Thursday, July 19, 2018

Genealogy Research at the Phillips Library

There are some genealogy researchers who never had the chance to do research at the old Phillips Library.  And there are others who have been waiting for years for it reopen.  Since it won't reopen any time soon in Salem, and is now relocated to Rowley, there are some things you need to know if you want to research the Phillips Library collections.

The reading room is located at the Peabody Essex Museum Collections Center at 306 Newburyport Turnpike (Route 1) in Rowley, Massachusetts.  If you are familiar with Rowley, it is less than a mile from the Agawam Diner, heading north towards Newburyport, in the old Schylling toy distribution warehouse.  Look for the red sign on Route 1, left side northbound or right side southbound (its not too big and hard to read the lettering).

Researching at the Phillips Library is free.  There is no day fee required, nor is a membership required.  You don't need a researcher card, like at NARA in Washington or at AAS in Worcester.  Parking is free, and abundant.  However, it is only open to drop-in patrons on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 4pm.  No Saturday hours.  It is open by appointment on Mondays and Fridays from 10am - 4pm.  This fall the hours will be changed and/or extended so email or check the website.

The Phillips Library is a closed-stack library.  You must request items by filling out call slips and the staff will retrieve them and bring them to you in the reading room. 

HINT:  You can email in advance at and the staff will have your desired items waiting for you when you arrive at the library.

HINT:  from the reference librarian "We do not pull materials after 3:30 pm, and cannot guarantee that we can pull materials on demand between noon and 1:00 PM.  Contacting us ahead of time will allow us to have materials ready no matter your arrival time.  Also, if someone knows what they want, but cannot locate a call number, or has questions about manuscript finding aids, we can offer guidance in advance, which is less disruptive to other patrons who may be using our reading room."  Experienced researchers are probably accustomed to requesting items ahead of time at other archives and libraries, and the Phillips Library uses the same system.

Before your visit peruse the online catalog, known as Philcat, to see if there is something unique in the collections that you cannot see elsewhere.  These are the materials you probably want to see first during your visit to the Phillips Library reading room.  You can find Philcat at this link:   There are also finding aids, but the website links are currently broken.  There are a few collections digitized and available to see online.  The reference librarian has been very good about answering email within a few days.

You may photograph some items at the Phillips Library.  There are a few restrictions. The reference librarian stated "Manuscript collections may have restrictions in the deeds of gift, placed on them by donors that we need to honor.  We do allow photography of published material within our collection, but insist that it can be for research purposes only, so that it falls under Fair Use, and does not violate copyright laws."

Some items in the card catalog Philcat are not available to researchers.  According to the reference librarian: "...items that are restricted from researchers are due to conditions outlined in the deed of gift.  There are only a few collections that have restrictions, and most have an appointed person to contact for exceptions. Others just have a date after which the restriction ends.  Restrictions should be listed in the catalog record/finding aid.  To see an example, please enter "MH 176" into the Philcat search bar and view the corresponding record."   Follow this search and read the interesting label on the notes on this card catalog item.  Special requests must be made in advance if you want to view this item.

As a genealogist, some of the manuscripts and family papers stored here are the items I find the most interesting and important to my research. If you are researching any maritime ancestors, the ships logs, shipping records, and related items are equally important.  The only family papers that are currently digitized are from the WINTHROP family.   According to the reference librarian "We are currently working to set up a digitization priority list.  It will most likely be based on how frequently collections are used and preservation needs.  I anticipate some of the Salem founding families will be among the first, such as the Derby papers, but as we haven't yet completed the prioritization list, I cannot tell you which families will be included."   This means that a visit to the reading room is important for anyone who wants to see these items that have not yet been digitized.

The Phillips Library is not a genealogy library.  There are no genealogists on the staff.  You won't find a bookcase of the "Tan Books" (Massachusetts vital records to 1849), or city directories, or any other books in the reading room.  All books are in the closed stacks.  There are a few vital records books and town directories that relate to Salem and Essex County in the card catalog.  The rest are either not here, or available at Google Books or Internet Archives, or at other libraries with good genealogy resources.  Some of the strengths of the Phillips Library collection can be see online at the website 

When you arrive, the old rules from the old Salem Phillips Library still apply.  You must store all bags, coats, and pens in the available storage lockers.  You may bring your laptop, phone or digital camera.  I did not see any photography cradles or similar equipment for photographing fragile manuscripts or books. Perhaps they are brought out as needed?  According to a blogger Robin Mason, who has used the new reading room, you must buzz in at the front door, and then check in with a guard who will give you a pass that must be returned to the guard before you leave the collections building.  She also gave the hint that multiple manuscripts can be ordered on the call slip for manuscripts, but non-manuscripts must be ordered one at at time using a different style of call slip.

Other trivia:  There are lockers in the hallway outside of the restrooms.  I saw a water fountain in the hallway. Water bottles are not allowed inside the reading room.  There is no break room available to eat a snack, sip a drink, or have a sandwich at lunchtime.  I suppose you could slip out to your car to drink a coffee or eat a sandwich if you are on an all day visit, or you could run down the street to the Agawam diner.  Nearby are a McDonalds, a Dunkin' Donuts, a Chinese restaurant, and a pizza place.

I can't wait to have my first research trip to this new reading room soon!  I enjoyed the open house last weekend very much, and will cherish my chance to actually walk through the stacks of the Phillips Library and linger over the section with boxes and boxes of family papers.

For the truly curious:

My blog post about the Phillips Library open house: 

Robin Mason's blog post about the library: 


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Genealogy Research at the Phillips Library", Nutfield Genealogy, posted July 19, 2018, ( accessed [access date]).

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Weathervane Wednesday ~ A Running Horse

I post another in a series of weather vane photographs every Wednesday.  This started with images of weathervanes from the Londonderry, New Hampshire area, but now I've found interesting weather vanes all across New England and across the globe.  Sometimes my weather vanes are whimsical, or historical, but all are interesting.  Often my readers tip me off to some very unique or unusual weathervanes, too!  If you know a great weather vane near you, let me know if you'd like to have it featured on this blog.

Today's weather vane was photographed in Maine.

Do you know the location of weathervane post #372?  Scroll down to find the answer.

This two dimensional running horse weathervane can be seen on the side of Route 1 in Wells, Maine at the resort called The Cottages at Summer Village.  The very tall cupola over this barn like community and fitness center can be seen from quite a distance down the road.

This resort is a gated community, but this community center is right on the main highway. According to their website, there was a barn located at this site, before the resort was constructed.  The horse weathervane is a very appropriate part of the new construction, since the running horse is the most popular weathervane seen on New England barns.  This building also houses the front office and reception areas.

The Cottages at Summer Village: 

Click here to see ALL the "Weathervane Wednesday" posts:


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Weathervane Wednesday~ A Running Horse", Nutfield Genealogy, posted July 18, 2018, ( accessed [access date]). 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A Sense of Place: The Phillips Library Reading Room Open House

The new Peabody Essex Museum Collections Center in Rowley, Massachusetts

As a genealogist, I’m always happy to find a clue, or to find that one document that leads to proving a family relationship.  It really doesn’t matter if that document exists online, on microfilm, in a book, in a dusty old library, or in a brand-new facility.  But sometimes the sense of place can be an important part of the discovery.  My internet and microfilm discoveries are often so “un-memorable” that they all blur together.  But I can still vividly remember discoveries made in the archbishop’s palace in Burgos, Spain or the afternoons I rode my bike to the beautiful reading room at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts for some of my first genealogy research trips as a teenager.  I can vividly remember each of the half dozen times I met up with cousins at the historic Phillips Library in Salem in those years ago before it closed permanently.  Even my visit to the temporary reading room for the Phillips Library in Danvers was soon forgotten because it paled in comparison to the original facility.

Reading colonial manuscripts in a sterile white room that resembles a laboratory reminds me of finding a genealogical gem of a clue on boring microfilm.  Especially when the last time I read those manuscripts was in the handsome Phillips Library in Salem, Massachusetts.  I just attended the open house of the new Collections Center for the Peabody Essex Museum in Rowley, Massachusetts which now houses the Phillips Library reading room and their stacks of books and related materials.  This new room, which I was prepared to see because friends had described it to me, was so shockingly different that several of the other people (all strangers to me) in my tour group gasped out loud.  I could feel their pain.  Interior photos were not allowed for security reasons. 

Whenever I found some new information in Salem’s Phillip’s library, I could immediately walk down the street and find something to center that bit of new family history data in its proper historical sense of place.  I once read a ship’s log, and then found that sea captain’s house just blocks away. There was the time that my cousin and I read through the Salem Custom House collection of papers, and then walked over to the Custom House itself to see where our great great grandfather had served as the deputy customs collector.  Several family reunions held in Beverly and Peabody had cousins running together over to the Phillips Library to see a document mentioned at the family meetings.  These were wonderful experiences.

Visits to the new reading room in Rowley will certainly uncover lots of family history.  I have a long list of manuscripts and books I’ve been waiting to consult from the Phillips Library online catalog.  I’ve been keeping this list for a few years, and it has grown quite long.  I look forward to requesting each book and item from the reference librarian and searching through for the clues and proofs I’ve been waiting patiently to see.  However, only the information will be memorable, not the facility.  These bits of Salem local history will be located 20 miles (40 minutes according to the MapQuest website) away from the neighborhoods it represents.

Look for this red sign off Route 1
for the Peabody Essex Museum Collection Center
at 306 Newburyport Turnpike, Rowley, Massachusetts

On Saturday, July 14th, the Peabody Essex Museum hosted an open house for the newly opened Collections Center at Rowley.    Although Rowley is closer to New Hampshire than Salem, it took us an hour and fifteen minutes to arrive at the parking lot.  It usually takes me an hour to get to Salem from Manchester, New Hampshire, although the search for parking in Salem probably make the difference in time a moot point.  The new facility has lots of free, available parking right at the front door.

There was a festive atmosphere out in front under a tent with snacks and cold drinks and tables to wait for our timed tour to start.  We arrived late, at 1:30, so we missed any speeches under the tent, but our tour started almost as soon as we were handed entrance stickers- very nice!  Later, a bus arrived and there was another long wait for tours.  Our tour group was very small, with only about a dozen people.

We were led inside a huge (think of the final scene in the first Indiana Jones movie when the Ark of the Covenant is carried off to a cavernous building for storage) warehouse style building.  In spite of the size of this facility we were only given a peek into two rooms other than the reading room described above.  We went down a long hallway past many, many doors with interesting labels, but these doors were all locked.  It would have been fun to be able to peek inside, but it would probably have been a huge security headache to the staff.  One of the rooms we viewed was piled high with shelves of furniture and objets d’art visible in their crates and packaging.  The second room we viewed was the library stacks, which was enormous and vast, but smelled deliciously familiar like old books always smell.

Everyone in our tour group was a PEM member, except for my family.  I haven’t had a membership since the library closed in 1997 for restoration, and only reopened to limited hours in 2004.   I’ve been kept informed about the goings on with the Phillip Library through the genealogical community and social media.  The other members of my tour seemed confused.  These PEM members were asking questions like “Why did the library close?”, and “When did the library close?”, and “Why was it moved out of Salem?”  I’m guessing that the member newsletter did not include a lot of information about this facility change.

The new facility is state-of-the-art in terms of preservation conditions and storage.  Any item requested in the reading room can be found only steps away in the massive stacks storage on the other side of the wall.  Some libraries have distant storage facilities, like the New England Historic Genealogical Society library in Boston and its storage in Connecticut.  Patrons requesting items from storage at NEHGS need to give a week’s notice!   Researchers will have wonderful access to materials in Rowley. 

In 2004, when the Phillips library said it would re-open to limited hours, it promised to put part of it’s collections on the Internet.  Very little has been scanned in the past 14 years compared to similar institutions, and some of that is not available to the public. Let’s hope that the PEM continues to digitize and make their Salem history items available to the people of Salem who have lost their access to local history.  One of our tour guides said that they were exploring for grants to help finance digitization efforts.

In the past few weeks I have exchanged a few email messages with the reference librarian.  I have a list of genealogy related questions she will be answering, and I will feature these in an upcoming blog post.  Stay tuned!

Phillips Library original Reading Room in 1885


For the truly curious:

“Visiting the Reading Room” from the Phillips Library website:

Salem residents state their opinions about moving the Phillips Library to Rowley in this NPR story:

 A blog post from Alyssa Conary who did the VIP tour of the Collections Center a week before the public open house:

From Robin C. Mason, a description of a visit to the new facility for research purposes:
also from Robin, a time line of the Phillips Library history including the mergers and moves


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "A Sense of Place:  The Phillips Library Reading Room Open House", Nutfield Genealogy, posted July 17, 2018, ( accessed [access date]).

Tombstone Tuesday ~ Abigail Peavey Cario, died 1767 Portsmouth, New Hampshire

This tombstone was photographed at the Point of Graves, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Here lies Buried
the Body of
who departed this Life
Seper 17th 1767
in the 41st Year of her Age.

Abigail Peavey, daughter of William Peavey and Sarah Oliver, married William Cario on 5 July 1759 in Boston, Massachusetts as his first wife.  He married second to Lydia Croxcroft in Portsmouth, who had four children baptized at the South Church in Portsmouth.

William Cario was a famed silversmith.  You can read more about him at this blog post: 


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Tombstone Tuesday ~ Abigail Peavey Cario, died 1767 Portsmouth, New Hampshire", Nutfield Genealogy, posted July 17, 2018, ( accessed [access date]). 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Historic Portsmouth Harbor

This weekend we took a one and half hour tour of the historic harbor in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  I've taken cruises to the Isles of Shoals, and up the Piscataqua River from Portsmouth, but I'd never seen the sights of Portsmouth from the harbor.  It was a beautiful day, and the views were spectacular.

Our tour boat took off from Ceres Street, behind the businesses along Market Street.  This is the view of the restaurants along Bow Street, just around the corner.  The back decks were packed with happy people lunching and enjoying the waterfront. 

The new Sarah Long drawbridge was finished last year.  It looks brand new from downtown Portsmouth, and carries traffic and trains over to Kittery, Maine and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. 

The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is actually located on Seavey Island in Kittery, Maine.  Submarines are repaired here, but are not visible to the public, even from boats in the harbor.  We could see the tail end of one, but it was covered with tarps. 

Many visitors to Portsmouth think this impressive building is an abandoned hotel.  However, it is located on Naval property on Seavey island.  It is the abandoned Naval prison.  There are lots of stories about the prisoners here, and one of the only true stories is that Humphrey Bogart was once an MP who was bringing a prisoner to this facility during WWII.  His prisoner tried to escape whilst changing trains in Boston, and attacked Bogart with his manacles.  This left Bogart with a mangled lip that was repaired by an Naval doctor, who botched the job and left him with a distinctive lisp.  Prisoner have been kept at Seavey Island since the War of 1812, but this prison building dates from 1905 and was known as the "Alcatraz of the East".  You can read the history of this prison at this Wikipedia LINK.  

I've blogged about Fort McClary before at this LINK.  It is an impressive spot to visit, with great views of the harbor and the Isles of Shoals.  Seeing it from the middle of the harbor was a treat. 

Fort Constitution is a New Hampshire State Park located at the tip of New Castle Island.  You can visit the fort and climb the lighthouse.  This was once known as Fort William and Mary before the American Revolution.  The British used to keep a large supply of gunpowder stored here.  One of the first acts of rebellion during the war was 14 December 1774 when the local people of Portsmouth stormed the fortress and confiscated the gunpowder.  The powder was distributed throughout the colony and used during the Revolutionary War. You can read more about the history of this historic site at Wikipedia at this LINK

This Life Saving Station on Wood Island dates from before the establishment of the US Coast Guard.  Men in wooden boats would row out and rescue crew and passengers from floundering ships.  It is being renovated into a museum that will only be accessible by boat.  Plans are to open it to the public in 2019.   You can read some of the history HERE. 

Whaleback Lighthouse is located at the mouth of the Piscataqua River in Portsmouth Harbor.  It is actually in the town of Kittery in the state of Maine.  During the "Perfect Storm" of 1991 the waves from the Atlantic were higher than this 70 foot lighthouse.  Lighthouse keepers used to row out here and do two week stints of duty on this rocky little island.   There is a good sketch of the history of this lighthouse at Wikipedia at this LINK

From the mouth of the harbor we could see the Isles of Shoals six miles out to sea.

Our tour boat went around New Castle into Little Harbor and past the historic Wentworth-by-the-Sea hotel.  This hotel was originally built in 1874, and hosted the 1905 Portsmouth Peace Treaty to end the Russian-Japanese War.  This treaty was hosted by President Theodore Roosevelt, and Japan gifted the American people the cherry trees that now line the Potomac Basin in Washington, D.C.  You can read more about this historic hotel HERE

In Little Harbor you can see the historic Wentworth-Coolidge mansion, built by the Royal Wentworth Governors who lived here before the American Revolution.  It is now a museum house open to the public, and there is a lilac festival here every spring.  The Wentworth family brought the first lilac cuttings to New England, and now the purple lilac is the New Hampshire state flower.  Residents of New Hampshire treasure cuttings from the lilacs here on the Wentworth mansion property, and re-grow lilac trees at homes and parks all over the Granite State.  You can read more about this historic mansion at this LINK

A large cache of lobster pots seen along the working waterfront of Portsmouth Harbor

Our tour boat moored right in front of the Moffatt-Ladd historic house museum.  This 1763 house was a wedding gift for Samuel and Sarah Catherine Moffatt, and remained in their family for 150 years. It was also the home of William Whipple, who signed the Declaration of Independence. It is owned by the National Society of Colonial Dames, and is open for tours and for rental for weddings and functions.  You can read more about the Moffatt-Ladd House HERE

We took our tour with Portsmouth Harbor Cruises, at 64 Ceres Street:


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Historic Portsmouth Harbor", Nutfield Genealogy, posted July 16, 2018, ( accessed [access date]).

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Surname Saturday ~ HARPER of Sandwich, Massachusetts


Robert Harper (about 1630 – about 1704), my 9th great grandfather, was an early Quaker.  His name can be found in the Falmouth, Massachusetts Friend’s Monthly Meeting records.   Because of his faith (not attending church), and he refused to take the oath of Fidelity, he lost much of his personal property and was heavily fined. Perhaps that’s why he left no will or tombstone (Quakers were buried together in unmarked graves). 

As a Quaker, in 1660 Robert Harper was sentenced to be whipped, and he and his wife, Deborah, were sent to the prison in Boston.   In 1661 Harper “stood under the scaffold and caught in his arms the body of his friend William Leddra, the martyr preacher” on Boston Common.  For this act of kindness, Harper and his wife were banished again.

I descend from Robert Harper and his second wife, Prudence Butler, through their daughter Hannah (b. 1670) who married Isaac Robinson.  She is my 8th great grandmother. Isaac was another Quaker who was heavily prosecuted by the Puritan authorities. They had ten children. Isaac Robinson was a great grandson of the Reverend John Robinson, pastor to the Pilgrims.

Some HARPER resources:

MacLean W. McLean, "Robert Harper of Sandwich, Mass., and his Son Stephen of Falmouth." The American Genealogist, Volume 48, page 215, October 1972

History of Cape Cod by Frederick Freeman, 1862

Sandwich and Bourne Town Records

The Genealogical Dictionary of New England, by Savage

The History of the Society of Friends in America, Volume 1

My HARPER genealogy:

Generation 1:  Robert Harper, born about 1630 in England, died about 1704 in Sandwich, Massachusetts; married first to Deborah Perry May 1654; married second to Prudence Butler, daughter of Thomas Butler, 22 June 1666 in Sandwich.  Four children.

Generation 2:  Hannah Harper, born May 1670 in Sandwich; married 1 March 1690 in Barnstable to Isaac Robinson, great grandson of Rev. John Robinson, pastor to the Pilgrims, son of John Robinson and Elizabeth Weeks.  Ten children.

Generation 3:  Peter Robinson m. Martha Green
Generation 4:  Jabez Robinson m. Tabitha Green
Generation 5: Elizabeth Robinson m. Ebenezer Crosby
Generation 6:  Rebecca Crosby m. Comfort Haley
Generation 7:  Joseph Edwin Healy m. Matilda Weston
Generation 8:  Mary Etta Healey m. Peter Hoogerzeil
Generation 9:  Florence Etta Hoogerzeil m. Arthur Treadwell Hitchings
Generation 10:  Gertrude Matilda Hitchings m. Stanley Elmer Allen (my grandparents)

See this interesting blog post by Christy K. Robinson about Robert Harper:


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, “Surname Saturday ~ HARPER of Sandwich, Massachusetts”, Nutfield Genealogy, posted July 14, 2018, (  accessed [access date]). 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

So sorry about the comments...

Please accept my apology for not publishing comments since mid-June 2018. There was some sort of bug in the Blogger software that did not notify me of any comments so I could post them.  Thanks to Bill West's blog post on the problem, I jumped on this right away to look for a solution.  I think I fixed the bug, and I posted all the comments held for moderation last night. I'll keep checking the comment moderation page until I hear that Google has fixed this problem.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to comment, especially all the nice anniversary messages.

Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Weathervane Wednesday ~ Over the Police Station

I post another in a series of weather vane photographs every Wednesday.  This started with images of weathervanes from the Londonderry, New Hampshire area, but now I've found interesting weather vanes all across New England and across the globe.  Sometimes my weather vanes are whimsical, or historical, but all are interesting.  Often my readers tip me off to some very unique or unusual weathervanes, too!  If you know a great weather vane near you, let me know if you'd like to have it featured on this blog.

Today's weather vane was photographed in Maine.

Do you know the location of weathervane post #371?  Scroll down to find the answer.

This three dimensional sailboat weathervane can be seen above the Wells, Maine police department building on Route 1.  This is near Wells Beach and many tourist destinations, and thousands of tourists drive by this everyday during the busy summer season. You may have driven right by this cute little weathervane without even noticing it!

I like this weathervane because of the details in the rigging and the little flag on top of the mast. I have no idea how old this weathervane may be, but it was constructed with a lot of attention to detail that is missing from new weathervanes.

Click here to see ALL the "Weathervane Wednesday" posts:


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Weathervane Wednesday~ Over the Police Station", Nutfield Genealogy, posted July 11, 2018, ( accessed [access date]).