April 07, 2020

Genealogist says deeds useful record of family history

I think Joe Anderson is the bee’s knees, and not just because as Joseph C. Anderson II he edits the Maine Genealogical Society’s quarterly, the Maine Genealogist; and the “Maine Families in 1790” series, which just came out with its ninth book.

As a speaker, he makes you want to write down every word he says, because it’s all useful. How fortunate we were to have Joe give workshops during the 30th anniversary conference of MGS on Oct. 14.

Ever get confused by people of the same name? Anderson’s been there, studying a time in Berwick’s history when there were 11 men named Thomas Abbott in the same town. I guess that’s what we call confusion.

Deeds can help sort out such a family or families, he explained, even in a town where vital records aren’t as plentiful as we’d like.

Anderson told of finding a deed for one York County couple who were passing on a property to their son, who was named in the deed. The deed also stated that the land had been acquired from the father-in-law, who also was named.

“Three generations were proved in one deed,” he said. Deeds may offer “proofs of parentage, birth, marriage, death” even though the connections may not be as explicit as the example given.

Here are some other clues from Anderson. If you find a deed citing a number of joint owners of a property, it “may have been inherited,” he said, so it’s important to look for the relationships among the owners.

Did you ever find a deed listing a woman as an owner “in her right?” That means that she came by the property through inheritance, Anderson explained.

A purchase for a reasonable sum of money may indicate that the deed is between unrelated people, he added, whereas a transaction involving a small sum of money or even “a peppercorn” may involve people who are related.

Anderson also discussed the dower, the entitlement of a widow to one-third her husband’s real estate.

“Dower may be the only record that proves a man’s wife’s name,” he pointed out, and deeds also are sometimes the only proof of relationship between children and parent. Deeds can indicate the abutting property owner, another relationship worth following up.

Now, about all those Abbotts. You just may want to use a chart to help keep them straight. For more information, read Anderson’s “Eleven Thomas Abbotts of Berwick, Maine,” in the April 1995 issue of TAG, also known as The American Genealogist. Both Bangor Public Library and the Maine State Library carry TAG.

Anderson is both a certified genealogist and an FASG, a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists. Anytime you find an article he has written, you’ll learn more about wringing every last bit of information about a source – and also how to look at a genealogical problem from a different angle.

For information on books Anderson has edited and libraries that have them, check URSUS, the online catalog for MSL, BPL and the University of Maine campus libraries, at

It may be that you never got around to purchasing a copy of “Hermon, Maine Then and Now,” the very fine history authored by Mary Gaudreau, Rosanne Gray and Bernice Heath.

Photographs, reminiscences, military listings and lots of history fill its 500 pages.

The book is selling well, but there are still copies available for Christmas gifts. Each copy is $65, plus $3.25 tax. Hardbound copies are $100 plus $5 tax.

To pick up one or more copies, contact Rosanne Gray at 848-3862. If you need the book mailed, add $9 per order, and send check to Rosanne Gray, 21 Stage Road, Hermon, ME 04401.

Sid Heath and his family recently donated a hardbound copy of the history to the Hermon School Department in memory of his wife, Bernice, who died last year.

The Maine Society of Mayflower Descendants will hold its 105th annual meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 18, at Verrillo’s Convention Center, just off Exit 48 of the Maine Turnpike in Portland. The guest speaker will be Prof. Kent Ryden, director of the American and New England Studies Program at the University of Southern Maine.

Tickets are $15 for the luncheon, and reservations must be received by Nov. 8. Send to MSMD, c/o Carol Gagnon, 189 Blanchard Drive, Cumberland, ME 04021-0785. No tickets at the door.

Membership in the Maine Society is based on proof of descent from any passenger on the Mayflower, which landed in Plymouth, Mass., in 1620. For information, call 793-3535.

Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402; or familyti@bangordailynews.net.

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