All posts by Sam Sturgis

About Sam Sturgis

Sam was born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He received B.S. and M.S. degrees in Psychology from Eastern Michigan University and worked as a Human Factors researcher in automotive safety for 13 years. He entered the field of commercial software development in 1983 and acted as software developer and development manager at Wang Laboratories and The Foxboro Company. Sam joined the NEHGS staff in 2005. Sam's interest in genealogy began shortly after moving to Massachusetts, when he and his family chanced upon the Sturgis Library in Barnstable, during a vacation on Cape Cod. There he discovered that he is a descendent of the Sturgis family that settled on Cape Cod in the 1630's. Sam and his wife Gail live in Medway, Massachusetts. They have two grown children: Katie, a Registered Nurse in Wrentham, and David, a software developer in Somerville.

Tips for searching on

Eldridge search croppedWhen we were deciding how our database search would work, one of the key considerations was that we didn’t want to return search results that contained a lot of ‘noise.’ On other websites, the database architects allowed for a certain (sometimes significant) number of irrelevant search results. This was undoubtedly intended to be helpful, but it is actually quite frustrating. So we decided to do ‘exact’ searches with a couple of twists. The goal was to give results that were exactly what you searched for. We spent quite a lot of time tuning our search algorithm, trying different approaches and analyzing the results. We’re pretty happy with our final approach, but it’s definitely helpful to understand how it works. And what the twists are. Continue reading Tips for searching on

Searching journals on

John Smith only highlights 800
Click on images to enlarge them

NEHGS members have the ability to search a large number of genealogical journals, including The New England Historical and Genealogical  Register, The American Genealogist, The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, Rhode Island Roots, The Essex Genealogist, The Mayflower Descendant, and many others. To view a list of journals available on, go to our database search page, select the Category ‘Journals and Periodicals,’ and then open the ‘Database’ drop-down list. Journals may be searched by first and last name, and also by article title keywords.  When searching a journal, be aware that the year range fields apply to the year of publication, not the year of an event, so these fields are best left blank. Continue reading Searching journals on

A suspicious first cousin

Timothy and Louisa_Cropped
My mother’s grandfather and her aunt

One day a few years ago, my mother (who was 85 at the time) got a phone call from a young lady who said “Hello, I think I’m your cousin!”  Mom, who was well aware of and always on the lookout for scams, immediately assumed that this was just one more.  The caller said that she was the great-granddaughter of my mother’s father’s sister, ‘Louisa.’ Mom, who knew all of her father’s siblings, had visited the family regularly in Detroit when she was a child and never met or even heard of an aunt with that name. Continue reading A suspicious first cousin