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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Godfrey Library, continued

Now, on to the databases! The Godfrey has four levels of membership. The basic level, is the Red Subscription, currently at $35 a year. This, and all other levels, include their PREMIUM DATABASES, which include an incredible amount of resources:
- Several Newspaper databases : 19th Century Newspapers Database, Accessible Archives, The London Times, and Early American Newspapers Database
- Published Histories: American County Histories to 1900, for states including New York, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania
- US Civil War Databases: American Civil War Research Database & Civil War Letters and Diaries Database
- Letters & Diaries: British & Irish Women's Letters & Diaries, "In the First Person" database, North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries & Oral Histories
- Biographical Resources: American National Biography Database, Marquis Who's Who on the Web database, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Database, Reference USA
- African American Resources: Black Thought & Culture Database, Oxford African American Studies Center Database
- Geographical Resources: Columbia Gazetteer Database
- Library Catalogs: OCLC WorldCat
- UNIQUE RESOURCES: The Godfrey hosts a collection of manuscript and published materials, largely primary sources, including vital, church, Bible and funeral home records and cemetery inscriptions from several locations, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, New York, Rhode Island, Ireland and Italy, about which they claim "Most cannot be found anywhere else on the web."
- THE GODFREY COLLECTION - over 4,000 digitized books in the Godfrey Memorial Library collection.
- LINKS TO FREE WEB SITES - Arranged in folders by state, country and/or topic, with new additions highlighted for three months in a monthly folder as well, these are, in my experience, some very useful links -- and not necessarily the usual stuff you find from other directories or link-lists.

The Blue Level Subscription ($65), along with the premium databases, includes access to Newspaper Archives, with more than 3,200 titles from the US and Canada from the1700s to the 20th century.
The Green level ($75) includes all the premium databases plus access to World Vital Records US Collection.
And finally, the Gold Level Subscription includes everything - the Premium Databases, Newspaper Archives AND World Vital Records, for $100/yr.

I have discovered some really great websites through this service, and encourage you to go on over to your local Family History Center and spend some time perusing the Godfrey's resources. At $35/year for the Basic membership, you just can't go wrong.

Godfrey Library

I've spent the week preparing an FHC Staff Training class on using the Godfrey Library resources that are available for free in Family History Centers. I've been a member/subscriber for the past few years myself, and hate to admit that I have never taken the time, before this, to sit down and figure out what all was available on their website.
Boy am I glad I have -- there's some really great stuff there! When you first go to the site, at, you can look under the Search tab for a few options, before you even have to sign in. For one thing, there are three great history/biographies from Middlesex County, Connecticut that are searchable and PDF'd - books I haven't seen online previously, so that's always a good thing.
Also under the "Search" tab, you can request that a Godfrey volunteer search the AGBI (American Genealogical Biographical Index) for the name of your ancestor ($6 per name), and they will also send you the copies of the pages from the books referenced.
The "Quick Search" isn't what you might think. For $10, a Godfrey volunteer will do a quick 30 minute search, and copy indexed Godfrey resources for your ancestor. Not a bad deal at all. Follow the instructions for filling out and submitting the forms for each type of search, which take 2-4 weeks. I haven't tried one myself, but thinking it may be a great use of $10.
And all that is before you even sign in! So, after you actually log onto the site, you get a cajillion little yellow folders full of information all neatly labeled and ready to choose from, topped with a yellow "Search" box at the top of the page. Now be aware, that I have it on the best authority that you're not going to get the best results by using that yellow search box at the top of the page. It will only search the resources whose "boxes" you have checked, and there are only a few of those even available to choose from. So if you do choose to perform a search that way, don't by any means think you have exhausted the website's possibilities!

I'm going to take a break for now, and I'll follow up with some more great Godfrey info on my next post shortly.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What a find!

Half Price Books is having their annual Memorial Day sale, with 20 percent off, so that's how my family spent its Friday night family-time last night. Of course I perused the Reference section to see what interesting genealogy books they might have, and along with all of the usual suspects was a hardcover, first edition of "The Douglas Register - Being a detailed record of Births, Marriages and Deaths together with other interesting notes, as kept by the Rev. William Douglas, from 1750 to 1797." MOST exciting, though is that the book is inscribed by the author, W. Macfarlane Jones, to John Bennett Boddie, with the following: "To John Bennett Boddie - with commendation and appreciation of his splendid work in publishing that valuable contribution to the history of Virginia - 17th Century Isle of Wight. Richmond, Va. July 15, 1940."

And, being marked only $25, I paid a mere $20! Of course coming home I checked to compare hundreds of online used bookstore prices to be sure I had gotten a good deal, and boy did I! The lowest price of several original copies was $120, and none are signed editions. But now I am SOOOO torn - whether to keep it because it is a very cool reference and historical piece, or sell it and make some bucks to keep my genealogy addiction funded... Decisions, decisions...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Just like I always say...

One of the things that I always tell people in many of my lectures, is to always try to utilize local resources. I can't believe I took so long to heed my own advice on this one! I've been looking under every stone I could find for information on the parentage of my 4th great grandfather, David Stevens. I know lots about him, his wives, his divorce in 1817, his kids, and all the descendants. But not knowing who his parents were has plagued me for the past few years.

I recently joined the Berkshire Family History Association, of Berkshire, Massachusetts, thinking that perhaps since the last known residence of David prior to his move to the virtual wilds of Ohio in 1818, had been Pittsfield, Massachusetts in Berkshire County. I noticed that one of the "perks" of membership was three free hours of research by a volunteer of the society, but it took me close to a year to get around to submitting everything I knew about David in the hopes of finding just one tiny clue to his ancestry.

The package of photocopies came in the mail today, and I saved it for last, hoping beyond hope that the answer would be inside, but at the same time preparing myself for disappointment. I opened the envelope, and sat down with the stack of 20 photocopies and started with the research report of what resources they had searched. The first several references listed had noted in the "relevant page #" column, "nothing relevant found". I feared the worst.

I started slowly going through the photocopies. Some were information that I had found myself earlier, others were "long shots" but contained the name I was looking for, David Stevens. Then halfway through the stack I hit gold - notes from the will of one Eliphalet Stevens, a Revolutionary war patriot, who left land to his sons Jeremiah, Abner and David. That alone didn't excite me, until I continued to read what Eliphalet had willed to his daughters - and named daughter Olive's husband as David Ashley and that they lived in Ohio. BINGO! An early history of Ohio had clearly mentioned that Olive Stevens Ashley had been driven in a sled to Ohio by her brother David Stevens of Pittsfield.

Now on to serious proving, details, citations and reports, and more ancestors. If I can see through my tears of joy. I love this stuff.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Digital Quaker Collection

I never cease to be amazed at the great websites for genealogy online! Yesterday I discovered the Digital Quaker Collection at the Earlham School of Religion (a graduate theological school for the Society of Friends). The website states "DQC is a digital library containing full text and page images of over 500 individual Quaker works from the 17th and 18th centuries." Once you enter the site, you can easily search all of the collections, or browse them by title or author. While the default search is a simple search, there are other options for searching which include using Boolean operators, proximity search for finding words near one another, an Index Search, and the ability to search by books of the Bible as they are mentioned in the texts.

The Quakers kept a lot of great records -- let's hope they recorded your ancestors names in these documents too!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Chicago research tools

OK so while I'm on the subject of the Newberry Library, if you're doing research in Chicago, Cook County, there's no better site than the ChicagoAncestors site from Newberry Library, which you can find in the Genealogy Collection Guides and Research Tools page of the Newberry's site, under "Research Chicago". You can also get there directly by going to You can browse through their collection of photos, digitized books, and church records under the Browse tab, and then view the collections. But my favorite part is under the "Tools" tab - There are several absolutely wonderful links, including one to the Cook County Clerk's office with a very user-friendly search of birth-marriage and death records database going back to 1872, and the ability to purchase and instantly view the actual certificates. Also under the "Tools" tab are other great links to searchable City Directories, maps, histories and more.

Interactive Atlas of US County Boundary Changes

Newberry Library hosts this wonderful tool on their website for tracking county boundary changes. The "Atlas of Historical County Boundaries - A reference work designed to provide information about the creation and boundary changes of every county in the United States, from the earliest county creation in the 1600s to 2000." Choose your state, then select the year on the right. County lines are shown overlaying current county lines, similar to William Dollarhide's "Map Guide to the US Census" for those of you familiar with that wonderful book.

The best part is that this interactive digital map is completely free, courtesy of the folks at the Newberry Library.

Cook County Illinois Vital Records

I just discovered another very genealogy-friendly County website, at It requires a free sign-in, but then you can search birth, marriage and death records dating back to 1872. The result list from your search gives name, date, certificate numbers, etc - often all the information you may need. But if you want to order a copy of the original, most at $15, its an instant purchase, and the PDF is available right away. I like the "instant gratification" angle, since usually by the time I get certificates back in the mail the old-fashioned way, I've forgotten why I wanted them in the first place. (Can't imagine I'm the only one like that...)