Saturday, April 27, 2013

Cumberland RI Town Hall visit

Before my grandfather moved to NJ around 1920, most of my paternal ancesors lived in the village of Valley Falls in the town of Cumberland RI for 4 or 5 generations and it is there that I will find most of the records to document my ancestry. I was able to spend part of two days there this last week after attending the New England Regional Genealogy Conference (NEGRC) in Manchester, NH. I explored some of the vital records and deeds, but did not have time to check court records. That is for my next visit.
Cumberland Rhode Island Town Hall
Built 1894
The Town Hall is located on Broad Street just a block over the city line north of Central Falls. Its prominent tower makes it easy to spot from many locations in Valley Falls. There is a parking lot just to the north, and plenty of on-street parking on the two days I was there.

Vital records and land records are kept in the Town Clerk's office on the first floor. There is a large work area to lay out books and good light for photographing records. There is also a copy machine in the office.

Vital Records

For vital records, the Clerk retrieves the volumes from shelves in the office. These are large ledger books and are not the originals but copies of records transcribed into the volumes. The original records are kept in the basement vault and the Town Clerk must retrieve them. They are filed in boxes with some record years bound together, and others are loose. The Clerk asks for the name and date of event, and hands you the loosely bound records opened to the correct record, or hands you the individual record. I wish I was able to go through the originals without involving the Clerk, and limited my requests to direct line ancestors.

Death Record - Sarah A. (Gardner) Lawton
4th Great Grandmother

Among other information found in the original record vs the transcribed volumes for Deaths are:

  • full name of deceased with middle names sometimes spelled out
  • street address of death
  • informant's name
  • burial place
  • birth date
  • full age at death (sometimes only the age in years was found in the record books 
  • physician
  • undertaker

Some of this information was in the bound record books but in a more abbreviated form depending on the transcriber. I found several middle names that I had not known, and that were only initialed in the bound volumes and the online record index at FamilySearch.

Land Records

Grantee - Grantor Index
Modern record indexes are computerized, but I don't know when this started. I was looking at records for the mid-late 1800s and early 1900s and these records are indexed in a card catalog. There are two different sets of records - one for Grantees and one for Grantors. The cards are filed by name, and then by year, making it somewhat easy to trace some transactions as I went through the indexed cards. However, the real details are in the original documents and I found some good name and relationship information in the deeds.

Grantor Index card for Mortgage 1902

I was able to photograph some of these cards in  drawers where the cards were not packed too tightly. The cards were very informative and usually listed:
  • type of transaction (mortgage, quit-claim, warranty, etc)
  • grantor and grantee names
  • year of transaction and book number and page
  • consideration
  • brief description of property
  • location
Deed books - Cumberland RI 

The Deed books are in the same room as the card catalog index and are located on the wall facing the card catalog. There is a double set of shelves with the front set on rollers so the back row can be accessed. The earliest records are handwritten and bound in large ledger books and later deeds are typed and reproduced in smaller white and black volumes. More modern records are in the red volumes

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Rescued Photo #3 - Benjamin Crandell

When I was in Vermont last September, I spent an hour or so browsing at the Antique Center at Camelot Village in Bennington, VT. This shop is huge and is composed of many individual 'stalls' where all kinds of antiques are sold. I could have spent days in this place, and hope to go back on my next visit.

I spent most of my time there looking thru old photos and was amazed at how many of them had identification written on the back. If only all my old family photos were identified! I decided to buy a few that caught my eye and see if I could identify the families of the individuals, and possibly to locate a living descendant who would like to have these photos. Please contact me if you are related to these people and would like the original photo.

This photo has an inscription on the back. It says "Benjamin Crandell, Born 21 April 1799, age 93
Benjamin Crandell
born 21 April 1799
age 93
Back of Benjamin Crandell photo

The photographer was W.D. Parsons of Adams, Massachusetts. Adams is in Berkshire County in the northwestern corner of Massachusetts. I found on Google Books, a Gazetteer of Berkshire County, Massachusetts, 1725 - 1885 by Hamilton Child and printed at the Journal Office: Syracuse, NY, January, 1885. It lists a William D. Parsons, photographer, with his business located on Park Street in Adams. If Benjamin's age of 93 on the back of the photo is correct, then the studio was still operating in 1892, when the photo was taken.

 Identity of Benjamin Crandell/Crandall

A birth record index on lists a Benjamin Crandall born on 21 April 1799 in Tiverton, Rhode Island to Abner and Mary Crandall. A record of his 2nd marriage to Almeida Brayton in 1851 also confirms his Tiverton RI birth. His name is given as Benjamin O Crandall on this record. At the time of this marriage, Benjamin was listed as living in So. Adams, Massachusetts and his occupation was that of wagon-maker. I was not able to discover the identity of his first wife and the mother of his child, Arnold H. Crandall, listed in the 1860, 1870, and 1880 censuses in Adams, Massachusetts. Arnold had at least 2 children, Anna I Crandall, born around 1866 in Massachusetts (single and living with her father in North Adams in the 1920 census)  and Arnold B Crandall, born 5 June 1871 in Adams, Massachusetts (birth record on This Arnold might be the Arnold B Crandall living with wife Elizabeth J Crandall in the 1910 (and later) census in Waterbury, Connecticut. Further research would be needed to determine if this is the right person.

Benjamin's son, Arnold H Crandall married Elizabeth L Gardner. On their marriage certificate on, Arnold is listed as being born in Hoosick, Rensselaer County in New York. According to the 1800 and 1810 Federal censuses, Arnold's grandfather, Abner Crandall moved his family from Tiverton, RI to Hoosick, NY in between 1800 and 1810, when Benjamin would have been a young boy. Hoosick is around 30 miles from Adams, MA, where Benjamin was living when he married his 2nd wife, Almeida Brayton.

Benjamin Crandall is listed on page 175 of Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and his Descendants, by John Cortland Crandall, published in New Woodstock, New York in 1949. He is one of 13 children of Abner Crandall (a Revolutionary War soldier) and Mary Wilcox, and grandson of Eber Crandall and Mercy (Mary) Brownell.