Old Colony History Museum, Taunton Massachusetts

After attending the 2016 26th Annual Pro Video & Lighting Trade Show Thursday, Sue and I found ourselves 30 minutes North of Taunton MA, birthplace of my father and his father. I have many other ancestors from the neighboring towns in Bristol County as well. The Old Colony History Museum is the local historical society and sounds like a place we just had to explore.

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We were greeted by a wonderful woman who took us for a tour of their amazing collection as well as a bit of the history of the building.  Pro-Tip #1 – ask about the museum’s photography policy at the beginning of the tour and not at the end. I suppose that not taking photographs of every little thing did leave me less distracted.

The first floor gallery and meeting room was much larger than we had expected I think.  Among the items on this floor there were a couple that stood out for me.  The first of which were several grandfathers clocks made in the area by local tradesmen.  They looked amazingly similar to one that stands in my Mothers house right now, handed down by my Grandfather, made by his cousin William Davis.  The other item, a writing desk, also bears a resemblance to a piece in the front hall of her house as well.

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Clock made by William M. Davis of Taunton, 1907. Photos by Claire Young

The second floor was simply amazing with what must have been thousands of objects to see and discover.  Everything from dolls to clothing to furniture.  Some amazing old photographs, cameras and paintings.  Taunton was home to many cast iron stove makers and several were also on display.  They had an old pump fire wagon, a descent sized multi harness loom, and a display of Native American finds.

Of the many items in this room though there was a lone daguerreotype of a steam engine from the late 1800’s.  My 2nd Great Grandfather Leonard Ivy Young used to work for the railroads in this area and of course this made me wonder if I was looking at something he himself had seen – or even worked on.

A separate room holds military artifacts and for my re-enactor friends several articles of clothing, hats and, accouterments.  Our tour guide told us an amazing story of a slave who fought with the Continental Army in the revolutionary war as a part of a cannon crew.  When he returned he was granted his freedom and gifted a cannon by General Washington himself or at least that is what the rumor and town lore told.  I learned more about Camp Myles Standish mentioned briefly in one of my Grandfather’s WW2 Greenland diaries.

Old Colony Historical Museum items

Sue managed to remember to take a couple of photographs before we left (with permission of course)

In the last room an amazing display of locally made silver goods. Among the normal items there was a silver handled and ebony sock darner, a small silver clad pencil, an elaborate silver and glass pickle jar and my favorite – the Ketchup, Mustard and Relish containers – appropriately etched just in case you forgot which was which.  One name stood out in this room, Albert Pitts, a local silversmith that I will have to keep in mind as my research continues.

The last stop on our tour took us into the William T. and Mary L. Hurley Library also located on the second floor.  Wow.  That’s all.  Wow.  Now, I know I didn’t come here prepared to do any research – nor did we have the time really however I will now offer out Pro-Tip #2.  Have a genealogical travel kit.  I’m not sure how – but I am going to get working on one.

From the Old Colony Historical Museum website about their library:

 Our research collection, which includes more than 7,000 volumes in our non-circulating library and over 400 linear feet of archival material, embraces a wide range of topics.

Some of the largest collections include:

Genealogy:
• Family histories (published and unpublished works)
• Family papers
• Diaries
• Unpublished manuscripts
• Cemetery gravestone transcriptions
• Local church and municipal records

Primary Records:
• Proprietors’ records for the Taunton region
• Military records and accounts from the 17th to 20th centuries
• Materials related to prominent local industries (textiles, machinery, locomotives, stoves, iron, pewter, silver, pottery, nails, tacks, bricks, shipbuilding, etc.)
• Collection of maritime records including diaries, papers, ships’ logs, etc.
• Account books of local merchants, businesses, and citizens
• Selected Bristol County Court records (17th to 20th centuries)
• Newspapers: Taunton Daily Gazette (1848-2001) on microfilm; other newspapers on microfilm and in bound copies as early as 1824

Published Records:
• Vital records for the Commonwealth of MA and the State of RI (prior to 1850)
• Maps and atlases for Taunton and Bristol County
• Taunton municipal records, dates vary (Fire Department, Police Department, Public Schools)
Taunton City Directory, 1850 to 2002
• Yearbooks from Taunton High School (1891-1990, incomplete), Msgr. Coyle High School, Bishop Cassidy High School, St. Mary’s High School, St. Anthony Parish, St. Jaques Parish

I am looking forward to returning, taking some photographs, and of course delving into the library but first – I must prepare.

Our thanks again to the Old Colony History Museum for a wonderful afternoon.

Old Colony History Museum
66 Church Green
Taunton, Massachusetts 02780

Open Tuesday – Saturday
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

508-822-1622

www.oldcolonyhistorymuseum.org

 

 

Brick Walls – aka ‘The Dead End’

With another busy work project behind me, I had the pleasure of getting out in the world and attending two genealogy talks this week.  One was on DNA and will be the topic of a future post as I need to let the information settle in.

The other talk was “Strategies For Tackling Your Genealogy Brickwall” by Jake Fletcher of the popular blog – Travelogues of a Genealogist (link).  The talk was a part of the Chelmsford (MA) Genealogy Club.

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Over the hour, Jake discussed his go to methods for trying to break down a brick wall including reviewing your documentation with a fresh set of eyes after a while to Researching their occupation, to knowing the geography of a region as county lines often changed.

Another area to look at; Cluster and FAN research – Family/Friends, Associates and Neighbors.  Look at those around your ancestor, their neighbors in city directories, witnesses to records such as land deeds and probate items.  Jake even suggested documenting the names of neighbors five pages before and after their name on a census record to get a better understanding of people they may know and bump into.  Perhaps the close friend who was witness to a marriage had the favor returned by the ancestor you are looking for which could open up a new hint to move on.

He also suggested the use of a research log or journal. As you do your searching, list what you search for, where you search for it, what keywords you may have used and what you found.  You may have found nothing for that matter, and you should list that as well.  Sometimes nothing is the same as finding something – but that is a topic for  a different day.

His Log includes columns for Date, Repository / Website, Title of Collection, Keyword Search, and Results.   I have tried this in the past and I will tell you it is hard to do.  When you do the searches, you need to break from the results and record what you have, and if your anything like me you want to just keep on clicking to see what that record looks like.  I use spreadsheets on  google drive for this purpose but I do think, I want to switch to a paper one to log notes and then transcribe it at a later time.

I also think that the term brick wall can be scary.  Walls keep people from passing.  It is that simple.  Don’t ever give up though.  Genealogy can be like a maze – there is bound to be a way to get through it and some may harder than others, and who knows what the next left turn will bring.

My Hungarian ancestry for instance.  The records have always been there at the Family History Center on microfilm but they were just that far out of reach at the time.  Now, with several of them online and better access to the Family History Center [and more knowledge of]  I am able to travel down that path as far as it will take me.I am fortunate that I don’t (yet) have anything I would consider a brick wall.  While I do have several unfinished ends, I don’t feel that I have researched any of them well enough to place them into that category.  Perhaps though that is what makes it a brick wall in the first place?  Something that gets in the way of your research to make you move on to something seemingly ‘simpler’.

For now though, I will continue to consider my Brick Walls to be nothing more than a bump in the road – some which may be nothing more than a spring pothole.

The Chelmsford Genealogy club meets the first Tuesday of the month at the Chelmsford Library, 25 Boston Road, Chelmsford MA.  Their Next meeting will feature Rhonda R McLure speaking on New England Research. (Link)(Facebook)

Sometimes it’s about what you don’t find.

Today I found myself in Portsmouth NH with some time to kill and I dropped i to the Portsmouth Athenæum to see if I could find anything relating to Captain Leonard Young (1814-1860.)

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Leonard was born and lived a good portion of his life in Trenton, Hancock County, Maine – Right near Bar Harbor.  Between 1850 and 1855 he and his family moved to Dighton, Bristol County, Massachusetts – Just North of Fall River (and shortly after the death of his father.)  He is listed as a Mariner in the Census Records, as was his son.  One census lists him as a ‘Sea Captain’ even.  His gravestone titles him as Captain.

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While I thought it may be a long shot, the Athenæum specializes in maritime records.  Portsmouth is not really that close to either, but it is a major port between the two.

The wonderful people at the Athenæum seemed to take this on as if it were a personal project of their own.  Two of the women there began to scurry in several directions once they learned of what I was seeking.  They new exactly where to look for any mention of Leonard.  Consulting Indexes, Tomes and the stacks and stacks of books they have in their collection.  These two could put Google out of business. The entire time they were firing out questions and results of other ‘Youngs’ but there were too many mismatches in dates and or places to even come close to thinking they were Leonard or related.

The long and short of it however was that they came up empty. Near the end of the search, one of the two ladies asked me if I knew if he sailed a Packet Ship as most of their Custom Records would be for overseas journies (via Galleon I would suspect.)

So in the end I learned that it was doubtful that he sailed into, or out of Portsmouth to ports over seas.

I am ok with that ‘nothing’ answer as sometimes it is just as important to rule something out.

My next step for this search will be a historical society further North I believe. They suggested Portland Maine as a start. The Bar Harbor area is a bit too far for a day trip. I may have another source to check in with too, but we will keep that one in the hat for now.