Turners Falls, MA - Genealogy Gathering

Come and join us! New or experienced researchers are always welcome.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Shhhh! Genealogists at play!

We did it! A small group got together and uploaded all of the photos of the East Mineral Road Cemetery in Millers Falls to findagrave.com along with the records that had been compiled by the Cemetery Commission 10 years ago. We will continue to whittle our way through the Montague Town Cemeteries and will add others as the records are organized. Many hands make quick work, so let me know if you want to pitch in. Thanks to Pat Allen for shepherding the project along, Tina Peters for her tutorial, Shara Strahan, Bevlyn Gallant and Phil Johnson for their typing, and Mark Fairbrother for his wandering photography.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Latest

Kudos to Pat Allen for uploading the burials at the East Mineral Road cemetery to findagrave.com! We took photos of all of the visible stones a couple of weeks ago and will get together soon to upload them individually. The data can be uploaded as a spreadsheet, so Pat transferred the info she and Montague's Cemetery Commission (Sue Sansoucie) had compiled 10 years ago. Please contact me at rememberingancestors@yahoo.com if you would like to participate in this project.

It's all about sharing!

I reviewed the first enumeration district of the 1900 census that includes much of Turners Falls and found the following ethnic breakdown in the "Place of Birth" column:
French 172
Irish 135
German 113
Polish 65
Bohemian 48
English 46
Canada English 10
Swedish 8
Austrian 8
Russian 7
Scots 4
Swiss 2
and one each Australian, Welsh, and French french out of 2145 in this precinct.
Outside of New England there were individuals born in Colorado, Ohio, Michigan, but not much more eastward migration.

I'd like to talk about this more in light of our upcoming January production at the Shea. Abby Paige's show celebrates the ethnic heritage that we have all lost, French or not. I hope you will be attending!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Our Next Inspirational Speaker

Mark your calendars for Tuesday evening, November 2, 2010 at 6 p.m. when we will welcome Leslie Albrecht Huber to the meeting room upstairs at the Carnegie Library. Leslie is a local resident who has just returned from a cross-country book tour for her first book, The Journey Takers, relating her ten year journey to trace the stories of her ancestors from Germany, Sweeden and England and across the United States to Utah. Her writing style brings them to life and she will tell us about the research process and how she brought it together as a published work. For more information, go to http://www.understandingyourancestors.com/aboutLeslie.aspx
Many thanks again to the Montague Libraries for sponsoring this talk!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mass. Society of Genealogists Conference

Here is another event that promises to provide lots of information and networking opportunities. The Mass. Society of Genealogists will hold its 35th annual meeting and conference in Marlboro on Saturday November 6, 2010 from 9:30 to 4:45. The cost is only $25, with lunch an additional $30. For a list of speakers and a registration form go to

Saturday, October 2, 2010

October - What's Next?

There are several projects on the horizon for those who are looking forward to working as a group to share some of our local info.

Now is the time to make a date to do some cemetery photography if we want to accomplish something before the weather changes.

How rusty is your French? The Jean Baptiste society records were discovered when the building on Third Street that is now the Rendezvous was renovated. They likely hold lots of interesting tidbits to our local French community of 100 years ago. We will have the opportunity to view them at our next meeting on the 12th.

I will bring 40 pages from 1900 census of Turners Falls to our next meeting. I downloaded them so we can peruse the variety of nationalities and occupations found there. This is the type of thing we may use as a lobby display for the Abby Paige show on January 30th at the Shea.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

September Focus

I have had a busy summer that included time for some gen. research and learning new things. I am looking forward to meeting again on September 1st to see what you have been up to as well!

It is fun to be able to tell someone a little about their family's past. I did a little research for someone I am working with, and found a painting of the ship his great-great-grandfather served on during the Civil War! A little information like that can stir up enough interest to get someone started on their own research, and another historian is born.

I would like to suggest two primary areas of discussion at our next gathering. I have been in touch with a performer/historian named Abby Paige who does a wonderful one-woman show entitled "When We Were French." She takes on several characters and describes what it means to be of French Canadian descent from their points of view. I have arranged for her to come to Turners in January and perform for us. I convinced The Country Players, whose Board I chair, to sponsor this show, and will need your help publicizing it and filling the seats. I guarantee you will not be disappointed. Check out the details at http://abbypaige.com/current-projects/piecework-when-we-were-french/ I thought it would be appropriate to put together some kind of display on our own local French heritage. What form should that take?

Secondly, I'd like to talk about how we might take on a group project, such as collecting cemetery records. Pat Allen has a good start on the records of Montague Town Cemeteries. Planning a photography project would be good to get underway before the weather turns on us. Here's an example of a really well organized cemetery project: http://westport.loreprojects.com/home.cfm There has been a lot of work done in Nothfield recently, but it has not been published on-line. My goal is figuring out how we can share information effectively.

I'd like to continue to share links of interest in this space. The New England Historical and Genealogical Society (NEHGS) has launched a new web site AmericanAncestors.org that has some information available without subscription, and some for members only. They are co-sponsoring a genealogy day in Boston with Ancestry.com on October 16.

Phil Johnson passed on this link for Finnish Genealogy http://www.everyculture.com/multi/Du-Ha/Finnish-Americans.html
and noticed that the Worcester Public Library will be having an all day session on Sweedish Genealogy on October 2nd.

Tina Peters has had good luck with genealogybank.com for newspaper obits and other info from newspapers. I haven't been impressed with the newspaper search feature at Ancestry.com. Has any one else had better luck?

Sorry that I haven't figured out how to make these links "hot" - you'll just have to cut and paste them. I hope they are useful - send me more!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mark Your Calendars

Jean Nudd, archivist for the National Archives center in Pittsfield, MA will speak to our group on Monday, August 2 at 6 p.m. Jean will review the holdings of the National Archives which are of interest to genealogists, and will discuss how to access them in person and on the internet.

I have set up another field trip for September. Melinda McIntosh, Reference Librarian, will give us a tour of the genealogical holdings at the Dubois Library at UMass Amherst on Monday, September 20 at 6:30 p.m. She is working on a handbook for research at the library and is very interested in getting the word out. We will explore the microfilm holdings, as well as the extensive local history stacks.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

From Tina Peters, via NewEnglandAncestors.org: All 1901 and 1911 Census Records for Ireland Now Available.

The National Archives of Ireland, in conjunction with the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, the National Library of Ireland, Library and Archives Canada, the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, and the Irish Railway Records Society has now completed a project to digitize the 1901 and 1911 censuses. The final records were released recently, and now all thirty-two counties in Ireland are available to search for free at www.census.nationalarchives.ie

If anyone is researching SULLIVAN Irish ancestors, I would appreciate the opportunity to compare notes - heylady@mapinternet.com

Peskeomskut Park Music & Arts Festival

The Shea Theater is sponsoring it's third annual festival on Saturday, July 10, 2010 at the downtown park across the street from the Carnegie Library. Beginning at 10 a.m. there will be music and artisans, as well as a book and bike sale to benefit the Shea Theater. We have been given a space with electricity to promote our genealogy efforts, and will bring a scanner to preserve documents for the walk-up public. Volunteers are needed to be available to give genealogical advice during the day. We will make blank forms available for people to begin organizing their family history.
Please contact rememberingancestors@yahoo.com if you can spend an hour or two at our booth. We also need a tent for shade.
See http://www.peskeparkfest.com/ for more details.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Erving Public Library Program

We will have an opportunity to get valuable information on research at the Massachusetts Archives right here in Franklin County this month. Janis Duffy, Reference Supervisor at the Massachusetts State Archives, will make a presentation at the library in Ervingside.

June 14th – Monday evening @ 6:30 PM

Her topic: “Introduction to the Genealogical records at the Archives” will help you learn how to start your family research with Massachusetts records.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Program Possibilities

Thanks to the Library's offer for sponsorship, we are looking toward a speaker, or series of speakers, later in the summer to help us in our research.

Some of the suggestions under consideration are:

  • Jean Nudd from the National Archives in Pittsfield, who can present a variety of topics from the holdings of the Archives, and those available on-line v. in person. http://www.archives.gov/northeast/pittsfield
  • The Association for Gravestone Studies, located in Greenfield, could enlighten us on local carvings - www.gravestonestudies.org
  • The Mass. State Archives also has many important records of interest.
  • Barbara Proko, editor and genealogist, has published data in Arcadia photo books and on her blog http://wilnoworcester.blogspot.com
  • The Dubois Library at UMass Amherst is also a rich source of historic information. Reference Librarian, Melinda MacIntosh, has a special interest in the materials of interest to genealogists.
  • DNA testing and analysis is a new tool for determining familial connections.
Please feel free to add your comments and suggestions below.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Maps, Maps, Maps

The 1871 Beers Atlas map of Montague includes a town-wide map, as well as detail maps of Turners Falls, Millers Falls, Montague Center and Montague City. In addition to streets and physical boundaries, the maps contain names of property owners and businesses, as well as some special features such as the "Fossil Footprint Quarry."
Our friends at old_maps.com have compiled a fantastic collection of historic maps of the region. I will bring a copy of the "Early Maps of Montague" publication, compiled for the 250th Celebration in 2004. We might want to undertake the task of indexing the names on the maps. Gill has recently done this and it could be a great help to other researchers.
Carnegie Library has acquired a complete set of the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps which show buildings very accurately for several years between 1844 and 1914 in the more built-up areas in town, including Riverside in Gill. They are very useful for visualizing the wide variety of downtown businesses over the years.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Newspaper Clues to Family History

One of my primary objectives in bringing our group together is to have everyone take away some new direction for their research based on our conversations. Thanks to Phil Johnson for directing me to the searchable newspaper archive of the Springfield Republican when we got together Monday night. The newspapers have been archived digitally from 1877 - 1931 and can be searched online at Masslive.com/republican. Look for the Archive link at the lower left corner of the page. Or cut and paste this link into your browser: http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives/

I was able to find nine articles about my father's family by searching for "Szymanowicz." It helps to have an uncommon name. This site charges a fee to read or print the articles, but you can get an idea of whether they will be of interest by viewing the "snippet" that you can see for free. You can also save the fee by looking for the newspaper for that date on microfilm at a library. Or you can sign on for a month for $19.95 which allows you to view up to 200 articles. A single day pass costs $9.95 for 50 articles.

Newspaper articles are a great way to add personality to your family stories. They might reveal skeletons in the closet if the articles you find are court cases or scandals. They might tell you if someone won a school prize. A name search might help you to find an elusive obituary or burial notice. I found the following paragraph about my grandmother's sisters, who shared a birthday with their school principal an his sister, in the social notices of the Richfield Mercury, from Richfield Springs, NY:

An elegant birthday cake with 14 candles was cut by the Misses Meeneghan and Prof. and Miss Bissell. The cake contained a gold ring, a small china doll and a penny. It furnished lots of amusement. The evening was spent in singing and dancing, and there were several friends present from Cooperstown. Delicious refreshments were served, after which the guests departed wishing many more birthday anniversaries for the four twins.
[Richfield Mercury 25 February 1909]

I found this article, and many more about my family in central New York State at
http://fultonhistory.com. This site has scanned nearly 13 million newspapers from New York State, mostly the Utica/Rochester/Buffalo area, although I have found some from papers in Albany and Brooklyn. There is no charge to use this site.

Another newspaper database is sponsored by the Northern New York Library Network and covers newspapers in seven Upstate counties: http://news.nnyln.net/

There are many other internet sites that include historic newspapers, including Ancestry.com, and sometimes the newspapers themselves. The New York Times requires you to register as a "member" but has a large archive of papers from 1851 - 1980 that is free to search. Spend some time exploring what any site has to offer before you commit to a paid membership.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Ever-Changing Internet

The primary rule of genealogy is document, document, document your data. Erroneous information will send you and anyone who follows you into dead ends.

The internet can be a wonderful source of data, saving time and travel to distant or hidden archives. However, you must question the sources of the information. Look at me, postulating like an expert right here! Why should you take my words as truth?

Because new information is added every day, it is difficult to make a comprehensive list of on-line resources. I hope you will all chime in here with sites that you find helpful, or questions about where to look for more information.

Always ask, why has this information been posted on the internet? Who has placed it there? Are they governmental sources, casual historians, or someone trying to sell something?

These are some of the sites that I usually recommend. I look forward to your additions, comments and questions so we can all learn from each other.

www.familysearch.org is the home of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) or Mormon church records. You may want to read up on why knowledge of ancestors is so important to their religion, but their efforts to preserve vital records throughout the world, and their willingness to share what they have collected is awe-inspiring. The site includes "How To" guides, transcriptions of records, viewable documents, forms, and many other helpful documents. The holdings of their Famiy History Library in Salt Lake City, UT are beyond imagining.

www.usgenweb.org is a gateway into individual sites created by individuals throughout the United States with the intention of creating a site for every county in every state. It includes submissions by individuals based on their research, and is a clearing house for local information. Each site is different, because it is defined by its "mother" and its contributors.
The Franklin County MA site is not very active - one of our goals as a group might be to add to this site. See what you think http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mafrankl/

www.ancestry.com is a paid subscription site, with quite a bit of information available without subscribing, to entice you to belong. Because it is a commercial site, it has generated income to advertise and advance the cause of genealogy in the public eye and to fund the collection of data. Ancestry is a sponsor of the NBC series Who Do You Think You Are, showing on Friday nights at 8. I would advise exploring it before subscribing, so you know what type of things you can find there. Some are available elsewhere. Some are their own projects. One feature that appeals to me is to attach documents to a family tree, if you choose to upload your family tree there. I have found MANY trees that were posted that are not documented and have info that is not correct. I used their DNA testing service at a cost of about $79 for a basic test.

www.rootsweb.com is now affiliated with Ancestry, but is all free. I use it as a gateway to the Social Security Death Index, which is one of the few U.S. Government data bases on-line. The mailing lists are extensive and good sources of sharing questions about specific locations, surnames, or other interests. Try subscribing to one or two. You can also go to the World GenWeb from this page, which is similar the the usgenweb described above.

www.ellisisland.org is a free search area for immigration records to New York, with fees for copies of their documents. Advanced searches are facilitated at http://stevemorse.org which gives you other parameters to search under. Ellis Island is Federal Park, but the records supported by a private foundation. Is your immigrant ancestor inscribed on the wall there? Mine is!

We all have favorite sites - please add to this list or comment on your experiences below.

In the Beginning...

We came together on March 8, 2010 to find out a little more about ourselves by finding our more about our ancestors. Let us use this forum to share our wanderings through family history together. By "commenting" and "following" we can communicate and give assistance to each other outside of our face-to-face meetings, which I hope will continue on a regular basis. We have many directions that genealogical research can take us, and we have yet to define the structure of our group, but let's start here.

It seems that we can best get started by taking inventory of each of our areas of interest. Can we choose a handful of topics for our next gathering that will give all of us an opportunity to share in small groups what we know, and to learn something new?

If we all weigh in here on topics that will be most beneficial, we can save time when we meet next. I hope you have marked your calendars for Monday, April 5 at 6:30 pm at the Carnegie Library in Turners Falls, MA. I will try harder to arrive by 6:00 pm to get set up, and if you are going to volunteer to be a leader of one of the topics, that would be a good opportunity to come early and see how we can best present them.

My first suggestion would have to be Getting Started, for those who are new to family research.

I would like to get acquainted with Carnegie Library Resources that are specific to our meeting place.

It appears many of the attendees have roots in Canadian Genealogy.

I am sure we can all help each other by recommending Internet Sources of Data.

Who can contribute tips on Irish Genealogy?