Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Devil's in the Maiden Name

Today I'm featuring a post by guest blogger, Carol.  Carol is a fellow genealogist and New Englander that I've met several times at genealogy talks and conferences in Massachusetts.  Carol has had her own experience exploring Ancestry's new Holbrook Collection which she shares with you below.

In the Marian’s Roots & Rambles blog post on March 22, Marian's last question to the community was if the Holbrook Collection was worth the hype.  In the past week, I’ve heard ‘Holbrook’ quite a few times.  It started with my non-genealogy friend sending me a newspaper clipping about the collection.  The following weekend, I heard it mentioned a few times at the New England Family History Conference in Franklin, Mass.  And then I read Marian’s blog post.  Her informative posting had me curious – would the collection have any bearing on my personal research?  Indeed it did!

I found a crucial difference between the original Town of Framingham 1896 birth record in the Holbrook Collection for my grandfather, Arthur Wood, and the record that the state of Massachusetts has.

The town record says, “Arthur Wood, M, Framingham, Thomas G. + Elizabeth Goodwin”:

Image source:, Holbrook Collection. Image enhanced with Adobe Photoshop.
Click to enlarge

Contrast this to the state record, which says, “Arthur Wood, Male, Framingham, Thomas G. + Elizabeth G.”:

Image source: Image enhanced with Adobe Photoshop.
Click to enlarge

While the state record is clearer and easier to read, the crucial difference is that my gr-grandmother’s Goodwin maiden name was dropped from the State’s transcription!

So, yes, for me, the Holbrook Collection is worth the hype.  Would I only use the Holbrook Collection?  No.  But it’s a significant piece of the puzzle.  Other vital records indicate a maiden name of Godwin.  It’s a small difference between Goodwin and Godwin, but which one is it?

While searching through the Holbrook Collection on, I noticed an error.  Being human, mistakes are made.  Someone misinterpreted the data and indexed his father’s surname as Goodwin, when it should be Wood:

Name: Arthur Wood
Birth Date: 20 Nov 1896
Event Type: Birth
Event City: Framingham
Father Name: Thomas G Goodwin
Mother Name: Elizabeth Goodwin

That is, Arthur Wood’s parents’ names were Thomas G. Wood and Elizabeth (Goodwin) Wood. This doesn't impact the quality of the original Holbrook Collection images but it's good to remember that there will be inevitable errors in Ancestry's indexing of the collection.

Carol has been immersed in genealogy since 2008, after the purchase of a digital SLR camera, which led to photographing headstones.  Since then, she has been focusing in on her Yankee roots to bring their stories to light.


  1. Nice post, Carol! You've convinced me to take a look at all those records I've already seen in the Mass VR's. I might find more clues, too! (Hopefully!)

  2. Some people have all the luck. I did the same thing and the marriage records I saw were terrible. Just groom's name and bride's name. No dates. This was in Newton in the 1840s. On the other hand, the state record has the dates and parents names of both bride and groom (without the maiden names of the mothers, which is what I was hoping for). So, the point is, check both the Holbrook collection and the state vital records. But we knew that already, didn't we?

  3. Carol , as always gets to the point in a pleasant and concise manner.Very convincing.Funny she mentions a Goodwin-I had problems with a Goodwin (not related to me) that took me all the way to Nova Scotia.

  4. Love that we have two sources for one event... always nice to have that, knowing about transcription idiosyncrasies and instructions, as we all do. Thanks for such a clear helpful post, Carol.