Wednesday 21 March 2012

First online outing for Massachusetts collections

I don't often take too much notice of updates of Ancestry's USA collection but this one caught my eye today: the Massachusetts, Town Vital Collections. They contain more than 8.2 million records from 1620 to 1988 and you can be certain that there's a ton and a half of Irish folk within.

The collection was gathered by a couple, Jay and DeLene Holbrook, who were carrying out their own family history research.

They soon realised that the majority of towns in Massachusetts had little to no knowledge of the condition or even the location of their vital records collections. So they set out on a 30-year mission to compile a collection. Like you do.

The result is a collection that covers 315 of the state's 351 towns and cities. And it's now online for the first time.

It includes original images of Massachusetts town records with details such as names, birth dates, birth places, baptism records, parents’ names, marriage records, courthouse records, and death records.

I've just checked out the collection for the number of records held for my surname, Santry. I do this beauuse it's a rare topographical Irish surname that originates very specifically from one tight area of South West Cork, so it's a useful barometer of how thorough a collection will be for Irish genealogy researchers. Lo and behold, 191 records.

Entering another family name, Doyle, practically blew up the search mechanism. Well, okay, not quite. But it had more than 10k names and in among them I hope to find the marriage and death records for my great uncle Patrick who left the country for Boston in a bit of a hurry in the early 1920s.

There are several others of my grandparents' generation who shipped off, heading for Boston and the huge Irish community there. The release of this new collection may well be my opportunity to discover more about them, and fill in the gaps in my family tree.

Of course, it will not just be of huge value to family historians on this side of the Atlantic. There will be many Irish-Americans making new discoveries, and perhaps finding another generation or siblings or even leading to the name of a townland of origin.

Massachusetts is the 'most Irish' state of America. According to statistics revealed by the 2010 US Census, some 23% of people living in the state say they are of Irish origin.