Turners Falls, MA - Genealogy Gathering

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

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 The newspapers have been archived digitally from 1877 - 1931 and can be searched online at Masslive.com/republican.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.