Category Archives: Research

New GeneaGem: Edward E. Ayer Online Collection at the Newberry Library

I’ve never had the opportunity to visit the Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois, but luckily, like many other libraries, creating digital collections is a priority in the 21st century.

Whenever visiting library collections online, a best practice is to look for Research Guides, sometimes called Lib Guides or Library Aids.

The first entry in the extensive Research Guides list for the Newberry is A Guide to American Indian and Indigenous Studies Collections.

This guide details the items in the 17,000 piece collection donated to the Newberry Library by Edward E. Ayer in 1911. Although it’s described as American Indian collection, it not only includes items from non-U.S. indigenous peoples, but it documents early contacts between Native Americans and Europeans in North America. It is said to be one of the best collections in the United States.

The Ayer Collection has a Browse the Collection button:

Items date from the early 1700s into the 20th century and cover many categories, ranging from photos to correspondence to language to culture to war to life in captivity and manuscripts.

It’s a fascinating collection to browse as it gives a glimpse into the American past. Here are a few examples:

1. A trip to the gold regions of the Rocky Mountains in the summer of 1860

2. Memoranda on French colonies in America, including Canada, Louisiana, and the Caribbean

3. A collection of sketches from the Santa Fe Trail

4. Map of Catholic missions in California and Sonora traced from a late eighteenth century Spanish manuscript

5. Jicarilla Apache Indian Reservation newspaper clipping 1897 (Fort Sill, Oklahoma)

6. Genealogical inquiries to Christopher C. Augur, 1864, 1871 and 1890

7. An account of the Indians in Virginia

8. A list of the names of the men that go in pursute of the enemy from Deerfield [Massachusetts] may 10th 1748

9. Answers to interrogations concerning “laws, usages & customs” of the Creek tribe of Indians, Aug. 10, 1832

10. Sunday Andrew and Sampson Rogers photograph

Whether or not you have Native American heritage, you may well find interesting tidbits of Americana that pertain to ancestors who either interacted with Native Americans or who lived in areas near one or more tribes.

Much of the collection favors the middle and western portions of America, but I had ancestors who lived in Deerfield and loved finding item #8 in the list above.

Although this post has the Ayer collection as its focus, there are actually 356 digital collections in the CARLI Digital Collections, which includes not only the Newberry Library, but digital collections housed in other repositories. That is another list for another time, but do browse through it. There are many more fascinating items to view.

New GeneaGem: Virginia Untold

If you have Virginia ancestry and you don’t regularly visit the Library of Virginia’s website, then you are missing out on some fabulous resources as the library is actively expanding its online collections.

Virginia Untold: The African American Narrative is a GeneaGem as it has as its focus digital access to records that document some of the lived experiences of enslaved and free Black and multiracial people in the Library of Virginia’s collections.

Take the time to view the short YouTube video on the Virginia Untold home page to learn more about searching this collection.

I decided to search for “Samuel Williams” of Cumberland County, Virginia. He is a collateral ancestor to my husband’s Matthias Williams and I know that Samuel owned a plantation which used enslaved labor.

One hit came up on Virginia Untold:

Notice the yellow box at the top – it isn’t necessary to have an account or sign in to view the image, which was a public claim filed in 1820. Samuel died in 1823, so this claim was made late in his lifetime.

Notice, too, below the yellow box is a white box indicating where the digital version is housed. In this case, it’s in the Rosetta Repository.

I clicked on the link and a 4-image file opened. The most informative was the final image:

In Council, Octr 5th 1820.

The Governor submitted to the Board the Record of the trial of George, the property of Samuel Williams, condemned to be hung by the County Court of Cumberland, for having feloniously stolen a black horse, the proerpty of his maters. It is advised that he be reprieved for one year, and removed to the penitentiary for sale and transportation…

Samuel Williams was reimbursed the sum of $500 on 19 February 1821.

No further mention is made of George and it is not known whether he lived out his life in prison, was sold and transported elsewhere after a year or if he was eventually executed, as the reprieve was only for one year.

A List of Slaves and Free Persons of color received in the penitentiary of Virginia for Sale and Transportation from the 25th June 1816 to the 4th February 1842 did not include anyone named George from Cumberland County.

However, for others searching for an ancestor, the list includes the name of the person, date received at the penitentiary, where sentenced, owner’s name, age, value (not filled in) and dates of death, pardon or delivery of those sold.

While the existence of slavery is an inexcusable stain on American history, the creation and survival of these records gives a voice, however, small, to those who would otherwise be completely lost to history.

For those researching Virginia ancestors, whether free persons of color or enslaved, Virginia Untold is a must-visit online resource.

Sylvester Eveleth & Susan Nubery, Massachusetts, 1630’s

It’s time to look once again at some of my early New England ancestry. Today, we’ll look at Sylvester Eveleth, baptized on 16 February 1603/04 in Exeter St. Thomas, Devon, England. The Eveleth surname can be found with multiple spellings, including Eveleigh, Evely, Evylith and Eulie (17th century for Evlie). For the most part, in Massachusetts, it was standrdized to Eveleth.

Sylvester married “Susan Nubery” (likely Newberry) in Exeter St. David, Devon, England on 21 September 1630.

The exact date of the family’s arrival in Massachusetts is uncertain. Their daughter Mary was baptized in Exeter in Jun 1633, but the family isn’t mentioned in Massachusetts until 19 March 1643 when “Susan Evylith the wife of one Silvester Evylith a baker” was admitted to the First Church in Boston.

The family soon removed to Gloucester, Essex, Massachusetts, as Susan Eveleth was given a letter of recommendation to her new church on 19 May 1644.

The reasons for the Eveleths emigration are unclear, but 1642 brought about the beginning of the English civil war. It might be that Sylvester and Susan felt unsafe at home and decided to make a new life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Sylvester quickly made a mark in Gloucester affairs, as he acquired land and held town office. He first served as a selectman on 13 December 1647 and later served multiple terms as constable and as a member of gran juries in 1653, 1662, 1633 and 1666,. He acquired 12 acres of land in 1648 and about 70 acres more a few years after.

Although Sylvester was described as a baker in 1643, he was licensed to establish an inn in 1666. He also brewed beer.

Susan Eveleth died on 14 September 1659 in Gloucester and Sylvester married (2) Bridget (MNU) Parkman, widow of Elias Parkman, a mariner, and a mother with seven children and (3) Pilgrim (Eddy) (Baker) Stedman, whose will was proved on 26 January 1708 in Suffolk County, Massachusetts.

Administration of Sylvester’s estate was granted in Suffolk County, Massachusetts on 7 March 1688/89, although he died in Gloucester, Essex, Massachusetts on 4 January 1688/89.

It is believed that Sylvester and Susan were the parents of six children, although there are no primary documents linking Margaret and Isaac to their parents.


i. Margaret, born c1631, probably Exeter St. Thomas, Devon, England; died c1669; married Nathaniel Gallup, 11 June 1652, Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts
ii. Mary, baptized at Exeter St. Thomas, Devon, England; died 7 January 1687/88, Gloucester, Essex, Massachusetts; married Thomas Millett, 21 May 1655, Gloucester, Essex, Massachusetts
iii. Susanna, born c1634, probably England; died c1689; married James Stevens, 31 December 1656, Gloucester, Essex, Massachusetts
iv. Joseph, born about June 1641 and baptized at the First Church, Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts on 26 March 1643, aged about 1 3/4 years; died 1 December 1745, Ipswich, Essex, Massachusetts; married Mary Bragg, 1 January 1667/68, Gloucester, Essex, Massachusetts
v. Hannah, baptized 8 October 1643, Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts; died 19 November 1670, Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts; married Nathan Kettel, 1669
vi. Isaac, born c1645, probably in Gloucester, Essex, Massachusetts; died November 1685, Gloucester, Essex, Massachusetts ; married Abigail Coit, 13 November 1677, Gloucester, Essex, Massachusetts

The Eveleth family is one of my double descent lines, as I descend from both Susanna, who married James Stevens and Joseph, who married Mary Bragg.

Joseph, however, piqued my interest because he is also the longest lived of any of my ancestors, passing away at 104 1/2 years old. Yes, his age is accurate, based on his baptismal age of 1 3/4 years in March 1643 and his recorded date of death in 1745.

However, he piqued my interest for a second reason, too, but you’ll have to read his family sketch to learn why.

If you are an Eveleth descendant, be sure to look up The Eveleth Family of Colonial New England by Jonathan B. Butcher published in October 1980 in The Register, the scholarly journal of The New England Historic Genealogical Society and continued in the January 1981 issue.