Friday, August 27, 2010

My Excellent Newfoundland Adventure – Part 4

After our orientation at the Maritime History Archives and The Rooms, most participants spent the remainder of the first day conducting independent research at The Rooms.  Those who had prepared in advance and/or had a list of research goals, were able to hit the ground running and get a great deal accomplished.  In this regard if you are planning on making a trip to Newfoundland to conduct family history research, the following four tips should help you understand and make the best use of the research process:
  1. Watch the online seminar entitled Researching Your Newfoundland Ancestors Part One, prepared by Judy Lucy of NEHGS   This presentation serves as a basic introduction and gives a bit of history and discusses research resources. I understand that a Part Two is in process, so be sure to check back at that site.
  2. Review the research outline prepared by the Family History Library entitled Newfoundland Research Outline.  While this outline has not been updated recently, it does provide a good overview and you can check their Research Wiki or google any of the facilities mentioned for updated information.  You should be aware that Newfoundland was an independent British North American colony until 1949 and as a result research tips and suggestions referencing Canadian records are not applicable before 1949.
  3. Download a copy of the Guide to Genealogical Material  in the Newfoundland & Labrador Collection prepared by the A.C. Hunter Public Library.
  4. Find the region of Newfoundland where your ancestors settled and find out as much as you can from on-line resources (Wikipedia, Grand Bank’s, mapping the areas, and Google searches) as well as local library resources (use Worldcat to find brick and mortar facilities in your area that may have books of interest and check out or Google Books for books that that are out of copyright and can be viewed online as well as snippets of books that are in copyright and can be viewed online and/or purchased for download). 

At the outset, researchers at The Rooms are required to apply for a registration number (a $10 fee and your registration is good for life).  The Rooms is an archive, which means that materials are maintained and retrieved by the staff.  Each day I filled out a form requesting the material I wanted to review and it was provided to me, one item/file at a time.  This is done so that materials are maintained properly and also to make more of the materials available to everyone.  Due to the nature of some of the materials, only pencils are allowed for manual transcription.  I was especially happy that I had brought my notebook computer as I found transcribing by hand very slow going indeed.  The Rooms has lockers (great for stashing your computer when you leave for lunch) and The Rooms Cafe is open during The Rooms hours of operation (great for a coffee break or a meal – the views are amazing).

The first and third day of the seminar, I reviewed the King’s Cove Roman Catholic Church records which consist of baptism and marriage records.  These records have been reviewed and partially transcribed and can be found at Grand Bank’s.  The first thing I noticed was that these records were photocopies of the church register, some pages had been copied out of order and others were duplicates.  The register was filled in by a number of parish priests over a long period of time and handwriting styles, spelling of surnames, and the amount of information added to each entry varied from priest to priest.  I did find that as time went by I became better able to decipher the handwriting, but if I had been limited to a few hours to review the information or if I had been unfamiliar with the surnames in the various communities, I would have easily mistaken the names of the various parties.  My research process consisted of determining if the entry was either for a surname or community I was interested in and, if so, entering the information into an Excel spreadsheet. 

As I mentioned in a previous post, the King’s Cove Register cannot be photocopied, however, finding your ancestor’s entry and transcribing the information is a thrill.  When I found my grandfather’s baptism entry (at the bottom of a page and rather hard to read) I noticed that a later entry had been added referencing his marriage to my grandmother in Cordova, Alaska.  It appeared that the priest performing a marriage (in another community, province, or country) oftentimes provided the information to King’s Cove parish.  I made a point to return to these records the following week during my post-seminar research.

Next time ~ The Maritime History Archives at MUN.

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