52 Weeks to a Better Genealogy, Week 21: Maryland State Archives

I visited the Maryland State Archives for a client this week, in search of an elusive marriage record that the client’s family had sought for more than 60 years. I did my homework beforehand and knew exactly what to ask for when I showed up. The archives website provided all the information I needed to prepare ahead of time.

From the homepage, I clicked on Reference and Research in the left-hand sidebar. In the How to Find Specific Records section, I clicked on the link for Marriage Records.

There is an enormous amount of historical background available on this page! Be sure to read the information on how and when the state and counties started tracking marriages — it will make your search that much more fruitful if you are armed with this knowledge.

Since I knew the exact date and county of the marriage record I sought, I found the appropriate date range (Marriage Records 1776-1886) and then clicked on the links for the appropriate county (in this case, Talbot).

Here’s an example “Pull Slip” for one of the records I needed to search. I printed these pull slips out and took them with me to the archives. It was hard for me to tell from the information given in what format the records would be, so I was able to go over the pull slips with one of the archives staff. Some of the records were available online (some password protected and some not; the archives staff make the password available upon request).

In this particular case, I found two records referring to the marriage in question. One was a hand-written copy of the index and licenses transcribed from the original in the year 1861. I was able to view scans of this index online at the Archives and printed out the pertinent pages for my client. The other record contained the original pages from the county marriage license files, preserved and stored at the Archives. I was able to page through the book and take photos of the pages my client needed.

It was useful for my client to have both versions of the record. Why? She had found the marriage license indexed on Ancestry.com, but one of the surnames was spelled completely different. The client felt certain it was the right record because the other name, the date and the location all were correct. It appears the Ancestry.com record was indexed based on the 1861 hand-written copy, where we could see that a spelling error was introduced after comparing it to the original record, which showed the correct spelling of the name.

My email to the client after my trip to the archives elicited a “Yippee!” and “That’s it!!!!!  This is the proof my mother was seeking in 1950!!!!” (What a priceless feeling!)

If you are seeking similar records from a Marylander ancestor, I highly recommend exploring their site to see if you too can find the tools there to break down your brickwall. There are folks like me who can go to the archives for you to search for records (advisable if you need someone to do a bit of extra hunting because of missing or misinformation, as in the case above) or you can order them yourself.

I’ve posted previously on how to order death records from the MSA. If you live in Maryland, I highly recommend stopping by the archives and getting acquainted with all they have to offer. Be sure to use their web site first to make your trip a productive one!

Airing Out the Dirty Laundry, 1800s-Style

While reading old newspaper abstracts for a client project, I came across this gem of an exchange between a quarreling husband and wife:

3 Aug 1822: Notice – “‘Whereas my wife, Celia Stevens has left my bed & board….’ – Samuel Stevens”

10 Aug 1822 – “Celia Stevens answers the notice of her husband, Samuel Stevens, saying ‘He has neither bed or board… it being mine and the fact is he left it…'”

(F. Edward Wright, Maryland Eastern Shore Newspaper Abstracts, Volume 4, 1819-1824 (Silver Spring, Md.: Family Line, 1982), page 37, entries 231-232.)

This led me to look up the term “bed and board” and, not surprisingly, it’s the basis of a legal definition of a divorce where the husband and wife are not legally separated, but are not living together either (see a modern definition here).

These posts no doubt caused a stir at the time. I would love to find the original clippings — it appears the Maryland State Archives may have them. Hmmm… Maybe after I finish the client project.

Tombstone Tuesday: Hole-in-the-Wall Cemetery

On the way to southern points on the Eastern Shore, I always pass this tumbling-down church and graveyard on Route 50 near Trappe, Md. I finally pulled off the road to explore it this past Saturday. The sign on the corner reads “White Marsh Cemetery,” but Google Maps has it listed as “Hole-in-the-Wall Cemetery.” Funnily enough, the name does not come from the appearance of the existing building.

The building is the remains of a church dating back to the 1600s. Interesting stories about the church can be found on the Haunted Eastern Shore Facebook page. Many of the graves have stones with dates in the 1700s including a vault in the floor of the church holding the remains of a parish rector and his wife.

The cemetery is still in use by another church and there are many recent graves there. Below are photos of some of the older graves, many of which are succumbing to nature in varying degrees:

Tombstone Tuesday: Christopher G. LYNCH

This elaborate tombstone in Easton, Md.’s Spring Hill Cemetery caught my eye because of its blueish hue, which stood out from the granite and marble surrounding it, and because of of its elaborate carvings:

The inscription on his stone indicates that Lynch fought as a Confederate soldier in the Civil War as part of the Chesapeake Battery of the Maryland Artillery.

Lynch’s gravestone is a veritable sampler of cemetery symbolism. The cannons on the stone may be meant to commemorate his military service. The anchor could have several meanings. According to this site on gravestone symbols, the anchor could mean hope or eternal life and/or could indicate the deceased was a sailor or even a Mason. According to the Association of Gravestone Studies (yes, there is such a thing; link opens a PDF), the anchor may also symbolize strong faith or steadfastness.

The wreath of flowers could mean victory or honor. The gravestone also features a bundle of wheat and a Lily of the Valley; the former represents harvest and the later, innocence or purity.

52 Weeks to a Better Genealogy: Online Databases at Your Public Library

I’m just squeezing in this week’s challenge:

“Online databases at your public library. Search your library’s web site and see if your card grants you access to online databases. Libraries (even small ones) often have wonderful online tools including genealogy databases, historical newspapers and more! Take some time and play with these little perks that come with a library card. You just may get some help in your own genealogy research and gain some free research tools to boot. If you don’t know how to access online library databases or you’re not sure if your branch has them, ask a librarian for guidance. If you have a blog, discuss which databases (if any) to which your library subscribes.”

I constantly turn to the online databases available through the Talbot County Free Library, especially their genealogy and newspaper databases, most of which I can access from the comfort of my own home using my library card number.

Here are my go-to resources offered by TCFL:

  • HeritageQuest Online: provides access to census records, books and articles, Revolutionary War files, Freedman’s Bank records and the U.S. Serials Set.
  • Sanborn Maps of Maryland: great resource for viewing historical maps of towns across Maryland.
  • Archives of the Easton Star-Democrat newspaper via Newsbank (I only wish these went back further).
  • Archives of the Baltimore Sun via ProQuest.

I also can access the databases available through the Caroline County Public Library. When I did research in their Maryland Room, I registered my TCFL library card with them so I could access their databases too.

Their archives of the Denton Journal through Newspaper Archive are spectacular and have provided much needed clues for some of my research projects.

Tombstone Tuesday: Edward R. TRIPPE

Taken at Spring Hill Cemetery in Easton, Md.:

The inscription at the top reads In Hoc Signo Vinces:

The phrase means “by this sign thou shalt conquer,” and it is used by the Knights Templar among others.

Somewhat Wordy Wednesday: Mind the Gap

This is a gap in the fence that separates the Tylor House in Easton from its neighbor to the south. Rumor has it that two sisters once occupied the Tylor House and the residence next door and left the gap in the fence to make it easier to visit one another. The footsteps in the snow in this pic were left by the mailman. These days, he’s the only one to make use of the pass-through.

When Wilson Tylor built the Tylor House, the parcel of land that it sat on was pretty large. That parcel has since been divided into other lots. Did he build a house on the adjacent lot for one of his daughters? Or was it a subsequent owner and her sister that were neighbors? I’ll need to do more digging into the history of both properties to find the answer.

Tombstone Tuesday: The Cannons

This headstone, found in Spring Hill Cemetery in Easton, Md., is interesting to me for a couple of reasons: the symbols accompanying the husband’s name and the lack of a death date for the wife (and I’m pretty sure she’s dead, otherwise, she’d be 132 years young).

I did some preliminary searches and was not able to find information about Mary Virginia Kirk Cannon’s death. Some might suggest that perhaps she remarried and was therefore buried with the subsequent husband. However, she would have been 81 when Everett Cannon died — that doesn’t completely rule out another marriage, but I think it diminishes the likelihood quite a bit.

There are other possible scenarios — perhaps she moved far away before she passed and was buried elsewhere. Or perhaps her family couldn’t afford to have her stone engraved with her death date.

Turning back to the symbols on the grave. The one on the left-hand side represents the Shriners, a group of Master Masons. The symbol on the right-hand side looks like the Rotary wheel symbol to me. I’d never seen either symbol on a grave before.

Shriner's Symbol

Rotary Wheel

52 Weeks to a Better Genealogy: Inter-Library Loan

I’m late (again) for this weekly series, but I’m also going to take a different spin on the original mission from We Tree:
“Learn about your local public library’s inter-library loan (ILL) policy. Pick a genealogy-related book that you want to read that is not in your library’s collection. Ask the librarian how to request the book from another library. Find the different library systems from which you can request books through your own library, as this can dramatically increase the number of genealogy books to which you have access. If you have a genealogy blog, write about your experience with requesting items through your library’s ILL service.”

I’ve used and am a huge proponent of inter-library loan (ILL) services. Through my volunteer work with the Internet Public Library, I constantly refer patrons to their local libraries because even if their library doesn’t have a particular book that they may need or want, they usually can request it via inter-library loan.

The state of Maryland actually maintains a fleet of vehicles for this purpose (and if I could find my spring 2008 class notes, I could tell you exactly how many). The other morning, I saw a van belonging to the Eastern Shore Regional Library heading west on Route 50 here on the Shore. I wonder if they were transporting books for the ILL program.

Here’s how the ILL loan process works at my library: once I determine that a book I need is not available in my library’s catalog, but is available at another library in the system (either via WorldCat [more on this in a future post] or on Marina, the state’s library holdings database), I simply call or email the library and ask them to request the book for me. They also can request books from out-of-state institutions, but there is a $5 charge for this (still cheaper than having to buy your own copy of most books!). The hitch is that if a book is in high demand, you may have to wait a while before it becomes available to send your way.

I’ve also used the ILL system within the University System of Maryland libraries. I work on the College Park campus, but when I needed a book at one of the campuses in Baltimore, I was able to request that it be sent to one of the libraries on the College Park campus for me to pick up. Way more convenient!


Tombstone Tuesday: John J. JUMP

Tombstone for John J. JUMP

I saw this unusual tombstone for John J. JUMP at Easton’s Spring Hill Cemetery a couple of weeks ago. I originally thought he may have been a sailor, because the wheel on his tombstone sort of resembled a ship’s wheel, but this may not be the case. In researching symbols on tombstones, I learned that a broken wheel can simply signify a life cut short.

John J. Jump | Born Oct. 26, 1847 | Passed from Earth to Heaven | Dec. 6, 1882 | Aged 35 years

That would certainly be the case for Jump, who was only 35 when he died.