01 December 2010

Census day

If one of your relatives was born, married, or died during a census year, it’s important to know what date the census taker was using to collect household data. For example, if the census taker arrived August 15 and your ancestor died July 15, will he be listed on the census? That depends on the year. If the census was for 1850, then yes, your ancestor should be listed because the census taker was supposed to be asking who was in the household on June 1, 1850.

Use this chart as reference to the census days:  

Census Day
August 2 (1st Monday in August)
August 4 (1st Monday in August)
August 6 (1st Monday in August)
August 7 (1st Monday in August)
June 1
June 1
June 1
June 1
June 1
June 1
June 1
June 1
April 15
January 1
April 1
April 1
17th - 20th
1940 - 1980

April 1

For more information about the census, visit the U.S. Census Bureau web site.

21 November 2010

The Mayflower Passengers: Saints and Strangers

Mayflower II (replica)
The Mayflower left England in September 1620 with 102 passengers. Of this number, less than half of them were known as Separatists or Saints—people who wanted a complete separation from the Church of England. Traveling with them were the Strangers—hired men, servants, and others who wanted to start a new life in a new land. Today, the Separatists and the Strangers of the Mayflower are known as the Pilgrims.

After sailing for 66 days, the ship arrived in November 1620 at what would become known as Plymouth Colony. Within the first few months of landing, half of the Mayflower passengers died of "the great sickness."

If you can document descent from any of the passenger names preceded by an asterisk (*), you are eligible to join the Mayflower Society.

*Alden, John.
*Allerton, Isaac.
*Allerton, Mary (Norris).
Allerton, Bartholomew.
Allerton, Mary.
Allerton, Remember.
Allerton, John.
*Billington, John.
Billington, Eleanor.
Billington, John.
Billington, Francis.
*Bradford, William.
Bradford, Dorothy (May).
*Brewster, William.
Brewster, Mary.
Brewster, Love, son .
Brewster, Wrestling.
Britteridge, Richard.
*Browne, Peter.
Button, William.
Carter, Robert.
Carver, John.
Carver, Katherine (Leggett) (White).
*Chilton, James.
Chilton, Mrs..
Chilton, Mary.
Clarke, Richard.
*Cooke, Francis.
Cooke, John.
Cooper, Humility.
Crackstone, John.
Crackstone, John.
*Doty, Edward.
*Eaton, Francis.
Eaton, Sarah.
Eaton, Samuel.
Ely, Mr.
English, Thomas.
*Fletcher, Moses.
*Fuller, Edward.
Fuller, Mrs..
Fuller, Samuel.
*Fuller, Samuel.
Gardiner, Richard.
Goodman, John.
Holbeck, William.
Hooke, John.
*Hopkins, Stephen.
*Hopkins, Elizabeth (Fisher).
Hopkins, Giles.
Hopkins, Constance.
Hopkins, Damaris.
Hopkins, Oceanus; born at sea.
*Howland, John.
Langmore, John.
Latham, William.
Leister, Edward.
Margesson, Edmund.
Martin, Christopher.
Martin, Mary (Prower).
Minter, Desire.
More, Ellen.
More, Jasper.
*More, Richard.
More, Mary.
*Mullins, William.
Mullins, Alice.
Mullins, Priscilla.
Mullins, Joseph.
Priest, Degory.
Prower, Solomon.
Rigsdale, John.
Rigsdale, Alice.
*Rogers, Thomas.
Rogers, Joseph.
*Samson, Henry.
*Soule, George.
*Standish, Myles.
Standish, Rose.
Story, Elias.
Thompson, Edward.
Tilley, Edward.
Tilley, Ann.
*Tilley, John.
*Tilley, Joan (Hurst) (Rogers).
Tilley, Elizabeth.
Tinker, Thomas.
Tinker, Mrs..
Tinker, -----.
Turner, John.
Turner, ----.
Turner, ----.
*Warren, Richard.
*White, William.
White, Susanna.
White, Resolved.
White, Peregrine; born at Plymouth harbor.
Wilder, Roger.
Williams, Thomas.
*Winslow, Edward.
Winslow, Elizabeth (Barker).
Winslow, Gilbert.
--, Dorothy, maidservant of John Carver.

For further research, check out:

Mayflower & Early Families

Caleb Johnson’s Mayflower History

The Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony

The Pilgrim Fathers UK Origins 

13 November 2010

Early Boston record books (also known as the Boston Record Commissioner Books) online

Libraries with New England genealogy collections often contain a well-known series of Boston record books published from 1876 to 1909. Over the years, the multi-volume set changed its title (from First [Second, Third, etc.] Report of the Record Commissioners of the City of Boston to Records Relating to the Early History of Boston), making it difficult to find the series online.

Luckily, you can view and search each volume at Archive.org. The site offers several different methods of viewing the books, such as flipping pages online, full text, and downloadable PDFs. To help you find these valuable books at the site, I’ve compiled the series list with direct links to each book online.
Remember to check each volume’s index to browse through the names for variants spellings.
  1. Boston Tax Lists 1674 and 1676
  2. Boston Town Records 1634-1660
  3. Charlestown Land Records 1638-1802
  4. Dorchester Land Records
  5. “Gleaner” articles from the Boston Daily Transcript by Nathaniel Ingersoll Bowditch (1855)
  6. Roxbury Land and Church Records
  7. Boston Town Records 1660-1701
  8. Boston Town Records 1700-1728
  9. Boston Births, Baptisms, Marriages, and Deaths 1630-1699
  10. Miscellaneous Papers
  11. Boston Selectmen's Records 1701-1715
  12. Boston Town Records 1729-1742
  13. Boston Selectmen's Records 1716-1736
  14. Boston Town Records 1742-1757
  15. Boston Selectmen's Records 1736-1742
  16. Boston Town Records 1758-1769
  17. Boston Selectmen's Records 1742/3-1753
  18. Boston Town Records 1770-1777
  19. Boston Selectmen's Records 1754-1763
  20. Boston Selectmen's Records 1764-1768
  21. Dorchester Births, Marriages, and Deaths to end of 1825
  22. United States Census 1790, Tax Statistics 1798
  23. Boston Selectmen's Records 1769 to April 1775
  24. Boston Births 1700-1800
  25. Boston Selectmen's Records 1776-1786
  26. Boston Town Records 1778-1783
  27. Boston Selectmen's Records 1787-1798
  28. Boston Marriages 1700-1751
  29. Miscellaneous Papers
  30. Boston Marriages 1752-1809
  31. Boston Town Records 1784-1796
  32. Aspinwall Notarial Records 1644-1651
  33. Boston Selectmen's Records 1799-1810
  34. The Town of Roxbury: Memorable Persons and Places by Francis S. Drake
  35. Boston Town Records 1796-1813
  36. Dorchester Births, Marriages, and Deaths 1826-1849
  37. Boston Town Records 1814-1822
  38. Boston Selectmen's Records 1811-August 1818
  39. Boston Selectmen's Records September 1818-April 1822

11 November 2010

Preparing for a voyage, 1620

sketch of a 17th-century ship
Imagine for a moment that you’re a pilgrim, about to embark on the Mayflower in 1620. What do you pack?

First off, you need provisions for the journey. Second, you need supplies to help you turn a vast wilderness into a home, including all the tools needed to build shelter, grow crops, and hunt for food. (Luckily, in your tight-knit Separatist community, you can share food and supplies.) Third, you need the tools of your trade, whether you’re a cordwainer, blacksmith, carpenter, or housewife. Fourth, you want to pack some creature comforts, such as furniture, bedding, clothes, books, and family heirlooms.

Gather all of these items, figure out that only a small percentage of what you need will fit in your allotted space aboard ship, pray that God will provide for you in the New World, and leave behind most of what you own and hold dear.

To put it in perspective, visit Plymouth Harbor, where the Mayflower II is docked. Built in 1957, this life-size replica of a typical 17th century ship is only 106.5 feet long. The passengers lived on the lower deck, between the gun room and the anchor winches, above the cargo hold and below the steerage room. That’s tight quarters for 100 passengers and all their earthly possessions.

Then, after a perilous journey across the Atlantic Ocean and a devastating winter in which half the passengers and crew died, the Pilgrims settled a new colony where they were able to worship as they believed. And, despite the odds, they thrived.

Think about your ancestors and the hardships they endured. Then ask yourself: Do you have what it takes to step into their shoes, to face the obstacles and choices they made?

20 October 2010

Portrait of a witch, 1692

"We all rose in the air on broomsticks,"
illustration by F.A. Carter,
in The Witch of Salem by John R. Musick (1893)
Generally, we think of witches as old hags, widows who lived on the outskirts of their community, often bad mannered and physically offensive. Some were known for healing powers, such as an herbalist or midwife, or one who brewed noxious remedies to inflict pain and suffering on others.

Yes, there were widows accused as witches in 1692, but so were young mothers and little girls. Men and boys were not exempt either. It’s difficult to create a profile of a witch because the accused ran the gamut from beggar to rich merchant, law-breaker to minister—and everything in between.

In the 17th century, many people believed in witches and witchcraft. Their ancestors lived through witch-hunts in the old country, where thousands of witches were burned at the stake. They learned from church sermons that the Devil was using witches to undermine the Puritan church. And they heard rumors of witches wreaking havoc in New England.

Accusations went flying. The accused lived in Salem Village (now Danvers), Salem Town, throughout Essex county, and even in Maine. Some were very well known in the neighborhood, others weren’t known or even recognized by their accusers.

Since not all the Salem court documents still exist, it’s difficult to even account for how many people were accused; about 150 were imprisoned, 19 hanged, one crushed to death, and at least five died in prison.

To learn more, check out the Salem Witch Trials: Documentary Archive and Transcription Project (University of Virginia) or the Famous American Trials: Salem Witchcraft Trials 1692 (by the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law). Both sites include 17th-century court records and historic maps.

13 October 2010

Salem recreates the 1692 witch hysteria

For centuries, Salem, Massachusetts, has been trying to forget the 1692 witch hunts. All the old buildings associated with the victims of the witch-hunt have been torn down—the court rooms, the meeting-house, the jail. Only the so-called Witch House remains, though its only claim to the title is that Judge Jonathan Corwin (1640-1718) lived there while he served on the Court of Oyer and Terminer in 1692.

Even the men and women who were hanged have no final resting place so marked. Condemned as witches, they were buried near the place of their hanging. Most of their families, however, snuck the dead bodies from the rocks in which they were tossed and gave them a final resting place—in an unmarked grave.

Torn down, disintegrated, obliterated. It wasn’t until the mid 1950s, when Arthur Miller’s The Crucible redefined all that “witch-hunt” could encompass, that the city’s outlook started to change. By 1970, Salem was endorsed by new age witches as well as TV witches. People started looking for history, and Salem remade it, in its many "museums" and storefronts.

Today, you can walk along Essex Street or Pickering Wharf and encounter witches by the dozens. You’ll hear mutterings of Bridget Bishop in the streets. You can touch the beam from the original jail—one of the few artifacts that survived—at the Witch Dungeon Museum. You can see vignettes of 1692 events at the Wax Museum of Witches & Seafarers, the Witch History Museum, or the Salem Witch Museum

What rises above the din of tourist attractions, though, are the voices of the dead. Despite the destruction of many witch trial documents, the ones that exist are so poignant, so telling. Luckily, the words are kept alive in Salem, in the many portrayals of these innocent victims of the 1692 witch hunt.

And that's why I find myself in Salem almost every October on a pilgrimage to the past.

09 October 2010

Keeping the witch trials in perspective

Last year on a trolley tour of Salem, Massachusetts, the conductor plied us with stories as we traveled the old streets, from Roger Conant founding the city in 1626 to the great age of ships. It’s a fascinating place with great houses, literary figures, and maritime history. But flocks of tourists really visit Salem for its connection with the 1692 witch trials. That’s why they’re on the trolley in the first place, to go from the Salem Witch Museum and the Witch Dungeon Museum to the Witch Trials Memorial and everything in between.

Yet our conductor, who claimed descent from several hanged witches, wanted to downplay the prevalent theme of the Witch City. He wanted to put history in perspective and so he reminded us tourists that, after all, the witch hysteria only lasted for six months. Six months? Sure, if you’re counting first arrest to last hanging—but not including final trials and prisoner releases. It took years for the witch hysteria to build to a crescendo and the after-effects had long-lasting results.

In the last 300 years, we still haven’t figured out why 20 innocent people were killed. Whatever it was—the devil, oppression of women, fermented rye seed, Indian war fears, interpersonal relationships, struggles over land acquisition, political stress, bad weather, poor crops, or God’s punishment—that brought Salem and the other villages to that bubbling pot of toil and trouble, did not end abruptly after Governor Phips dissolved the Court of Oyer and Terminer.

Even after the trials were over, accused witches rotted in jail cells, waiting for their families to pay their bills. Lydia Dustin, in fact, died in the spring of 1693 while awaiting money for her release. The effects of confinement, meager food, poor sanitation, and infection, drove some, such as Mary English, to an early death. Others—such as the youngest victim, Dorothy Good—were never capable of taking care of themselves again.

Some, such as Anne Putnam Jr. and Judge Samuel Sewall, were weighted down with guilt for their part in sending innocent people to their deaths. Others who were accused abandoned their homes, their livelihoods, their friends and relatives, to start again someplace else. Some people continued to live next to neighbors still suspicious of them.

That doesn’t even begin to touch on the grief of those who mourned their mother, father, husband, wife, daughter, son, brother, sister, cousin, aunt, uncle, grandparent, or friend who was ignobly hanged as a witch.

The reverberations of 1692 spread far and wide. If your ancestors lived in 17th century New England, no doubt in some way large or small they were affected by the Salem witch hunt.

25 September 2010

Top 10 marketing tips for publishing your genealogy

Spread the word about your publication!

Now that you've published your book, you need to find ways to reach the people who want to read it. Try these marketing ideas:
  • Let your relatives know about your book or article and where they can get a copy. Mention it in your letters, holiday cards, and family newsletter.
  • Include book details in your email signature line.
  • Send review copies to genealogical magazines and journals; local and state genealogical and historical societies (in areas where your subjects lived); and other societies where you are a member. You may get free publicity, plus a critique that will improve your second edition.
  • Send your book to local libraries and societies; the National Genealogical Society, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, the Library of Congress; and membership societies. Researchers may find your book on the shelf and want to order their own copies.
  • If you have a personal or genealogy-based web site, announce your achievement and tell people how they can order copies.
  • If you belong to appropriate surname and location email list groups, check with the list owner about mentioning your publication to the group. Or, you could post a general note asking members if they're interested in your line to contact you.
  • Post your book title and ordering information on surname and location genealogy boards.
  • If you've written a how-to-research, a local history, or a record transcriptions book, see if bookstores would be interested in holding a book signing event.
  • Advertise your book for sale in appropriate genealogical and historical magazines and journals.
  • Rent booth space at local, regional, and/or national genealogy conferences and sell your books there.