A Message from WMARE

August 1, 2020

Since the pandemic shows no sign of abating any time soon, we’ve been having some discussions about the short-term direction of Western Mass Roots. We have to assume that classroom training won’t be available to us for the foreseeable future and though we are seeing some cautious reopening of some libraries and city and town record offices, access remains limited for onsite research. Since we have largely been an “in person” group primarily focused on classroom training and publicizing local genealogy events via our newsletter, this leaves us with very little to do. Therefore, after an afternoon of brainstorming, we have decided to temporarily move our focus from “in-person” events to research.

So how will this work? Since there are just a few of us we have to pace ourselves to make sure that we don’t get overwhelmed and can actually fulfill any research requests that we receive. Obviously in the beginning our research will be done online, but we’ll expand into onsite research as facilities open and circumstances allow. We will start with our current mailing list, sending out an email with full details and a research request form to a dozen or so email addresses at a time, inviting people to submit their research requests. The email will include all the information needed to take advantage of our services, but here are general answers to some of the questions you may have:

How much will this cost? We will charge a flat fee of $25.00 per hour for research. You can purchase the research in blocks of time down to the 30 minute level. But here’s the catch: You won’t be paying us. Instead, we are going to ask that you donate your fee to a local charity that provides services to folks in Western Massachusetts. Our “payment” will be a copy of the receipt for your donation. We will provide a list of suggested charities in the forthcoming explanatory email mentioned earlier, but will also happily consider your favorite local charity as well. As a bonus, your donation may be tax deductible.

What will I receive for my donation? We will provide you with PDF copies of all documents we uncover including a PDF of any tree we construct during our research. If construction of a tree is involved, we will also provide you with a GEDCOM file which is the standard format for family tree files and which can be uploaded into most family tree software. A GEDCOM file can also be uploaded to Ancestry.com, AncesTrees (from NEHGS), and to FamilySearch.org.

When are you going to send your first email inviting research requests? We are hoping to begin by mid to late August.

So, no more genealogy research classes? Only for now. We plan to resume teaching again as soon as circumstances permit. That’s the core function of our group and we are anxious to resume classes as soon as we can. Until then, we hope we can be of service in a different way by helping folks with their personal research.

What about the WMARE monthly newsletter? We are still working on that one. Without classes or in-person genealogy related events taking place, there is very little to include in a newsletter at the present time. But we promise as soon as we decide on a temporary alternative we’ll let you know. Though we may revamp the format and content a bit depending on long-term circumstances, we have every intention of resuming our newsletter as soon as there is something worthwhile to include.

In the meantime, watch your inboxes for our research request form and explanatory email. We look forward to assisting many of you with your research.

Freedmen’s Bureau Transcription Project

Are you good at reading other people’s handwriting?  Put your skills to the test by helping with the Smithsonian’s transcription of the Freedman’s Bureau Records. These records of the United States Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands tell the story of the post-Civil War transition of enslaved people to freedom. Once transcribed, these letters, contracts, censuses, and marriage and hospital records will be keyword-searchable, giving future generations a chance to reclaim their history.

Anyone can start transcribing; a tutorial and reference documents are provided. You don’t need an account on the site unless you’d like to help review other people’s transcriptions. The activity is addictive, so be prepared to stay up late and miss some Netfix time. These records about post-Emancipation family life will draw you in and give you a unique view of social conditions in the South after the Civil War. Learn more about the project or browse volunteer opportunities.

Got some time on your hands?

It seems like we all do these days and if you are like us here at WMARE, you are always happy to discover something genealogy related to do.  If you’re interested in a little online genealogy training, check out the webinars available at Legacy Family Tree at the following link

https://familytreewebinars.com/

Most are free for a limited period of time, and an annual membership of $49.95 provides access to their entire (and huge) on demand library of previously recorded webinars.

Be sure to check out their listing of upcoming webinars.  All are free to watch “live” and for several days following the broadcast.

https://familytreewebinars.com/upcoming-webinars.php

A Note from WMARE

We aren’t out of the woods, but things are looking up a bit. The pandemic numbers in Massachusetts and neighboring New York continue to trend downward, and Massachusetts is in Phase One of our cautious reopening. That’s all good news.

But the bad news, of course, is that much of what we genealogy folks rely on to do our research remains closed for now, except for online resources which we hope you are all taking full advantage of. That means there isn’t much genealogy news to put in a newsletter, so we are foregoing that again for another month. We will continue to update our website and Facebook page if there is anything to report. And we’ll reevaluate the situation again at the end of June and see where we stand.

We here at WMARE continue to hope you are all doing well and staying safe and we hope to see you all again soon.

Be Well,

The WMARE Team

A Note from the WMARE Team

As the entire country continues to suffer from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we here at WMARE hope you are all following the social distancing guidelines, wearing your face masks when out and about, washing your hands frequently and doing all the other recommended things designed to help keep you safe during these very trying times. We want you all to be able to join us again for genealogy research and maybe a class or two when things get back to normal!

But for right now, outside research is at a standstill with libraries, town halls and other research facilities closed until the pandemic passes. Local genealogy groups have had to suspend most of their meetings and events as a result of the restrictions on large gatherings. That means there isn’t much content to put into a monthly newsletter like ours, so we are suspending publication for the time being until we have something worthwhile to share with you. We’ll re-evaluate that each month, but in the meantime if anything comes up that might be of interest, we’ll publish it on our website blog (which you are reading now) and Facebook page, so keep an eye on those.

Hopefully we’ll be back soon. Until then, please stay safe, look out for each other, and if you can, do some research online at home, and for those of you who have joined us in class – don’t forget that online research is best done while wearing your bunny slippers.

Be Well,

The WMARE Team

American Ancestors Membership Sale

If you have ever contemplated an American Ancestors membership, this may be the time to take the plunge.  Through April 30th, membership is discounted $20.00.   The cost is normally $94.95 per year.  Membership benefits include full access to their extensive online databases and publications, access to their library in Boston and discounts on research-for-hire and consultations.

Follow the link for more information:

https://my.americanancestors.org/donate/i/12?&promoApplied=true

National Emergency Library

In response to the unprecedented closure of libraries around the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Internet Archive has created The National Emergency Library.  The Internet Archive will suspend waitlists for the 1.4 million (and growing) books in their lending library by creating a National Emergency Library to serve the nation’s displaced learners. This suspension will run through June 30, 2020, or the end of the US national emergency, whichever is later.

During the waitlist suspension, users will be able to borrow books from the National Emergency Library without joining a waitlist, ensuring that students will have access to assigned readings and library materials that the Internet Archive has digitized for the remainder of the US academic calendar, and that people who cannot physically access their local libraries because of closure or self-quarantine can continue to read and thrive during this time of crisis, keeping themselves and others safe.

This is an amazing resource.  Be sure and check it out at the link below.

https://archive.org/details/nationalemergencylibrary