Research in Beantown

Contributing Writer
Janet Wahlberg

I just returned from a research trip to Boston where I spent 4 days at the New England Historic Genealogical Society Library. I had arranged for a consultation with one of their research experts and was fortunate to be assigned Marie Daly, one of their premier researchers as my consultant. Her preparation and knowledge was wonderful. She had a printed list of books, manuscripts and films for me as well as a stack of books and couple of printed stories regarding my family. It seems that she and I share family connections to Prince Edward Island.

With the assistance and guidance that I received I was able to make great progress on one of my maternal lines. I am indeed fortunate to have 3 maternal lines that arrived in the New England area in the 1600’s, the Wings, Coffins, and Morse’s. These families have extensive records that are available as do many of the early families to America. While some of the information was on the standard births, marriages and deaths that we all collect, many of the records located at the NEGH’s Library provide those stories that bring our ancestors alive. Their archives include extensive information from New England and Eastern Canada as well as many resources for the entire United States, Scotland, England, Ireland, and Portugal specifically the Azores. Also housed within the library is The Jewish Heritage Center an incredible resource for those with a Jewish Heritage.

During my visit, I focused on my maternal Coffin line who were Loyalists. While I knew that they had at some point emigrated from the Boston and Nantucket area to Prince Edward Island, I did not know when or by what route. What I discovered was that my direct line had moved from Nantucket to Cape Sable, Nova Scotia in the 1760’s and subsequently to Prince Edward Island. The records revealed of their struggle to survive the first winter in Cape Sable, prejudice against their Quaker beliefs, loss of life at sea for many of their men, and struggles with the native peoples. All of this expanded my knowledge and appreciation of these early members of my family. While I had been aware that many of the settlers on Nantucket had embraced the Quaker faith, I was not aware that my direct ancestors had. As you can readily see, examining wills, land records, biographies, maps and town records became a real journey of discovery for me.

Boston itself offered some interesting experiences – the Patriots Super Bowl victory parade, fabulous architecture, great sea food and of course the “Boston Blizzard” which shut down the city. For those of us from Western New York it wasn’t so bad. We still ventured forth from the hotel to seek nourishment and adventure.

I share this story to encourage those of you who have not ventured forth to other repositories to give it consideration as there are many resources available that are not on-line. We have a group at the Hall House called The Fenton Travelers who are always planning new trips.

To read Janet Walberg’s previous genealogy columns or to delve deeper into her writings and insights for searching out and recording your own family’s genealogy, please go to jamestowngazette.com and visit Janet’s own web page.