Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Excellent Newfoundland Adventure - Part 5

I spent the remainder of my time during the seminar week at the Maritime History Archives. There is a registration process but there is no fee involved. Photocopies and photography are allowed here and the Archives is in the process of digitizing and making available many of its holdings. There is a wealth of material at the Archives but I found the most interesting material (and I do not think you can access this material elsewhere) to be the student papers, the Keith Matthews Name files, and microfilms of County Wexford baptism and marriage registers.

Apparently a professor at MUN made a point of assigning his students a paper in their various courses that combined family history, community and Newfoundland traditions’ research. Many of the students wrote about their families (and interviewed various family members) and/or their communities (again interviewing the community elders and finding out occupational, religious, educational and holiday traditions and/or stories). Some of the student papers included photographs, drawings, and handwritten family trees. I was quite jealous of one NEHGS participant who not only was able to read a lengthy student paper about her family’s early days in Newfoundland but also was able to acquire a family tree to assist in her research – I think my relatives must have been out fishing!

I did get to read (and photocopy) a number of papers written about Plate Cove, Open Hall, King’s Cove, and Bonavista, as well as read about affiliated families who settled in those communities. One student wrote a great deal about holiday traditions in Plate Cove and another wrote about the fishing industry and made an excellent drawing mapping his families’ homes, the various fishing flakes and laid out the church, post office, general store and neighbors homes through a 30 year period. The student papers made for fascinating reading and gave me a window into my ancestors’ world.

The Name files consist of a tremendous amount of information collected by Dr. Keith Matthews (a founding member and former chair of the Maritime History Group) relating to people and places having to do with the fishing industry both in Newfoundland and abroad. The files contain information on approximately 7,300 surnames collected from a variety of sources (a fuller description of this collection may be found at the Maritime History Archives). I checked out the information contained in these files for all of my Newfoundland surnames.

I had an opportunity to review one of the microfilms relating to St. Mullins, County Wexford parishes and it was fascinating to see the various surnames that belong to my “Irish-side” grandparents. While I do not know at this time if any of the families referenced in the church register are related, it was interesting to see the various families – Keough, Murphy, Aylward, Cavanaugh, Dooley, Driscoll, Shaughnessy and Tracey - in the mid-1700s. Apparently the British Library was getting rid of some microfilm they either had copies of or decided they no longer wanted and they offered them to the Maritime Archives who snapped them up! Trying to read Latin versions of given names and and variants of the surnames I know so well was quite an exercise. The penmanship was beautiful and quite easy to read (once you got the hang of it – thank goodness I had a bit of Latin at university!).

Next time ~ How I spent my time when the research facilities were closed.

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