Category Archives: Find-A-Grave

NERGC? What’s a NERGC?

Using the Tools of Today & Tomorrow to Understand the Past

“Using the Tools of Today & Tomorrow to Understand the Past”

The New England Regional Genealogical Consortium produces a conference every other year. Each NERGC conference is held in a city somewhere in New England. Past conferences have been in Hartford, Connecticut, Manchester, New Hampshire, Providence, Rhode Island, and this year, Springfield, Massachusetts. The event will kick off on 26 April 2017 with a specialty day devoted to Librarians, Professionals, Genealogical Society Management and Technology. During the following three days, you’ll have a chance to hear and learn from 70 genealogists of every level and in every aspect of genealogy and genealogical research. NERGC organizers have devoted quite a bit of time and space to DNA, a “hot topic” in today’s genealogy world.

The MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield is the venue. Hotel accommodations are available within a block. Other than presentations, this year’s conference includes several workshops, banquets and a “private” tour of the archives at the Museum of Springfield History.

Our opening speaker is Mary Tedesco, a co-host of the PBS program, Genealogy Road Show. Speaking several times during the conference are 3 featured speakers, Thomas MacEntee, Warren Bittner and a third, another co-host of Genealogy Road Show, Kenyatta D Berry.

NERGC is supported by 23 genealogical from societies around New England, all of whom will be represented at the event. Volunteers from each will be busy making sure your experience is optimal. Stop and visit each of them in the Exhibit Hall and perhaps you can meet with a society near where you live.

Also in the Exhibit Hall, you’ll see a wide variety of vendors of genealogy products: Books, CD’s, old maps, clothing, and other genealogy-oriented products. Scheduled are genealogy companies such as Ancestry.com, Evidentia Software, FindMyPast and Geni.com to name a few.NERGC is worth a look! If you can’t make Springfield this year, the 2019 conference is scheduled for a return trip to Manchester, New Hampshire.

The Sons of the American Revolution – Induction

After 15 plus years of working on and off on an application to join the SAR, I happened across a registrar from the DAR. We were at a taping of the PBS program “Genealogy Road Show” in Providence, Rhode Island. My true motivation in attending the taping was to meet with one of the hosts, Kenyatta Berry, and ask that she sign on as featured speaker for the New England Regional Genealogy Consortium’s 2017 conference in Springfield, Massachussetts.  The good news is I meet with her and she graciously accepted the invitation. Thank you Kenyatta!

The DAR member’s name is Kathy Kaldis and after speaking with her for a few minutes, she offered to complete the work that I had started and stopped so many times. But, I can’t join the DAR for obvious reasons so Kathy put together a successful application for my daughter’s induction into the DAR. If you know how a legacy society works, if my daughter is a proven descendant of a Revolutionary War Patriot, than I also qualify.

The problem for me initially is my family, believe it or not. I have at least 22 age appropriate direct ancestors who may have served. The problem is digging up (no pun intended) enough proof of the lineage and the patriot’s service. I had been able to partly prove 18 of the 22. Kathy and I found one, Timothy Blodgett (1740-1831), who is a direct ancestor and enough documentation was available to prove the relationship. Timothy answered the Lexington call, was a minuteman and participated in the battle at Lexington. Years later he had moved to Deerfield Massachusetts where he and his family are buried. You can find the memorial at Find-A-Grave and at Billion Graves.

The point of all this is to talk about the induction. I will be formally inducted on 22 October 2016 in Quincy Massachusetts at a day long event that will include a grave marking ceremony in the Hancock Cemetery marking the grave of Thomas Necomb. Then we’ll visit the crypts of 2 presidents, John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams. We’ll also be touring the Adams Mansion thanks to the National Park Service. Lunch at noon and finally the induction ceremony itself. Should be a great day and I have to admit that I’m proud to have been accepted into an organization that carries with it a heritage dating back to the Revolutionary War, almost 250 years ago!

Find-A-Grave Project – BIG Project

At the November meeting of the Western Massachusetts Genealogical Society (WMGS), we listened to a presentation titled, “CSI Gravestones: Causes of Death.” Although that may sound a bit on the morbid side, one of the details that most genealogists look for is the cause of death. The intriguing nature of this presentation was the highlighting of the propensities of our ancestors to “broadcast” those causes through the epitaphs carved in stone on grave markers all over New England. It’s not seen very much these days, if at all.

Mr. Nathaniel Parks Elmwood Cemetery Holyoke, Massachusetts

Mr. Nathaniel Parks
Elmwood Cemetery
Holyoke, Massachusetts

The most interesting, or rather, the most tragic gravestone I’ve ever photographed is the memorial to Mr. Nathaniel Parks who was 19 years old on the 19th of March 1794 when he was shot to death by Mr. Luther Frink. Considering the length of time between the shooting and the burial, it’s safe to assume that Mr. Frink admitted the cause of young Nathaniel’s demise. See his memorial at Find-A-Grave here.

What’s the BIG project I was talking about? Let’s get back to the WMGS meeting. Al and Betsy McKee of Longmeadow, Massachusetts have been photographing gravestones for over 20 years. They’ve traveled up and down the Connecticut River Valley from northern Massachusetts down into southern Connecticut. They have a little over 20,000 images in their  collection. They sorted out about 50 or so for us that showed causes of death: fevers, war, old age among many other causes including illnesses that we are no longer confronted with.

Since I’ve been involved with Find-A-Grave for over 15 years, it occurred to me that the McKee’s had probably uploaded many of their images to that site. At the conclusion of the presentation, I asked them about that. Well, they just never got involved with uploading to Find-A-Grave. So I proposed a collaborative project between them and WMGS.  And they’re all for it. My idea was to open an account so that the memorials that get posted would give credit to them for the photographs.

Find-A-Grave is one of the websites that researchers use on a fairly regular basis. Creating an

William Bassett Passenger on the Fortune that arrived at Plymouth in 1621

William Bassett
Passenger on the Fortune that arrived at Plymouth in 1621

account is totally free and anyone can upload any memorial as long as the memorial has not already been posted. Incredibly, there are over 140 million memorials for “regular people” all the way up to presidents and movie stars. It’s a good research tool in that using the site to search for an ancestor can turn up some surprising results. That’s the upside. The downside is that realistically, anyone can upload anything. So you may find someone who is a target of your research, but the data gleaned from such a memorial must be verified before we take it as fact. Either way, it’s just another breadcrumb in the relentless search for our ancestors.

Why put up memorials? There are many reasons. First, it is a memorial and it does just that, memorialize a family member, friend or anyone who you are familiar with who you feel deserves to be remembered in such a manner. Many of us simply like to provide the information to researchers from around the country and actually from around the world. The photo isn’t necessary, it’s more of a bonus. I’ve had email over the years from people who appreciate the fact that they can “visit” friends and family when there is no opportunity to visit the actual cemetery. One elderly woman saw her sister in one of the local cemeteries and, according to her daughter, teared up.  The cemetery is here in Massachusetts and she currently lives with her daughter and son-in-law in California with no hope of making a trip back here.

So here’s the point of this post. If you’re familiar with Find-A-Grave or even if you’re new to it and would like to take part in this project, just get in touch with me at dave@oldbones.info. As we put together the details, I’m sure we can easily find a way to allow anyone from anywhere to pitch in.