Category Archives: GeneaGems

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.



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!