

Honestly, this looks so intriguing.  Some of the entries were very long and informative.  While the shorter queries and answers were not footnoted (by a long shot), sources were sometimes mentioned (such as “I saw in the Sudbury birth records …” or “Savage says …”).  In the longer pieces, genealogical journals are often cited and longer quotes are sometimes given from wills and deeds.  The longer Notes are often more like conversations among experts.

The 1905 Facebook?  Blog?   RSS Feed?

In many ways, the whole experience reminds me of the random connections one can make while blogging or otherwise communing on the internet.  You never know what you will find, and if you can see a source, that can be a great clue.  And even if it’s not your family, it can be fun to see what everyone else is doing.  I think the experience of perusing it on Monday and Wednesday evenings  must have been very similar to pulling up an RSS feed or a social networking page.  Something to look forward to.

Just by randomly opening a few pages while writing this post, I stumbled upon some items of interest to me (above) and an article (below) about my ancestor Brotherton Martin, son of Thomas.  I had already traced his unusual migration from Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., to Lebanon, Conn., to Horton, Kings, Nova Scotia in the 1700′s.  But the article in the “Notes” section is a conversational speculation about the Martin family from someone who was clearly an expert.  I had never noticed this article coming up in an Ancestry.com search; to see it, one must either link directly to the AGBI Index on Ancestry.com, or do a general search there and choose “Stories, Memories and Histories” and then “Family Histories, Journals, and Biographies”.

Martin Family article, signed “B.A.”, May 1, 1905, page 12

Martin Note, part 2

Martin Note, part 3

The Note is by “B.A.” – that doesn’t seem likely to be the Martha’s Vineyard historian, Charles Edward Banks – but maybe it is.

How to find issues NOT on Google News

If you are anxious to get an entry that you’ve seen in the AGBI, but can’t find on Google News, the Godfrey Memorial Library accepts orders for Boston Transcript Genealogical column entries.  They can be ordered for $10 each, use the form from this web page at the Godfrey Library website.  If there are other sources, I will be happy to list them here in the future.

What’s Next

Now that I know how to access the Boston Transcript up to 1915 from home, I’m going to use it more.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://wp.me/p1JmJS-AS

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I realized recently that people needed easier access to the Rhode Island treasure, The Narragansett Historical Register.  I am presenting all volumes here, and a single set of Table of Contents and Index pages, for searching.

The Narragansett Historical Register was published under the leadership of its editor, James Newell Arnold, from 1882 to 1891.  Of the nine volumes, I own eight of the more recent reprints from Heritage Books, Inc of Maryland, 1994-1996.

Narragansett Historical Register, modern reprint

If you’re not lucky enough to own these colorful reprints, the original volumes are no longer under copyright and are available online.  I have linked to copies of those, below.

Originally published as a periodical, the set contains serialized transcriptions of local vital records from around Rhode Island, articles about local history, notes about local historians and authors, transcriptions of sermons and diaries, church history, a few illustrations and portraits, genealogical inquiries, short snippets, and quite a bit of editorial comment by Rhode Island’s favorite genealogist, James N. Arnold.  And yes, the occasional poem.  Mr. Arnold did a wonderful job of collecting short historical and genealogical articles from colleagues around the state.

One problem with this journal is that each annual volume has its own table of contents and index, making it a bit of a chore to look things up.  So I have built an additional single pdf document containing ALL table of content and index pages. From that, as a trial, I was able to find most occurrences of the word “Warwick” by opening the “Table of Contents …” pdf, below, and using “Find” under the Edit menu.  After finding a “Warwick” entry that interested me, I would have to open the pdf of the appropriate volume (look for the red typed page that precedes each Table of Contents/Index section to know which volume is being referred to).    A true (combined) index for all volumes would be much better, of course.

Illustration from volume 2, page 12

Here are some sample article titles, all from volume 3:

  • The Hopkins-Ward Letters (by Prof Ray Green Huling)
  • Gleanings from the Ancient Records of Bristol, R.I. (by Col. Charles A. Green)
  • Joshua Tefft (by the editor)
  • The Sherman Family (by Rev. David Sherman)
  • The Records of Old Smithfield
  • The Whiteman or Wightman Family (by Rev. James Pierce Root)
  • The Arrest of Thomas W. Dorr

Here are the volumes.  Clicking on one will immediately begin to download the pdf.  The quality of the reproductions varies.

The post you are reading is located at: http://wp.me/p1JmJS-z5

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Here are some resources that have been helpful to me.  Please add your own ideas in the comments.

  1. Rhode Island State Census available on FamilySearch.org: 1885, 1905, 1915, 1925, 1935.  The data collected varies year by year and can be very helpful.  Be careful of the 1905 cards, though:  FamilySearch indexes them incorrectly as front + back of the previous card, so never rely on the search result screen, go to the original.  Find the front of the card then click to the next record for the back side.
  2. The Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Transcription Project
  3. A large public library is likely to have the three-volume New England Marriages Prior to 1700 by Clarence Almon Torrey (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2011).  If you find the couple you are seeking, the sources listed will be very helpful, although locating those books and articles will require a little work, or a visit to a genealogical library. Likewise, the same is true for Robert Charles Anderson’s The Great Migration Begins and The Great Migration series.  Many early Rhode Islanders started their American life in Massachusetts (and were thrown out!!)
  4. Rhode Island Newspapers on Chronicling America: U.S. Newspaper Directory – there are 742 different titles – click “Libraries that Have It” to see if you can find it at a nearby library.  This is just a guide; there are no online R.I. newspapers at that site yet.  The only old Rhode Island newspapers I have accessed online are at the paid GenealogyBank.com site.  However, you could try a free trial membership there.
  5. Rhode Island Historical Society Finding Aids.  While you would have to visit the RIHS Library to view the manuscripts and special collections, the finding aids themselves offer important glimpses into some Rhode Island stories and can help you prepare for a trip.  Searching within the finding aids can happen here.
  6. Arnold’s Rhode Island Vital Records volumes (21 volumes) are available for download on my blog; but a few of the pdf’s are light and hard to read.
  7. Also visit FamilySearch.org to search Rhode Island vital record data.  Be sure to specify a type of record in “Collections” on the side of the results screen, and then specify Collections further to access a Rhode Island record set.
  8. Read some guidance from the experts at The Rhode Island Genealogical Society.  I especially like the explanation of Early R.I. Censuses and the R.I. Genealogy FAQ.
  9. The Providence City Directories that I have found so far are on this page.  I hope to find more.

From the book Early Rhode Island

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Using the new Massachusetts Town Vital Collections, 1620-1988 on Ancestry.com has, in one evening, turned up a lot of good information for me.  Admittedly, coverage is not complete, but the thing I like is that these are the original town records, not the transcribed records held more centrally by the state.  I have noticed handwritten notes near some records (like permission for a minor to marry) and some extra data that did not make the transcriptions.

Here are 5 things I discovered in an evening:

  • From the 4059-page Newton records, I found my uncle Blanchard Baldwin’s corrected birth record.  His first name, the slightly edited names of his parents, and a note had been added in a darker pen, saying that the updates were done on April 9, 1914.   That may have been when Blanchard joined the Navy. I’m sure the original birth record was incomplete because his mother died the next day.  It must have been a chaotic time.
  • My great-grandparent’s marriage record (ok, nothing new here, but my family might like to see it):

residence ... occupation

place of birth ... names of parents

  • Evidence that the “Grandma Ross,” who was my grandfather’s grandmother (he always referred to her maiden name as Spaulding) is the same Catherine Ross that was the mother of William Blackstone Bennett, Anna Jean Bennett, and Hattie Baldwin (they all listed her maiden name as “Youngs” in their own marriage records), since in her (third) marriage license, to Hiram Ross, she gives her maiden name as Youngs:
  • Catherine's portion of the marriage record to her third husband, Hiram Ross. Note that her maiden name is listed as Youngs and her parents are listed as "unknown" - I wonder why?

  • A death record for Aunt Hattie, who died in Wayland, Mass in 1933.  This record had eluded me before; I didn’t even have a death date.  Her mother is listed as Catherine Young … were my grandfather, and HIS father, the only people who thought her maiden name was Spaulding?
  • The second half of Hattie’s death record contained something I’ve been searching for since pretty much the first week I started genealogy – the origin of my mother’s family, the Baldwins.  Hattie’s death record shows that her father, Edward Baldwin, was born in Townsend, Massachusetts.  If it’s true, this is the biggest discovery made I’ve made in a long time.

    THIS IS THE BIG FIND - a place of birth for Edward Baldwin

  • As you can imagine, I moved on quickly to the Townsend records.  First I checked the map – Townsend is at the northern border of Massachusetts, north of Worcester.  This is roughly in the section of the state where I thought he might have been born.  Then I went through the Townsend birth records by index and page-by-page.  Then I checked several other places, and I don’t see a birth record.  However, I see Baldwins, I see at least one Miles family, and, more intriguingly, I see LOTS of Spauldings.  And it’s possible that Edward was located at some time in Townsend, or was born close by.  Despite a lack of a definite solution at this point I am thrilled, and have lots more to explore.

Tonight’s breakthrough was made possible by the work of Jay and Delene Holbrook, who compiled the Massachusetts records, over several decades, that now appear on Ancestry.  Thank you!

The link for this blog post:  http://wp.me/p1JmJS-tr

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I suspect people could pursue genealogy for decades without buying microfilm.  But I got a little desperate in my search for Tuscaloosa, Alabama information from the 1855-1875 era. 

Through a Facebook lead from J. Paul Hawthorne, I discovered that I could order old Tuscaloosa, Alabama newspapers on microfilm from the Alabama State Archives.  I ordered the Tuscaloosa Observer, 1855-1865 (quite a few issues, although not a complete run of course) and the Independent Monitor, 1861-1871 (only a few issues).

I guess when I ordered it I had some idea that a person might be able to read this at home, somehow.  But eBay and some used equipment dealers had no equipment that was priced for home use; the cheapest gadget was $375.  So, no problem, off I went to the library.

The Warwick (Rhode Island) Public Library has a brand new microfilm reader:

ScanPro 2000 at the Warwick Public Library

I was impressed (note, this picture was taken before I discovered the button to reverse the black/white).  The computer-run system has lots of options, but it’s really quite easy to use.  I had no problem figuring out how to plug in my flash drive and save images to it:

I saved each page as one small image, but once back on my own computer, they were easy to read when enlarged on the screen. Thanks to my sister for that suggestion.  I took about 100 images.

Then I Found It

The problem I am researching is the 20 years that my Lampheres – an old Rhode Island/Connecticut family – spent in Tuscaloosa, approximately 1855-1875.  My ggg-grandfather Russell Lamphere owned a business (see my post A Story Just Like Russell Lamphere’s) and my gg-grandmother Emma was born there (see my post The Girl From Alabama).  Family lore says that Russell lost the business during the war and they returned to R.I. bitter and broke. We don’t know what the business was, or what really happened. Almost accidentally, while saving images, I found what I was looking for.

On February 1, 1861 in the Independent Monitor, Russell announced the close of his business.

Dissolution.  The firm of Murrell & Lamphere is dissolved by the death
of Wm. B. Murrell.  All accounts due said firm are in the hands of the
undersigned (surviving partner) for collection.  Persons indebted to
said firm are hereby notified to come forward at once and settle, as
I am complelled to close up the business of said firm.  
Feb 1st '61:6w.  RUSSELL LAMPHERE.

In the next column, Russell’s ad for a new business:

Would respectfully inform his patrons and the public that he has removed his
TIN SHOP to the house lately known as Wood's Book Store, on Broad Street,
next door to O. Berry's clothing establishment, where he would be pleased
to wait on his old customers and the public.
Sheet iron, Copper, and Tin-ware
Of every variety and best quality constantly on hand.
Roofing, guttering, and spouting, and all work done in his line
warranted, and done promptly at short notice, and on the most
reasonable terms.
He hopes by prompt attention to business to merit a liberal share
of patronage.
Feb 1, 1861

So this makes it clear what the business was.  I now believe that his work, at other phases of his life, with cotton mill machinery probably had to do with the manufacture of replacement gears, parts, etc.  I do not know if there was any family connection to William B. Murrell, although he was born in North Carolina so he is not likely to be a direct relation.  An in-law, perhaps, or just a business partner?  Of course, going more carefully through the papers will probably produce additional information.

Next Steps

I have some other irons in the fire concerning Russell Lamphere, including tracing a War Claims bill. Meanwhile, there is plenty of evidence here to investigate.

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