Saturday, February 18, 2017

Surname Saturday ~ DAVIS of Watertown, Boston and Chelsea, Massachusetts


I’ve written about the DAVIS family of Cambridge, Concord and Barnstable Massachusetts, begun by the immigrant Dolor Davis (about 1583 – 1672), and I’ve written about James Davis (about 1583 – 1678/9) who settled in Haverhill, Massachusetts.  Today’s blog post is my third DAVIS family, headed by Samuel Davis (about 1615 – 1672), my 9th great grandfather.

Samuel Davis is my 9th great grandfather, who married his wife, Anna Norcross, on 20 November 1631 at Allhallows,  London, England [The Registers of All Hallows, Bread Street and St. John the Evangelist, Friday Street, London, England, page 107].  This church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. 

Samuel and Anna settled first at Watertown, and later on 31 May 1646 the Watertown church wrote him a letter to transfer to the Boston church.  He later settled at Rumney Marsh, now Chelsea, north of Boston.  His will is dated 2 May 1672 [Suffolk County Probate Docket 598, Volume VII, page 219 and 236] and was probated 4 July 1672.  It mentions his wife, Anna, daughter Hannah Griggs, daughter Abigail Townsend,  son Gerhom Davis, daughter Mary Townsend (my 8th great grandmother), daughter Priscilla and grandchild Hannah Griggs. 

Mary Davis married Thomas Townsend on 30 October 1661 at the Old North Church (2nd Church) in Boston’s North End.  Thomas was described as a “husbandman” (an archaic term for a farmer or small landowner), and left a will proved at Lynn, Massachusetts on 22 July 1700.  They had thirteen children!

Some DAVIS resources:

The Ancestry of Dr. J. P. Guilford, by Joan S. Guilford, Orange, CA: 1990, Volume II, pages 288-293.

An old book but mostly accurate, Davis Families of Early Roxbury and Boston, by Samuel Forbes Rockwell, Boston: Andover Press, 1932.

Dolor Davis (about 1583 – 1672) of Cambridge, Concord and Barnstable, Massachusetts

James Davis (about 1583- 1678/9)  of Haverhill, Massachusetts

NORCROSS Surname Saturday blog post

TOWNSEND Surname Saturday blog post

My DAVIS genealogy:

Generation 1:  Samuel Davis, born about 1615 in England, died between 2 May and 4 July 1672 in Massachusetts; married on 30 November 1631 at the All Hallows Church in London, England to Anna Norcross, daughter of John Norcross.  Nine children

Generation 2: Mary Davis, baptized on 31 May 1646 in Roxbury, Massachusetts, died after 1700; married on 30 October 1661 in the Second Church (Old North), Boston, Massachusetts to Thomas Townsend, son of Thomas Townsend and Mary Newgate.  He was born about 1636 and died before 22 July 1700 in Lynn, Massachusetts.

Generation 3: Susannah Townsend m. Daniel Hitchings
Generation 4: Daniel Hitchings m. Hannah Ingalls
Generation 5:  Abijah Hitchings m. Mary Gardner
Generation 6:  Abijah Hitchings m. Mary Cloutman
Generation 7: Abijah Hitchings m. Eliza Ann Treadwell
Generation 8:  Abijah Franklin Hitchings m. Hannah Eliza Lewis
Generation 9: Arthur Treadwell Hitchings m. Florence Etta Hoogerzeil
Generation 10: Gertrude Matilda Hitchings m. Stanley Elmer Allen (my grandparents)


Published under a Creative Commons License

Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Surname Saturday ~ DAVIS of Watertown, Boston and Chelsea, Massachusetts", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 18, 2017,  ( accessed [access date]). 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

An Interview with NERGC 2017 Speaker Edwin Strickland

Edwin W. Strickland II
NERGC 2017 speaker

The New England Regional Genealogy Conference 2017 will be April 26 – 29 at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts.  There will be a 94 open sessions, 8 workshops, 3 luncheon, and 2 dinner banquets available for genealogists.  One of those featured workshops will be “Paleography: Reading Old Handwriting” by Edwin W. Strickland II on Thursday, April 27.  It is described in the NERGC brochure schedule as “hone your skills at hand-written documents with interactive games and hands-on practice”.  Are you intrigued?  You might want to attend!  Or learn more with this interview with Ed Strickland below…

Here are the questions and answers:

Question 1.  Although this will be my 5th NERGC conference, I don’t think I’ve met you before.  Can you introduce yourself for the readers of my blog, the NERGC blog, and for people thinking about attending NERGC 2017 in Springfield, Massachusetts?
Edwin - I am a charter member of the Connecticut Professional Genealogists Council; charter member, Past-President and nearly 30 years as Genealogist of the Descendants of the Founders of Ancient Windsor; and Past-President of Connecticut Society of Genealogists.

Question 2.  Your Thursday workshop “Paleography: Reading Old Handwriting” sounds intriguing.  What would you say to convince me to sign up for this special two hour hands-on experience with you?
Edwin - The ability to accurately reading cursive handwriting is essential when working with primary documents.  During with workshop we will look at the development of the roman alphabet, play a few interactive games (maybe with team prizes), and work on transcription of a variety of documents.

Question 3.  I understand you have been researching genealogy for over 40 years.  What first sparked your interest in family history?
Edwin -  I was raised by my paternal grandparents, on my 3rd great grandfathers farm in the Berkshires, so a sense of family history was always there but a wedding present is what really got me started.  When my brother was married in Florida (command appearance), I decided to copy my grandmother’s work on the Strickland family as a unique wedding present (who needs the sixth waffle iron).  This soon put me onto her sister’s work on the Jacob Carter family; a maternal great-aunts work on the Pomeroy, Searle and Strong families (3 of her grandparents); and my maternal grandmother pointing me to a published genealogy reporting the birth of her father.  The real hook then came when I figured out that 8 of Nathaniel Searle’s children married Pomeroys and 5 of those were siblings!

Question 4.  Why did you decide to return to NERGC again this year? How would you describe NERGC to a first time conference attendee? 
Edwin - I’ve attended every NERGC since Falmouth, and this will be my sixth conference as a presenter. In preparing a lecture, I come away with a better knowledge of that topic.  For the first timers, “You’re a kid in a candy store!” You can take something from every lecture!

Question 5.  How important do you believe continuing education, like NERGC, is to genealogists?
Edwin - I think continuing education is very important.  “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Conferences like NERGC give you a chance to explore topics, resources and methodologies with which you are unfamiliar. For experienced genealogists it is a chance to review basics and get new insights into the topics you thought you knew well.

Thank you, Ed Strickland   I can’t wait to meet you during NERGC 2017 [The New England Regional Genealogy Conference, April 26 – 29, 2017 at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.  See the website for more information, for the conference brochure, schedule and online registration at
The conference brochure and schedule can be seen online at this link:

Edwin Strickland will be the speaker at the following presentations:

Thursday T-111, 1:30pm  The handwriting workshop “Paleography: Reading Old Handwriting”

Thursday T-121, 4:30pm  “Saving the Past for the Future: Preserving Family Objects”

Saturday S-306,  8:30am  “Land Records:  More Than Metes the Eye”


Published under a Creative Commons License

Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "An Interview with NERGC 2017 Speaker Edwin Strickland", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 16, 2017,  ( accessed [access date]).

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Weathervane Wednesday ~ Above an ancestral church in Europe

I post a series of weather vane photographs every Wednesday.  This started with images of weathervanes from the Londonderry, New Hampshire area, but now I've found interesting weather vanes all across New England and across the globe.  Sometimes my weather vanes are whimsical, or historical, but all are interesting.  Often my readers tip me off to some very unique or unusual weathervanes, too!  If you know a great weather vane near you, let me know if you'd like to have it featured on this blog.

Today's weather vane was photographed in Spain.

Do you know the location of weathervane post #298?  Scroll down to find the answer.

This church is St. Nicolas de Bari in the tiny village of Sinovas, Burgos, Spain.  It has a population of 134 according to the 2010 census!  This is the village where my father-in-law, Vicente Rojo Benito, was born and the church where he was baptized in 1931.  I have looked at the church records from this parish and traced all the ROJO family back to a Manuel Rojo (born about 1750) and his wife Juana Arauzo, both of Sinovas, and their son, Tomas Rojo, who was baptized here on 7 March 1783.  There are no earlier church records in the parish office, nor at the archbishop's archives in Burgos.  The people of Sinovas think that the earlier parish records were hidden during the Napoleonic wars and never returned to the church.

This church was built in the 1200s AD.  The bell tower (on the left) was built in the 11th century as a defensive structure.  The church was declared a national monument on 9 July 1964.  It was recently renovated and the ceiling frescos on the inside were restored.

The weather vane is a simple arrow, with no cardinal letters to show wind direction. Above the weather vane is an ornate iron cross.  Weathervanes are not common in Spain, but if you see one it will probably be on a church.

Three generations of our family
visited this church in 2016

Click here to see the entire Weathervane Wednesday series of posts!


Published under a Creative Commons License

Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Weathervane Wednesday ~ Above an ancestral church in Europe", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 15, 2017, ( accessed [access date]).

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tombstone Tuesday ~ Francis B. Davidson and wife, buried in Windham, NH

This tombstone was photographed at the Cemetery on the Plain in Windham, New Hampshire.

died Feb. 16, 1828
AEt. 77

his wife, died
Jan. 10, 1829
AEt. 67

There is a long (fanciful?) tale about Francis B. Davidson’s father, William Davidson, on page 422 and 423 in The History of Windham in New Hampshire, by Leonard Morrison.  The rest of the family genealogy extends to page 424.


This family is of Scotch descent.  The ancestor in the early part of the 17th century passed from Scotland and settled in the North of Ireland.  The father and mother of the emigrant, William Davidson, had taken a small Irish boy and brought him up from boyhood to manhood.  His name was McGraw (?).  He left when a young man, but afterwards returned for a visit with a companion.  The rest of the family were away, and the old people were alone, and they were invited to stay overnight, which invitation was accepted.  In the silent night-watches these men arose from their bed, and with an axe killed their entertainers, robbed the house of money and valuables, set it on fire and decamped.  But justice slumbered not in the case of one of the assassins.  When William Davidson returned the next day, saw his house, and the charred remains of his parents, and McGraw and his companion gone, search was instituted and McGraw captured.  He confessed the whole, was tried, convicted and publicly gibbeted.

1.  William Davidson, fearing more trouble from the revengeful people by whom he was surrounded, with his wife and family, and other relatives, in 1728 came to America and settled in Woburn, Mass.  He was b. in Mennemore, in Ireland; m. Mary Alexander, by whom he had 7 ch., b. in Ireland.  He lived in Woburn some 17 yrs, then settled in Tewksbury on a farm now within the limits of Lowell.  His wife, d. in Woburn Nov. 19, 1738.  He m. 2nd, Margaret McCartney; 4 ch.; he d. in Tewksbury, June 6, 1757.  Ch. By first wife, b. in Ireland: -

2. Robert, m. Margaret Walker of Woburn, and settled in Acworth about 1772…

3. Nathaniel m. Mary Walker (sister to Margaret) settled in Billerica, Mass, afterward in Windham and Londonderry; d. in latter place…

4.  William, m.; settled in Douglass, Mass; 1 son, Douglass.

5. Elizabeth, m. John Gorrell of Salem…

6.  John, b. Aug 10, 1720; lived in Windham; d. Sept. 27, 1799

7. George, m. Susanna Cristie; lived in Woburn

8.  Jane, m. Thomas Campbell and lived in Londonderry.

Children by second wife:-

9.  Mary, m. Mr. Nichols of Carlisle, Mass.

10.  Alexander, d. 1840, about 90 yrs old; m. Miss Mears of Tewksbury; one son, Alexander.  He m. 2d, Elizabeth Clark, b. July 6, 1760, whose dau. Mary m. James Lamson; res. 1841 in Freedom, Me.

11.  Francis- B., b. March 1752; d. Feb. 16, 1827;  m. Rebecca Richardson, of Chelmsford, Mass; one child.  He m. 2d, Janet, dau. of Joseph Eayers, of Dunstable, b. April 6, 1761, and d. Jan. 10, 1829.

Children [of Francis B. Davidson]: 

1. Rebecca, m. April 12, 1804, David, son of Samuel Anderson of Londonderry, NH

2.  Frances

3. Sarah

4. Jane m. James Davison; rem. to New Hudson, NY

5. Hamilton, b. Aug. 16, 1787; m. Dec. 17, 1811, Phebe Wilson, b. Hudson, Dec. 15, 1785, who d. 1857.  He d. 1847.  Was a blacksmith and axe maker; lived at Fessenden’s Mills and carried on a good business.  He had trip hammers whose strokes could be heard distinctly for 3 miles; re. to Charlestown, Mass…

6. Loammi, b. 1790; was the first lawyer in Windham; he d. May 11, 1819, ae. 29; he m. Mary -----, who d. Feb. 10, ae. 29

7. Fanny, m. Wm. Lancaster of Acworth, b. 1784; rem. to Cuba, NY…

8. Thomas, went to the West Indies; m. a planter’s dau….

9. Harriet, m. George Reid, of Sullivan, Me., son of Gen. Geo. Reid, of Derry.”


Published under a Creative Commons License

Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Tombstone Tuesday ~ Francis B. Davidson and wife, buried in Windham, NH", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 14, 2017,  ( accessed [access date]). 

Monday, February 13, 2017

My Grandmother’s Diary ~ Part 10 April 27 – May 8, 1920

Idlewild Lake in Wenham, Massachusetts
This is the 10th installment of my grandmother's diary from 1920.  Her name was Gertrude Hitchings (1905 - 2001), and she was living on Elliott Street in Beverly, Massachusetts.  The diary is a tiny 3", and every Monday I publish a new section, with transcriptions of the tiny handwriting.  You can read the first installment HERE.  I'll post more of this diary every week for Amanuensis Monday.

TUES.  APR. 27, 1920
Got up at 7.00 had breakfast.
At 10 o’clock went down
town with Eunice did an errand for
ma, home 11.30 had dinner at
12.30 stay around the
house all afternoon.  Mr. Lowell over
Went out a little while after supper bed 8.15

Got up at 8 o’clock had
Breakfast.  Home all morning
knitting & sewing.  Mrs. Butler over
after dinner.  Took a walk with
Gordon and pa up Elliott St.
Went out a little while after
supper played game went to bed at 9.

Got up at 7.15 stayed at
home all the morning.
after dinner took a ride with Bob
up N. B. [North Beverly] and Danvers.  Went out a little
while after supper but it rained
went to bed at 9 o’clock

[NOTE:  There are several mysterious characters mentioned here – Mr. Lowell again (who I figured must be a teacher and a former boarder at their home according to my mother), Mrs. Butler, and who is Bob?  Gertrude underlined his name several times in her diary. My mother thinks Bob was someone's boyfriend, possibly Eunice's boyfriend?  Eunice was 15 years old, her brother Gordon was 12, and Millie was 10 years old.]

FRI.  APR. 30, 1920
Got up at 7.30 went
downtown with Gordon.  After
dinner went to ride with Brick,
Bea came down, we took a ride
down to Helen’s.  After supper
took a walk came home
and went to bed at 10.15

Got up at 7.30 had breakfast
worked around the house all morn-
ing before dinner went down ???
came home played ball.  After
dinner went up woods got some
flowers then played ball.  Marion up
after supper Mr. Lover went to bed 10.30

Got up at 8.30 had breakfast
Bea went home at 10  Hollis went
with her.  Mr. & Mrs. Earley & Russell
and Ethel down.  After dinner went to
walk with Etta and Mildred.  Home all
the evening bed at 9.30.

[NOTE:   More friends – Brick, Bea and Marion are friends Gertrude mentions many times.  Helen is Gertrude’s married sister, who lived nearby with her young family.  Hollis is Gertrude’s 16 year old brother, Mildred is little sister. Etta was her grandmother.   Russell is her married brother and Ethel is his new bride.  Mr. and Mrs. Early are a mystery.]

MON. MAY 3, 1920
Got up at 6.45 went
To school home at
1.15 had dinner went to
ride up Wenham with Bob and
Marion.  Home all evening
Ma down town.  Went
to bed at 9 o’clock.

Got up at 7.00 went
to school home at 1.15
had dinner.  Home all the
afternoon  Ma came up.  Belle
came up to supper.
went to ride over N. B. [North Beverly]
with Brick.  Went to bed at 9.15

Got up at 7.00 went
to school.  Home 1.15 Helen
Nana and Mable
up took the baby out all
afternoon.  Ellsworth up to
supper home all the
evening went to bed at 9.45

[NOTE:  When Gertrude mentions “dinner” she means lunch.  Supper was the evening meal. Bob’s name is underlined again.   Belle is her mother’s youngest sister, who was unmarried at this time.]

THURS. May 6, 1920
Got up at 7.00 went to
school.  Home at 1.15 Ethel
over she and ma went to
Danvers after dinner home all
afternoon alone.  Hollis took
me to the Waldorf Lynn to
the show.  Went to bed at 12.

Got up at 7.00 went to
school home 1.15.  Went
up to Idlewood with Bob
and Eunice came home
5.45 had supper.  Stayed
Around the house all evening
Alone went to bed at 9.30.

Got up at 7.30 had
breakfast worked all the
morning and all after
noon.  Mr. Lowell came
over this afternoon.  Bowers
over after supper. Bed at 11.

[NOTE:    The Waldorf Theatre in Lynn, Massachusetts was a movie theater operated by Warner Brothers Studios.  It opened in 1889 first as a theater, and in 1920 as a movie house.  It was closed in 1956, and demolished in 1965. 

Idlewood was a lake in Wenham, Massachusetts, now called Pleasant Pond.  You can see a 1990 video of an oral history project with a gentleman reminiscing about Idlewood Lake in the 1920s at this link (skip up to minute 34 of the video):   Apparently it was quite the recreation area in the early part of the 20th century with a dance hall, and boat rentals, accessible by trolley (street cars) from Beverly.]

The entrance to the Idlewild Lake park in Wenham, Massachusetts


Published under a Creative Commons License

Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "My Grandmother's Diary ~ Part 10 April 27 – May 8, 1920", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 13, 2017,  ( accessed [access date]). 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Surname Saturday ~ NORCROSS of Cambridge, Massachusetts

Cambridge, Massachusetts

John Norcross, my 10th great grandfather, is one of those rare Great Migration ancestors who came to New England, but returned to England.  I have very few who returned – Rev. Stephen Batchelder, Rev. John Mayhew and a handful of others.  The rest, of course stayed, and that is where my story begins, in New England.

John Norcross, the son of Thomas Norcross and Mary Chappell was a London merchant, and a member of the Haberdashers Company.  Records show that Thomas Norcross was a merchant in London, too, and also a member of the Haberdashers guild, and he was freed from his apprenticeship in 1579. This allows his birthdate to be calculated at about 1560. A Thomas Norcross (it is unknown if it is the same one) lived on Fleet Street and died in 1617, and was buried at St. Dunstan’s.  He left money to the Ribchester Church in Lancashire.  There have been members of the Norcross family living in Ribchester since the thirteenth century according to the records at St. Wilfred’s parish in Ribchester.

John Norcross and his brother, Jeremiah, came to New England in 1638.  John bought 22 acres in Cambridge and lived there until 1642.  His brother Jeremiah bought land in Watertown.  John’s wife is unknown, but he had two children, Anna and Thomas.  Anna, my 9th great grandmother, was married in London to Samuel Davis.  They probably came to New England with her father,  and remained here when he returned to England.  There is no evidence of the son Thomas living in Massachusetts, but he died in Ribchester, Lancashire, England in 1662, one of his sons, William Norcross, became a Quaker and immigrated back to the New World and settled in Buck’s County, Pennsylvania. 

Anna’s Uncle Jeremiah Norcross lived in Watertown on land next to Nathaniel Foote (my 10th great grandfather on my paternal side).  Jeremiah’s  last will mentioned Anna [Middlesex 1: 117]:

"In the name and by the help of my Lord Jesus Christ, I Jeremiah Norcrosse being well in my body and mind (thanks be to God) but going to sea do make my last will and testament.

First, I give my soul into the hand of the father of spirits who gave it to me, and my body to the elements to be committed for a time out of which it was made in sure and certain hope ( with the word of him who cannot lie) of my resurrection of both soul and body together unto everlasting life purchased by the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

And for such worldly Estate as the Lord hath lent me and left me, my will is that they be appraised when I am dead and divided into three equal parts.
The first third I give to my beloved wife Adrean Norcrosse.

The second third I give unto my children Nathaniel, Richard and Sarah Massy, the wife of Francis Massy, assigning my eldest son, Nathaniel as his due a double portion.  Nevertheless for as much as Sarah my daughter had a full share (and more as it now falleth out) of my Estate, I will that, that shall be in full of her portion.

And of the last third of my Estate I give as followeth, I give and bequeath unto my daughter the wife of my son Richard, one ewe sheep, and her daughter, my grandchild, a like ewe sheep, and to the wife of my wife's son John Smith one like ewe sheep.  To my brother's daughter Anna Davis, the wife of Samuel Davis a like ewe sheep (in specie) and to her daughter Hannah her eldest child one like ewe sheep and unto the poor members of Jesus Christ in Watertown, I give two ewe sheep to be delivered into the pastors and deacons hands to breed as a stock, the males to be sold at the fittest season to give to the poor as they need and the females to be kept for the purpose of breeding.

As a testimony of my love to my Lord for all his love to me I give (as a cup of cold water wishing I had better for them) unto his ministers Mr. Sherman, Mr. Symes, Mr. Mather, each of them twenty shillings.

And for my grandchildren in Old England, if the Lord brings me or if goods I have with me I shall distribute myself or appoint.  I will and ordain my son Richard Norcrosse my sole Executor of this my last Will and Testament and I entreat my brother Charles Chadwick to be overseer and help unto him, and I do give him as a small token of my love, twenty shillings, and pronounce this to be my last will and Testament, revoking all other Wills heretofore made.  In witness whereof I set to my hand and seal this 15th day of September 1654.”

Some NORCROSS resources:

The English Norcross Family and Some Descendants of William Norcross 1699 to America, edited by Elsie M. Cameron, 1954 [at NEHGS call number CS71 .N83 1954] 

The Ancestry of Dr. J. P. Guilford, by Joan S. Guilford, Orange, CA: 1990, Volume II, pages 288-293

My NORCROSS genealogy:

Generation 1: Thomas Norcross, born about 1560, probably in Ribchester, Lancashire, England, died 1617 in St. Dunstan’s, London, England; married Mary Chapell, daughter of William Chapell and Elizabeth Bedel.  She died 1603 in St. Dunstan’s.  At least three children

Generation 2: John Norcross, born about 1583 in London, died 1657; married unknown.  At least two children.

Generation 3:  Anna Norcross, born about 1615 in England; married on 30 November 1631 at Allhallow’s, Bread Street, London, England to Samuel Davis.  He was born about 1615 and died between 2 May and 4 July 1672 in Braintree, Massachusetts.  Ten children.

Generation 4:  Mary Davis m. Thomas Townsend
Generation 5: Susannah Townsend m. Daniel Hitchings
Generation 6:  Daniel Hitchings m. Hannah Ingalls
Generation 7: Abijah Hitchings m. Mary Gardner
Generation 8:  Abijah Hitchings m. Mary Cloutman
Generation 9:  Abijah Hitchings m. Eliza Ann Treadwell
Generation 10:  Abijah Franklin Hitchings m. Hannah Eliza Lewis
Generation 11:  Arthur Treadwell Hitchings m. Florence Etta Hoogerzeil
Generation 12:  Gertrude Matilda Hitchings m. Stanley Elmer Allen (my grandfather)


Published under a Creative Commons License

Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Surname Saturday ~ NORCROSS of Cambridge, Massachusetts", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 11, 2017, ( accessed [access date]). 

Friday, February 10, 2017

What will Genealogists Lose through Proposed Government Budget Cuts?

@RogueNutfieldGenealogy Top Ten List

"If not you, then who?
If not now, then when?" - John E. Lewis, Freedom Rider (b. 1940)

This is a blog post for everyone. It is not meant to be left, right, alt, or liberal. It's information we should all consider in light of the new administration in Washington DC.

Genealogy is a bi-partisan hobby, and also a professional occupation for people of all political persuasions.  People of all sexual orientations, religious beliefs, and ethnic groups. Genealogy is for people of all age groups and socioeconomic levels.  And as genealogists we are accustomed to budget cuts because, let’s face it, who uses dusty old archives? Libraries are an easy target.  If there are cuts to the defense department, you can be sure that their military archives will face cuts before any other defense budget items.

I’ve never been a political person, and I don’t want to have a political blog.  I have no party affiliation and have been registered “undeclared” for 30 years in New Hampshire.  Recent events have made me suddenly interested in politics, calling my representatives, and signing petitions.  It is no time to be complacent.  There are signs that some of these acts of resistance are working to change minds in Washington DC.  The big question is "Can genealogy survive ALL these cuts at the same time?"  Just think about that for a moment…

What will genealogy be like after ALL these cuts?

1. National Endowment for the Humanities – budget $150 million, cost per American $0.46 – funds research at institutions like museums, colleges and libraries.   These are the grants for small town museums and historical societies that genealogists depend on for local information.  These are the grants that larger institutions need for oral history projects, preservation of documents and ephemera, research, digitization projects and other great ideas.  Think of all the historic homes, archives and repositories that would be affected by the budget cuts. And the administration wants to shut down this program permanently, not just reduce funding.  “The value of an education in a liberal arts college is the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks” Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955).

2. National Endowment for the Arts – budget $150 million, cost per American $0.46.  The Republican Study Committee states “The federal government should not be in the business of funding the arts.”  This is another case of not just reducing the funding, but eliminating the entire department.  Where would family historians be without terrific historical projects like the documentaries by Ken Burns or memorial projects like the Vietnam War memorial?  Both were funded by NEA grants.  Many historical societies have received NEA grants to preserve culture such as local music or art from immigrant or ethnic groups.  Many films were funded in part by the NEA to preserve the voices and stories of people such as holocaust survivors, immigrants, families from the Japanese internment camps or the Armenian genocide.   NEA grants have supported the preservation of archival and historic materials all over the USA.  Perhaps the RSC should listen to George Washington (1732 - 1799), who said “The Arts and Sciences, essential to the prosperity of the State and to the ornament of human life, have a primary claim to the encouragement of every lover of his country and mankind.

3. Corporation for Public Broadcasting – budget $445 million, cost per American $1.37.  This is not just about Big Bird.  Genealogy can survive without PBS, but what a loss for getting newbies excited about family history, what a loss for learning more about DNA, what a loss for spreading the love of genealogy to other people.  PBS is the sole producer of programming that includes quality history and science documentaries, Masterpiece Theater, Ken Burns specials, ballet, opera, Shakespeare, dramas based on classic literature, history specials, Genealogy Roadshow, Finding your Roots with Henry Louis Gates and more.  You can bet your boots that commercial TV is not going to air opera.  The only television I have ever seen about DNA was on PBS.  Even the History Channel no longer shows history programming, but instead produces malarkey like Ancient Aliens and Counting Cars. What a loss!  TV programming that includes the arts and sciences is the ultimate non-partisan element in American culture.  All Americans should resist these cuts.  I love this quote by scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson (b. 1958) “Cutting PBS support (0.012% of budget) to help balance the Federal budget is like deleting text files to make room on your 500Gig hard drive.”    

4. Department of Education – It is no secret that the new administration wants to shut down this department.  Cuts to public school education come along with that proposal.  Our children deserve a secretary of education that cares about quality education for every child.  Such shortsightedness is appalling.  The entire education of a generation is at jeopardy.  The history curriculum in some schools and school districts is at risk of defunding, censorship and revision.  Schools and public education have suffered horrific cuts during the recession, and now they are at risk of not recovering from those cuts.  Music, arts, physical education, recess, and now history and the humanities are being lost from most public school curriculums.  Yes, this affects genealogy.  Imagine an entire generation not schooled in American history, world history, geography, social studies and all the other studies that go along with these cuts. Imagine an entire generation who never learned critical thinking, debating, writing and critical reading skills.  “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  George Santayana (1863 - 1952).

5. Social Security Benefits  - First, remember that social security is not an entitlement program, but it is self-funded by taxpayers who have contributed to the fund throughout their working lives. Defunding it and raising the retirement age affects thousands of genealogists who keep saying “I’m waiting for retirement”.  Don’t wait to start your family history – start now!  (This is why I’m so glad I started my genealogy research when I was in my teens, when I could interview relatives who remembered their grandparents stories about living through the Civil War)  Besides, cutting payments will mean less spending money for people on fixed incomes.  Less spending money means fewer dollars for some senior citizens to put towards genealogy classes, subscriptions, books, heritage travel, etc. or even towards food, housing, medicine for other seniors.  “Cessation of work is not accompanied by cessation of expenses” – Cato (234 BC - 149 BC).

While we are on the subject, we stand to lose a lot of research through gagging and defunding other government agencies, such as these examples:

6. National Park Service - The National Parks are more than just a place to take a hike.  The National Park Service also oversees hundreds of historical sites.  Personally, the staff at these places has helped me many times with my family history.  When I was researching my 2nd great grandfather, Abijah Franklin Hitchings, who was shot at the Battle of Fredericksburg, a staff member looked up his service record for me at the visitor center and then walked me out to the battle ground to the exact spot where he was injured.  I left Fredericksburg with a file full of information, and lots of photos.  This same thing happened to me in California while researching another 3rd great grandfather who was a “49er” in the Gold Rush.  And several times I have been assisted by staff members at the Salem Maritime Historical Park in Massachusetts, not just for historic guided tours, but with actual research documents and maps.  “What a country chooses to save is what a country chooses to say about itself”  Mollie Beattie (Director, US Fish and Wildlife Service) (1947 - 1996).

7. National Archives - Budget cuts risk public access to records.  Cuts here are the worst of all for genealogy and family history.  This is a violation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), for providing access.  NARA took a big hit on their budget during the Great Recession a few years ago.  Many regional NARA centers were closed, programs were reduced or eliminated, hours and days were reduced.  Additional budget cuts will prove to be very detrimental to public access.  These cuts affect genealogists in every aspect of their research.  The most basic genealogy searches include federal records such as census, military, and immigration records held at NARA. This is not just bad news for genealogists, but for researchers across the board in all disciplines and occupations.  “Withholding information is the essence of tyranny.  Control of the flow of information is the tool of the dictatorship” Bruce Coville (b. 1950)

8. National Science Foundation – rumors are that the NSF is next on the list behind the NEA and the NEH for reforms and budget cuts. I don’t know if the current administration plans to cut the department entirely.   Research funded by the NSF has increased our knowledge of DNA and genetic genealogy greatly in the past.  Forensic genealogists depend on this DNA research to solve unclaimed body cases for veterans and the military.  Adoptees use this DNA research to find family members.  Criminologists work with genetic genealogists to solve crimes and cold cases using DNA.  Family histories can now include medical histories to trace genetic diseases, traits and chronic conditions because of NSF funded DNA studies.  The science community is so alarmed about  proposed gag rules and budget cuts that they are organizing at the grassroots level to protest, petition and change policy. [“The Nation’s Top Scientists Can’t Get Through to Trump”, The Washington Post, January 26, 2017,]    “By denying scientific principles, one may maintain any paradox” – Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642)

9. The Library of Congress - I haven't heard yet of any cuts to this institution, which falls under appropriations for the legislative branch.  During the Great Recession, the LOC suffered cuts in 2013 and 2014 which slowed digitalization projects and caused backups for copyrights.  Slow downs in conservation projects meant that endangered manuscripts continued to decay instead of being preserved. Further cuts in this department could mean that new works and copyrights will linger instead of being registered with the LOC, and preservation projects might be completely cancelled instead of being just delayed. Historians, genealogists and citizens will experience cuts in access online as well as physical access to collections in the buildings in Washington, DC.  "Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries", - Anne Herbert (b. 1952)

10. More announced budget cuts are happening every day.  But just listing them, complaining, and whining is not enough.  Reach out to your senators and representatives.  Reach out to the staff of these departments under consideration for elimination or budget cuts to see how you can make a difference. Reach out to your colleagues, research friends, and genealogists from both sides of the aisle about resolving these issues amicably.  Continue to patronize these institutions, and help spread the word about their contributions to American society.  Get involved. Keep informed. Vote. 

"If liberty and equality, as it is thought by some are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons like share in the government to the utmost."  -Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC)

"On account of being a democracy and run by the people, we are the only nation in the world that has to keep a government four years, no matter what it does."  -Will Rogers (1879 - 1935) 

The source of budget information is from Money Magazine


Published under a Creative Commons License

Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "What will Genealogists Will Lose through Proposed Government Budget Cuts?", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 10, 2017, ( accessed [access date]). 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

An Interview with NERGC 2017 Speaker Thomas MacEntee

I first met Thomas MacEntee back in 2011 at the Southern California Genealogy Society Jamboree.  Since then we have met up at several conferences across the United States, but this will be Thomas’s first time speaking at a conference right here in New England.  Many people know Thomas from conferences, workshops and his work with online with Geneabloggers, social media, webinars and his business High Definition Genealogy.  You can read more about Thomas online at page 3 of the NERGC 2017 conference brochure, where he will be a featured speaker.    Thomas will be the Thursday luncheon speaker, the Saturday night banquet speaker, and also give three lectures.

Here are the questions and answers:

1.  It will be your first time speaking at NERGC (I know you were supposed to be at NERGC 2013 but had travel problems).   How would you like me to introduce you to the New England genealogy community?

Thomas:  I was so disappointed to miss NERGC 2013 but we experienced severe flooding on a near-Biblical scale that Spring so I couldn't make the trip! Although I am fairly active on social media and in the online-genealogy community, I realize some attendees may not know me. Basically, I'm a genealogy author and educator trying to make sense out of current technology and how it can be leveraged for family history research. I try to curate the best tools and communicate them in "easy to understand" terms to genealogists.

2.  Your ancestry is from New York, where you grew up, but do you have any New England ancestors, too? (So close geographically!) Why did you decide to come to NERGC?

Thomas:  I do have many New England ancestors - mainly in the North Kingstown area of Rhode Island - I am a descendant of Robert Austin born about 1628. NERGC has always been on my list of conferences to attend since I've heard other colleagues rave about not just the presentation content, but also the energy created by the attendees. I love attending genealogy conferences in different parts of the country!

3.  Two of your lectures are “The Genealogy Do-Over” and “Jumpstart your Genealogy”.   I expect that lots of your New England “Do-Over” followers will be excited to hear these talks. Is that your new push for genealogy lately as you travel to the conferences?

Thomas:  I've seen a rise in popularity among genealogists in some sort of "review" or "do-over" project. With all the new technology available PLUS a new emphasis on source citation and evidence evaluation, many of us are revisiting the research we did 20 or 30 years ago. This makes perfect sense especially if you have not been making any real progress as of late with your genealogy research. The "Do-Over" concept is all about picking up new skills and habits and making real progress in your search for ancestors.

4.  The titles of your talks at NERGC are intriguing.  They are written like click bait for one of your genealogy blogs.  Did you learn this from blogging? Or did your lecturing influence your blogging?  [The titles of Thomas’s lectures are:  “Genealogy Do-Over: A Year of Learning from Research Mistakes, “They’re Alive:  Searching for Living Persons” and “Ten Ways to Jumpstart Your Genealogy”]

Thomas:   When I started my genealogy business in late 2008, I had no experience in either running a small business or in marketing. People say that I've taken to marketing and sales very easily; however it hasn't been without lots of hard work and research.  I go out and look at what other "parallel industries" such as quilting and scrapbooking are doing and try to emulate their success.  I also do quite a bit of business book reading over at Amazon Kindle to keep tabs on the latest business and marketing trends.

5.  I’m looking forward to hearing you speak at the luncheon and Saturday night banquet.  What would you say to encourage day tripping conference goers to stay late and attend the banquet? 

Thomas:  The topic of my banquet talk - "How to Deal with Other Genealogists without Going Crazy" - is one that I hope speaks to genealogists of every level. Unfortunately, in today's world where our interactions with each other are marked by division and differences, we have even seen this creep into the genealogy community. My talk shares tips on how to navigate the genealogy sphere not just to get the information you need for research, but also how to be in "right relationship" with other genealogists and improve interactivity among researchers. Plus, there is nothing better than unwinding at the end of a conference with other genealogists and socializing!

Thank you, Thomas!  I can’t wait to meet up with you again here in Springfield, Massachusetts during NERGC 2017 [The New England Regional Genealogy Conference, April 26 – 29, 2017 at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.  See the website for more information, for the conference brochure, schedule and online registration at 

Thomas's presentations at NERGC 2017:

Thursday T-103  noon Luncheon "Scarce New World: Will Privacy Kill Genealogy?"

Thursday T-116  3pm  "Genealogy Do-Over:  A Year of Learning from Research Mistakes"

Thursday T-120 4:30pm  "They're Alive!: Searching for Living Persons"

Friday F-205  8:30am  "Ten Ways to Jumpstart Your Genealogy"

Saturday- S-303 8:30am "Managing the Genealogy Data Monster"
Saturday Banquet "How to Deal with Other Genealogists without Going Crazy"

Thomas MacEntee's website Hi-Definition Genealogy

Geneabloggers website   


Published under a Creative Commons License

Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "An Interview with NERGC 2017 Speaker Thomas MacEntee", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 9, 2017,  ( accessed [access date]).