Tune up

The big, green Buick we had when I was a child was named “Betsey.” Like all cars she needed maintenance. So with Betsey in mind, I have scheduled a “tune up” of the Early New England Families Study Project to be done after I finish the second volume of Early New England Families 1641-1700, which is nearly done.

With fifty families per volume, the two published volumes will contain a total of 100 Early New England Families sketches. That’s a big chunk of work – which I think is pretty good, even if I do say so myself. However, while “Betsey is up on the lift,” I need to assess whether or not I am achieving the goals of the project. The original idea was to publish accurate “summaries” of published information about couples who lived in New England (beyond those covered in the Great Migration). It has taken five years to complete these 100 sketches.

Betsey’s passengers all want to go in different directions.

Betsey, I have discovered, has some idiosyncrasies. She needs a lot more oil and gas than I expected; the passengers she picks up all want to go in different directions; and I can’t help spending too much time buffing her up.

The fact that, once published, these sketches become “official,” encourages me to think that the more detailed and complete they are, the better. It might be another century before someone revisits them in print. After all, James Savage’s Genealogical Dictionary of New England Settlers remained the “official” source for 120 years before Bob Anderson thought up the Great Migration Study Project!

The 30,000 marriages waiting to eventually be covered by the Early New England Study Project is a shocking number, especially when you consider that the 2400 Great Migration sketches in print took twenty-five years! It is not a matter of trying to get through all 30,000 in one lifetime. Every sketch is unique and requires varying time to be completed. Monthly quotas are out of the question, but is there a goal that might better balance quality with production?

In the past five years, the genealogical research world has changed considerably. Knowing what I could not do, my original intent was to provide “summary” sketches . For example, I would not be able to get out in the field for probate, land records, archives, etc. Therefore, I could not provide complete sketches; I had to be content just sorting out what had already been published for accuracy.

But, surprise, surprise! Now I can sit at my desk (at home) and access all of the Massachusetts land and probate records, Connecticut probate, and . . . so much more is coming! Having such riches has urged me to take on more and more research and to compile more complete and longer sketches. But is it too much of a good thing?

Betsey is still up on the lift.

I have also been comparing Torrey’s Marriages Prior to 1700, on which the Early New England Families Study Project is based, with the Great Migration Directory that lists everyone (present and future) who will be treated in that project. The line between the two projects has always been tricky, which we had to accept as a necessary evil of two different parameters – Great Migration following couples by immigration year and Early New England Families following them by marriage year. Well, it all turns out to be even trickier than thought (and I’ll undoubtedly be giving you some examples in upcoming posts).

Betsey is still up on the lift and I am not entirely sure where this is all going, but there will be adjustments in the next phase of Early New England Families. Changes may include scaling back on detailed transcriptions, loosening up on publishing sketches strictly by marriage date, and taking advantage of extended family groups where research can be more efficiently pursued in similar sources.

I am still not setting a quota, but Betsey will be scheduled for her next tune up when Volume 3 is finished (after the next fifty sketches), so we’ll see how things go.

Alicia Crane Williams

About Alicia Crane Williams

Alicia is the lead genealogist on the new NEHGS study project, Early New England Families, 1641-1700. Prior to joining the NEHGS staff, she compiled and edited numerous important genealogical publications including The Mayflower Descendant, the Alden Family Five Generations project, and the Harlow Family : Descendants of Sgt. William Harlow (1624/5-1691) of Plymouth, Massachusetts. 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. In October 2016, Alicia was elected a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists.

19 thoughts on “Tune up

  1. Thank you so much for your valuable work. Whatever the mechanic decides, it will be stellar and much appreciated!

  2. While heartily “thirding”Jane & Rose above, I strongly support “rebuilding the engine” so as to keep it meeting “manufacturer’s specs”, i.e. the standards you have set.

    Keep your approach but expand the number of laborers to source and supply “parts” while you do the the interior detail and polish the chrome and paint job. It is the only way this will ever get don in two life-times, not counting mine and yours. Ditto & ditto & ditto the GM series. And, by the way, that project can be speeded up greatly due to the expanded research YOU have already done.

    And/or using both projects as post-grad training programs (funded by project benefactors) will also create the future cadre of excellent genealogical/historical researchers. A double legacy!

    1. Ah, Bob, if only. These days there are more cars on the road demanding more attention (and funding). Perhaps if they can develop a self-driving car?

  3. Sounds like the number of mechanics needs to be dramatically increased … but sometimes a project needs that initial phase so that the scope and the areas of difficulty are brought to light. At the beginning we do not always know what we need to know!
    Important work and many will be grateful for the time and attention you have given it!

  4. Oh … and that is one sweet Buick! My family had one of the turquoise and white ’57 Chevy’s … boy, cars were cars then! 🙂

  5. I can hardly wait to see if your research includes any Marshal (l) families! Thank you for undertaking such a huge project!
    I am still pondering why there are Marshalls listed as being born in Portsmouth, Rockingham county, New Hampshire …AND the EXACT same birth records are listed as taking place in Wakefield, Carroll County, New Hampshire.
    I’ve found information about Dover changing name, county and state…but haven’t seen any information about Rockingham county and Carroll county.
    Thanksagain for your dedication and hard work!
    Karen

    1. Karen,

      My research is probably going to pre-date the Marshalls you are looking for, but I can give an answer of why they were recorded twice — often births of children were recorded with the Town Clerk all together when the parents had the chance to go into town, or the Clerk hunted them down. If they moved from one town to another, then they may have all the same kids recorded again with the new town’s clerk!

  6. Ah, such sweet memories you evoked this morning for me! My mother named all of her cars “Betsy” and after a few years of her spending a lot of time on the lift, (Betsy,not my mother!) she would be replaced by another of the same name. My favorite, perhaps because she became my first car, not only served me well but taught me many lessons, not the least how to drive in a coastal Maine winter of ice and snow For years I have longed to have her trustworthy presence with me again during the winter. She was low to the ground, and sometimes plowed her way through snow drifts and we skidded our way through icy conditions where newer models could not go. The most important lesson I learned with my hand-me-down Betsy was slow but sure gets you where you need to go; and If you cannot get through it is time to rethink the pathway.

    Your immensely ambitious project seems to me to be like my mother’s series of Betsy’s: over the years each brought a new delight as well as new features and challenges and there were always some tweaks to be made up on the lift. Not unlike genealogical research. Not unlike your important project, the Betsy’s remain memorable.

    Mom felt lucky when there was an owner’s manual. The Owner’s Manual proved to be a starting point for the user, but the mechanic needed to go elsewhere to get the full depth of understanding of each Betsy.

    Your work is like starting with the old books listing the windshield wiper size and writing the Owner’s Manual. You provide wonderfully useful information, but when it is time for Betsy to go up on the lift, you point to where to find the mechanic’s guide.

    1. I think our Betsey was a hand-me-down, too. I’m having lunch with my older brother today and will try to confirm details. My Dad’s philosophy was “if the car still moves, no need for a new one,” so Betsey was well used. Depending on her age, she would have taken the family across the country as far as Oregon and back. Her successor was also a hand-me-down from my Mother’s father, a blue and white Buick station wagon. I think there probably was a slogan or something about “Betsey Buick” that led to the name.

  7. Alicia,

    White walls on that particular Betsey! My first car was a 1950 something red and white Plymouth Fury, bought in the late 1960s when I started teaching high school. I loved that car, but for some reason I didn’t name her. When I got married, we replaced her (at least I knew she was a she!) with a pale green VW bug named Herkimer, to go with his Ford pickup named Bessie.

    I haven’t read enough of my pile of NEHGS books yet, or of the Great Migration Newsletters. But where would I find information on my Jewett family? I’m descended from Maximilian Jewett, b. 1604 in Bradford, West Riding, Yorkshire, parents Edward Jewett and Mary Taylor. His first wife, from whom I’m descended, seems to be Ann Cole. They were married about 1638, apparently before leaving Yorkshire. They were passengers on the ship that included his brother Joseph and wife Mary. This group, led by their preacher, Rev. Ezekiel Rogers, settled Rowley, Essex Co. Mass in 1639. I found one source saying that Maximilian made a trip to Mass. in 1620, then returned to England before coming again after his marriage, but I don’t have verification of this. After her death, he married Eleanor (Ellen) Pell Boynton in 1671. I’ve got a copy of one of the early versions of the Jewett Family History, but it’s not helpful. Is this family familiar to you? If the couple were married before migrating, I’m assuming they wouldn’t be in Torrey. They’re too early to show up in your wonderful project at all.

    Thanks for your explanations,
    Doris

    1. Hi Doris,

      Max is in Early Families — he actually has had a glancing blow in the sketch of Daniel Warner, who was the third husband of his second wife! Torrey lists Max’s first marriage as “by 1643”, so he’s “on my list.”

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