As someone who does not specialize in French Canadian genealogy I was not very aware of the American-Canadian Genealogical Society, other than knowing they existed. It turns out they are in Manchester, NH and kindly let me visit today to use their online databases. (A downfall to travel is finding a local library with access to the databases you don't subscribe to.) They are staffed by very friendly and helpful volunteers, have a large bank of computers, and have numerous records for researching Acadians in Canada or the U.S., Franco-American genealogy (think Paul Revere), and the French-Canadians who worked in large numbers in mill towns like Manchester and Lowell, New Bedford, & Fall River in MA during the 19th & 20th centuries (think Jack Kerouac.) Their street address is not on their web site, in part because they are soon to relocate from a Blessed Sacrament parish schoolroom to one of the historic mill buildings a block or two closer to the river. If you cannot make it in person, they will research for you for a fee. If your Early American or Mayflower genealogical trail disappears for a generation or two, then re-emerges, especially in a state bordering Canada, don't forget to check there. More than a few Americans sojourned for a while in the Great White North.
I received an email from this afternoon from a casting company in Burbank, CA that is looking for people who want to take part in a "new docu-series for one of the major cable news networks." They are looking to cast people who got a big surprise when they took a DNA test and found out they aren't who they thought they were. The show would follow test-takers through the ups-and-downs that come with such a revelation, as they make decisions about what to do with the information.
This is a for-real company (https://pitmancasting.com/) and they would love to hear from you if you are a U.S. resident age 18 "on the cusp of starting an investigation after finding out this life-changing information." You can apply for the role by email at email@example.com or online at https://pitmancastinginc.formstack.com/forms/dna_project
If you have a compelling story and are willing to share it with the world, Hollywood is calling.
What do the Scotland-born naval hero of the American Revolution and needlework schools have to do with tracing your ancestral roots? You can go to the John Paul Jones House in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and find out or read the abbreviated version here: While overseeing the construction of 2 vessels during the Revolution, Jones boarded at a house that has been preserved and is today known as the John Paul Jones House. It's eclectic holdings include local history artifacts, some Jones material, a room devoted to the 1905 Treaty of Portsmouth (ending the Russo-Japanese War and earning Theodore Roosevelt the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize.) It also has a room with an impressive display of needlepoint samplers crafted by female students at the academies that sprang up in Portsmouth after the Revolution and continued into the early 1800s. A Mary Ann Smith ran one such school and Rev. Timothy Alden (see the Alden-Mullins page) ran another. The samplers are large, very detailed, and contain the maker's full name, age, and sometimes the name of her school. Elizabeth F. Willey (see below) created one in 1834 listing her parents and siblings, with dates of birth and mother's maiden name.
Of greater significance for NH genealogical research overall, some schools kept records of their students and teachers that are still extant today. (The Portsmouth Athenaeum has some material and contemporary newspaper ads for such school can be found on Genealogybank.com.) If you cannot get to Portsmouth, get a copy of John F. LaBranche & Rita F. Conant, In Female Worth and Elegance: Sampler and Needlework Students and Teachers in Portsmouth, New Hampshire 1741-1840 (Portsmouth: Portsmouth Marine Society, 1996.) Because it was published for a 2009 exhibition of samplers by the Portsmouth Historical Society it gives the creator's names and biographical data for 111 different samplers. Difficult as it is to find anything on females during that period, this is a must-read for New Hampshire genealogy.
Photos © Maura Mackowski, 2019
The signage is practically invisible, which we told them after finally finding the place, so here are street views of what you are looking for. The yellow building is starting point, and the entry, now under reconstruction is behind the back. You park to the side of the tavern, on Water Street, but the parking is on a little side street. Set your GPS for the address specified on the American Independence Museum web site but be on the lookout for these buildings. They are tucked in between Phillips Exeter Academy and the main street (Water St.) and there are multiple tiny streets, some one-way. The building is home to the Society of the Cincinnati (the hereditary society for male descendants of officers in the Continental Army, including our first president) and is definitely worth a visit. The tavern, where George Washington really did dine (but not sleep) is very interesting architecturally and the museum displays include a number of original documents. If you are from Rockingham Co, NH, your ancestor might be in one of them. There are no archives, however.
Don't you wish you inherited this ancestor's artistic way with tools? The maker was Robert Crossman of Taunton, Bristol Co, MA - not a Mayflower descendant but that's ok. He lived and worked there throughout most of the 1700s. How did I find this out? By visiting the very cool Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire (where I am doing some genealogical research for someone.) Knowing what your ancestor did for a living can be invaluable in your own hunt and sometimes you just get lucky and run across something he or she made in a regional or specialty museum that collects items or records from that period. If you are lucky, the museum has some provenance (documentation to prove original maker and chain of ownership) and will share those with you on request.
These 1886 craftsman - some of them in their 60s (or older) - posed with handiwork and tools at their workplace, the Springfield Armory in MA (active 1777-1968.) Especially in wartime, the federal government was a major purchaser of certain staple items - clothing, shoes, paper, -- and weapons. Industrial productivity in the infant U.S. got a huge boost from technological advances in the early-mid 1800s, aka "The Black Hole of Genealogy." (See the "American System of Manufacturing" entry on wikipedia.) Small mill towns in the Connecticut River Valley, southeastern MA, and RI became significant population centers as rural men and women gave up farming and moved to other towns, counties, and even states to seek paid employment in the bustling new factories. Such cash-economy workers generated different/fewer land records and their major life events (marriage, birth of children, & deaths) took place in places you might not think to look. The Springfield Armory (and federal armory at Harper's Ferry, WV) were under the control of the military. As civilian employees of the military, records of individual workers may be part of any employment records now at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). If you have an ancestor listed as an "operative," "mechanic," or a specific industrial trade and think he/she might have worked at a federal facility, submit a signed, dated, written request (no phone or email) to: National Personnel Records Center (Civilian Personnel Records) 111 Winnebago St., St. Louis, MO 63118-4126. Provide as much detail as you can about your ancestor (full name, date of birth, federal agency employing him/her, approximate dates) and they will search for you. NARA can only provide name, position titles, grades, salaries, and duty stations, but these are particularly useful in differentiating between people of the same name living in the same city, confirming residency, indicating likely socioeconomic status, verifying that someone who abandoned his/her family was still alive and where, or writing an analysis or genealogical argument for a lineage society. NARA will field questions about the process by phone (314) 801-9250, fax (314) 801-9269, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm going to try it out on a stray great grandfather from MA thought to be dead but who recently turned up on a WWI draft card working at a federal facility in OH. Hmmmmm....
Dr. Maura Mackowski is an Arizona research historian who enjoys the challenge of looking for Mayflower descendants, hers and anyone else's.
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