New England Historic Genealogical Society

NEHGS – Great People, Great Resources, Great Place!

New England Historic Genealogical Society

Last month, my husband and I had the good fortune to tag along with friends on an Urban Getaway. Denis went to the NCAA wrestling finals in Manhattan, and then Theresa attended a work-related conference in Boston. I think Tom went to find us the best places to eat!

My destination was the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) in Boston to do some of my own genealogy research. I spend most of my time researching for clients whose ancestors lived in or traveled through Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Mine never made it to this neck of the woods. My mother’s side settled mainly in New York, Connecticut, and yes – Massachusetts.

One family that I am particularly fond of are the McMasters. John and Katharine (Ames) McMaster were Scots-Irish immigrants who arrived around 1720 – probably through Boston – and settled in Massachusetts. Their son, James, moved to New York by 1750. We know that he was married by the late 1740s, because that’s when the first of their nine children, David, was born. But this is also the BIG Question that my two fifth cousins, Jane from California and Terry from New York, have been working on:

“Who was the wife of James McMaster who was born c. 1712 in Ulster, Ireland and died bef. 1790 in Montgomery County, New York?”

Family tradition and an old partially documented manuscript suggest that her name was Sarah or Ann Gordon, but this has not been proven. The real purpose of my trip to Boston was to help and contribute to my cousins’ research by searching for information on the McMasters and the Gordons.

So what did I find at NEHGS?

  • First, a beautiful 7-story facility, exactly like what was described on the American Ancestors Website. I “visited” the Using the NEHGS Library page before leaving on my trip, in order to search their collections, determine what resources I wanted to look at, and locate what floor they were on.
  • But what I’ll remember is the friendly, helpful staff on every floor. Unlike some repositories that have (almost) armed guards, everyone was welcoming. Patrons are allowed to bring everything they need to do their research – lap top, back pack, camera, you name it. No lockers here.
  • The first thing on my list was a trip to the 5th Floor Stacks to request two histories of Leicester, Massachusetts and two original manuscripts – a bible record and a supplement to a family history, authored by a McMaster.
  • Next, I headed to the 7th Floor Reading Room to explore stacks and stacks of published family histories, town histories and published Massachusetts vital records. I think every book that was ever written on any McMaster family was there.
  • My final stop was to the Microfilm Collection on the 4th floor to check out New England vital records and the Massachusetts probate records that began in 1660.2016 NEHGS

So what new information did I find about the McMaster family?

What great contribution will I make to Jane’s and Terry’s hard work?

Well……nothing. Nothing new at all……..

But I don’t consider this a wasted trip. It took me a good day to get the lay of the land, and I only brought one Massachusetts family to research. There are plenty more where that came from – and I’ll be back. I may even hire an NEHGS expert to help.

As for the McMasters, the three cousins will keep searching – because the Scots-Irish are not quitters!

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