Author Archive

MGS to Sponsor Michael Brophy at NERGC 2019

The Maine Genealogical Society is pleased to sponsor Michael Brophy as our society speaker at the New England Regional Genealogical Conference on April 3-6. He will be speaking 8:30 to 9:30 on Saturday morning.  Mike’s talk, “Maine Records at the Mass Archives,” reminds us that Maine has been a state for just under 200 years and the records for those who lived in the District of Maine before 1820 are housed in the Massachusetts Archives.

As a nationally known researcher from the Boston area, Mike is well positioned to help us delve into those records.  His professional work with private clients and as an heir search specialist requires that he look beyond the basic facts.  Sometimes that leads down paths that are unexpected. In his own family, he discovered a long hidden divorce in Ireland almost 100 years ago, and a great grandmother who was killed by a drunken driver.  Digging in courthouse papers and newspapers he was able to discover, as they say “The rest of the story.”

His introduction to genealogy came as is does for many of us with someone else’s work.  Mike reports that after an aunt died his cousin compiled an historical tribute.  That was the spark to begin his own research—what better way to study history than with his own family.  He recruited his father to help search through the attic for memorabilia then began the task of making sense of it.  In those days, that meant scrolling through reels of microfilm and visiting repositories eventually finding school records and passenger ship logs documenting his family’s journey from Ireland to New Brunswick in the early 1800’s. He eventually took a trip to New Brunswick to walk the streets and the countryside where his ancestors had lived.  Studying his family’s history also gives him perspective on the present.  Our problems pale when compared to the hardships our ancestors endured.

These days, Mike can still be found researching in repositories—even though some think otherwise, we all know that not all records are on the internet. He may using resources in the library of the NEHGS, the Boston Public Library or the Massachusetts Archives.  He subscribes to the FAN approach to research. Look around your subject for interactions. That requires those visits to repositories.  Finding the elusive document that answers a long sought family connection can be the “eureka” moment that drives research forward.

Mike’s talk can help us early Maine researchers find what that elusive document leading to our own eureka moment.  

For more information see the conference brochure at

Sharing What You Know….and what you have

By Deborah Nowers

When Joe Anderson suggested that our workshop this year should focus on writing, I was delighted.  His comment, “after all that research, if you don’t write it up; rest assured your heirs won’t either!” struck home.  I am the end of several lines of ancestors who were interested in family history and kept things.  I needed a way to share my research and document the things that I had inherited.  I also needed to find homes for documents and objects I couldn’t keep.  I hoped they would stay in the family.

I took “write it up” broadly.  In my presentation at the conference, I described four ways that I had shared what I knew and what I had.

Image for Sharing What you Know.

The first was to write a genealogy article.  I chose Gramma Withey’s table and the sampler inside that corrected the published Boynton genealogy.  The resulting article was published in The Essex Genealogist.

Then I described a collection of photographs, postcards, and documents from Grampy’s Footlocker that depicted my Grandfather’s service with the Post Office during World War I. Because it was almost exactly 100 years after his departure for France, American Ancestors magazine though it would be timely for a fall 2017 issue.

When I emptied my mother’s house, I needed to find homes for ancestral furniture that I couldn’t use.  The 1790’s canopy bed delighted my cousin’s granddaughter.  It had belonged to her 5th great-grandparents.  I decided that a children’s book describing the owners of the bed would help her—and her mother and grandmother—know its history.  “Haven’s Bed” was the result.

Finally, my husband and I found thirteen monogrammed coin silver spoons in the cellar of my mother-in-law’s house.  When we distributed them to descendants, I included a genealogy sketch that outlined the recipient’s descent from the original owner—with each one’s line highlighted.  It was practice writing for me and perhaps sparked an interest in genealogy for those who received it.

And here is the fifth way…share what you know on the MGS Blog.  It is less intimidating than articles in a prescribed format.  A post can be short.  It can be a description of how you solved a problem, or like me, tell a story about your family.  Have you discovered a great library or historical society that not enough people know about?  Tell us!  My goal is to have a posting each week; for that to happen, we need lots of help.  Give it a shot.  Submit to  Pictures are welcomed.

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