Category Archives: GeneaGems

New GeneaGem: Mariners Lost at Sea Database

Although I am always on the lookout for new GeneaGems to share, I don’t come across these hidden treasures very often.

Today’s GeneaGem is a fabulous find if you have ancestral lines that originate on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts.

Being an island, Nantucket offers an opportunity to live a seafaring life, whether it be as a local fisherman, a mariner sailing ships from sea to sea or as a whaler.

At the time the American Revolution broke out, Nantucketers worried for their safety and their livelihood, as most of the men’s occupations were related to ocean life.

Their success had reached its peak in the 18th century, but life at sea remained dangerous, not only in wartime, but during peaceful times, too.

Aside from inclement weather, which sank many ships, most sailors were unable to swim. Shipboard accidents happened. Men fell overboard. Angry whales rammed ships. Pirates attacked. Fatal illnesses like yellow fever.

Occasionally, bodies might be brought home for burial, but in the majority of deaths at sea, sailors were ‘buried’ in the ocean.

However, crew members had to be accounted for, so families and government officials knew what happened. Deaths were reported to the Nantucket town clerk, likely by the captain or first mate, and the names of the deceased were duly noted in town or court records.

Today’s GeneaGem is found on at the Nantucket Historical Association, where a database has been created to record and remember Mariners Lost at Sea.

More than 1,100 seafarers from 1726-1896 have been identified and their names added to the database.

Notice the tab at the top right side of the main page (above) – Mariners Lost at Sea Database. Just click and then scroll down.

If you have multiple family surnames and prefer to browse, the database is set up with 50 entries to the page. That can be adjusted up to 100 entries to make browsing a little easier.

If particular surnames are of interest, note the green arrow at the top right. Enter a surname and the list will appear.

The site if very easy to use and I believe as more men who died at sea are identified, the database will be updated.

My own ancestor, Joseph Coleman, died at sea off the coast of Guinea, Africa, of yellow fever sometime between 1775-1790. His name appears in this database.

This database is also very useful for identifying collateral relatives who died at sea.

The Nantucket Historical Association is doing a tremendous job preserving its history. Its website is fun to browse even if Nantucketers aren’t in your family tree – and it’s free!





New GeneaGem – Emigrant Guides: Travel Brochures from the Past

Before the internet age, how did our families learn about far-off places they might want to visit, vacation at or move to? Travel brochures did the trick.

How did our ancestors determine their emigrant destinations? Yes, they often followed others by word of mouth. Someone, though, had to be first.

What information enabled them to make a decision and be the trail blazer? Emigrant Guides!

I had never heard of an emigrant guide until I heard Peggy Clemens Lauritzen mention them in a webinar about migratory trails across the United States.

What did these emigrant guides look like and where can they be found today? Internet Archive to the rescue!

Most of the guides were actually books that included any and all kinds of information that a potential resident might want or need to know.

Harvey Philpot’s Guide Book to the Canadian Dominion was published in London, England in 1871.

What did it tell prospective citizens about life in Canada? Part 2 addressed details of daily life:

It covered everything from how to obtain land to the “occupations” a man would be expected to master in order to survive in the “bush.” It wasn’t a life choice for the faint of heart! The “gradual” advancement to prosperity was described, hand in hand with the early marriages of daughters, the tax rates and how to find land agents.

How much does it cost?

What to do upon arrival?

Exactly what does it say about girls’ early marriages?

This guide book to life in Canada is relatively modern in time.

There were guides printed much earlier, such as this one by J.H. Colton in 1846:

Here the “Western tourist” can find out everything they ever wanted to know about Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri with Wisconsin and Iowa thrown in for good measure.

The Table of Contents gives an overview of information that will be covered:

This guide, in spite of all the states it covers, is only 132 pages long.

Gallia County, Ohio, where some of my husband’s extended Bandy family lived, was sparsely settled but contained 400 square miles:

Even further back in time, we have John Knight’s 1818 book The Emigrant’s Best Instructor . . . Respecting the United States of America, published not long after the close of the War of 1812.

These guides are quite interesting to read, both because of the flowery, interesting language and because they tend to paint quite a clear picture of life in a new place.

Do emigrant guides exist for places in which your ancestors settled? Possibly. There are quite a few of them to be found on Internet Archive. Here are a sampling of links:

John Knight, 1818: The Emigrant’s Best Instructor or, the most recent and important information respecting the United States of America, selected from the works of the latest travellers in the country, particularly Brabury, Hulme, Brown, Birkbeck, etc. …the English laws o emigration …and every other information needful to the emigrant.

Savannah, Florida and Western Railway Company, 1879: Guide to southern Georgia and Florida, containing a brief description of points of interest to the tourist, invalid or emigrant, and how to reach them

Chicago and North Western Railway Company and W.H. Stennett, 1876: The North and West illustrated for tourist, business and pleasure travel: The popular resorts of California, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, northern Michigan and Minnesota. A guide to the lakes and rivers, to the plains and mountains, to the resorts of birds, game animals and fishes; and hints for the commercial traveler, the theatre manage, the land hunter and the emigrant

J.H. Colton, 1846: The western tourist; or, Emigrant’s guide through the states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri, and the territories of Wisconsin and Iowa: being and accurate and concise description of each state, territory, and county

Robert Baird, 1834: View of the valley of the Mississippi, or, The emigrant’s and traveller’s guide to the West: containing a general description of that entire country: and also notices of the soil, productions, rivers, and other channels of intercourse and trade: and likewise of the cities and towns, progress of education, &c. of each state and territory

John Disturnell, 1850: The emigrant’s guide to New Mexico, California and Oregon: with a Map

Christopher W. Atkinson, 1842: The emigrant’s guide to New Brunswick, British North America

John Regan, 1852: The emigrant’s guide to the western states of America, or, Backwoods and Prairies

William Darby, 1818: The emigrant’s guide to the western and southwester states and territories: comprising a geographical and statistical description of the states; Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio; the territories of Alabama, Missouri, and Michigan; and the western parts of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New-York; with a complete list of the road and river routes, west of the Allegheny Mountains, and the connecting roads from New-York,Philadelphia, and Washington City, to New_Orleans, St. Louis, and Pittsburg: The whole comprising a more comprehensive account of the soil, productions, climate, and present state of improvement of the regions described, than any work hitherto published; accompanies by a map of the United States, including Louisiana, projected and engrave expressly for this work

Catherine Parr Traill, 1855: The Canadian settler’s guide

Many more can be found online.

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.