Saturday, July 6, 2013

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Your "Genealogy Pie"

Hey genea-folks, 
it's Saturday Night again, 

 time for more Genealogy Fun!

Your mission this week, should you decide to accept it, is to:

Please read Tessa Keough's YouTube video on "Your Genealogy Pie" (  I found it fascinating, and wanted to share it with my readers.

2)  Your mission is to create your own "Genealogy Pie" - make a pie chart (if you can), or another kind of chart, or just a data table, of how you spend your genealogy time over a significant period of time (a week, a month, a year).  You can use some or all of Tessa's categories, or add your own categories.

3)  Tell us how you created the chart - which program or service, the data you used, how you estimated the time spent, etc.  What did you learn from this accounting and chart-making exercise?

4)  Share your creation with the genea-sphere in your own blog post, on Facebook or on Google.  Be sure to drop a link in a comment to this post.  

Thank you, Tessa, for the great example!

Here's mine:

I watched the video several times - it's very well done!

I created a Pie Chart with this process:

1)  I calculated the time I spent on these categories as:

*  Education (reading email, social media and blogs, watching Webinars and Hangouts, attending conferences, seminars and society programs).
*  Research (going to repositories, searching online, transcribing or abstracting documents, writing reports and notes, etc.)
*  Data Entry (adding content to my software programs or to online family trees, including media, sources, notes, etc.)
*  Sharing (writing blog posts, answering email, teaching, helping others, creating and making presentations)
*  Volunteering (local genealogy society work, including meetings, writing articles, editing newsletters, etc.)
*  Organization (sorting and filing papers, sorting and filing digital files, maintaining to-do lists and research logs, etc.)

2)  I write an almost daily genealogy journal at The Geneaholic, so I I have some record of the tasks I perform each day and the total time I spend each day on genealogy.  I used the period of 22 June to 5 July 2013 as my survey period (two weeks; the week before 22 June I was at my daughter's house in Santa Cruz, and a week before that I was at Jamboree.  June was not a typical genealogy month for me!).   I estimated the time I spent on each category each day , and added them up over the 14 days, and divided by the total hours spent (122) to get percentages.

My data percentages came out as:

*  Education:  17.6%
*  Research:  15.6%
*  Data Entry: 16.8%
*  Sharing:  41.4%
*  Volunteering:  6.1%
*  Organizing:  2.5%

3)  I created my pie chart in OpenOffice 3.3 (which is similar to Microsoft Excel).  I had to learn how to add a chart (used the Chart icon), then selected the Chart Type (under Format > Chart Type > Pie), and add data to the table (under View > Chart Data Table).  Then I entered the data labels in the "Categories" column, and my data percentages in the Y-Values column.  I had to add two more Rows (using the "Insert Row" icon).  I also created a Title (using Insert > Titles).

4)  Here is My Genealogy Pie Chart:

What did I learn?

*  I spend over 40% of my genealogy time writing, helping, and speaking (or making presentations).  I had no speaking engagements in this time, but I did create a new presentation and updated five others.  Blogging usually takes up 2-3 hours of my day now.

*  I spend about 35% of my time doing Research, Data Entry and Organizing.  I was surprised that it was this high.  I do try to spend at least two to three hours a day online finding records or entering content to my genealogy software.  I don't spend nearly enough time organizing my paper collection, and have much digital filing to do also.

*  I volunteer for SDGS, CGSSD and CVGS, but CGSSD and SDGS did not have meetings in the time period.  CVGS had a Picnic and a Board Meeting, and I edited the newsletter, during the time period.

*  Education is important to me, and I try to watch one Webinar a week, watch at least one Hangout, and at least one YouTube video a week, plus attend local society meetings and events, and the occasional conference.   

My ideal Genealogy Time breakdown might be:

*  Education 20%
*  Research: 20%
*  Data Entry: 10%
*  Sharing:  30%
*  Volunteering:  10%
*  Organizing:  10%

I'm really not that far off from my ideal - a review over a month or a quarter might be interesting!

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

Surname Saturday - COLLINS (England to Colonial Massachusetts)

It's Surname Saturday, and I'm "counting down" my Ancestral Name List each week.  

I am in the 7th great-grandmothers, I'm up to Ancestor #629, who is Sarah COLLINS (1678-1757) 
[Note: the earlier great-grandmothers and 7th great-grandfathers have been covered in earlier posts].

My ancestral line back through three American generations of this COLLINS family line is:

1.  Randall J. Seaver (1943-living)

2. Frederick Walton Seaver (1911-1983)
3. Betty Virginia Carringer (1919-2002)

4. Frederick Walton Seaver (1876-1942)
5. Alma Bessie Richmond (1882-1962)

8. Frank Walton Seaver (1852-1922)
9. Hattie Louise Hildreth (1857-1920)

18.  Edward Hildreth (1831-1899)
19.  Sophia Newton (1834-1923)

38.  Thomas J. Newton (ca 1800 - ????)
39.  Sophia Buck (1797-1882)

78.  Isaac Buck (1757-1847)
79.  Martha Phillips (1757-????)

156.  Isaac Buck (1732-????)
157.  Mary Richards (1733-????)

314:  Joseph Richards (1703-1748)
315.  Mary Bowden (1705-????)

628.  Crispus Richards, born 20 October 1681 in Lynn, Essex, Massachusetts, United States; died 17 May 1763 in Lynn, Essex, Massachusetts, United States.  He was the son of 1256. John Richards and 1247. Mary Brewer.  He married 21 December 1702 in Lynn, Essex, Massachusetts, United States.
629.  Sarah Collins, born 10 August 1678 in Lynn, Essex, Massachusetts, United States; died Bef. 23 June 1757 in Lynn, Essex, Massachusetts, United States.  

Children of Crispus Richards and Sarah Collins are:
*  Joseph Richards (1703-1748), married 1726 Mary Bowden (1705-????)
*  Esther Richards (1705-????0, married 1723 Aaron Estes.
*  John Richards (1707-1758), married (1) 1733 Lydia Phillips (1714-17534), and (2) 1756 Katherine Burchstead (1732-????).
*  Sarah Richards (1709-????), married 1734 Henry Ingalls .
*  Hannah Richards (1711-1740), married 1738 John Sticker.
*  Mary Richards (1713-1758)
*  Deborah Richards (1715-????).

1258.  Joseph Collins, born about 1643 in Lynn, Essex, Massachusetts, United States; died Bef. 02 November 1724 in Lynn, Essex, Massachusetts, United States.   He married in Lynn, Essex, Massachusetts, United States.
1259.  Sarah Silsbee, born About 1646 in Lynn, Essex, Massachusetts, United States; died 25 February 1681/82 in Lynn, Essex, Massachusetts, United States.  She was the daughter of 2518. Henry Silsbee and 2519. Dorothy.

Children of Joseph Collins and Sarah Silsbee are:
*  Sara Collins (1669-1669)
*  Joseph Collins (1671-1695)
*  Henry Collins (1673-1721)
*  Ann Collins (1675-1754, married 1691 Nathaniel Ingalls (1660-1737)
*  Dorothy Collins (1676-1730), married 1700 Robert Gray (????-1731)
*  Sarah Collins (1678-1757), married 1702 Crispus Richards (1681-1763)
*  Ester Collins (1680-????)

2516.  Henry Collins, born 1606 in Stepney, Middlesex, England; died 20 February 1686/87 in Lynn, Essex, Massachusetts, United States.  He married before 1629 in probably Stepney, Middlesex, England.
2517.  Ann, born 1605 in probably Stepney, Middlesex, England; died 29 September 1691 in Lynn, Essex, Massachusetts, United States.

Children of Henry Collins and Ann are:
*  Henry Collins (1629-1722); married Mary Tolman (1632-1723)
*  John Collins (1632-1679); married Abigail Johnson (1644-1680)
*  Margery Collins (1633-1702); married 1656 Isaac Williams.
*  Hannah Collins (16356-????); married Nathaniel Ingersoll (1632-1718)
*  Mary Collins (1641-1682); married 1664 Samuel Johnson (1640-1723)
*  Joseph Collins (1643-1724); married (1) 1667 Sarah Silsbee (1646-1682); (2) 1684 Mariah Smith (1664-1724).
*  Riall Collins (1645-1681).
*  Elizabeth Collins (1647-1690); married 1666 John Tolman (1635-1725)
*  Benjamin Collins (1648-1711); married (1) 1673 Priscilla Kirtland (1648-1676); (2) 1677 Elizabeth Leach 

Astute readers will notice that the COLLINS surname was also last week's post - that's because 1258. Joseph Collins (1643-1724) married twice - first to Sarah Silsbee, and second to Mariah smith, and I have ancestry through both wives.

Information on these Collins families was obtained from:

1)  Caroline Martino and Marcia Lindberg, "Henry Collins of Lynn and his Descendants",The Essex Genealogist, starting Vol. 10, #3-4 (1990), Vol 11, #1-3 (1991), Vol 12 #4 (1992), 53 pages.

2)  A sketch for Henry Collins was published in the book by Robert Charles Anderson,The Great Migration, Immigrants to New England, Volume II, C-F (Boston: NEHGS, 2001), pages 164-169; it contains original source references.

The URL for this post is:  

copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

Friday, July 5, 2013

Comparing "Old Search" and "New Search" Results on - Exact Matches

In comments on Comparing "Old Search" and "New Search" Results on (posted 28 June 2013), a reader said the "Old Search" was better than "New Search" because "...the list is much more compact, much easier to navigate and I find what I am looking for much faster."  In a later comment, she noted that: "Checking what seems to be the equivalent of 'exact matches' on New Search gives results that have the same appearance.  My issue is the extreme amount of empty space presented on New Search, requiring much scrolling to read them all. Therefore it takes longer to scan through and find possible real matches." 

I've also had some comments in email and in conversations with society colleagues that there are differences between "Old Search" and "New Search" results, even with "Exact Matches" checked.  

so, I decided to see if there are any differences between them for an Exact Match search for my great-grandfather, Charles Auble (1849-1916).  I'm going to assume that I know his correct name and his birthdate and birthplace (like a beginning researcher might know from family papers, or a death certificate).

1)  Here is the "Old Search" Advanced Search form I used for Charles Auble, born 1849 in New Jersey:

I put a birth year range of plus/minus 5 years on the birth year.

2)  Here are the results in "Old Search:"

There are 18 matches for:

*  1 1850 U.S. Federal Census record - good match
*  1 1870 U.S. Federal Census record - good match
*  1 1880 U.S. Federal census record - good match

*  10 Private Member Photos - all good matches
*  4 Public Member Photos & Scanned Documents - all good matches

*  1 Public Member Stories - good match

3)  I clicked on the 1880 U.S. Federal Census item, and saw the Record Summary:

The list of "Suggested Records" shows a 1900 U.S. Census record (for "Chas Auble") and a 1910 U.S. Census record (for "Charles Aubbe").  The "Old Search" missed those two items because someone has not added an "Alternate Name" that could be added to the index.

4)  The same search terms were entered into the "New Search" Advanced Search form:

5)  The Search results, on the "Records" Tab in "New Search," is:

The 18 "Search" results include:

*  A "Matching Person" - a good match
*  1 1880 U.S. Federal Census - good match
*  1 1870 U.S. Federal Census - good match
*  1 1850 U.s. Federal census - good match
*  4 Public Member Photos & Scanned documents - good matches
*  10 Private Member Photos - good matches
*  1 Public Member Stories - good match.

These are the same 18 matches as found in the "Old Search" search.  However, it appears that the "Matching Person" match found in "New Search" was not listed in the "Old Search" search.

6)  The "Categories" Tab in the "New Search" results showed 28 matches:

The 18 items shown in  5) above are listed, but 10 Family Trees are also listed - 8 public, and 2 private).  

7)  The Conclusions I draw from this study of one person are:

*  "Old Search" doesn't provide "Family Tree" results, even though all of the "Categories" on the Advanced Search for are checked.  

*  The "New Search" results are exactly the same as found on "Old Search" - plus it lists the "Family Trees" matches.  

Some people might say "well, we all know that those Family Trees on Ancestry are not sourced, and have wrong data."  On "Old Search," they don't even give the user the chance to see if information in the trees is available.  If I search the "Family Trees," I will find that at least two of the trees provide quality sources, scanned documents, and photos more than just the three census records found by the searches.

*  Both searches missed the two census records with different spellings of the name, but the "Suggested Records" for both searches found them.

8)  I think that the reason the "Family Trees" didn't show in the "Old Search" results was because the search was conducted only in "Historical Records."  The "Basic Form" results looks like this:

When I had clicked the "Family Trees" tab on the "Basic Form," there were 7 "Family Trees" found - 6 public, and 1 private.  

The same thing happened when I left the name but eliminated the birth information, and clicked on the "Stories and Publications" tab in "Old Search."  The search found 76 matches in "Stories and Publications."  In "New Search," it found those same matches in both the "Records" and "Categories" Views.  

So, we see that "New Search" finds ALL of the potential records (that match the search criteria) in an "Exact Search" but that "Old Search" doesn't.

However, it did not find ALL of the records for this person.  There are some Ancestry databases that don't index a birth year or age, and therefore are missed in an "Exact Match" search.  some examples are City directories, Voter Registers, Public Records, Newspapers, etc.  A researcher needs to do multiple levels of searches.

The URL for this post is:

copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

Follow-Up Friday - Helpful and Useful Reader Comments

It's Follow-Up Friday again - I had some very helpful and interesting reader comments this past week on Genea-Musings posts, including:

1)  On Comparing "Old Search" and "New Search" Results on (28 June 2013):

*  Denise Fischer said:  "The reason you don't see much of a difference is that you do not have the Exact Matches box checked on the Old Search form.  When you do, the list is much more compact, much easier to navigate and I find what I am looking for much faster."

*  Andy Hatchett responded:  "Denise, the 'Exact Match' boxes weren't checked in the NewSearch example so it was a fair test.  Checking them in one test and not is the other is comparing apples to oranges -i.e. no test at all."

*  I responded also:  "I had "Exact Matches" unchecked for both the "New Search" and "Old Search" tests. The results are similar with "Exact Matches" checked as one would expect in 2013.   I can do a test with "Exact Matches" checked if you want!"

*  Geolover offered:  "There also has been some discussion (some not nice) and an Ancestry staffer's input on an message board, here: "

and: "Another series of discussions pro and con are here: "

*   Denise Fischer commented:  "Checking what seems to be the equivalent of 'exact matches' on New Search gives results that have the same appearance. 

"My issue is the extreme amount of empty space presented on New Search, requiring much scrolling to read them all. Therefore it takes longer to scan through and find possible real matches. 

"When I use Old Search with exact matches checked I am presented with about 5 possible census collection matches, 5 birth, death etc collection matches, 5 military collection matches. This can be clicked through much more quickly."

My response to Denise:  "Are you saying that you are getting a list of matches for your search in "New Search" that are from different databases? If so, you are seeing results on the "Records" tab. If you switch to the "Categories" tab (top of the Results page, on the right) you will see the orderly list of databases within the categories - the 5 census databases, the 5 vital records databases, etc. Does that work for you?

"Maybe i'll post about that feature again - I last wrote about it in "  

*  Rosemary commented:  "I agree with you. Many people just don't know about categories, don't restrict their search to a specific country, and don't unclick the member trees, stories, and images. These options are all "sticky" and stay from one session to the next. At least they do with my browser which is FireFox.

"I've found some interesting and unusual databases that I would never have seen using the usual types of search. There may be just a couple of hits in these databases and would be just lost in all the other hits."

My comment:  Excellent points, especially about the "sticky" search forms.  We all have to understand, and watch what are entered into, the search forms.

*  Denise Fischer said:  "The categories tab on New Search does make it more like the results on Old Search.  The problem I have with it is the empty space between each item. They could be compacted, making it easier to scan through quickly."

*  Geolover commented:  "One problem with the 'Categories' view is that there may be many pages of listings, ranging from 27,000 'hits' to one 'hit' each. always lists them in descending order of number of 'hits.' I have found that my actual pertinent results are nearly always in one of the items with a single 'hit.' But there is no way to navigate to the end of the list immediately or to reverse the numerical sorting order.

"This particularly irritating in the first round of searching from a tree, when the search engine disregards bracketing by the individual's vital dates, and may include databases for wrong places that "match" only an initial letter of a first or middle name. So sensible searching from a tree in New Search always requires several search-refinement operations to begin to get something manageable.  This can be frustrating."

My response:  I agree with these remarks.  If you use both "Records" View and "Categories" View, you should be able to find all of your matches  by narrowing the search and perhaps not searching Trees and Photos.  We really have to use both Views to find everything we want.

It seems to me that Ancestry drives those who search from Trees to the full "not exact" experience.  If you click on "Exact matches" without removing many of the search field entries you get only the Member Trees matches.  Frustrating."

*  inner_child said:  "I am a user of the old search. I have even found a way to remove the ranking. Ancestry needs to listen to its customers. We want a one page summary of results, achievable in a quick intuitive way."

My comment:  What is the way you found to remove the ranking on "Old Search?"  My guess is that it was to check the "Exact Match" box.  Which gives you fewer matches, and a one page summary of results by categories and databases in each category.  But it's never "one page" unless there are very few matches.  

*  Kathryn offered:  "I typically use the Old Search with Exact Matches checked and wildcards. I've compared it to the New Search with categories several times and I keep going back to the Old Search because it is just plain easier for me to read! 

"I think the New Search has caught up as far as results go, but the Old Search is still laid out in a more compact way. The little divisions between the category types and less space between each category makes it not only easier for me to read, but I can see more matches at a glance.

"One area where I do prefer the New Search is for newspapers since it gives a preview of each match, while the Old Search only gives the title."

My comment:  Thanks for the information about the Newspaper matches.  Here's a second vote, along with Denise, for less space between items on the "Categories" list.

*  Smadar Belkind Gerson said:  "I 'Like' searching from a member tree. I always begin that way. Usually, their top recommendations are applicable and easy to search through. Only after I work through their suggestions, do I go back and modify the search, change spellings, take away locations etc. For example, if an ancestor spend very little time in New York and has a very common name, I might get so many New York listings that are not relevant, and which push the Vermont listings where he lived most of his life way down the list. So I take out New York and voila!"

*  Crista [Cowan] commented:  "That 50% of searches that begin from a tree are actual historical record/tree searches just like you did here, not hint views."

My comment:  Thanks for that information - clears up my question!  Funny, I have never done the searching for historical records from as person profile in my tree.  It's a great tool in the toolkit, and works really well in the "Records" View - the best matches are usually on the first page at or near the top of the list.

*  Anonymous noted:  "Personally, I use the hints and determine whether or not they are for my person. If they are, I attach them. If they aren't, I ignore them. Then I click on the search records from that person's profile. This usually turns up a couple of extra hints, unless it is a person that had lots of hints. If the search records don't turn up results in databases where I would expect to find an individual, I then edit the search for that specific database. Finally, if I know there are databases that could contain my individual, but didn't hint or turn up in the search records, I navigate to that database using the card catalog or quick links on my Ancestry homepage, and play around with search for that particular database. Admittedly, I've only been researching for a couple of years, but New Search makes sense to me, and generally has done a pretty good job. The only problem I've had, which has just been recently, is that, sometimes, using some of the exact search options gives me a result of zero good matches. This must be a glitch in the software, as, later, I can do the exact same search and get results. I'm not certain if it has something to do with traffic or what."

My comment:  I really like your "workflow" here - it's basically "pluck the low hanging fruit" and then "search hard for the missing records."  I think that some variation of this strategy will become dominant with most Ancestry searchers once they figure out how Ancestry tries to help them.  

*  Valerie LaRobadier noted:  "I can see how this can be useful, especially if it will pick up Phebe and Phoebe [for example] in a single search! But for most of my searches it is VERY time consuming to have to check off all the options in order to force it to do what old search does, and old search gives the best results for my most frequent searches. If I switch back and forth my speed dial census search forms land on new search and have to be reset...also time consuming. I am going to try to see if I can get new search only in one browser while old search is open in another."

*  Anonymous responded:  " has sticky searches, so all the filters you set will remain until you clear them. To clear all filters at one time you need to place a checkmark in the box next to "match all terms exactly" and then remove the checkmark from the box. This will set all filters back to default and you can start a fresh search."

My comment:  The search forms should remain where you left them, Valerie - either on "Old Search" or "New Search," or on "Exact matches" or "Not exact" matches.  Whatever you left them on - and that applies to both "Old Search" and "New Search."   I almost always use the Advanced Search form (on the "Search" tab) in "New Search" and then use the Name and Locality filters as desired.  I often use wild cards for first and last names (three consonants, if available), with a birth year range and a birth locality to narrow my results.  

*  John H asked:  " you know of any good comparison of all the newspaper sites? Something that compares the services against one another would be great. For example, what papers are only available on one site vs. which papers appear on all of these sites?"

My response:  Miriam Robbins has an Online Historical Newspapers Online ( website that may be exactly what you want, but I'm not sure how up-to-date it is. You might also look at for some of the not well known collections, but it doesn't include NewspaperARCHIVE, GenealogyBank or ProQuest.  

6)  That's it for the week - almost all all the time.  Thank you for reading!

Thank you also to the commenters who successfully conquered the dreaded Blogger Captcha trap and were able to get their comments online.

Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Treasure Chest Thursday - 1820 U.S. Census Record for Jonathan Oatley Household

It's Treasure Chest Thursday - time to look in my digital image files to see what treasures I can find for my family history and genealogy musings.

The treasure today is the 1820 United States Census record for Jonathan Oatley (one of my 3rd great-grandfathers) in South Kingstown, Washington County, Rhode Island.

The entry for the Jonathan Oatley household:

The Jonathan Oatley entry indicates (conducted 7 August 1820):

*  3 males under age 10 [probably sons John (born 1815), Joseph (born 1817) and possibly Lorenzo (born 1820/1]]
*  1 male aged 26 to 45 [certainly Jonathan Oatley]
*  1 female under age 10 [either daughter Almira (born 1817) or Nancy (born 1818)]
*  1 female aged 16 to 26 [certainly Amy (Champlin) Oatley, Jonathan's wife]
*  1 person engaged in agriculture [probably Jonathan]

The source citation for this entry is:

1820 United States Federal Census, Washington County, Rhode Island, Population Schedule, South Kingstown; digital image, ( : accessed 29 October 2011), Page 105, citing National Archives Microfilm Publication M33, Roll 115.

I had to check the column headings on the 1820 U.S. Census Form to determine what they were.  I found one at

According to the information in the Oatley Family book (Harry J. Oatley, The Oatley Family in America and Their Descendants (Providence, R.I. : The Oatley Family Association, 1970), page 40), there should have been two sons and two daughters in 1820 when this census was taken.  I don't know if the respondent made an error (saying 3 males and 1 female) or if Lorenzo was born in 1820 and not 1821, and one of the females was missed.  All of the known children born before 1830 lived to adulthood, according to the Oatley book.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

Independence Day - My Revolutionary War Soldiers

I wanted to list, and link to my blog posts about (in blue), my known Revolutionary War soldiers:

* Martin Carringer (1758-1835) of Mercer County PA (RevWar Pension file)

Philip Row (1752-1817) of Hunterdon County NJ (RevWar Pension File)

Peter Putman (1760-1835) of NJ and Yates County NY (RevWar Pension file)

Stephen Feather (17??-1804) of NJ and Westmoreland County PA

* Rudolf Spengler (1738-1811) of York County PA

* Philip Jacob King (1738-1792) of York County PA

* Burgess Metcalf (1741-1816) of Piermont NH

Isaac Buck (1757-1846) of Sterling MA (RevWar Pension File) 

Thomas Dill (1755-1830) of Eastham MA (RevWar Pension File) 

Joseph Champlin (1758-1850) of S. Kingston RI (RevWar Pension File) 

Norman Seaver (1734-1787) of Westminster MA 

* Benjamin Seaver (1757-1816) of Westminster MA 

* Zachariah Hildreth (1728-1784) of Westford MA 

* Zachariah Hildreth (1754-1828) of Townsend MA 

* Amos Plimpton (1735-1808) of Medfield MA 

* David Kirby (1740-1832) of Westport MA 

Joseph Oatley (1756-1815) of S. Kingston RI.

Amazingly, each of them survived their wartime experiences.

I thank God for these men, the families that nurtured them, the wives that supported them, and the children who learned from them the importance of service to their country.

Thank you, gentlemen soldiers, and your families, for your service and your bravery.  I wish that I had known you.  You've provided me with a wonderful ancestry, and I greatly appreciate it, every day.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1915 on

In my post Significant New England Record Collections Added to today, I noted that record collections for Massachusetts Births, Marriages and Deaths for the years 1840 to 1915 are now available on  

These records are very valuable to New England genealogists because they are nearly a complete record of vital record events during that time period, with the exception of the first ten years or so, when the records are not as complete as the records after 1850.  

The genesis of these records are really the town records that every Massachusetts town kept in a ledger book.  In about 1840, the State of Massachusetts requested town clerks to make a copy of their records for each year on a standard form and forward them to the State, with a separate sheet(s) for births, marriages and deaths.  The State Archives eventually took all of these records, and put each type of record in a book for each year.  Eventually, it took several books, separated by Counties, for each year.  At some time, name indexes were created for each of these vital record books, and the indexes and the books themselves were microfilmed.  That's how I started using them at the local Family History Center, and at the New England Historic Genealogical Society, back in the late 1980s and all through the 1990s.  

In recent years, the vital record books were digitized, and a searchable index was created, and are currently available on the NEHGS' website.  I've been using them there for the past five years or so.  They are invaluable, but a user has to have an NEHGS membership to access them.

Now these records are indexed and in digital form on  The indexed information includes names, event date, approximate birth date, town, and parents names.  That indexed information is more extensive than the indexed information on the NEHGS site.

Here is an example from the Massachusetts Death Records, 1841-1915 collection:

1)  I searched for the death record of my great-great-grandfather, Isaac Seaver (1823-1901).  Here is the search fields in "New Search."  I stated out with his full name (restricted to exact), and only the "Exactmatch" box checked:

2)  There were only 7 matches, so they were easily checked in the "Categories" tab:

My Isaac Seaver is the third one down the list.

3)  I clicked on the "View Record" link beside his name, and saw:

The record summary above provides the indexed information about this death event, plus the source information and data description.

I could save this record to my computer (the orange button).  In the "Page tools" list on the left-hand column, I can "Save the record to someone in my tree," "Save record to my shoebox," and several other tasks.

4)  I clicked on the "View image" link (just below the thumbnail of the record image on the screen above) and saw the image:

The basic Viewer allows me to zoom in using the mouse scroll wheel (which I like) and provides the source citation information on the right of the image (if I've clicked on the small arrow).  

What does this record for Isaac Seaver tell me?  Here's what I have extracted from this record (with indexed information denoted with an [I]):

*  Town:  Leominster, Worcester County, Massachusetts [I]
Year:  1901 [I]
*  No.  40
*  Date of Death:  Mar. 12 [1901] [I]
*  Full Name of the Deceased:  Isaac Seaver 3d [I]
*  Sex:  Male [I]
*  Condition:  Mar.[ried]
*  Age:  77 [years] [I]; 4 [months]; 26 [days]
*  Disease, or Cause of Death:  Cancer of Stomach
*  Residence; Place of Death; Place of Burial:  Leominster; Leominster, Leominster - Evergreen Cem.
*  Occupation:  Blacksmith
*  Place of Birth:  Westminster, Mass. [I]
*  Names and birthplaces of Parents of Deceased:  Benjamin Seaver [I], Westminster, Mass.; Abigail (Gates) [I], Gardner, Mass.
*  Date of Record:  12 Mar [1901]

These records are excellent finding aids for the birthplace and the parents of the deceased, and the use of the death date with the age at death provides a clue to the birth date.  

The source citation reads: Massachusetts, Death Records, 1841-1915 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013.
Original data: Massachusetts Vital Records, 1840–1911. New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts.

That source citation provides only the information about the record providers...and doesn't provide any indicator of the year, town, Volume, or page number, of the specific entry.  

Here is the source citation I created for this record when I captured it from the NEHGS website:

New England Historic Genealogical Society, Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1915, indexed database and digital images, American Ancestors ( : accessed 12 May 2011), Deaths, Volume 507, Page 371, Leominster, 1901: Isaac Seaver 3d entry.  

A source citation crafted for the Ancestry collection might be:, Massachusetts, Death Records, 1841-1915, indexed database and digital images, ( : accessed 3 July 2013), 1901, Leominster, image 1724 of 2724: Isaac Seaver 3d entry.  

Note that there is no Volume or Page number for the record in the indexed information.  If I didn't have access to or, I would have to go though some hoops to determine which volume and page in order to look in at the Massachusetts State Archives or on FHL microfilms.  I much prefer my NEHGS source citation above.

If I want to use the Web Link for the record summary in my RootsMagic software, it is:  Hmm, that's a one's ever going to type that in!  Will it always be exactly that URL?

I think that the search and image are much more convenient, are easier and faster to use, and I can attach the record to my Ancestry Member Tree.  I will probably stick to the site and the citations for records there, because the source citations seem more complete to me.  I've done over 560 source citations for that master source in my database already, and don't want to change the master source.  There are always tradeoffs on time, convenience and completeness, it seems.

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copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver