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.

First time in the Big (Salt Lake) City: Part 2

Entrance to Family History Library
Entrance to Family History Library

While my friends in the snowy Northeast will not appreciate my first impression of Salt Lake City, here it is: 65 and sunny; no snow, just green grass and clear skies. I hope the good weather is a premonition of the week ahead: Could it be my best research week ever? Continue reading First time in the Big (Salt Lake) City: Part 2

First Time in the Big (Salt Lake) City: Part 1

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah
The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah

When NEHGS asked me to attend the RootsTech–FGS conference, I was equally overjoyed and anxious. I’ve never before been to the Family History Library, and I want to be sure to take best advantage of being at one of the world’s top genealogical research facilities. I turned to my NEHGS colleagues for advice, and they gave me four great suggestions for my first visit: Continue reading First Time in the Big (Salt Lake) City: Part 1

Asking Grandmother

Courtesy New York Municipal Archives

“I wish I had thought to ask my grandmother…”

It is a sentiment that is commonly uttered by patrons at the NEHGS reference desk. And, as a genealogist, I can see the frustration. Because it is often these small details, these seemingly insignificant relationships that can help to break down age-old brick walls. But, and I think more importantly, these small details also allow researchers to connect with their ancestors on a more personal level. So, rather than recording dates and names (which, yes, are also important), genealogists should also aim to learn more about the lives of their family members. Continue reading Asking Grandmother

Tips for using the Social Security Death Index

SSDI application Szucs
Courtesy of

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is a widely used collection for modern genealogical research. It is composed of information provided by the Social Security Administration (SSA) for those individuals (with Social Security numbers) who died between 1962* and the present. The SSDI often provides the following information about a deceased individual: Continue reading Tips for using the Social Security Death Index

The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black

Harry Potter 1
Images courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

I’ll be blunt: J.K. Rowling is my favorite author. I’ve read (and reread) all of her books, watched her interviews (including an episode of Who Do You Think You Are?), and I follow her on Twitter and Facebook. She has entertained me for countless hours, allowing me to explore my imagination well beyond the socially acceptable limits for those in their adult years. I am always looking forward to the newest material from the mind of Ms. Rowling.

And while I love her creativity and passion for writing, I am often most impressed with her dedication to the authenticity of the story (even when it is a story about witches and wizards). Continue reading The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black

Naming a child born out of wedlock

Fulton 1
Click on the images to expand them.

I was recently asked a question about how surnames were assigned to illegitimate children born in the seventeenth century: Was the surname of the father, or the mother, given to the child? Since illegitimate births were uncommon in New England during the 1600s (about 92% of first children born through 1680 were delivered nine months or more after their parents’ marriage), the illegitimate child could have been given the surname of the mother OR the father, depending on the circumstances. Continue reading Naming a child born out of wedlock

The ‘Do Not Read List’

fallon 3
Courtesy of The Tonight Show/NBC

Jimmy Fallon recently aired his recurring segment, the “Do Not Read List,” which pokes fun at books with unfortunate titles or unconventional subjects. To my surprise, one of the books featured on the spot was the popular genealogical resource, List of Persons Whose Names Have Been Changed in Massachusetts, 1780-1892. Fallon introduced the book with a sarcastic joke: “420 pages of names … changed names. That’s a page turner.” Then, he proceeded to mock those who changed their generic names to something comical. Continue reading The ‘Do Not Read List’

A brief history of New Hampshire vital records

vitabrevis nh vitalsI was recently asked about the apparent disappearance of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century vital records of Walpole, New Hampshire. The originals survived into the early twentieth century, but they are no longer to be found in the town clerk’s office in Walpole.

I did some digging. In New Hampshire, vital records for each town are located at the town level. Therefore, the original vital records books for Walpole should be housed with the town clerk. However, when I called the town clerk, she stated that the records currently in the town’s collection start in the 1850s. According to the clerk, the early town records were burned in a fire. She did, however, suggest that I call the Division of Vital Records Administration, New Hampshire Department of State, in Concord to learn more about the practices of preserving vital records in early New Hampshire. Continue reading A brief history of New Hampshire vital records

Calculating age at death – and why

Gravestone illustration
Griffith Thomas’ gravestone in the Ebenezer Baptist Church Cemetery, Bluemont, Loudoun County, Virginia

Instead of identifying a person’s date of birth, death certificates and gravestones sometimes identify the deceased person’s age in years, months, and days. But what is the purpose of giving an exact age rather than a birth date, and how is this age determined? Are there any consistent rules for this process?

In Colonial America it was traditional practice to inscribe a tombstone with the deceased’s age in years, months, and days. For example, the cemetery marker for Griffith Thomas was inscribed with the following: “In Memory of Griffith Thomas who departed this life October 25th 1800 Aged 58 years, 9 months and 10 days.” Continue reading Calculating age at death – and why

Traditional research techniques – and new ones

roads for VBRobert Frost’s famous poem, The Road Not Taken, begins with his contemplation of “two roads diverg[ing] in a yellow wood,” and his indecision about whether to follow one path or the other. In the end, the author chooses what he deems “the path less traveled by.” Yet one must wonder whether another option was available? What about a possible third (or fourth or fifth) road? What about roads that have yet to be created? Sometimes, when conducting genealogical research, one must be aware of the possibility of other roads, as the mechanisms for knowing whether they exist may not yet have been developed. Occasionally, then, one must be willing to get off the known path to explore other, hidden roads. Continue reading Traditional research techniques – and new ones