Tuesday Tales From the Road – Suffield, Connecticut

by Kathryn Doyle (9/2/2008)

Mary is continuing her amazing genealogy research trek across the country. She’s reached New England. This is her sixth report:

“Are you Mary?” asked the man in the Boy Scout Scoutmaster uniform. How fitting this uniform is for my Suffield, Connecticut hero, Art Sikes, who is the Vice President of the Suffield Historical Society (SHS). One day last year, I “googled” the last of my 2nd great-grandmothers to be researched. A few keystrokes later I arrived on the Suffield Historical Society Web site. I then clicked on “Families.” To my total amazement, Art had built the genealogy of the major founding families! The family trees and his sources are on the Web site! I hope some of you reading this blog have Suffield ancestors and can use this amazing site. By the time I finished, I had thirty surnames across as many as six generations. Although Art works full time and donates his time to many organizations, he always answered my e-mail questions. How many months, if not years, of research did he save me? I was delighted to take him and his wonderful wife, Bev, to dinner. I told them that I wish I could take them every night for a year. If there were a Boy Scout badge for genealogy, Art would be the first recipient.

Obviously, thirty surnames represent an impossible task for one week. Just imagine how many gravestones exist? Suffield kept continuous records from its founding in 1669, and almost all have survived with only a few lost to fire. Birth, marriage and death records are on microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. I copied Barbour’s Suffield listings for my surnames to expedite the microfilm search. The big jackpot is the existence of the minutes of the town meetings from 1669 through 1745. I copied most of them, as some ancestor appears in nearly all of the pages. Reviewing them will take a long time. I’m praying for a rainy San Francisco winter to do this.

Art also opened “the dungeon” in the basement of the Kent Memorial Library where SHS keeps the private archives. These include family farm ledgers, letters and many original documents, pictures, etc. I would need a month to make a dent. So, I am already planning my next trip to Suffield.

Oh, yes, one last item. Sometimes, luck plays a significant part in genealogy! I was reading H. S. Sheldon’s book with the town meeting minutes and some comments that he added. He was talking about Joseph Sheldon, who was a leader of the town and a Connecticut representative to the Colonial Legislature in Boston. We have some Sheldons in our line in Suffield but not Joseph, or so I thought. Bingo, the list of his children included Benjamin Sheldon (born 1705), who was tied into another line not in Suffield. We had not researched his parents! After some more digging, I was thrilled to find that Joseph and Mary (Whiting) Sheldon were indeed Benjamin’s parents. Then, came the real jackpot! Mary Whiting was the granddaughter of John Pynchon, who created the towns of Suffield, Brookfield, Deerfield and others! What a grand discovery!

Next stop – assorted Vermont towns.

Your genealogist on the road,

Mary Mettler

Read the entire series:
Part One: Salt Lake City
Part Two: Indiana
Part Three: Pennsylvania
Part Four: More From Pennsylvania
Part Five: Washington D.C.
Part Six: Suffield, Connecticut
Part Seven: Vermont
Part Eight: Dorset, Vermont
Part Nine: West Point and Back to Pennsylvania
Part Ten: Some Final Thoughts From Home

A Joint Venture for Family History Month

by Kathryn Doyle (9/1/2008)

In celebration of October as Family History Month, the California Genealogical Society and the Oakland Regional Family History Center are combining resources and expertise to offer a four session Beginning Genealogy Course.

Each of the four classes will be offered twice – on Saturday, at the CGS Library, from 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. and on the following Tuesday, at the Family History Center, from 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. The same teachers and handouts will be used in both sessions and students can attend classes at either facility.

Classes are free but there will be a $10 charge for a notebook containing a syllabus of the four classes. Those students wishing to join the California Genealogical Society will also receive $10 off their memberships after attending all four classes. Free parking is available at both locations. The Oakland Regional Family History Center is located at 4766 Lincoln Avenue, Oakland, California.

Preregistration is necessary to ensure adequate handouts. Drop-ins will be welcome on a space available basis. Please register by telephone 510-531-3905 or E-mail fhc[email protected].

The class outline and schedule are as follows:

Part 1 – Introduction to the Science of Genealogy
In this introductory class, Marge Bell Assistant Director of the ORFHC, will teach students how to get started and cover basic genealogical terminology, forms, computer programs, and organization of research files.
Saturday, October 4, 2008, 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. at CGS
Tuesday, October 7, 2008, 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the FHC.

Part 2 – Secondary Survey
In the second class, Jane Lindsey President of CGS, will introduce students to the basic Internet research sites that feature compiled genealogies including, but not limited to, FamilySearch, Rootsweb, USGenweb. It will also include using digital library catalogs to help plan research and locate resources.
Saturday, October 11, 2008, 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at CGS
Tuesday, October 14, 2008, 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the FHC.

There are no classes on Saturday, October 18 or on Tuesday, October 21.

Part 3 – Vital Records and the Calendar Change
This class, led by Marge Bell, will teach students how to locate birth, marriage, and death records at the various governmental levels, what one can expect to find on them and how the new information can lead to other clues and records. The class will also include the 1752 change in the calendar.
Saturday, October 25, 2008, 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at CGS
Tuesday, October 28, 2008, 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the FHC

Part 4 – Censuses, Including the State Census
Richard Rees, CGS member and research consultant, will provide a short history of the U.S. census, explain how to use it and discuss ways to work around the common problems. As time permits, there will be an overview of state census records: what’s available and how to access the records.
Saturday, November 1, 2008: 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at CGS
Tuesday, November 4, 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the FHC

Download the CGS Family History Month brochure for the full offering of October classes, workshops and consultations.

Illustration: “The Family Tree” by local artist Lyn White, from the cover of the Oakland Regional Family History Center brochure.

National Institute on Genealogical Research

by Kathryn Doyle (8/29/2008)

Two CGS board members attended last month’s National Institute on Genealogical Research (NIGR), an intensive program at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington D.C. According to the NIGR Web site, this year’s program focused on “commonly used immigration, military, land, cartographic, African-American, and non-population census records.” In addition to the core lectures and presentations, the program includes one day at Archives II in College Park, Maryland, and optional evening sessions at the Library of Congress (LOC) and the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Library.

CGS News editor, Jane Hufft, sent this report:

It was a great six days – absolutely exhausting, I might add, because of the heat, the distance between NARA and the hotel, the time change, and the daunting schedule of classes and field trips. Our plane was delayed six hours in Pittsburgh and we arrived after midnight EDT having risen that morning on California time at 4:00 a.m. Were I to do it again I would go one or two days early, stay one day after, and have my own laptop as the hotel charged hugely for access to their computers. You are expected to be able to manage in DC on your own for transportation and meals and they did not do much shepherding, partly because a number of people are local. Walking shoes, cash, and sun gear are mandatory, and I wished I had a small rolling backpack for the daily trek.

The classes are impressive and well-organized – NIGR goes all out to get the best people who lecture on specialized areas of NARA holdings. Attendees are provided with a binder containing notes and outlines on the lectures, with bibliographies and references. Class members are expected to have some genuine experience in genealogy – half of those in the group were professionals, the other half long time dedicated researchers who brought a variety of backgrounds to the class of about forty. It’s not for beginners. Once you have completed the week, you are set to dive into the holdings of three of the premier facilities in DC. As part of the process we obtained readers’ cards at both NARA and LOC. (The security process is long and tedious at both places for exit and entry – not for the impatient.) I felt at the end that I finally understood what NARA has, does, and can offer to a researcher.

Jane Hufft at the DAR Library, Washington D.C.

I had never been to the DAR library, so the half day there was like a few minutes in a candy shop. There was a field trip to Archives II in Maryland – the behind-the-scenes tour of this new, beautiful facility that is the second largest federal building in the U.S. was breathtaking – we saw the modern, rolling, closed stacks and had a tour of the conservation floor, where we were face to face with Washington’s farewell address, yellowed and so readable in his clear handwriting, which is being conserved, and saw how five wallets from Confederate soldiers are being protected in a specially constructed hand-made box so that researchers can see them and access copies of what the wallets contained when they were found. It was a fabulous experience from start to finish.

Jane Hufft is the editor of the CGS News and serves on the board and the publications committee. Diving into such a demanding program comes naturally to Jane who has thirty-six years of experience in education as a teacher, project manager and administrator.

Next year’s National Institute on Genealogical Research will be held July 12-17, 2009.

Photograph courtesy of Lavinia Grace Schwarz.