Boston bound

In September 2013 I had the opportunity to go visit my sister in Boston. I can say with confidence that if you ever go to Boston, you will love it. It is a very special city.

Boston is also special to my family’s history. Ever since I discovered my family’s heritage could be traced to Boston, I wanted to go to the New England Historic Genealogical Society. I was 99 per cent sure they had data on my relatives and I was itching to get at it.

Thankfully, my sister was happy to indulge my little hobby. For anyone out there who is researching their ancestry, I’ve found that once you share the experience with them, family members fall into two groups: super enthusiastic or kindly indifferent. My sister turned out to be the former.

Our visit there was nothing short of amazing. The staff were kind and helpful. They set us up on computers and gladly brought original records for us to look at. Much of it had been digitized, so I was able to download pages of information onto a USB stick that I just happened to have in my purse (sometimes you need a little luck!).

"The Old Betts House"

An image “The Old Betts House” that we discovered

Searching was efficient because we knew to start with Captain Richard Betts. I quickly found accounts of his life in Massachusetts and in Newtown, New Jersey, where he moved with his family in 1651.

From my previous research, I knew Captain Betts was an important man, but what we found solidified that. It turned out, he didn’t just move to Newtown, he founded it. He also got in many arguments with the Dutch colonists that were in the area. He apparently outwitted the Dutch governor in the area and took his land. My sister and I couldn’t help but laugh at that- it seemed we had come from a long line of troublemakers.

Going to the Geneaological Society also provided the opportunity to look up the Captain’s wife, Joanna Chamberlain. It’s often difficult to research female lines without source material since a wife usually takes her husband’s name and her birth last name can be lost. That’s why we were so excited to learn that Joanna was, in fact, the daughter of the local reverend and they had come from Suffolk, England. We also learned that the wife of Richard’s son Thomas, Mercy Whitehead, was the daughter of a Major, and the granddaughter of an original Smithtown, NJ landowner.

Needless to say, it was a very fun and satisfying day. Finding such rich, original documents was a validation of all my hard work. What was even better was that I got to share that moment with my sister, who, incidentally, really got into researching the Whiteheads.

This adventure to Boston taught me to go for it. No mater where the information is, find a way to get there and read all of it – and don’t forget to bring a USB stick!


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