Thursday, June 07, 2012

New England Research

Many of our ancestors in this area trace their migration pattern back to New England.  A excellent book has come out recently published by the New England Historical and Genealogical Society that updates the bible of research titled "Genealogist's Handbook for New England Research" edited by Michael J. Leclerc.

This book is in it's fifth edition.  The updates include essay introductions for each state, maps of the state and counties, updates to the various repositories and list of parent and daughter towns.  With the large amount of research that I have done in both my personal and clients genealogy I have found it to be a invaluable tool.

The introductions for each state offer a short concise overview of the history of the records within the state and the location and archiving practices of each state.  Locating records is often the biggest trick to breaking down a brick wall.  This book allows you to minimize the difficulty involved with this task.

One of the major issues I have had with my own research in New England has been the location of borders and  the creation of counties.  There is a general assumption that the way it is today is the way it has always been done.  Not so.  Many of the smaller states in this area when it came to probate were not done on a county basis, but were done in districts.  The records were then centralized within the district and not be in the county that you are looking for your ancestors.

Identifying the information available in the various states is key.  With the shear size of documents created in New England since the 1620's knowing where they are stored is key.  The helpful description of key sources in each state was one that I found valuable for research.  Realizing where the records or family papers are located is a outstanding resource.  Understanding the shear size of records available and understanding that not all things are on the internet is key.

While researching in New England towns appear and disappear like popcorn.  The section that helps you in understanding what cities were original and where the new towns came from was excellent.  The dating of the creation of the various counties and towns is critical to knowing if your family was located in the correct place when you are looking for them.  I have fallen into the trap of thinking the towns were always there and find that in fact they were living in a adjacent town or county.  This book helps with improving those happy moments of discovery.

Please check out the new book area of your local library or historical society for this book.  Better yet order a copy for yourself, because it should be a part of your genealogical library when it comes to New England family research.

1 comment:

Debra Winchell said...

I'm curious. Where are you researching? Two major resource areas are the Local History Room of the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield and the library of the Connecticut Valley Historical Society in Springfield, Mass. The University of Massachusetts at Amherst also holds copies of some records from the Massachusetts State Archives.