Saturday, August 23, 2014


First of all, let’s get the Plimoth / Plymouth words straight as they are a bit confusing. Plymouth is a town on the southern shore of Massachusetts, which was the site of the landing of the Pilgrims.  Plimoth is the old English spelling of the historic site.  (1)

Plimoth Plantation

This year I visited Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  I have not confirmed that any of my ancestors were on the Mayflower, but there are a few possibilities.  Even if you don’t have people in your tree from this area, Plimoth Plantation is a great way to spend the day.

We purchased our tickets at the Visitor Center and dashed past the crowds of school children. 

Wampanoag Homesite

Our first stop was the Wampanoag Homesite.  The workers in this section are Native people dressed in clothing worn in the 17th century. They are happy to answer questions about their history and culture. 

Wampanoag Homesite

Wampanoag Homesite

After leaving the Wampanoag Homesite, we followed a path that overlooked beautiful Plymouth Harbor. 

View from Plimoth Plantation

17th-Century English Village

We arrived after a few minutes at the 17th-Century English Village.  I adore living history museums. Here, the costumed village folk assume roles of the original residents.  They are trained to act as if they are truly Pilgrims in the 17th century.  The man in the photograph below was building a beanstalk.  He told us about his family and why some members left England due to economic hardship.

17th Century English Village
Plimoth Plantation

The photograph below shows a home that was being built by a colonist. They started with small sticks and then layered mud and grass to insulate their homes. 

17th Century English Village
Plimoth Plantation

 The harsh New England winters must have been dreadful. These were very tough people.

17th Century English Village
Plimoth Plantation

The following photograph shows a garden being tended by a woman. We asked her many questions, and she replied in great detail about the types of plantings, her family and life in the village.

17th Century English Village
Plimoth Plantation

I enjoyed looking at the farm animals throughout the village.  Click here for more information on the animals.

17th Century English Village
Plimoth Plantation

There is also a Craft Center at Plimoth Plantation, but it was being renovated when we visited Plimoth Plantation in May. 

Gift Shop

We headed back to the Visitor Center and entered the fabulous gift shop filled with books. Genealogists and family historians can spend a small fortune here. 

Visitors Center
Plimoth Plantation

Visitors Center
Plimoth Plantation
Mayflower II

We next walked to our car and drove a few miles to the harbor to see the Mayflower II, a replica of the original Mayflower.  

Mayflower II
We were able to board the ship and speak with the costumed Pilgrim character actors.  Imagine their journey on a crowded and small ship. It was nothing like the cruise ships we enjoy today.  I admire the bravery and tenacity of the Pilgrims.

Plymouth Rock

And, of course, we had to see the famous rock. Below are photographs of the enclosure that houses the rock and then a closeup of the rock itself.

Plymouth, Massachusetts

Plymouth Rock

Click here for more information about Plymouth rock.

Plimoth Grist Mill

We then headed up the hill past lovely homes and scenery toward the Plimoth Grist Mill. We were fortunate to have perfect weather the day we visited.  The town is magnificently maintained and very picturesque.  

Plymouth, Massachusetts
Plymouth, Massachusetts
Grist Mill
Plymouth, Massachusetts

Burial Hill

Unfortunately, we did not have the strength to explore the cemetery at Burial Hill. Maybe next time!

Burial Hill
Plymouth, Massachusetts

You have to visit Plymouth. I only scratched the surface of the sites to see. It truly deserves more than one day’s exploration.


(1) Wikipedia (, “Plymouth (Massachusetts),” rev. 8 June  2014.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

More New York Resources: Guernsey Memorial Library, Norwich, NY

If you have the opportunity to visit Norwich in Chenango County, New York, be sure to visit the fantastic Otis A. Thompson Local History Room at the Guernsey Memorial Library.  The library is located on 3 Court Street behind the impressive Chenango County Courthouse. Be sure to check the hours before you go.  There are options for people who can’t visit the library, so be sure to read the rest of this article if that applies to you.

Chenango County Courthouse
Norwich, New York

This is a serious library. When you arrive you will be asked to read and sign a User Agreement and produce government-issued photo identification. Cell phones, of course, need to be turned off.

Here are a few of the gems you will find at the Guernsey:
  • New York county histories
  • Family genealogies
  • Vital records
  • Bible records
  • Census records
  • Cemetery records
  • Norwich city directories
  • Scrapbooks
  • Obituary collection
  • Newspapers
  • Veterans books
  • Photographs
  • Postcards
  • Maps and atlases
  • Periodicals such as Tree Talks, Yesteryears, the Connecticut Nutmegger and more
  • DAR lineage books

Although there were hundreds of history/genealogy books and rolls of microfilm, the best feature in my opinion is the collection of family folders.  You write down the surnames you are researching and the librarian retrieves the files for you.  Each file is composed of a fascinating variety of letters, e-mails, hand written notes, copies of relevant pages from assorted books, pedigree charts, family group sheets and more.  People who cannot visit the library can write to the Guernsey Memorial Library with their research questions, and the librarians will look through the library holdings and send you a response.  A record of this correspondence is then placed in the appropriate surname file.
I am researching numerous surnames in the Central New York area. I requested the files on Spaulding, Crandall, Hiscox, Burdick, Hall, Dewey and Cutler. Well, I was flabbergasted.  The first file I looked at was regarding the Crandall surname.  Many of the researchers were exploring the same lines I am working on. The beauty of these files is the letters and e-mails sent in by researchers contain details that you might never find on the Internet or in books. You have to be careful not to rely on the information without corroborating it, but the information gives you wonderful clues for further research.

After I finished a lengthy session with the family folders, I then started exploring the open shelf books.  A few of my favorite discoveries were:
  • Cemeteries in Sherburne, Chenango County, New York
  • Deaths, Births and Marriages from Newspapers Published in Hamilton, Madison County, New York
  • Deaths from Sherburne Newspapers: 1864-1900, Chenango County, New York
  • Family Bible Records Found and Copied in Northern Chenango County, New York
  • Membership Records of Seventh Day Baptists of Central New York: 1797-1940s
  • Vital Records of Madison County, New York Reported Before 1870
  • Vital Statistics of Sherburne, and the Surrounding Towns

There are also resources for states other than New York. Here are a few I looked at, but there are many more:
  • Directory of Ancestral Heads of New England Families
  • Early Connecticut Marriages as found on Ancient Church Records Prior to 1800
  • A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England
  • Genealogies of Connecticut Families

If you visit the library, be sure to take advantage of the free handouts, such as:
  • "Library Addresses for Genealogy Material"
  • "Mine Your Private Vaults"
  • "Formation of the Counties in New York"
  • "Chenango County Boundary and Town Changes 1798-1975"

If you wish to write to the Otis A. Thompson Local History Room, click here.  You can do your request online or by mail. If you send a request via mail, please remember to send a SASE. 

The day went by very quickly, and I was sad to leave.  I really need to plan another trip to New York.


Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, "Advertising Cuts of the 20s and 30s," 2003.

Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, "1100 Pictorial Symbols," 2007.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

GRIP ON THE ROAD: Orchard Lake, Michigan

This past week I attended the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) ( “On the Road” event in beautiful Orchard Lake, Oakland County, Michigan, just a few miles from my home.  I will share my experience from the eyes of a commuter.  The people who stayed in the campus dorm rooms probably had a more intense experience, but commuters can benefit greatly from the experience as well.

Orchard Lake, Michigan

The conference was structured nicely with classes starting at 8:30, a mid-morning break, more classes, lunch, classes, an afternoon snack and yet more classes. The dining hall was a short walk from our building. The classes were important, but the mingling during breaks and lunchtime was an integral part of the experience. It was a time to share research interests, our various surnames, past careers, future careers, software preferences, family tales and geographic locations.  Some people want to become certified; others just love researching their family. Some students had been to prior GRIP events, but for others this was their first time. Below is a photograph of the central area where we took our breaks.

Maia's Books was onsite as well so we all got to browse through and purchase books during breaks. In addition, if you are seeking BCG certification, there were sample portfolios available for your review during breaks.  I am always in awe when I examine the detailed work of successful candidates for certification.

Display by Maia's Books

There were four educational tracks from which to choose. I elected to attend Intermediate Genealogy: Tools for Digging Deeper.  The main instructor in my track was Paula Stuart-Warren.  In addition, Joshua Taylor and Debbie Mieszala each gave three presentations as well.  Click here for the faculty bios.

Paula Stuart-Warren

Paula was a thoroughly-prepared and approachable instructor. Think of your favorite homeroom teacher when you were a child.

In the first session, Paula discussed the importance of research plans and how you should design one that works for you. A research plan is essential to guide you along the research trail. In the beginning, I did not do research plans and, consequently, I repeated much of the same research over and over again. Research plans are efficient and essential for your success if you want to make it in this field.

She sectioned us into groups of four and gave us a common document to analyze.  Our goal was to design a research plan jointly and learn about the parties mentioned in the document. Later in the week we presented our results.  From one document we learned the history of an extremely complex family. The records we researched along the way were tricky and sometimes full of errors. It was very challenging. Good choice, Paula!

In other sessions, Paula discussed at length:
  • Manuscript collections
  • Vital records
  • The WPA
  • Discovering places of origin
  • Probate records
  • Civil and criminal court records
  • Military records
  • State archives
  • Federal government records
  • Institutional records

One of the biggest laughs of the week came during Paula’s presentation about institutional records—mental institutions, prisons, etc. During class, one of the female students (her name will remain anonymous to protect the innocent) accidentally entangled the bracelet on her left wrist with the bracelet on her right wrist. The result?  Yes—it looked like she was wearing handcuffs. We roared! You will be glad to know that she was released.

Several students also submitted “brick wall” problems in their own research, and the class discussed a few of these problems each day. There were many benefits to this exercise. First, we learned about the backgrounds of our classmates.  Second, we had to expand our thinking from our own heritage and research sources to those of others. Third, we needed to explore the resources of other states where we may never have done research.  Four, the comments by other students were educational. And, finally, it made us think on our feet quickly about how we would advise someone. It was great practice, and I think we all got better at it as the week progressed.

So, a good time was had by all, but in the process we were learning new methods and resources for our genealogy pastime/career. Paula’s syllabus material was comprehensive, and I know I will be referring to it often. 

Orchard Lake, Michigan

Joshua Taylor

If you watched Genealogy Roadshow ( last year, you saw Joshua Taylor.  He is a wonderful speaker, and I always enjoy listening to him.  Josh gave three amazing presentations during GRIP:


If you have not used JSTOR (, you need to start. I had used this resource prior to Josh’s lecture, but Josh gave us many helpful tips on how to ferret out the best results from our searches.

“Going Digital”

In this session, Josh described the elaborate and incredible way that he got (and stays) organized. We were all stunned at the complexity and exactitude of the way he organizes his research. We all left in shame, but inspired to do better.

“Printed Legends and Missing Footnotes”

Our final talk from Josh was about compiled genealogies. You know—the books we all first grabbed when we were trying to research our family. In my case, it was A Cutler Memorial and Genealogical History and Thomas Boyden and His Descendants. Josh taught us how to analyze and dissect these genealogies. He told us how they were compiled and how to figure out if what you are reading is possibly the truth.

These three presentations will be very useful.  I am past the beginning stage of genealogy and now need to:
  • perform research in unique resources
  • organize the vast amount of research I have amassed
  • analyze carefully the material I am using to back up my findings

Debra Mieszala

I was looking forward to hearing Debra speak. Not only is she a certified genealogist but she is also a legal assistant, as am I.  She specializes in forensic genealogy, which seems like a great fit for someone with a legal background.  

Debra’s first talk was a rollicking explanation of how to cite documents. She made it fun!! Yes, fun.  I especially liked the fact that she gave us “hands on” documents to cite. It is one thing to listen to a lecture and quite a different thing to actually write a citation. There are rules, of course, but there is a bit of artistic freedom too.

Our second presentation from Debra was about how to transcribe documents, an important skill that we need in our toolkit.  Once again, she helped us to learn while doubling us with laughter at the same time. 

Debra’s last talk was on performing newspaper research. I have done a great deal of research in newspapers and have taken an advanced course at the National Institute for Genealogical Studies in newspaper research. However, Debra gave me many additional ideas about where to find these gems of ancestral information.

I really enjoyed listening to Debra, and I look forward to hearing her in the future. 

Orchard Lake, Michigan

On Thursday, they photographed the various classes. Many people were wearing their GRIP polo shirts, which was an optional purchase. The team that designed GRIP really has figured out how to design an event just right. The camaraderie of the instructors, staff and students was evident. Although they don’t currently plan to have a GRIP event in 2015 in Michigan, I still plan to attend one of the sessions in Pittsburgh.  Click here for more information on next year’s events.  As you can see, I heartily recommend the GRIP experience. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014


I discovered a fantastic online resource the other day, and it is free. The Fiske Genealogical Foundation Newsletter is filled with tips to help you with your research.  The Fiske Genealogical Foundation is a nonprofit organization devoted to genealogical education and resource material. The newsletters from July 2002 to the present are archived at  You can browse the issues individually or you can do a search of all the newsletters.

Here are some great resources I learned about by reading the Fiske Newsletter:

1. Cleveland, Ohio Necrology Database. The Winter 2011 issue discusses the Cleveland Public Library Necrology database. (1) If you have Ohio ancestors, this is an easy way to find clues to death information.

2.  Historic Pittsburg Project. In the March 2003 issue I learned about the Historic Pittsburgh website (, a database of research about Western Pennsylvania. There are links to full text books, maps, images, finding aids, census records and much more. (2)

3. Canadian Historical Society Pamphlets. In the June 2007 issue I discovered that dozens of Canadian historical booklets have been scanned and are available on the website of the Library and Archives Canada. (3)  If you have Canadian ancestors, you may want to explore this website to learn about Canadian history. You need to know history if you are going to accurately portray your ancestors. 

4. Minnesota Vital Records. The December 2005 issue discusses the contract between the Minnesota Historical Society and the State of Minnesota to provide access to early 1900 birth records ( and death records ( (4) The Minnesota Historical Society has a superb website (

5. Scottish Research. In the September 2003 issue, I read about the National Library of Scotland’s Ordnance Survey plans that have been digitalized on their website ( (5) If you have Scottish ancestors, you might want to explore this user-friendly site.

6. North Carolina Records. In the Fall 2011 issue I learned about the website North Carolina Family Records Online (  This website has scanned bible records, marriage and death notices, books and cemetery records. In addition, there are links to numerous other resources at   If you are interested in transcribing documents, there is a link to their Genealogy Vertical File Transcription Project ( (6) 

7. Railroad Resources. The September 2004 issue has an article entitled "Railroad Resources for the Genealogist" that is filled with information about and links to resources about people who were associated with the railroad industry.(7) Note that the link to the Railroad Retirement Board has been updated and is now; their Genealogy Research page is   If you have an ancestor who worked on the railroad, this is an article you should read.

Frederick Boyser
Conductor for Lackawanna Railroad

8. Wisconsin Vital Records. An article in the Spring-Summer 2010 newsletter entitled "Vital Records Information from Wisconsin Historical Society" discusses the Wisconsin Genealogy Index (8), a “gold mine” genealogical database by the Wisconsin Historical Society ( There are indexes to newspaper clippings, vital records, photographs and property records.   If you find your ancestor in an index, there are easy instructions on how to obtain more information.  I wish I had more Wisconsin ancestors.

9. Conway, New Hampshire Public Library Vital Statistics Transcription Project. In the December 2008 issue I read about the vital statistics transcription project at the Conway Public Library in New Hampshire. (9) If you have New Hampshire ancestors, be sure to check out the Conway web page. Please note that the link to this database has been updated and is now  

10. New Acquisitions.  Each issue contains a list of new material that the Fiske Genealogical Library ( has acquired. By browsing this list you can learn about publications that might help you in your research. For example, I saw on the list the following books that I would like to review:

Barber Genealogy: Descendants of Thomas Barber of Windsor CT 1614-1909 (10)

Descendants of John and Mary Palmer (11) 

Six New England Villages (12)

Sketches of Historic Bennington (13)

Some of these book may be online at Internet Archive  (, FamilySearch (, (Google Books (, HathiTrust ( or  If not, you could track them down on WorldCat ( And, of course, some of you may live near the Fiske Genealogical Library in Seattle, Washington. Lucky you! That is not in my neck of the woods. 

As you can see, the Fiske Genealogical Foundation Newsletter does not confine itself to resources in the Northwest U.S.  It is always great fun finding new resources to explore. A new resource just might hold the key to solving one of your genealogical dilemmas.



1. "Cleveland Necrology File." Fiske Genealogical Foundation Newsletter, Winter 2011, Vol. 18, No. 2, p 7. (accessed July 31, 2014).

2. "Historic Pittsburgh Project." Fiske Genealogical Foundation Newsletter, March 2003, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp. 2-3. (accessed July 31, 2014).

3. "Canadian Historical Society Pamphlets." Fiske Genealogical Foundation Newsletter, June 2007, Vol. 14, No. 4, p. 2. (accessed July 31, 2014).

4. "Minnesota Expands Their Vital Records On-line," Fiske Genealogical Foundation Newsletter, December 2005, Vol. 13, No. 2, p. 2 (accessed July 31, 2014).

5. "New Resource for Scottish Research," Fiske Genealogical Foundation Newsletter, September 2003, Vol. 11, No. 1, p. 5 (accessed July 31, 2014).

6. "North Carolina Family Records Online," Fiske Genealogical Foundation Newsletter, Fall 2011, Vol. 19, No. 1, p. 3 (accessed July 31, 2014).

7. "Railroad Resources for the Genealogist," Fiske Genealogical Foundation Newsletter, September 2004, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 2-3 (accessed July 31, 2014).

8. "Vital Records Information from Wisconsin Historical Society," Fiske Genealogical Foundation Newsletter, Spring-Summer 2010, Vol. 17, Nos. 3-4, Fall 2010, Vol. 18., No. 1, p. 7 (accessed July 31, 2010).

9. "Searching for Death Indexes and Records," Fiske Genealogical Foundation Newsletter, December 2008, Vol. 16, No. 2, p. 7 (accessed July 31, 2014).

10. "Fiske Library--Recent Acquisitions," Fiske Genealogical Foundation Newsletter, Spring-Summer 2010, Vol. 17, Nos. 3-4, Fall 2010, Vol. 18., No. 1, p. 4 (accessed July 31, 2010).
11.  "Fiske Library--New Book, Publication and CD Acquisitions" Fiske Genealogical Foundation Newsletter, March 2003, Vol. 10, No. 3, p. 11. (accessed July 31, 2014).

12. "Fiske Library--New Book & Publication Acquisitions," Fiske Genealogical Foundation Newsletter, September 2003, Vol. 11, No. 1, p. 9 (accessed July 31, 2014).

13. Ibid.