Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Countdown to Massachusetts

My bags are packed (almost... I can't exactly stow my toothbrush away just yet!), and this includes my traveling genealogy research kit. I have a list of goals, family group sheets, blank research forms (logs and journals), pens, pencils, change (for copiers and whatnot), post-its, a small stapler, and paper clips. It is all ready to go!

At the bottom of my list of goals are the names, addresses, telephone numbers, and hours for some of the places I intend to visit - the NEHGS library and the Mayflower Society Library. I also plan to work on research at the Plymouth Public Library and Manomet Cemetery, as well as the beach.

No, wait... The beach thing, that's just for relaxation! And as much as we genealogists love traipsing through old cemeteries (could I be a female Indiana Jones? Mostly I've been referred to as Sherlock Holmes, however I don't have the necessary drug addiction; just the powers of observation. Personally, Lara Croft - the Angelina Jolie movie version - is my idol), we also need fun in the sun.

So after I break out the family group sheets, it'll be time to hit the sand!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Saturday FHL visit coming

I am looking forward to Saturday. The last of the microfilms I ordered recently has arrived at the local Family History Library has arrived. I won't be ordering anymore until after my trip to Massachusetts, and this will give me yet another bit of research completed.

This particular microfilm is part of my focus on the brick wall that is my great-great grandmother, Emma Anna (Murphy)(Regan) Shaw. She is probably the person I work on the most; she has her own folder dedicated to her.

The reason she is so frustrating, is because I have no documents on her prior to her 1888 marriage to my great-great grandfather, Erastus Shaw. We know her first husband's surname was Regan, but nothing more. And we know her parents are John Patrick Murphy and Mary Ann Fras(h)er, one of Irish descent (obviously), the other one of Scottish descent.

There are numerous conflicting records from 1888 through her 1945 death, including her marriage and death certificates, her son's birth, marriage, and death certificates, and censuses.

The confusion is particularly with regard to her birthplace. It has been given as Massachusetts, Maine, and Nova Scotia.

Personally, I am inclined to accept Nova Scotia as the correct place of birth since it appears on the earliest record we have of her (her marriage certificate of 1888). Also, if she had been born in Massachusetts or Maine, she OUGHT to appear in United States censuses for 1870 and 1880, as well as (possibly) the Massachusetts 1865 census (she was born approx. 1861-1863). But she doesn't.

So if that leaves Nova Scotia as the most logical option, that STILL leaves us with no town or county to explore. Thus, I have had to work my way through Nova Scotia, county by county, town by town over the past year. And it's getting me nowhere, except to know where she has NOT been.

Now, the only other clue is that she owned a store. It is true. The Middleboro Directory for 1897 and 1899 show that she was listed as both a "grocer" and as proprietor of a "dining room". However, these businesses MUST have been in Middleboro to be listed in the directory.

Though family lore places the businesses in the Cambridge area, I would think that would be included in any directory listing in another town. But as Emma and Erastus resided in Middleboro, it makes sense her business was there too.

So my latest focus is to go over Massachusetts deeds, county by county, both grantor and grantee indexes, from 1880 through 1889, to see if I can find Emma listed by her first married name.

It's all about going step by step, ruling some things out, and pursuing the other avenues that are still open to you!

Sunday, June 10, 2007


I am a huge fan of NEHGS - The New England Historic Genealogical Society. I volunteer for them as an Ambassador (the only one in Delaware) and doing transcription work for their website. I support them in financial ways when possible, not just with my $75 per year membership, but by sending them an additional donation each year.

When it comes to NEHGS, I simply can not express in words how wonderful I think they are. First of all, here is a society dedicated to New England Genealogy. Not only do they have a library of books, microfilms, manuscripts, and more (and I am SO looking forward to my visit to it), but also they have made huge amounts of vital records and more available through their website.

Members researching long distance, such as myself, enjoy this benefit immensely. When I grew up in Massachusetts, it was no problem for me to walk to the Bridgewater Town Hall and ask for the birth certificate of a great-grandmother who was born in 1832. But when we moved to Delaware in '99, I became one of the majority of long-distance genealogists.

In addition to their splendid website and library (again, I can't wait to spend a day or two there!), NEHGS has two of the best publications for New England genealogy - "The Register" which is a scholarly journal dedicated to New England families, and "New England Ancestors", the well-written magazine full of articles about New England records, how-to's, specific religious groups, towns, and more.

"The Register" is basically a quarterly collection of genealogy reports on new discoveries or corrections on established New England families, and although the reports may seem boring to read unless your own ancestor is mentioned (which I probably have happen once or twice a year), it's actually a very useful journal. One article recently demonstrated how deeds revealed the maiden name of a woman in Bolton, Connecticut, whose descendants were well-documented, but whose parentage was unknown.

These reports illustrate the efforts of the researchers and serve as inspiration for me.

Well, I had best get back to the volunteer project I am working on for NEHGS at this moment. It is a real pleasure to be able to give something back to my favorite genealogical society.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007


I am very excited about my trip to Massachusetts. Although we grew up there, my husband and I have lived in Delaware for 7 years due to his Air Force career.

I grew up in Bridgewater; he grew up in Brockton. Hence, visits to Plimoth Plantation were fairly normal as school field trips for me (apparently, not for him). My grandmother even took my sister and I to see the Mayflower II one summer. How many people think this will be a fun event for their child? Well, it's pride in our heritage, of course.

When I developed an interest in genealogy, I was 12, and not sure how to go about it. I was probably about 15 when I saw the leather folder full of papers on the Blake family of Wrentham, MA; ;in my 20's when it was given to me; and probably about 25 when I delved deeply into genealogy.

So returning to Massachusetts is always an opportunity for new discoveries.

My plans are:

1. Visit NEHGS library in Boston. I want to do this first thing, Tuesday, June 26.

2. Visit Mayflower Society Library in Plymouth. I am SO excited about this!

3. Visit Plymouth Public Library. I've never been there. It's time to go.

4. Revisit White Horse Cemetery and Manomet Church Cemetery on Rt. 3A. I took so many photos last time, and they all came out perfectly.

However, my son was an infant at the time (now he is 4 1/2) and I was nursing, so I kept him with me 24/7. This time, I can leave him with his grandparents and my husband, and enjoy a leisurely exploration of the cemeteries with my Nana.

5. Visit Plymouth Town Hall. Of course, this depends on the people who work there, and what I find at the libraries. I won't pester the Town Clerk if I can find the info I seek at the libraries.

6. Visit a variety of Plymouth County cemeteries.

Today I want to set my research itinerary, print out the necessary family group sheets to bring with me, and determine whether or not I ought to lug my heavy binders of pedigree charts around. I expect I will bring the binders, simply because they are complete, and if I print a few pedigree charts, I may find I want more information...

Well, we shall see!