Friday, September 18, 2009

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness in Nutfield

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness in Nutfield

I’ve been a volunteer for for many years. I usually look up obituaries on the Derry News microfilm, and I’ve done some photographing of gravestones all over Derry and Londonderry. Sometimes I’m asked to photograph homesteads, such as the Anderson farmhouse on Mammoth road, and the Morrison house which is now our Historical Society on Pillsbury Road. The Morrison descendant who contacted me was thrilled to find out that the Londonderry Historical Society had all kinds of records on his family and his ancestral home.

I’ve also asked for a few favors with other RAOGK volunteers, especially in Nova Scotia or upper parts of Maine that are just too far to drive to conveniently. Several Dutch researchers in the Netherlands were pleasantly surprised when I mentioned the RAOGK network to them. I met these Dutch researchers at a library in Boston, and they later wrote me that I saved them months of work and a trip to Seattle. It wasn’t really me; it was some kind soul in Washington State who saved the day for them! I still hope those Hollanders reciprocated by joining the network as volunteers.

The usual Nutfield request is for a Scots Irish immigrant in the 1700’s who was reported to have “passed through” Londonderry. Perhaps a child or two was born here, and the descendants are searching for clues. For example: “If and when it’s convenient, could you confirm the dates of death for Hezekiah Wetherbee and his wife Grace (Baker) Wetherbee? They lived in Londonderry, and I believe they both died between 1860 and 1870. It would be nice to know which cemetery they\'re buried in, as well.”

Thank goodness that our local Londonderry Boy Scouts and several Eagle Scouts have done surveys of our cemeteries, because the local vital records are very incomplete. There were no death records for Wetherbees in the "Vital Records of Londonderry, NH", by Daniel Gage Annis, published in Manchester, NH, Granite State Publishing Company, 1914. However, I did find the following under the marriages:

Hezekiah and Grace Baker ----- (Parents of William B. Wetherbee)
William B and Sarah Elizabeth Corning May 3, 1862

Please notice there is no date recorded for Hezekiah and Grace Wetherbee’s marriage.

Under Births:
Capt. Hezekiah b. May 18, 1786 and Grace Baker b. Sept. 9, 1786
Susan A., Jan 9, 1825
John H., Sept. 16, 1827
William B., Sept 1829

In the library I found a survey of Londonderry’s Sunnyside Cemetery done by a Boy Scout Troop about 10 years ago. Sunnyside Cemetery is located on Rt. 128 (Mammoth Road, north of the common):

Grace B., 2/9/1865 78y 5m stone #177
Hezekiah, Capt 3/18/1869 82y 10m stone #178
Sarah E., 12/4/1888 48 y stone #180
Susan A, 9/10/1864 39 y 8m stone #176
Wm. B., 9/11/1884 55y stone #180

This was fun, but the best part of all was when I received the email response, and in this case: “Thank you so much for researching the Wetherbees for me: the data you found was exactly what I was hoping for. It's a very kind thing that you do…”

Someone searching for relatives in Derry once asked me to look up records on a shoe factory worker from the 1920’s. The census pointed to an address where the house was still standing, and I was able to photograph it while it was being renovated. It was absolutely fascinating to watch this process for him, like an episode of “This Old House.” The response was: “Please forgive my delay in thanking you for the great effort you went to photographing the house at 3 Highland Ct for me! I have been able to contact several cousins since we last spoke who are descended from the gentleman that I was searching and we have started a correspondence. Thanks so very much for your generosity and I am sure that you will be greatly rewarded for your kindness to others.”

This reward has already happened many, many times over with all the wonderful acts of kindness granted to me by other volunteers all over New England through RAOGK, Rootsweb and Facebook. Good things come to those who ask.

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) is a web service that relies on the kindness of its volunteers. Since 1999 it has grown to an international service with over 4300 contributors and a volunteer staff of eight. Over 71,000 requests were handled in 2007. All requests are handled for free except for fees for actual costs such as photocopying, postage and gas (never for their time and labor). Founders Bridgett and Doc Schneider of Lincoln, Nebraska state that they now have volunteers in 39 countries.

I have friends who have worked on their own family trees for several years, and then have thought of becoming professional genealogists. By taking on a few RAOGK for a few months you will quickly find out if it is still fun to research in the archives for someone else’s family, or if you prefer to just do your own relatives. Those of you out there in cyberspace who have the time to read genealogy blogs and are working on your own family trees might want to think about joining the ranks of the RAOGK volunteers. Not only will it sharpen your own research skills, but you will find that the warm fuzzies you will receive are well worth the time.

Copyright 2009, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

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