All posts by Lindsay Fulton

About Lindsay Fulton

Lindsay Fulton joined the Society in 2012, first a member of the Research Services team, and then a Genealogist in the Library. She has been the Director of Research Services since 2016. In addition to helping constituents with their research, Lindsay has also authored a Portable Genealogists on the topics of Applying to Lineage Societies, the United States Federal Census, 1790-1840 and the United States Federal Census, 1850-1940. She is a frequent contributor to the NEHGS blog, Vita-Brevis, and has appeared as a guest on the Extreme Genes radio program. Before, NEHGS, Lindsay worked at the National Archives and Records Administration in Waltham, Massachusetts, where she designed and implemented an original curriculum program exploring the Chinese Exclusion Era for elementary school students. She holds a B.A. from Merrimack College and M.A. from the University of Massachusetts-Boston.

The pen is mighty

fulton family crop1We’ve all been there: we’ve all looked for that one record that should exist – but does not. And why? Why did our ancestors do that to us? Why did they forget to file paperwork? or procrastinate when registering a deed? Why didn’t they know we would be searching for them years later?

I am often annoyed with my ancestors – they failed to write wills, file taxes, and baptize their children. This was before my brother Andrew got married (or maybe I should say, tried to get married) in Puerto Rico: now I have a slightly different view. Continue reading The pen is mighty

“Practice what you preach”

postcard_Page_2_revisedEarlier this week I was scrolling through my newsfeed and I saw a blog post where the author scolded herself and urged her readers to “practice what you preach.” I often think this, especially when I teach the first class of my three-part series on “Getting Started in Genealogy.” The crux of the first lecture is to work from the known to the unknown – not to skip ahead – and to record data using a chart or genealogical software (including sources examined). I encourage students to begin their genealogical journey with material from their own homes, to interview themselves, and to talk to relatives. Because who better to talk to, when learning about your family, than your own family members? Continue reading “Practice what you preach”

A game of telephone

1860 Fed Copy- Washington MEHave you ever played the game telephone? If you don’t know the game, it is when one person whispers a message to another, which is passed through a line of people until the last player announces the message to the entire group. If you have, then I am sure you discovered that it is almost impossible to keep the story intact from beginning to end. The game is an interesting teaching tool, as it shows children (and adults) how easily and unreliably gossip can spread.

As a historian and genealogist, I often reminisce about the telephone game, because it was my first encounter with record assessment. Even as a young child, it was clear to me that the closer one was to the original source, the more reliable the information.  And, as I grew up and began working with historical documents, this lesson continued. Continue reading A game of telephone

Blending a family

Lowell image 1Mine is a typical American family, and I am a typical genealogist. My family is an assortment of divorced households and second marriages and I, the ever diligent genealogist, have labored to research all of the family lines, even if they are not my own, because even when I don’t share their DNA, they are my family.

Like members of my immediate family, my blended family can be uninterested in the details of their own genealogy. Don’t get me wrong: they like the highlights (your great-grandparents were from County Cork or your ancestors were Loyalists who moved to Quebec), but not the mundane. Continue reading Blending a family

Navigating Calvary Cemetery

Clavary Cemetery 1aI am fortunate to be the oldest of eleven grandchildren. Because of my age, I was old enough to remember attending my great-great-aunt’s eightieth birthday party, dancing with my great-grandmother at my aunt’s wedding, and eating several Thanksgiving dinners with my great-great-uncle. I enjoyed spending time with my Lowell and Manhattan relatives; they had really cool stories about playing street games, stealing from ice trucks and, on one specific occasion, a time in which they were detained by police for catcalling an officer on horseback. So, when NEHGS sent me to Ridgefield, Connecticut, for a genealogical fair, I decided to take a slight detour to visit my storytelling ancestors who are buried in Calvary Cemetery in Queens. Continue reading Navigating Calvary Cemetery

Harry Potter? Harry Leech!

J K RowlingTo a genealogist who is also a huge Harry Potter fan, the recent news from J.K. Rowling has been very exciting. According to a short story posted to her website, the origin of the Potter surname has deep roots in twelfth-century England. According to Jo, Linfred of Stinchcombe was “a vague and absent-minded fellow whose Muggle neighbours often called upon his medicinal services. None of them realised that Linfred’s wonderful cures for pox and ague were magical; they all thought him a harmless and lovable old chap, pottering about in his garden with all his funny plants.”[1] As a result, his nickname “the Potterer” transformed into the surname Potter. Continue reading Harry Potter? Harry Leech!

8 More Vital Record Alternatives

Bible record for the Ebenezer Berry family, 1835-1936. R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, NEHGS.
Bible record for the Ebenezer Berry family, 1835-1936. R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, NEHGS.

Yesterday I wrote about substitute records that can be used to locate elusive modern vital records. These alternative records can be especially beneficial when an index to the civil vital records is unavailable. Using these alternatives, you can then contact the appropriate authority to provide a copy of the original vital record.

However, what do you do when a vital record simply does not exist? It’s a common problem, especially when documenting older generations, as each state legislated its own vital record compliance. Luckily you can consult several vital record alternatives that can be used to prove birth, marriage, or death. (Most will be accepted as proof by a lineage society.) Here are a few examples: Continue reading 8 More Vital Record Alternatives

7 Vital Record Alternatives

Both sides of the prayer card for Delia B. Carey, 13 January 1965.
Both sides of a prayer card for Delia B. Carey, 13 January 1965.

A great way to begin tracing your family history is to interview living relatives, asking for relevant birth, marriage, and death information. These interviews sometimes yield specific information (or at least an estimate), and you can then contact the appropriate authority to provide a copy of the original vital record.

But what do we do if grandma’s information fails to lead us to a vital record? Surprisingly, this is more common than you’d think, as people often misremember facts or were told the wrong information from the get-go. In this case, grandma may lead us on a wild goose chase trying to track down the correct location and/or date of a vital record. This may be especially annoying if the record is more recent, as statewide indexes for modern vital records are less common. To locate these modern vital records (civil records), we must first look for an alternative record to point us in the right direction. Here are some examples: Continue reading 7 Vital Record Alternatives

Where did the first Boston Marathon winner go?

John J. McDermott, winner of the first Boston Marathon. Boston Sunday Journal, 1 May 1898.
John J. McDermott, winner of the first Boston Marathon. Boston Sunday Journal, 1 May 1898.

As a lifetime Bostonian who has seen her share of snowstorms (especially this year), I always look forward to Patriot’s Day (April 20 this year). It’s the official anniversary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord—which is re-enacted very early in the morning—but it’s also the unofficial first day of spring, signaled by the running of the Boston Marathon.

In honor of my favorite state holiday, I decided to research the life and family history of the first Boston Marathon winner, John J. McDermott. I assumed it would be easy— he won the first Boston Marathon, for goodness’ sake; there must be tons of literature about his life, right? Wrong! After he won that first Boston Marathon in 1897, John J. McDermott seemed to disappear from records. I searched newspapers and obituaries, read histories of marathon runners, and contacted local libraries, but I could not uncover evidence of what happened to him. Continue reading Where did the first Boston Marathon winner go?

RootsTech Wrap Up

Attendees at RootsTech 2015. Photo by Ryan Woods.
Attendees at RootsTech 2015. Photo by Ryan Woods.

When the RootsTech/FGS conference opened Thursday morning at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, February 12, close to 22,000 attendees were there to learn, mingle, and teach other passionate genealogists from around the country and around the world (35 countries in total). It was the largest group of people interested in finding dead people that many of us had ever seen in one location. It was great to see such high energy and excitement from so many, including an extra 5,000 children, ages 8 and up, who attended Family Discovery Day the last day of the conference. The three days of the conference were jam-packed. Continue reading RootsTech Wrap Up