It was time. As I set out to declutter and organize my home office, little did I know that such a routine task would lead to a wonderful new database to explore. In genealogy, we are looking for records that provide more names, dates, and connections to our ancestors. In this blog post, I’ll share this “new” discovery and explain why you’ll want it in your genealogy toolbox too.
While we all have various amounts of clutter, these small piles of mine have been around for too long. Just knowing they were in the closet seemed to clutter my mind as much as they cluttered the floor. So I took everything out and placed it in the next room and completely cleaned my office. Then, I brought each pile in and started going through them.
Most of the papers were discarded, filed, or put in the receipts folder. After several days of this (just a few hours each day), I’m left with 2 small piles of personal and genealogy to-do’s. It’s always nice to start with a clean slate and that’s what I have now. I also have a plan to go through those to-do piles and how to keep up with future clutter. I don’t want to do this again!
In this digital age, many books and magazines are online. I prefer to feel the material in my hands, but that also means I have more clutter. Another pile comprised several years of the magazine, American Ancestors, from the New England Historical and Genealogical Society. That’s the subject of today’s post.
Despite the large task ahead, I read (or at least looked through) each one. I came across the “New Database” section from the Summer 2020 edition.1 The article by Don LeClair highlighted NEHGS Membership Applications for the period 1845-1900. He explained how to find the database on the NEHGS website and included interesting facts like how former President, John Quincy Adams, became the first member. An acceptance letter dated 1 August 1845 is included in the collection. Also in the database are the first women applicants from 2 February 1898.
I don’t have many New England ancestors, however, my husband does. So, I went to the database and entered the surname “Lunt.” If you recall Rob and I took a trip to Newbury/Newburyport, Massachusetts earlier this year to research their first settlers, including his 8x great-grandfather, Henry Lunt. You can read about that blog post here.
That search resulted in the application of David Perkins Page dated 5 April 1872. David was the son of David Perkins Page and Susan Maria Lunt, the 4x great-granddaughter of Henry Lunt, and a distant cousin of my husband.
I absolutely love the opening paragraph, “To Rev Edmund F. Slafter, Corresponding Secretary: Sir: – I have received your Communication informing me of my election as a Resident Member of the New England Historic, Genealogical Society, and hereby beg to express my acceptance of membership. I am very respectfully yours, David P. Page.”2
David’s application was four pages long, which was the standard length at the time. Some members added numerous additional documents, such as family trees, and biographical and genealogical data providing genealogy gold!
With every document we uncover, we either learn new information or confirm what we already know. David provided his parents’ birth date and place, his paternal and maternal grandfather’s names, his children’s names, and his wife’s maiden name along with her father.
He also furnished his occupation and prominent facts about his life. He served in the Navy during the Civil War as a Ship’s Master. After the war, he commanded a ship in the California and East India trade. This type of information is hard to come by and David wrote it in his own hand, plus his signature!
While its name might suggest a regional focus, The New England Historic and Genealogical Society serves as a vital source of information beyond New England as well. Recognized as the oldest genealogical society in the country, its resources (including the wonderful databases on the website) make it a must-have in your genealogy toolbox.
Do you have some cleaning to do? Like me, you might discover interesting stories of ancestors you didn’t know you had. If you need help getting started, please reach out. I’d love to help with your journey to the past.
Genealogy tip: Many genealogy publications and websites provide updates to helpful databases. Every so often, check out blogs and articles on major sites to see if they have something new for you to explore!
1 Don LeClair, “New Database: NEHGS Membership Applications, 1845-1900,” American Ancestors (Summer 2020): 36-7.
2“NEHGS Membership Applications, 1845-1900,” database with images, AmericanAncestors (https://www.americanancestors.org/DB2758/i/58862/33-co1/74057360: accessed 19 Aug 2023), entry for David P. Page, vol. 1872, pp. 33:1-33:4; citing New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2020.