Category Archives: GeneaGems

DigitalMaine Repository: New GeneaGem

If you have Maine family roots, you’ll want to check out DigitalMaine Repository, which is part of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), an evergrowing website with links to historical resources for every state in the U.S.

While I have been aware of DPLA for years, I’ve only used it occasionally. However, my recent 12 for ’22 project, updating the life of William Tarbox (1779-1860) of New Gloucester, Maine, made me realize there are some real treasures, already digitally available, for Maine researchers.

The home page of DigitalMaine Repository features only a few links on the left side of the page. That means it takes some exploring to find the gold hidden away.

Occasionally, I’ve read blog posts from those who seek medical records from family members who were institutionalized as far back as the early 1800s, but have either not been able to find any extant records or were barred by state law from accessing records, even though the patient died a century ago.

Maine State Archives has a collection of patient records from  the Augusta Mental Health Institute, previously called the Maine Insane Hospital, covering the years from 1840-1910.

To give you an idea of just how many patients lived there – over 11,000 died at the hospital and that isn’t counting patients who completed a stay and returned home.

Not only does the Archives have the records, but they have digitized most of them and they are available on DigitalMaine Repository.

Now back to my comment about exploring to find the hidden gold – I never would have found these records without step by step directions of an archivist.

Look at the lengthy pathway at the top of the image – from Home to the records took six clicks. Part of the difficulty in finding the records is that they are housed under the Secretary of State records and under the AMHI hospital name.

Once you reach the AMHI page, navigating is easy. There are five separate collections:

1. 1881 report
2. Admission books
3. Annual Reports
4. Autopsy Files from 1912-1913
5. Patient medical records

I used the admission books to find the exact date that William Tarbox was admitted to the hospital and then delved into the Patient Medical Records to find his entry.

While these steps weren’t difficult, it was very slow going because these are PDF volumes with hundreds of pages in them. Scrolling page by page was an arduous task since William was on page 432!

These records seem to be quite complete. William’s record is short – just one page – as he was only there for 20 days. I noticed several entries that included the note that they were a continuation from previous pages. Therefore, it might take quite a lot of scrolling to find multi-page medical records pertaining to one person.

When found, those records truly are gold!

What else is to be found on Digital Maine?

There is a Digital Repositories for Maine Communities collection (not all towns are included) that has historical images. In Calais, Maine, I found the Archive Collection for the First Congregational Church of Calais, which included a booklet about the formation of the church and a list of original members in the 1820s and 1830s.

Another booklet covers all the members from 1825-1925, including when they left and how/why. In many cases, the congregant died and their date of death is noted. This is in a state where death records weren’t common until the turn of the 20th century!

My 2X great grandmother, Nellie Tarbox, joined the First Congregational Church in May 1873, before she married Calvin Adams:

It gives her death date of 23 December 1927 and even includes the place – Boston, Massachusetts. There is also “Adams” in parentheses after her name, probably added in February 1875, after she got married.

Nellie’s sister, Elizabeth, wife of Charles Vickery, also joined, but much later:

The other link in the Calais section is to books about Calais, including genealogies that have been digitized and a book about the plaster and granite industries in Calais. That is of interest to me because George Rogers Tarbox, my 3X great grandfather, owned the Red Beach granite quarry in the later 1800s.

DigitalMaine Repository is a GeneaGem for Maine ancestor hunters.

If your family wasn’t from Maine, visit DPLA to find your states of interest. You never know what rare records might be waiting for you and – don’t be afraid to spend some time digging! It’s worth your time.



New GeneaGem: Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States by Charles O. Paullin & John K. Wright – Digitized!

Two GeneaGems in two days doesn’t happen very often. However, Charles O’ Paullin’s and John K. Wright’s Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, published in 1932, definitely qualifies.

One might expect with a 1932 publication date the this book would be under copyright restrictions for several more years. In fact, it is not and there are several websites where this terrific book – containing almost 700 maps – can be viewed online for free.

Internet Archive – Bibliotheque de Sciences Po

Internet Archive – University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign

and Digital Scholarship Lab – University of Richmond, which, in my opinion, is the best version, given that is it interactive, rather than just a digitized book.

That is the version I will be sharing today.

First, we have the Table of Contents:

The Table of Contents contains live links that will take the reader to a new page. I randomly chose BOUNDARIES 1607- 1927 to view.

Immediately, one map caught my eye – Island in Bay of Fundy, which is home to Calais, Washington, Maine. I have ancestors who lived on Campobello, Adams and Deer Islands, Canada.

Campobello Island is clearly seen in the middle, with Deer Island just to its north. Adams Island is one of the small islands, just north of Deer Island and is no longer inhabited. However, my ancestors lived on that island for the first half of the 19th century.

This map depicts the proposed American-Canadian borders between 1801 and 1817.

Have you ever wondered what the 1793 plan of the district of Columbia looked like? Here it is:

The map even notes that it is to be the permanent residence of Congress after the year 1800.

Other city plans include Boston, 1775, New York, 1776, Philadelphia, 1776, Charleston, 1780, Baltimore, 1801 and new Orleans, 1803.

These are just two examples of the maps found in this atlas.

The 18 categories in the Table of Contents show the remarkable variety in types of maps.

Curious, I browsed Colleges, Universities and churches, 1775-1890 and then chose the Congregational Church map. It was no surprise to see it heavily concentrated in New England.

Look closely, though, at New Jersey and South Carolina. There was one Congregational Church in each of those places! My guess is that a group of New Englanders relocated and built their own churches in order to continue the practice of their faith.

One more example – Did you ancestors explore and/or settle in the early American West between 1803 and 1852? If yes, then check out this nifty map:

The legend names the parties and the years they migrated west corresponding to the routes each traveled.

Maps are one of the vital keys that help explain our ancestors’ lives and where we might find records created along the way.

Paullin’s and Wright’s Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States is a real GeneaGem!




New GeneaGem: The Library of Virginia Collections

I realized that I have mentioned a certain resource many times in the past, and while it ranks as one of the truly great GeneaGems, I had never included it in my list. I am rectifying that mistake now.

In 1995, the National Genealogical Society conference was held in San Diego, California. I have a distinct memory of one early morning session which I attended. The speaker was Barbara Vines Little and I guess she wanted to make sure her audience was awake that day.

She pounded her fist on the table and yelled “Virginia is the center of the universe!” Well, anyone who had been dozing off was no longer doing so.

Much has changed in the genealogy research world since 1995 when the internet was in its infancy and Virginia became ahead of its time with the online collections housed at The Library of Virginia, which is truly the center of today’s Virginia research universe.

First, I have to admit that the Library of Virginia has extensive holdings that are digitized and accessible online from home (at least if you are not a Virginia resident), but the staff added to the digital collections constantly through the years and continues to do so today.

A number of Reference Guides and Indexes have been created to help researchers understand and find materials in the various collections.

Each of the above categories opens extensive drop down menus revealing just how deep the library’s collections are.

I would encourage anyone with Virginia roots to spend some time exploring these finding aids that will help genealogists identify possible resources pertaining to their own family trees.

One category that I don’t see on the above page, and which may well be buried in one of the drop down menus, is the Guide to the Personal Papers Collections at the Library of Virginia. This book was published in 2008 and is currently out of print. A quick look online found it priced at a hefty $142.00. However, the library has in-house copies available to peruse.

Personal papers and manuscripts are a significantly under-used resource because most are not available online. Virginia has an extensive collection, so this guide is an important finding aid.

There is also a PDF online, Genealogical Records at the Library of Virginia, which is worth taking the time to review.

What Collections are Digitally Online at Library of Virginia?

The library has several projects accessible online on Virginia Memory, which is where its digital collections are housed.

First, there are several historical exhibitions, which are described as:

The Library of Virginia’s exhibition program offers physical, traveling, and virtual exhibitions that explore the commonwealth’s social and cultural history. . .

The current exhibition is WE DEMAND: Women’s Suffrage in Virginia.

However, most family history researchers will want to check out the MANY databases found under the Digital Collections tab, which are orgainzed in alphabetical order:

There are a number of digital databases that are directly relevant to genealogy research.

Here is a sampling of some of the databases available:

Cohabitation Registers – A cohabitation register, or as it is properly titled, Register of Colored Persons…cohabiting together as Husband and Wife on 27th February 1866, was the legal vehicle by which former slaves legitimized both their marriages and their children.

Civil War Project Map

Stereograph Collection – Old photos of Virginian people and places

Broadside Collection – Early Virginia news notices (single event notices, rather than an entire newspaper)

Electoral College Digital Collection – Virginia’s Electoral College results from 1789 onward

War of 1812 Bicentennial Collection

Last, but definitely not least, here is my favorite database, which I use often – the Virginia Chancery Records Index:

Chancery court is where, simply put, the court decided the fairness of situations. When a man died and left an estate that couldn’t easily be equitably divided among his heirs, the family went to Chancery Court for help.

Sometimes these court cases were simply a request for a court order to help, while other cases involved unhappy litigants, seeking redress from the court.

In both situations, a stream of paperwork was created that leaves valuable family information for us today.

I have found complete lists of heirs, both living and deceased, with their places of residence, members of the FAN club who gave depositions and stated relationships to the deceased person, AND I’ve even found copies of wills recorded in the lawsuit WHICH NO LONGER EXIST IN THE HOME COUNTY because the county courthouse burned!!!

Not all Virginia chancery court records have been digitized, but many are complete. The home page includes a box listing the current projects, which right now include Amelia, Giles and Princess Anne Counties:

It is very easy to search for Plaintiff, Defendant or Surname:

If you have an Index Number or Case Number, that can be entered and there are boxes to check for cases that mention free or enslaved persons.

If you have Virginia ancestral connections, I can’t recommend the Library of Virginia highly enough! For those of you who have no Virginia family ties, I am sure you will wish you did after visiting this website.