Sunday, December 11, 2011

Genealogy field trip: NEHGS in Boston

Boy, it's been awhile!

Between being sick in bed unable to move and moving to a new apartment and crazy shake-ups at work, it's been hard to find time to do any genealogy, much less write about it. But I know the land of family history has been in all your capable hands, so I feel only slightly guilty!

So, back in May, when Cousin April and I were at the genealogy conference in Charleston, we signed up for the New England Historic Genealogical Society. While the society is, as it's name denotes, is predominantly a resource for New England genealogy, they do have records on most American states as well as some genealogical records. For anyone living in the Boston area, the society serves as a Family History center where you can order and view their microfilm holdings, and for anybody, like April and myself, who come from early colonial New York families whose American origins are in New England, the society can be a valuable resource. Their website can be found here (membership is required to view some of their online databases), but since April and I both had this past Thursday off, we decided to make a quick, one-day excursion to Boston.

From Long Island, with a bit of traffic, the drive is about 4 1/2 hours. Once there (bearing New York bagels for our Boston friends, only the best bagels in the world!), we got a personalized tour from the NEHGS's online genealogist, David Allen Lambert, of the society's holdings - microfilm, books, family histories, probate records, census records, etc., the archives, preservation and conservation, special collections, etc. April and I were in genealogy nerd heaven. You have to be a special kind of person to get super-excited over the fact that you are looking at a book from the 15th century. I'm just sayin'.

We had gone with the express mission to find something, anything on a particular family puzzle we are determined to solve on our shared family tree - the parentage of Jacob Raynor, who died in 1829. Unfortunately, hours of searching turned up nada, though David Lambert was able to suggest some further records we could check out back home in New York (and also tell us, based on some of the items listed in Jacob's estate inventory, that not only was he definitely a farmer, but that like other farmer's in that time period, he owned tools that suggested he also made shoes, probably in the winter months).

So, for April and I, the search for that Big Raynor Mystery continues, and I will update you as we continue our research, since we've decided that we'd like to be able to solve that mystery at least somewhat definitively and present it at the next Raynor Round Up next October, but the NEHGS holdings still impress. If you're in the Boston area and have family from that period/area, I recommend checking it out - though without the tour, the layout and procedure would have been a bit confusing, so read the guidelines on the website ahead of time or don't hesitate to ask staff for directions and help. April and I are already talking about going back again to pursue other branches of our trees (including, for me, the Poole Puzzle, which I will address in a next entry soon) that we think the NEHGS will be more helpful with.

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