Monday, April 1, 2013

Eastham, Massachusetts Vital Records on has over 31,000 databases online in their Card Catalog, and it's easy to miss one that was added years ago, or even added recently if you don't monitor the New and Updated databases list at

Back in the 1990s, I borrowed the microfilms for the Eastham, Wellfleet and Orleans (in Barnstable county, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod) town records and methodically went through them searching for Dill entries.  I found many, and entered sources for them, but without page numbers.  I didn't search for other surnames because I didn't know any other surnames at the time.  Since then, I've been able to connect my Elizabeth Dill to a mother, Hannah Horton, and that opened the field for horton, Snow, Mayo, Paine, Atwood, Bangs, Treat, Freeman, and other surnames.  Many of those families have records in the Eastham town records.

I found this published book today on

Col. Leonard H. Smith, Jr. and Norma H. Smith, Vital Records of the Towns of Eastham and Orleans (Baltimore, Md. : Genealogical Publishing Company, 1993)

The book title page notes that it is an authorized facsimile reproduction of records published serially 1901-1935 in The Mayflower Descendant, with an added index of persons.  Therefore, it is a derivative source at least twice removed from the original town records, but absent the town records, it is a useful source, is widely used in lieu of the handwritten town records, and it has an index.

Here is what a typical page looks like in this book:

I had searched for a name Eli* Snow and, since this book was indexed by optical character recognition, the matches are highlighted in yellow.  This makes it relatively easy to find the matches on the page.

I've spent several hours today methodically going through this work finding persons in my database, considering spelling variations, adding persons, events, dates, and source citations for my ancestral families in this work.  My guess is that I have about 300 to 500 entries to find in this work.  I'm trying to do them systematically.

If you have ancestral families in colonial Eastham, they may have entries in this work.  However, this book only covers up to the 1820s for some families.  I found some vital records for my Dill families in Eastham in the 1770 to 1820 time period on the microfilms that are not in this book for some reason.  I need to find them again, and work out accurate source citations for those records also.

In the mean time, mining this particular book for my ancestral families in Eastham has been my project for the day, and I've already added at least 80 source citations to my database.

I encourage my readers to go check out the Card Catalog once in awhile for records from your localities - towns, cities, counties, states and countries.  You may find a very useful resource hiding on the list.  Note that some databases are not indexed, and consequently they don't show up in a name search.

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Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

1 comment:

Diane B said...

That's a really good idea, Randy. I notice, lately, that if a book is still in copyright, my best bet for accessing it online is usually Ancestry. I may not have an option to download it from Ancestry (naturally) but at least I can scroll through page by page or jump to an index. In other words, the full book is available.