Ste. Marie de l’Incarnation et les Ursulines de Québec

In 1639, Marie de l’Incarnation left France for the wilderness of Nouvelle France. At forty years old, she had already lived an interesting life. She had no way of knowing what a lasting difference she would make in the world.

Marie Guyart was born at Tours, France, 18 October 1599, daughter of Florent Guyart and Jeanne Michelet and baptized there in the parish of St. Saturnin the following day. From the age of seven, when she had a vision of Jesus, she felt drawn to religious life. Ignoring her wishes, her parents made her a match with a silk worker named Claude Martin. Married at 18, she became a mother a year later and a widow just months after that. She lived with her parents for a time, then her sister. In 1631 she joined the Ursuline convent, and in 1639 she went to New France, where she founded a convent in Quebec City.

The Jesuits had been teaching young native boys their European Christian values for years. Now the Ursulines took upon themselves the education of young native girls in these ways. They were the first female religious order from Europe in North America. After three years in the lower town, they moved to the upper town and built a new monastery. The land was donated to the nuns by the Company of New France. The Ursuline convent has been located on this property ever since.

Since its founding, the Ursulines have been dedicated to teaching. From the natives, to the children of colonists, to the children of wealthy merchants, the nuns have taught girls of all ages. More than two dozen convents and monasteries were founded, starting in Trois-Rivières in 1697 and ending in Yagi, Japan, in 1974. Many members of our ancestral families joined the Ursulines to continue their mission of teaching.

From small beginnings, the Ursuline Convent is now a large complex of buildings. In 2014They remained a cloistered order until the 1960s. Unfortunately, that was a harbinger of greater changes to come. The sisterhood is dwindling. The numbers of those joining religious orders in general has diminished greatly since that time, and the Ursulines are no exception. Today there are only 40 nuns living at the convent, the youngest of whom is in her 60s.

A recent story broke the news that the sisters have made a difficult decision. After 375 years of living on the same land, the remaining Ursuline sisters will move into a modern assisted living facility in 2018. In 2017 the Musée des Ursulines de Québec was founded. It will work to preserve the monasteries and convents, artifacts, and the archives of these valiant women. In these archives is doubtless a great deal of information about those in our ancestral families who became Ursulines.

Little could young Marie Guyart have known what a difference she would make around the world. After more than thirty years toiling in her new home in Canada, Marie de l’Incarnation passed away on 30 April 1672, just two weeks after Easter. Pope John Paul, II, beatified her in Vatican City.  More than 340 years after she died, Pope Francis canonized her on 2 April 2014, making her now Sainte Marie de l’Incarnation.

 

For more information about Marie Guyart and the Ursulines of Quebec, visit the following resources:

The Canadian Encyclopedia entry for the Ursuline Convent

The Catholic Encyclopedia entry for Marie de l’Incarnation

The Musée des Ursulines de Québec

 

 

The Massachusetts Real Estate Atlas Digitization Project

Maps are a vital part of genealogical research. Recognizing their historical and genealogical value, the Massachusetts State Library initiated a major project to digitize a part of their collection.

The Massachusetts Real Estate Atlas Digitization Project, supported by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, is working to digitize the collection of about 200 atlases. These volumes provide 6,500 maps of areas throughout the Commonwealth.

To date the project has digitized 167 of the 200 volumes; almost 85% of the collection! The earliest published volume digitized to date is an atlas of plans to subdivide the estates of William C. Barstow in East Boston, created in 1857. The earliest maps, however, are much earlier. In 1894 an atlas of Boston was published with maps created in 1819–20. This excerpt shows the Granary Burying Ground (labeled simply Burying Ground), and the house on Unity Street (at the corner of the alley just up from Love Lane) built by Benjamin Franklin’s sister and brother-in-law, later owned by Franklin himself.

The largest part of the collection is comprised of 50 atlases of various parts of the city of Boston in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. The most recent of all the materials in the online collection is a 1938 atlas for Back Bay and the central part of Boston.

Maps are not limited to Boston, however. You can find towns across the state in these atlases. This small section of a map of the town of Seekonk in an atlas of Bristol County published in 1895 shows the eighteenth-century farmhouse where my family lived while I was in high school.  No names are present, but the small black squares on the mapeach represent a building.

The files are available in both PDF and jpg format. While neither is searchable, it is very easy to browse both versions. The PDF files are on the DSpace platform that holds all of the digital collections of the library. The jpg files are on Flickr. If you have ancestors in Massachusetts, visit the library’s page for the Massachusetts Real Estate Atlas Digitization Project and check out these resources.

 

Land Ownership in Canada

Our French-Canadian ancestors had a far different system of land ownership than we, their Franco-American descendants, are used to. The seigneurial system, born out of feudal France, requires we think of researching their property records in different ways.

In the earliest days of the settlement, the crown granted large swaths of land to the Company of New France (also known as the Company of One Hundred Associates), various branches of the church, and to a limited number of individuals. These grants were called seigneuries. Individuals who received the grants were called seigneurs. The church and the company acted as the seigneur for their grants.

The seigneurs would then give their own grants to individuals, who would pay a cens (a small annual cash payment) and rent, much larger and usually a combination of cash, crops, and farm animals. These were the habitants who cleared the land and created farms. They were usually referred to in official documents as censitaires.

Waterways were the primary method of travel in New France, thus everyone wanted easy access to them. Seigneuries usually had a certain amount of frontage on the river, with the land extending deep back from there. The seigneuries would then be further subdivided with each censitaire receiving a certain amount of frontage, with the rest of the land going back from there.

Censitaires were able to assign their property to others. They could buy or sell rights to property, or leave their property to their children through a will, division of estate, or other method. As censitaires distributed their land to their children, the property would be further subdivided. Eventually the land would become a series of tiny strips moving away from the water.

Once the seigneury was divided and no further frontage was available, the land would be subdivided into ranges (pronounced like rang in the phrase “rang the bell”). A second range of subdivisions would be created by the first. In some cases, a third or fourth (or more) range might eventually be created. These were seldom neat, straight lines. Natural occurrences (such as marsh/swamp land, ravines, and more) might impact the way the land was granted. The lower the range, the greater the likelihood that your ancestor might have been more economically successful.

The seigneurial system of land tenure continued even after the Conquest. It continued throughout the first half of the nineteenth century until the passage of the Feudal Abolition Act of 1854. It was not until well into the twentieth century, however, that the seigneuries were all finally totally gone.

Records of these rentals, as well as sales and purchases of individuals’ rights to property, are found in the notarial records. Remember that not all transactions were handled locally, and the notaire in the seigneurie may not by the one who handled all the legal contracts surrounding the property of your ancestors.

For more information on the history of land and property in Quebec, see:

Harris, Richard Colebrook. The Seigneurial System in Early Canada Madison, Wisc.: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1968.

Munro, William Bennett. Documents Relating to the Seigneurial Tenure in Canada, 1598–1854 New York: Greenwood Press, Publishers, 1968. First published 1908 by the Champlain Society.

Five in the News

With this post I am reintroducing a popular feature from my days at Mocavo. A weekly roundup of interesting stories of interest to genealogists. This week’s stories include ancient explanations for eclipses and explorations of trigonometry, maritime mysteries of the Pearl Harbor survivor USS Indianapolis and Confederate submarine Hunley, and the historic significance of twentieth-century Black Beaches of Maryland.

How Maryland Black Beaches are Becoming Staples of American History
Between the 1920s and 1960s, there weren’t many beaches where African-Americans could freely enjoy themselves without encountering discrimination. So, Carr’s Beach and just a few other beaches in the D.C. area became a safe space. Legends such as James Brown and Jackie Wilson would perform at Carr’s.

How 5 Ancient Cultures Explained Solar Eclipses
Solar eclipses have been fascinating—and often terrifying—humans throughout the course of history . . . As millions prepare to witness the phenomenon, find out how some early cultures and religions tried to explain and understand a solar eclipse.

This 3,700-Year-Old Babylonian Clay Tablet Just Changed the History of Maths
A Babylonian clay tablet dating back 3,700 years has been identified as the world’s oldest and most accurate trigonometric table, suggesting the Babylonians beat the ancient Greeks to the invention of trigonometry by over 1,000 years.

How the USS Indianapolis, WWII Navy Ship with a Dramatic History, was Finally Rediscovered
On July 30th, 1945, the Indianapolis was at sea, having just completed a top-secret mission delivering key components of the atomic bomb Little Boy to a naval base in the Northern Mariana Islands, when it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. Just 15 minutes later, the ship that survived the Pearl Harbor attack was underwater. . . Ultimately, only 316 survived the ordeal. For decades, the final resting place of the Indianapolis was lost to the ocean.

Solving the Mystery of What Killed a Civil War Submarine Crew
The dead submarine crew hadn’t moved from their stations for nearly 150 years when the vessel was raised from the ocean in 2000. Whatever killed them happened so suddenly that they never made a run for the escape hatch. What’s more, they had no obvious physical injuries.

Power Tips for Using Word

This blog post was inspired by a Facebook post made by my friend (and colleague in the Boston University Certificate in Genealogy Program) Julie Michutka about styles in Microsoft Word. Even as a Mac user, I understand that Word provides a great deal of functionality that isn’t offered by other word processors, and is very useful for genealogical writing. Here are five tops to help you use Word smarter. Note: These options may not be available to those operating older versions of Word.

 

1. Styles List
We know that styles are a much better way to format a document than individual commands. Styles help maintain consistency throughout a document. This comes in very handy when working with a document that is longer than just a few pages. On the Home tab, click on the Styles Pane to open a list of styles. The default list is Recommended styles, but other options include Styles in use, In current document, or All styles. This allows you to quickly apply styles, especially those you have used before. At the bottom of the pane are two boxes that can be selected. Selecting Show styles guides will change the list to Styles in use and add color codes. These codes will also appear on the left side of the document, showing you which styles are used on each line of the document. Selecting the Show direct formatting Guide will highlight sections of text that have been manually formatted.

 

 

2. Use Word as a Whiteboard
We often think of writing in a Word document as beginning at the top of the document and typing text in from top to bottom. You might occasionally insert text boxes to put callout text in the document. But there are other ways to write more creatively.

You can use a Word document as a digital whiteboard. You can type anywhere on the page simply by double-clicking wherever you want to write. It is not necessary to put line or paragraph breaks, spaces or tabs to type text in multiple areas.

 

3. Multiple Views
When working with a long document, there may be times when you want to view different parts of it at the same time. This is especially important in writing compiled genealogy, where you might want to see the entry for someone in a child list, and their own sketch later in the document as an adult with his/her own family. Instead of scrolling back and forth, you can easily see different sections of the document at the same document. There are two options for doing this.

By going to the View tab and selecting New Window, Word will open a second window for the same document. Any changes in one window will appear in the other window as well. Closing one of the windows does not lose the changes, as you are working in a single document from two different access points. If you like, you can continue to open up additional windows for multiple access points. Once you have the different windows open, select Arrange All to organize them on your desktop.

If you don’t have a large monitor, you can access a different part of a document in the same window. Just select Split on the View tab. This will split the window into two panes, and you can scroll each pane independently. Once again, it is two views into the same document, so changes made in one pane will appear in the other. To go back to a single pane, go back to the View tab. The Split button now says Remove split. Select it and the split disappears. Mac users can also access this functionality in the Window option on the menu bar.

 

4. Smart Lookup
Sometimes when we are writing we transcribe words or phrases that we might not understand, or we need more information about. Perhaps we want to elaborate a bit for the benefit of the reader. Our habit, of course, is to open our internet browser and go to our favorite search engine to see what we can find. Word offers you the opportunity to look right from Word.

Select a string of text, then control-click (Mac) or right click (Windows). In newer versions of Word, you will see an option for Smart Lookup. Select that option, and you will get internet search results in a pane on the right side of the Word window. You will also have an option to Search with Google or Search with Bing. Selecting those options will open your internet browser with search results for the term. Older versions offer only the search options.

 

5. Customize Your Ribbon

Word comes with eight standard tabs: Home, Insert, Design, Layout, References, Mailings, Review, and View. Each tab comes with a standard set of command buttons. But these are not the only buttons available.

Mac users with Word 2016 should go to the menu bar and select Word>Preferences. Then choose Ribbon and Toolbar.
Office 365 users and Windows users with Word 2016 should go to the File tab and select Options then choose Customize Ribbon.

The box on the left will show you  list of command buttons that can be added to any of the tabs. To make it easier, the best choice is to select from the dropdown box Commands Not in the Ribbon. This will display only the command buttons that are not already on a tab. Simply choose the command and select the tab you would like to add it to, then click the right arrow. You can also delete commands from tabs that you never use, if you want to make more room on the tab for other commands.

If there are tabs you don’t use, such as mailings, you can remove the tab from view by unchecking the box next to the tab name. You can also create your own tabs and give them whatever name you like.

Evaluating Online Trees

Online family trees can be very helpful for clues to your research. Over time, they have gotten better with the ability to attach documents, to help support the data in the tree. Unfortunately, for the most part, there is no place for creators of trees to explain their methodology in creating the tree. It is incumbent upon us to dig a little deeper for information that might be there, but does not make itself readily apparent.

 

On Ancestry, for example, a preview pops up on the search results. In this example, we can see that this tree has information for Frederic S. French, with exact dates and places of birth, marriage, and death.The preview shows that there are 5 records attached to this tree. Unfortunately, Frederic’s parents are not known. Looking further, however, reveals a different story.

 

Clicking through to the tree itself shows us that the parents’ names are “Unknown.” Among the five attached records, however, are the marriage record for Frederic and his wife Mabel E. White, and Frederic’s death record.

 

 

Frederic married Mabel, twenty-one years his junior, 28 July 1913. The record clearly states that Frederic’s parents were Benjamin H. French and Esther M. “Crummitt”, both born  at Somerville, Maine, and living in the village of Windsorville [a village in Somerville]. It is curious that the information on Frederic’s parents, clearly available on the form, is not included in the family tree. 

 

Their daughter Muriel was born seven months later. Tragically, Benjamin died of heart failure just over a year after her birth, on 29 April 1915. The death record clearly states that Frederic’s parents were “Benj.” French and Esther “Crummett,” both born at Somerville.

It is difficult to understand how this situation can occur. We might be tempted to cast disparaging assumptions upon the creator of the tree. After all, how could the creator have possibly missed this information in the records that were attached to the tree? Since the dates and places of birth, death, and marriage are included in the tree, the creator clearly examined them. Looking a little more closely, however, the answer seems to present itself.

 

The title of the tree shows that this tree is called the “Pridham/Vannah Tree.” Mabel’s mother was Jennie Vannah. The tree likely follows the full information only for direct descendants of the Vannah family. Examining the records of Mabel’s parents, Elmer E. White and Jennie Vannah shows an identical situation to that of the French Family.

 

Their tree shows no parents for Elmer. He and Jennie married at Boston in 1885. The marriage record is attached to the tree. The index and the actual record show that Elmer’s parents were George White and his wife Sophronia. But it, too, was not included in the online tree. This would seem to validate the theory that only the information pertinent to Vannah descendants was included in the online tree.

 

 

These same decisions are made for articles and published books all the time. But for some reason, when it comes to online trees, we sometimes make rash judgements. We may think that the tree was created by a newbie or a name collector who is omitting valuable information. In truth, it may be someone who is working on a specific project, and including only the information applicable to the project. Like any resource, you should take the time to do some extra looking at the bigger picture before evaluating the entire tree.

Postal Abbreviations for Genealogists

Today we are quite used to addressing our mail with a two-capital-letter abbreviation for the U.S. state or Canadian province/territory. These codes, however, have not been around forever. They have not even been around for the entire existence of living people. It was not until 1963 the the U.S. Post Office required the use of uppercase-two-letter abbreviations. Prior to that time, abbreviations were longer and of mixed case.

In the early Federal period, states and territories were given one- or two-letter abbreviations, based on their names. States and territories with two-word names were given two-letter abbreviations, usually the first letter of each word. New York, for example was N.Y., and S.C. stood for South Carolina. States with one word might have a single letter abbreviation. In instances where there would be no confusion, a single uppercase letter was used: Ohio, for example, was O., and Pennsylvania was P. But in some cases there were letters that started the names of multiple states. These locations were given two-letter abbreviations, an uppercase letter followed by a lowercase letter. Examples include Va. for Virgnia and Vt. for Vermont.

Chart of postal abbreviations. (Table of the Post Offices in the United States, 1831)

It is important to remember, however, that not all abbreviations are necessarily recognizable to modern researchers. It is critically important when researching in old documents, especially letters, to look at the time period in which the source was created, and to research the history of that time. One should also look in old postal directories to determine the meaning of the abbreviation. Confusion can creep in when we are unfamiliar with the history or the place names of the time. For example, those unfamiliar with history might think that O.T. is the abbreviation for Ohio Territory. In reality, that area was the Ohio Country or the Northwest Territory. It was never the Ohio Territory. The use of O.T. in the early nineteenth century referred to the Orleans Territory, part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the same year that Ohio became a state. Confusion can also creep in when looking at old-style abbreviations that are the same as modern day abbreviations. Today, the abbreviation MS stands for Mississippi, but in days past, Ms. was the abbreviation for Massachusetts.

The 1811 postal guide shows many these early abbreviations, but it was not until 1831 that the post office printed a separate chart just for the abbreviations. In 1874, the USPO published a list of abbreviations that remained relatively stable for the next 90 years, until the introduction of zip codes and two-uppercase-letter abbreviations in 1963.

It is important for genealogists to be aware of these old-style abbreviations not only for research, but for writing as well. We do not use the modern abbreviations in genealogical writing because they are harsh, and in the internet age the equivalent of shouting. They interrupt the train of thought of the reader. So we use the old-style abbreviations to make it easier for the reader to focus on the text. One exception to this is in footnotes. Some journals follow the Chicago Manual of Style, which states that the modern abbreviation can be used for sources. Many genealogical journals, however, continue to use the old-style abbreviation to make it easier on the eye for the reader. Following is a list of the old-style abbreviations used in genealogical writing:

United States

Alabama

Ala.

Montana

Mont.

Alaska

none

Nebraska

Neb. or Nebr.

Arizona

Ariz.

Nevada

Nev.

Arkansas

Ark.

New Hampshire

N.H.

California

Cal. or Calif.

New Jersey

N.J.

Colorado

Col. or Colo.

New Mexico

N.Mex.

Connecticut

Conn.

New York

N.Y.

Delaware

Del.

North Carolina

N.C.

Florida

Fla.

North Dakota

N.Dak.

Georgia

Ga.

Ohio

O.

Hawaii

none

Oklahoma

Okla.

Idaho

Ida.

Oregon

Ore. or Oreg.

Illinois

Ill.

Pennsylvania

Pa., Penn., or Penna.

Indiana

Ind.

Rhode Island

R.I.

Iowa

Ia.

South Carolina

S.C.

Kansas

Kans.

South Dakota

S.Dak.

Kentucky

Ky.

Tennessee

Tenn.

Louisiana

La.

Texas

Tex.

Maine

Me.

Utah

Ut.

Maryland

Md.

Vermont

Vt.

Massachusetts

Mass.

Virginia

Va. or Vir.

Michigan

Mich.

Washington

Wash.

Minnesota

Minn.

West Virginia

W.Va. or W.Vir.

Mississippi

Miss.

Wisconsin

Wis.or Wisc.

Missouri

Mo.

Wyoming

Wyo.

 

Canada

Alberta

Alta.

Nunavut

none

British Columbia

B.C.

Ontario

Ont.

Manitoba

Man.

Prince Edward Island

P.E.I.

New Brunswick

N.B.

Quebec

Que.

Newfoundland

Nfld.

Saskatchewan

Sask.

Northwest Territories

N.W.T.

Yukon Territory

Yuk. or Y.T.

Nova Scotia

N.S.

5 Alternative Sources for Death Information

The Social Security Death Index used to be the go-to place for genealogists to find information on those who have died recently. Unfortunately, Congress has now removed our access for the most recent three years, providing us with major problems in trying to find deaths in this time period. Indexes to death records are not always available online. And obituaries are not published as frequently as they used to be.

I was recently contacted by a friend. He had seen posts on Facebook indicating that the wife of his ex might have passed away, but he wanted to be certain before sending condolences. Since the death would have been in New York City last year, accessing a death record was out. No obituary could be found. So, the question became “Where to look next?” Here are five resources I checked, ultimately leading to confirmation of the death.

1. Funeral Homes
As newspapers charge more and more to publish obituaries, funeral homes and mortuaries are taking their place as publishers of these notices. While most have websites that leave this information open to search engines, not all do. Look for funeral homes in the area where your subject lived, and check for obituaries and death notices there.

2. Probate Records
When someone dies owning property, a record of the estate is usually created in the probate courts. Many localities have made indexes for modern records available online. Check these to see if a person’s estate has been entered into probate. When dealing with common names, one has to be very careful to use more evidence to confirm that the person is the subject of the search. You might need to view the probate record to determine if the identification is correct.

3. Land Records
Nowadays, many people create trusts to minimize tax penalties on estates. Unfortunately, these trusts can escape registration in the probate system, removing that as a resource for us. However, if your subject owned real estate, you may be able to find information there. Many localities are making not only their deed indexes accessible online, but also images of the records themselves. Look for information in these transactions. Often a surviving spouse will sell the property, and there will be a notation that the other spouse is deceased. Survivors will also often take out a mortgage, or refinance an existing mortgage, on the property. This can give you evidence of the death of one of the property owners.

4. Find a Grave/Billion Graves
More and more, contributors are adding information to these sites about recent burials. These are not always accompanied by photographs, but often have at least bare bones information on them. Some comes from death notices in small community newspapers that might run death notices or news items that are more difficult to find in the massive results of a search engine.

5. Church Notices
This is the record that actually lead to the confirmation of my subject’s death. Funerals rarely get notices in church bulletins because they usually happen too quickly. Depending on the denomination, however, there might be a later scheduled memorial service. In the Catholic church that my subject was a member of, a mass was said in her memory. While it does not confirm the exact date of death, it does show that she was deceased by the time the mass was said. Another clue can be the date of such memorial masses, which often occur near to the anniversary of the death.

The Money of New France

Part of researching our ancestors’ lives is looking at their economic situation. How much real estate did they own? What did it cost? What personal property did they have and what was its value? Part of determining this information is having an understanding of the currency of the period and what the value of that currency is.

In the colony of New France, the monetary system is a bit complicated. The system was based on the livre. Just as British currency was divided into pounds, shillings, and pence, the livre was subdivided into sols and deniers. The major difference between the two currencies was that there was no livre coin. There were twelve deniers in a sol, and twenty sols in a livre. When written out, it was often abbreviated. Instead of saying 10 livres, 5 sols, and 3 deniers, it would be written as 10ll.8s.9d.

These denominations were the same in France as they were in the French colonies, such as New France and Saint Domingue. But the value of the money was different. Until 1717, the monnaie du pays or argent du Canada was worth less than the monnaie de France or argent de France. The value was lessened and reduced by one quarter. It was not until 1717 that the monies were equalized in value.

During this time there was no paper currency, only coinage. And coins were not minted in New France. They were brought into the colony by the King’s ships. This would cause shortages if a ship was delayed, especially if the next ship could not come until the following Spring.

In the late 17th century, The intendant Demeulle used playing cards as a form of paper currency. He signed  cards, declaring them to worth varying amounts of money. This did not cause inflation, as it was not meant to increase the amount of money in circulation, only as a temporary way of paying the government’s bills. When the next ship arrived, the cards were turned in for coins. This system was used until 1714, but in 1729 French-Canadian merchants demanded a return to the system in order to keep the economy moving. Some of this card money is still in private hands, and very collectible. This card was expected to sell at auction for $8,000.

To find out more about French-Canadian currency, see “The French Colonies and the Exchange on Paris” in John J. McCusker Money and Exchange in Europe and America, 1600­–1775 (Williamsburg, Va.: Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1978 (280–90) and “Economic Life” in Marcel Trudel Introduction to New France (Pawtucket, R.I.: Quintin Publications, 1997) 184–89.

Five Reasons Why Cyndi’s List is Better than Google

In today’s world, Google has replaced many things. Instead of turning to a dictionary or encyclopedia, we often first turn on our computer and hop on a search engine (most frequently Google). While this can be helpful, it isn’t always necessarily the best and easiest way to find what we are seeking quickly. For genealogical purposes, Cyndi’s List is always at the top of my list (even higher than Google). Here are five reasons why.

1. The Google Algorithm
Google and other search engines base your results on specific search algorithms. These include information from your previous searches to that Google can determine what you are searching for. Anyone who has seen strange search results appear (or bizarre advertisements show up on your Facebook page) knows how inaccurate these algorithms can often be. You never have to worry about that with Cyndi’s List.

2. Which Would You Rather Navigate?
I did a Google search for the term “Massachusetts genealogy” which returned more than 662,000 hits. With ten hits per page, that is more than 66,000 pages of results that need to be sifted through. There is no apparent order to the results. The top ten results were:

  • the Family Search wiki page for Massachusetts
  • the Massachusetts State Archives genealogy page
  • a Massachusetts research guide on the NEHGS website
  • links to Massachusetts resources on AccessGenealogy
  • Massachusetts GenWeb,
  • Massachusetts records on interment.net
  • a search page on Ancestry.com for Massachusetts
  • the Massachusetts Genealogical Council
  • an outdated Massachusetts vital records website
  • Research guide on Massachusetts vital records at the University of Massachusetts library

On Cyndi’s List, however, I navigated to the Massachusetts page in two clicks and had results grouped in more than 30 categories, making it easy for me to look for resources that would be helpful to me for a specific question. And if you don’t want to navigate through the easily-browsed pages, you can also search Cyndi’s entire list.

3. Cyndi’s Results are Already Vetted
When you are faced with the results on Google, you must look at each one to determine if it is a real resource, or a fake site looking to troll you. If it is not a real website, Cyndi won’t link to it in the first place. And if a website starts providing false or plagiarized information or other less than ethical materials, it will quickly be barred. Will Google do that for you?

4. Actual Support
Cyndi’s List has a very detailed FAQ; a number of them actually. These will well you with virtually any problem or question you might have. And, these FAQs are available from a link at the top of every page. In the rare event that you have a problem or question not addressed by the FAQs, you can send an email (although with the volume of messages she gets, it may take her awhile to get back to you.

5. Cyndi Ingle
The final reason Cyndi’s List is better than Google: Cyndi herself. Behind this list is a single individual. For more than twenty years she has worked to make this comprehensive resource available for free to everyone. She is incredibly knowledgeable, not only in genealogy, but in technology, and business as well. For any opportunity you have to use her list, or see her in a webinar or a live speaking engagement, you should run to be the first one registered for a seat and learn from her.

A couple of final notes. First, as you know, Cyndi provides access to her site free of charge, and has done so for more than twenty years. It costs a great deal of money to keep that going. Please consider supporting the list financially. You can make purchases from websites such as Abe Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and eBay by clicking on her affiliate links, and she will get a small remuneration for your purchase. Or you can make a donation directly. Any amount will help keep this valuable resource available for free to all.

Second, I want to acknowledge that Cyndi and I have been good friends for many, many years. This friendship has no bearing on what I wrote above. If I didn’t think it was one of the best resources around, I wouldn’t write about it. I believe in providing valuable resources to genealogists, and this is one of the best ones available anywhere.

 

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