Saturday’s Fireside Chat

Alicia Crane WilliamsOn Saturday I had the honor and fun of joining with Bob Anderson and Chris Child in a Fireside Chat in the Treat Rotunda at NEHGS. We were each touting publications for sale – Bob’s Great Migration Directory (so popular it has sold out and there were none to physically sell that day!); Chris Child’s first issue of Mayflower Descendant under the new banner of NEHGS, which will be available in January; and Volume 1 of my Early New England Families series. The “Chats,” which took place in three sessions throughout the day, included interesting questions from our moderators, Jim Power and Penny Stratton, and from the audience about our projects, how we all got started in genealogy, and how we work. There were at least 150 people who came for the special day of discount prices in the bookstore, access to the library, and to hear stories from two old genealogists (Bob and I), many of which predated Chris’ birth. I think everyone enjoyed the event.

This first volume of Early New England Families includes 50 sketches from the Early New England Families Study Project that have been published on The book series will continue to be published as we accumulate 50 new sketches, and we are already about half-way to the goal for volume 2. Ordering information for the book is available through the NEHGS bookstore catalog on, and was also published in the most recent issue of American Ancestors magazine.

If I may say so, myself, I think the book looks super. The content is the same as the online sketches, but it has been reformatted to a 6” x 9” page with footnotes converted to endnotes for each sketch. The project is fulfilling its mission to publish useful research material.

Whenever one spends time with other genealogists, it is inevitable that one learns new things. Chris Child clued me in on the probate collection on I have been searching the card catalog for “Suffolk County, Massachusetts, Probate,” without much luck. Now I know it is hidden under the general title “Massachusetts Wills & Probate Records.” This collection has images [though I do not know how complete the collection is] of all county probate records for Massachusetts. I, of course, already access Plymouth, Middlesex, Essex, and Worcester on, but Suffolk remained one of the most important counties not yet available here, and I have relied on my colleague Chris Carter at the library to do all my “look ups” for that county. He does a great job, but there is no substitute for being able to wander through original records oneself.

Bob Anderson, who wrote a lovely cover blurb for the book, informed me that at our present rate the entire Early Families project will be completed in 500 years! I hope that was not a conservative estimate, since over 25 years ago he estimated it would take only six years to complete the Great Migration Study Project!

About Alicia Crane Williams

Alicia Crane Williams, FASG, Lead Genealogist of Early Families of New England Study Project, has compiled and edited numerous important genealogical publications including The Mayflower Descendant and the Alden Family “Silver Book” Five Generations project of the Mayflower Society. Most recently, she is the author of the 2017 edition of The Babson Genealogy, 1606-2017, Descendants of Thomas and Isabel Babson who first arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1637. Alicia has served as Historian of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, Assistant Historian General at the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, and as Genealogist of the Alden Kindred of America. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in History from Northeastern University.

12 thoughts on “Saturday’s Fireside Chat

  1. I wish I could have been there! However, your help reaches as far as Atlanta, even without airtravel. Several years ago you looked at my Doud research and gave me good advice on how to write it up as I went along. The Alden Kindred of America just accepted my line!

    1. And, from Montana, thanks for all you do and teach. Hope you have a very happy and restful Christmas and New Year!

  2. I don’t think that I will be reading your genealogies when you finish in 500 years. The first group has one of my ancestors and I have found several more and hope to find several more over the next few years.

  3. Lucky me! I was able to attend, living in the Boston area. I felt so much pride to be a member of this stellar organization, NEHGS, at the Fireside Chat. And I feel tremendous gratitude for all you three presenters, as well as all the other NEHGS staff, have done and continue to do to make genealogy and family history such an exciting and rewarding past time for us amateurs…even holding our hands when we hit “brick walls!”

    1. Bruce, My math isn’t that good, but if there are something over 30,000 marriages to be treated, that makes 600 books? Assuming, of course, that in three or four hundred years from now they still make books!

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