Monday, November 30, 2009

Salt Lake City Research Trip is a Success

A team of 7 people made the trek to the Salt Lake City Family History Library during the week of November 15, 2009; the group included Marti Day, Irene Landenberger, Nancy Daniels, David Martin, Peg Spellman, John Spellman, and Ralph Wadleigh who is President of the Falmouth Genealogical Society.

After an orientation to the Library given by the Library staff, members branched out to do their own research for four days. The group had the benefit of two other presentations—one on Hidden Treasures of the Family History Catalog, and the other on Doing Genealogy with Roots Magic.

CCGS Member Priscilla Haines, who is a resident of Salt Lake City, was host for the group for a dinner during one evening of the visit.

Left to right: Ralph Wadleigh (President, Falmouth Genealogical Society), Irene Landenburger, Peg Spellman, John Spellman, Marti Day, and David Martin (missing: Nancy Daniels who was busy already doing research at 8:05AM inside the library!).
The research work has given new impetus to the research being carried out by all of the participants. Part of the regular December 9, 2009 Program Meeting will be devoted to a presentation on new ways to use the Family History Library website, as learned by the group during their week in Salt Lake City.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Michael Leclerc Gives Genealogical Insights

On November 14, 2009, Michael Leclerc of the New England Historic Genealogical Society provided a presentation on two topics for the joint meeting of CCGS with the Falmouth Genealogical Society.

His first topic addressed Research Techniques for Genealogy, and focused on little-used resources. Among those were:
  • Original vital records created by physicians and undertakers, rather than town records which are often secondary sources
  • Baptisms which occurred sometimes in places other than the place of birth and sometimes were done for several children at once rather than in birth order
  • A person’s burial date which is not the date of death normally
  • 18th century Warnings Out lists where indigent persons were asked to leave a community and listed the person’s original town of residence
  • Account books and records kept by justices of the peace
  • Published family papers
  • Probate records, including appeals to a court, which sometimes give valuable genealogical information; 
He also suggested a number of Web sites that researchers will find helpful, but which may not immediately come to mind for many:
In response to a question from the audience, he added that adoption records are contained in Vital Records files, but are not allowed to be available until 95 years after the adoption.

Michael's second topic was Breaking Through Brick Walls in Genealogy. He suggested several strategies to use.

First, do a register-style sketch of all that is known so far, and include the sources used; then list what information is missing and the records which are yet to be searched. Once that's done, broaden the search to siblings, parents, cousins, and even neighbors—next to whom lived the relative and with whom relatives often migrated or traveled to other places.

Spelling variations are important.  To help find alternate possible spellings of a name, Michael suggested pronouncing  the name to someone and then asking them what are the possible ways they would spell it. Often census takers or city clerks had to spell names in their records according to how they heard them.

He  recommended still other strategies, including: questioning everything that one has so far; remembering that “Junior” as a title does not necessarily mean that the father was the “Senior”; and being careful about taking information in “Mug Books” as totally truthful.

Michael said that the "brick wall" may well be one generation different from where one may think it is. Looking at the burial order in a cemetery record may be useful, as well as looking at the names of individuals who are buried in nearby rows, rather than only individuals who are in the same plot.

He advised using maps that show both geopolitical boundaries and physical features to see where one family might have interacted with other families. Service records in the military may give where the military unit was “raised”. Poll taxes do not necessarily correlate with a person’s citizenship. Finally, he pointed out that DNA testing has promise for resolving family history puzzles in the future.

Overall, the two presentations provided much assistance to family historians.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fall 2009 Educational Workshops are a success

The Society’s Education Committee completed another successful workshop series on Genealogical Processes during two Saturdays in October. The first session took place at Jacob Sears Library in Dennis and the second took place at the Dennis Public Library in Dennisport; 13 participants were involved.

Carolyn Weiss presented information on internet genealogy, the census, newspaper sources, organizing data, and a checklist for using various sources. Nancy DeNise presented information on using church records and recommendations for getting started on genealogy. Judy Terry provided data on the use of land deeds and other court records. Bebe Brock displayed and discussed the use of family bibles in genealogy. And Dave Martin presented information on the use of the interview, standards of evidence, military records, immigration records, and various death records.

The Committee will next offer a six-session course through the Cape Cod Regional Technical High School’s Adult Education program on Thursday afternoons in January and February, 2010 in Harwich, MA.  Details and Registration.

Bob Carlson featured in Cape Cod Times article

CCGS Member Bob Carlson, known by genealogy researchers for his work in identifying and cataloging the graves and tombstones on Cape Cod, was featured in the "Cape & Islands" section of the November 2, 2009, edition of the Cape Cod Times.

In the article, Bob discusses his work, the sense of history found in graveyards, burial practices, the importance of correct preservation methods, and the symbolism found on early tombstones.

An active member of CCGS, Bob has researched extensively on Cape Cod cemeteries and has authored two useful guides for cemetery research on the Cape, which he has donated to the CCGS Library and which are available in the Library's Archives.
  • Guide to Barnstable Co. Gravestone Surveys for 115 Cape Cod Cemeteries established before 1860.
  • Colonial Gravestones of Barnstable Co.  A typescript collection of 13 articles published in the CCGS Bulletin from 2001 to 2005.
Bob also shares the results of his research with fellow members of the Cape Cod Genealogical Society through presentations at monthly meetings.

Best of all, Bob maintains an excellent and comprehensive Web site on early Cape Cod grave sites at  This must-visit site contains extensive information on gravestones dated up to 1880 from Cape Cod (Barnstable County), Massachusetts. It includes over 135 old burial grounds, 38,000 names, 4,000 photographs, 800 epitaphs and stone carver information.

Read the complete Cape Cod Times article online, and discover Bob's favorite Cape Cod cemeteries and tombstone epitaphs.

In Memoriam: William J. O'Brien 1925 - 2009

CCGS member and retired patent attorney of West Yarmouth, MA, William "Bill" O'Brien passed away quietly at his home on Sunday October 25, 2009, at age 84.

Bill and his surviving wife Ethel (Morris) joined the Cape Cod Genealogical Society in 1998. Bill served on the Reception Committee in 2002, and was a regular member of the Irish Special Interest Group.

Bill was born in Everett, MA., the only child of William P. and Gertrude E. (Dolan) O´Brien. He grew up in Everett and after graduating from Everett High School class of 1943, he was drafted and served in the 97th Infantry Division of the United States Army in the European and Pacific Theater from 1943 - 1946. He served with distinction and was awarded numerous medals including the Combat Infantry Badge, the Bronze Star and two Battle Stars.

Upon being honorably discharged, Bill returned home to graduate from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, in 1950. After a brief career with First National Foods, he returned to school, at Boston College Law School. He then worked at the Patent Office in Washington D.C., while attending Georgetown Law School in the evening. He graduated in 1957. He returned to Massachusetts where he worked for over 30 years in Waltham, MA., as a Chemical Patent Attorney for the U.S. Air Force.

In addition to tracking down his ancestors, Bill was an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed trapshooting, hunting and fly fishing. He was actively involved as a coach in youth sports and the Boy Scouts. He was a member of the American Bar Association, a fourth degree member of the Knights of Columbus, The Elks and many other civic associations.

A Funeral Mass to celebrate his life will be held on Saturday November 7, at 11am at Saint Pius X Church, Station Ave., South Yarmouth. Burial with military honors will be in Chandler Gray Cemetery, West Yarmouth. In lieu of flowers gifts in his memory may be made to the New England Home for Little Wanderers, 271 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02115. 1-888-Home-321.

CCGS Education Committee offers Winter Adult Ed course in genealogy basics

The Education Committee of the Society will be offering a Winter Adult Education course in Family History Methods at the Cape Cod Regional Vocational-Technical High School in Harwich, MA, beginning in January 2010.

Designed for those who would like to have a review of genealogical techniques and for those who are just starting out and needing to establish a system, the course will take place at the School on Thursday afternoons from 3:30 to 5:30pm, starting January 21 for six consecutive Thursdays except February 18, concluding on Thursday, March 4.

Content of the course will include finding and using vital records, using federal records such as the census and immigration records, deciding on the credibility of information, using land and probate records, and starting to write a family history. A team from the Society will be teaching the course. Cost is $50 for the total of six sessions.

You can register and pay online, or by contacting the office of Adult Education at the school at 508-432-4500.

For questions about the course content, contact David Martin at 508-420-0224 or at Questions about arrangements can be addressed to Ron Broman, 508-432-4500, extension 352 or at