All posts by Nancy Bernard

About Nancy Bernard

Nancy holds a certificate from the Boston University Genealogical Research program. She has a master’s degree in history and media study from SUNY University of Buffalo, where she focused on American cultural history and writing and producing documentary videos. She also has a B.A. from Hamilton College. She has interned at the American Jewish Historical Society, now at NEHGS, as well as the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, MA. Her areas of interest include New England and New York history and researching house histories and the families who lived in those homes.

Records of Old Norfolk County

MA Norfolk (old) Co Towns (Map available at
MA Norfolk (old) Co Towns
(Map available at

Recently, I was searching for records in Amesbury and Salisbury, as well as in Dover and Newton, New Hampshire. I began my search in Essex County, Massachusetts, but as I went further back in time, I realized that I needed to examine records from “Old Norfolk County.”

The first Norfolk County, now called Old Norfolk County, was one of the original four counties created in 1643 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony; the other three counties were Middlesex, Suffolk, and Essex. Old Norfolk County encompassed the area north of the Merrimac River–essentially what is now part of Amesbury, Salisbury, and Haverhill in Massachusetts, and Dover, Hampton, Exeter, and Portsmouth (originally known as Strawberry Banke) in New Hampshire. Continue reading Records of Old Norfolk County

Town historians: a helpful resource

Southampton blog post
Town of Southampton. Courtesy of

Recently, I was searching for records in the towns of Southampton, Easthampton, and Bridgehampton, all in Suffolk County, New York. I was trying to determine the identity of the father of Abraham C., who was born in 1720 in Southampton and died about 1785. The client had done some excellent research, and through his efforts, concluded that there were two possible outcomes. Since finding direct evidence from records for New York during this time period can be tricky, I examined numerous publications from our NEHGS collection, including town histories, such as the multi-volume series Records of The Town of Southampton, With Other Ancient Documents of Historic Value; published genealogies; and the excellent New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. Continue reading Town historians: a helpful resource

One small pin

AWVS pinA little while back, my mother gave me several pins which had belonged to her mother. One of them was a badge for the American Women’s Voluntary Services (AWVS), an organization established in 1940 that provided aid and assistance to the American armed forces and civilians. By the time Pearl Harbor was attacked, the AWVS had more than 18,000 members offering assistance ranging from food services to driving ambulances and administering first aid. [i] Continue reading One small pin

Nineteenth-century life in Newton

Tainter diary
Emily J. (Cook) Tainter diary. R. Stanton Avery Special Collections

NEHGS has a rich collection of diaries. While browsing our Guide to Diaries in the R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, I came across the mid-nineteenth century diary of Emily J. Tainter of Newtonville, Massachusetts. Newtonville, one of thirteen villages in the City of Newton, is just a few miles from Boston; the area was first settled in 1630. The Guide described the diary as concerning marriage and family life, and I was curious to get a glimpse of a Newton woman’s life during the mid-1800s.

The first entry was dated 5 September 1855; the last during 1881. The diary described weather conditions, the day’s outfit, as well as daily chores and activities. It spoke of whom the diarist visited and who visited her, neighbors who became sick, friends who got married, and family members who died. Continue reading Nineteenth-century life in Newton