My favorite ancestor is Betsy (Wasgatt) Stanwood. She was one tough lady. She was five months pregnant when she married my 4th great grandfather, Benjamin Stanwood, in 1808. Not exactly politically correct in the early 19th century. When Benjamin died, she managed the family farm, and was listed as head of house on nearly all subsequent censuses. When her grown children and spouses moved to Minnesota, she went along for the ride, but came back to her home – Eden (now Bar Harbor), Maine. She apparently made this trip alone, although she was nearly 80 years old at the time. I love Bar Harbor – I understand why she came home.
I’ve dabbled in my Wasgatt genealogy throughout the years, but was again inspired to pick it back up when I saw the Wasgatt family Bible in Bar Harbor last summer. Armed with this info, and starting from scratch, I’ve been going through generation after generation, adding appropriate sources that I either lacked in my beginning days, or were dropped when moving from one genealogy program to the next.
One really cool thing about retracing your steps after so many years is that there are a lot more resources available online to assist. Not that I’ve ignored offline and primary resources, mind you. I’ve armed myself with copies of the Bar Harbor Town Records, filmed by Picton Press. Thomas F. Vining’s Cemeteries of Cranberry Isles and the Towns of Mount Desert Island. Oh yes, Maine Genealogical Society’s “Vital Records of Mount Desert Island Maine and Nearby Islands: 1776-1820,” and host of other resources.
The difference, however, is that genealogists can now avail themselves of bigger and better tools. If you haven’t found Google eBooks, for example, you are really missing out. (You can filter the book selection to see only those that are free – typically that’s where you’ll find the out of print history books.) This goldmine has given me the history behind the towns where my ancestors lived, and new places to seek for records. It’s a heck of lot easier to find what you’re looking for when you know what that is! (See Ancestry Insider’s post – Tree Decorators and Tree Growers.) After spending the last couple of weeks downloading and reading Google Books’ digitized version of out-of-print histories, exploring Betsy’s grandfather Thomas’ roots in Porsmouth and Rochester, NH, Berwick, Penobscot, Hampden, Trenton and Bar Harbor, ME, I’ve been able to glean a considerable amount of new information from the various county web sites. (See my earlier post on Maine’s digitized deeds.) For the rest, I’ve been able to contact historical societies and the county registries of probate and deeds, and copies of original records should be in my mail box this week.
However, there’s still a wealth of information we can access online that we didn’t have available twenty years ago. (Heck, a lot of it wasn’t even there five years ago!) Take, for example, Find A Grave. We all know about the wonderful death and burial info we can access with this great resource. However, what I’ve found even more beneficial is the ability to connect with cousins through this site. The photo of Hannah (Higgins) Higgins above, posted by the wife of a distant cousin, was one that I discovered at 1:30 a.m. this morning, surfing Find A Grave . (Hey, sleep is overrated!) Next time you visit Find A Grave, take a few extra minutes and email the poster. (Always appropriate before downloading their images, but especially important if they have additional photos and other info on your subject and they might be related.) This evening I’m very thankful for the internet – with it, the world is indeed a much smaller place!