Wednesday, May 20, 2015

NEHGS Announces FREE Access to Databases to Commemorate Memorial Day

The New England Historic Genealogical Society has announced free access to military databases in this announcement:

NEHGS Commemorates Memorial Day with FREE Access to Important Military Databases on

Family Historians May “Honor the Fallen” by Searching FREE on for Patriots on the Family Tree Who Served in Colonial Times

May 20, 2015—Boston, Massachusetts—In the spirit of Memorial Day and to make ancestral research even more productive this holiday weekend, and New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) have made several online military databases accessible FREE to all who wish to search for patriots in early American colonial wars.

Colonial Soldiers and Officers in New England, 1620-1775 is accessible FREE this week through next Wednesday, May 27. Prior to the American Revolution, many men served in the militia and fought against Native Americans, the French, and other opponents. Many of these battles were extensions of European wars. This database contains more than 35,000 records of service for individuals in Massachusetts and other New England states who served from the seventeenth century to the Battle of Lexington and Concord. These records, originally published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society with support from the Society of Colonial Wars in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, were compiled from many different sources to create as comprehensive a list as possible.

Massachusetts Revolutionary War Pensioners’ Receipts 1799-1807 and Massachusetts Revolutionary War Pensioners’ Receipts 1829-1837 are also accessible through Wednesday, May 27. Many of the soldiers who served during the Revolutionary War were given pensions from the federal government for their service. These manuscript collections at NEHGS contain a number of original receipts with the soldiers’ signatures, acknowledging the receipt of their pension funds. These two searchable databases contain images of these receipts, including the original signatures or marks of the pensioners.

Registration at is required as a FREE Guest Member to gain access to these valuable resources. Guest User accounts allow web visitors to use a limited suite of databases and access web content such as making purchases from the online store. Unlimited access to all 450+ million records and other benefits is through membership at NEHGS.

Family historians may start their search for their ancestors who bravely served in our country’s colonial times at this site:

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Serendipity and Why I love Footnotes

I am currently reading a nonfiction book called Soldier Engraver Forger: Richard Brunton's Life on the Fringe in America's New Republic by Deborah M. Child. The timing is coincidentally perfect. I just finished an historical fiction book called The Schoolmaster's Daughter by John Smolens. Both books focus on the American Revolution and start with the siege of Boston. They also both feature a British soldier who has deserted the British Army.

I love to read fiction because it's fun and enjoyable but it's even better to follow it up with a nonfiction book that gives me a sense of what it was really like during the same time period.

As a side note, I should mention, though perhaps obvious, that it's always beneficial to read multiple books on the same topic. You get different perspectives from different authors and they each have their own focus. This provides for a much broader and deeper understanding of an historical event. (On that note, if anyone can recommend any books, fiction or nonfiction, that take place during the siege of Boston I would greatly appreciate it. I would love to read more on the subject.)

Soldier Engraver Forger takes a look at the life of Richard Brunton, a British Solider who did not leave an abundant trail of records for future researchers to find. Author Deborah Child recreates his story through examples of materials culture (such as engravings, bookplates, portraits, etc) and by placing Brunton in historical context by taking a deep look at the social history of the times.

There is much to love about this book (which I will report in greater detail in a review when I'm done) but the thing that is endlessly pleasing me at the moment is the footnotes. As genealogists, we are all a bit enamored with footnotes. We may hate to write them but we sure to do love to find them.

Let me give you two examples from the book:

"Again, in 1771, Milne advertised Gordon as a runaway indentured servant, this time traveling with a wife, Mary, whom he described as "much addicted to drink and a great liar." (pages 31-32, footnote 69)  The quote itself is just wonderful and colorful and transports us back into the lives of  Revolutionary Era Americans. The footnote reveals that this comes from an article in the Pennsylvania Gazette. A good reminder that we should always be doing newspaper research even in the colonial time period.

The second quote immediately follows that last sentence - "In July 1773, Gordon, his wife, and their son James arrived in Boston from Philadelphia. (page 32, footnote 70) That may not look like much of an interesting sentence but I couldn't help wondering "how does the author know Gordon arrived then in Boston?" Thanks to the footnote I was able to find out.

It turns out that this very slight bit of information comes from a book (via one of the co-authors) called Robert Love's Warnings: Searching for Strangers in Colonial Boston by Cornelia H. Dayton and Sharon V. Salinger (2014, UPenn Press). I have long had an interest in the Warning Out Records of early New England. I have also never heard of this book before. I'm a little disappointed that this book was published and didn't hit my radar but I'm absolutely delighted to have found out about it in the footnotes of Soldier Engraver Forger.

That is the wonderful, magical aspect of footnotes. They will lead you to further essential resources that will help with your research. Do you ever ask yourself, when reading a book, "how does the author know that?" I do it all the time and love it when a footnote will answer the question.

The book also has a number of references to articles by Don Hagist in the online publication the Journal of the American Revolution as well as articles from JL Bell's blog Boston 1775. That's a good reminder that there are some tremendous historical resources available no further than our keyboard and the internet.

If you'd like to read some more of my thoughts footnotes, particularly as they relate to genealogical research, you can see a previous blog post The #1 Things that Impacted My Research in 2010.

Friday, May 15, 2015

New Frontiers: Online Access is not Enough

Just like nearly all Americans, I have immigrant ancestors. Some arrived as early as the 1630s and some as late as 1893. I can find ancestors arriving from Europe in every century from the 1600s to the 1800s.

James Quayle Dealey

Because most of my ancestors have been in the United States for quite awhile I've had the luxury of focusing on my American ancestry. I could go so far as to say that it has allowed me to ignore my German, English, Scottish, Dutch and Irish ancestors.

Well, no more. I am headed for a new frontier!

I have just gotten a subscription to, the site which predominantly focuses on British research (or at least that's my impression). This is definitely new territory for me.

I have decided to focus on my Dealey ancestors who left England for Galveston, Texas in 1870. I'm focusing on them because they are more recent immigrants and because our family knows really as much as we need to know about them in the United States considering they only go back four generations.

About ten years ago I did dabble in British research. I learned just enough to be dangerous without really understanding what I was doing and without going too in-depth.

When logging in to for the first time I wasn't really sure where to start. But then I noticed that, similar to, they provide an option of having an online tree. While I have mixed feelings about online trees, they are a perfect place to start when you don't know where you are going. And of course, that's the danger of it.

I started my online tree with my Dealey Family. I admit I am still figuring out how to work the online tree since it's a bit different that the tree. But it is very helpful in providing me with links to document hints.

The problem I'm finding, however, is that (just like can point me to the records, but that doesn't mean I'm necessarily sure what to do with them.

Let me clarify right here that this is not the problem of It's not their job to make me an expert in British records. I need to take the time to figure that out myself.

But what I can see as a fundamental problem in online research is that having access to online records is not enough. You must know what to do with the records once you have found them. I think the disconnect for many new researchers is not knowing where to go to find the background information to understand the records, time period and location they are researching.

For instance, My great grandfather, James Quayle Dealey, is found in the England & Wales Births 1837-2006 record set on This is a register (index), not the original birth records. To their credit, FindMyPast provides a section called About England &; Wales births 1837-2006. This is helpful in that it talks about the index but it doesn't really provide information about where to go next, or where to find the records I'm looking for.

James Quayle Dealey's 1861 birth as found in
the England & Wales Births 1837-2006 record set on

Ironically, this whole process is quite fun for me because it's allowing me to experience what a brand new genealogist in 2015 experiences when they start their journey.

While I know from past experience that there are resources for learning about British research, I wonder what the new researcher will think when the ask themselves "Now where do I find that birth record?"

I'm going to assume the records I need are not on FindMyPast because they don't appear when I search for the surname Dealey. (Admittedly, I haven't gotten as far as figuring out whether they have un-indexed collections similar to but I'm assuming they don't.)

Part of this new journey and experiment is going to be re-creating the experience of new genealogists so I can understand what challenges and obstacles they face. So instead of going straight to resources that I know exist or to experts that I know can help me, I going to put myself in the position of someone who has no connection with the genealogical community or background in research.

The next logical step for me as I try to determine where to find the original birth records is visiting the "Help" section of the website.

That will be the discussion of our next post...

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Deep Links on Cyndi's List

While taking my morning walk today I listened to the most recent episode of the Genealogy Guys podcast. Half of the episode featured an interview with Cyndi of Cyndi's List that was recorded during the recent Ohio Genealogical Society 2015 conference.

What really caught my attention during this interview was a discussion about deep linking. Cyndi explained that Google doesn't do deep linking which is the concept of linking to parts of websites that are buried deep within a site. In the example she gave, Cyndi explained that she will dive into a university special collections site and then add links to specific databases to Cyndi's List.

Cyndi also suggested searching using the categories feature on Cyndi's List rather than the search feature because it will allow you to discover related topics that you weren't specifically searching for.

Intrigued by this new discovery of deep linking, I wanted to put Cyndi's List to the test. The subject I know best is Massachusetts genealogy so I want to check that out on Cyndi's List in hopes of finding links to resources of which I wasn't aware. There must be many deep linked resources that I haven't stumbled across.

From the categories link, I drilled down to United States which had visible subcategories (without clicking) for each state. I selected the one for Massachusetts. This presented me with 31 subcategories including things like cemeteries & funeral homes, directories, newspapers, occupations, prisons, prisoners & outlaws, and societies & Groups.

I opted for the Wills & Probate category. It provided links to and Nothing new for me there. I went back and this time I chose Libraries, Archives and Museums which is probably more likely to have deep links. This is where I started to see some of the magic that Cyndi was talking about. I was pleasantly surprised not only to see deep linking but to see the information displayed in a hierarchy so that it is very clear to see that the different links are subsections of the main website. (see image below)

For instance, under Boston Public Library, not only do we see the main site but a sublink for Research Services and further sublinks for Genealogy, the Microtext Department and the Newspaper Room. Occasionally you will find a link that is broken but that is understandable considering the monumental task it must be to maintain over 400,000 links when webmasters are constantly making changes to their sites.

One of the resources presented on Cyndi's List is the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, Massachusetts. According to the Van Gorden-William Library sublink, it holds one of the most comprehensive collections on American Masonry in the world. I'm going to have to put that museum on my to-do list this summer!

Try searching for yourself on Cyndi's list and see if you can find some deep links that you weren't familiar with. The libraries and archives subsections will probably provide the most worthwhile searches.

And while you're at it be sure to listen to the interview with Kris Rzepczynski in the first half of the show where they talk about resources at Seeking Michigan and the Michigan State Archives.

I hope you make lots of brand new discoveries!