ancestryink fisherman

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Genealogists find authors of 1930's letters to mysterious donor B. Virdot

In 2008, Ted Gup's 80 year old mother handed him a suitcase full of letters that belonged to his grandfather Samuel Stone. The suitcase was entitled "Memoirs," and all the letters were dated the same week of December 1933. The Great Depression.  And they were all addressed to someone named "B. Virdot."  The letters were from individuals ranging in age from 14 and older, asking to be considered to receive a gift from the benefactor B. Virdot.

(Click on letter to read transcription of CBS story)

This was Canton, Ohio in 1933.  In 2008, Mr. Gup began his investigation to learn more about B. Virdot (who turns out to be his grandfather) and the people who received the gifts.  He uses local genealogists to aid him in his search, and along the way also finds out that his grandfather, who became a well-to-do clothing retailer,  is not from Pittsburgh, as he claimed, but from Romania, and arrived penniless to the U.S. in 1902, to escape persecution.

Here is an audio of the NPR interview with Mr. Gup.  He has written a book about his grandfather "B. Virdot" and the people who received his gifts.

It's a wonderful story.  Benefactors in Canton, Ohio have now taken up B. Virdot's cause and each year donate to the needy.  

Another case where genealogists play a vital role in connecting people, solving mysteries, and providing intimate, human details of an historical period such as the Great Depression.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

CT Vital Records to 1870 (The Barbour Collection)

NEHGS has added a new database for four towns in CT.

"This collection contains records of marriages, births, and deaths in Connecticut towns from the 1640s to about 1870. These records were collected, transcribed, and abstracted by Lucius Barnes Barbour (Connecticut Examiner of Public Records, 1911–1934) and his team of researchers between 1918 and 1928."


Search the Barbour Collection now.

More towns will be added this collection, gradually, says NEHGS.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Walsh History Room at Camden Public Library

Ask Heather Bilodeau anything.  Not only does she have knowledge of every resource in the room, she will hands on help you out.

The Camden Public Library is an absolutely gorgeous stone-faced structure facing the harbor and flanked by the library's own pastoral, outdoor amphitheater.  The above-ground part of the library houses the Walsh History Room.  The walls of the halls and rooms are printed with ceiling to floor, museum-quality historical images in sepia tones.  The entire experience is like entering a well-designed museum exhibition.

I spent two full afternoons lost in research in the History Center.  The Camden/Rockport vital records books and local information are invaluable.  The cemetery records revealed to me that most of the family I was researching was buried right in Amesbury Cemetery, a stone's throw from the Rockport Library, another wonderful facility, facing Rockport's scenic harbor, and just a couple of miles from the Camden Library.

In my last hour at the History Center, I asked Heather, the Archives Director,  if the local newspaper dating back to the 1800's might have been on microfilm.  Sure enough, the Camden Herald is stored on microfilm there, dating back to the 1870's!  I found two obituaries, 1888 and 1911, solving many ancestral mysteries, and providing further clues in new names to explore.  The microfilm was very difficult to read with the older newspapers, and Heather then informed me that the Camden Herald had also been put into a digital database.  In no time flat, she'd drawn up the same obituaries in that database (which by the way is available to anyone, not just library card holders) and we printed them out in perfect resolution.

Visit the website and see what the Walsh History Center has to offer, from a distance.  But if  you can spare the time, make a reservation at one of the great Camden B&B's and spend a few days playing in Camden, and getting lost in research in the Walsh History Center. I can't wait to go back!

Oh, and P.S. - They also have a small museum and a collection of stunning historical photographs of Camden. Ask Heather where to find them.