Waldo Chamberlain Sprague started compiling the genealogies of all the early families of Braintree, Massachusetts, in 1947. Until his death eight years later, he created over six thousand index cards containing information on almost all the pre-1850 population of old Braintree. Some families from nearby Milton and Stoughton (both originally part of the town of Dorchester) were also included in his exhaustive work. These six thousand cards remained in the manuscript collection of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) in Boston. The cards were initially microfilmed for the Quincy Historical Society in 1963 and again for NEHGS in 1983. To look at Sprague’s definitive work, you have always needed to visit the NEHGS library or the reading room of the Quincy Historical Society. All of that has now changed, and this valuable collection is available to you, for use in your home, at a modest cost.
Frank E. Dyer, Jr., of Enfield, Connecticut, has painstakingly transcribed the entire manuscript of Sprague’s original handwritten 5” x 8” index cards into a computer. Robert J. Dunkle also was involved in making the information available on CD. The result is now available on a CD-ROM disk published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society. The full title of this new disk is “Genealogy of the Families of Braintree, Mass. 1640-1850, including the modern towns of Randolph and Holbrook and the City of Quincy after their separation from Braintree in 1792-3.” I had a chance to use the new CD-ROM disk this week.
This valuable work is described in the CD-ROM’s introduction, written by David Allen Lambert:
Genealogists should note that Sprague’s work is the only compiled scholarly treatments for some of these South Shore families. Families treated in Sprague’s work include: Adams, Allen, Arnold, Bass, Baxter, Beal(s), Belcher, Billings, Blanchard, Bowditch, Brackett, Burrell, Capen, Chessman, Clark, Cleverly, Copeland, Crane, Crosby, Curtis, Dyer, Faxon, Field, French, Glover, Green, Hall, Hardwick, Hayden, Hayward, Hobart, Holbrook, Hollis, Hunt, Jones, Linfield, Littlefield, Mann, Marsh, Miller, Mills, Nash, Neale, Newcomb, Nightingale, Niles, Packard, Payne, Penniman, Pope, Porter, Pratt, Pray, Quincy, Rawson, Reed, Ruggles, Saunders, Savil, Shaw, Smith, Spear, Stetson, Stevens, Thayer, Tower, Trask, Turner, Veazie, Vinton, Wales, Webb, Whitmarsh, White, Whiting, Wild, Wilson and Wood(s). Also included are some families from Braintree who later migrated to the following communities: Rehoboth (ca. 1643); Block Island (1660); Mendon (1663); Easton (ca. 1704); Lebanon and Windham, Conn. (ca. 1713); Norton and Stoughton (ca. 1726); Holliston (ca. 1745-50); Williamsburg (1771); Orford and Lyme, N.H.; and Thetford and Fairlee, Vt. (ca. 1780). Other communities of migration included Washington, N.H.; Lincolnville, Me.; Goshen, Mass.; Chesterfield, Mass.; Ashfield, Mass.; Belchertown, Mass.; Amherst, Mass.; Braintree, Vt.; and Randolph, Vt.
Sprague used the unpublished vital records to 1850 for the towns of Randolph and Quincy extensively and included them in his manuscript. He also employed the church records for the communities of Braintree, Quincy, Weymouth, and Randolph. Sprague was an active transcriber of gravestones for towns neighboring Quincy, and many of these transcriptions are included in his compilation.
Sprague consulted some of the manuscripts and published works of noted Braintree and Quincy historians for his own work, including the papers of Samuel Austin Bates (1822-97) at NEHGS and the Quincy Historical Society; Edward Everts Jackson (1869-1910) who expanded Bates’s work; Dr. Ebenezer Alden (1788-1881) from his published sketches in the Randolph Transcript on the families of Randolph); the Jonathan Marsh (1787-1861) manuscript at NEHGS on Quincy history; and the notes of William Horace Woodman (1833-1913) who published his deed transcriptions for early Randolph in the Randolph Register. Other Braintree family historians consulted include Marion Sophia Arnold, Mrs. Mabel Hope (Kingsbury) Kingsbury, Mrs. Grace Pratt (Miller) Bosnall, William Gardner Spear, Warren Samuel Parker, and Frank Amasa Bates.
It is important to note that unless otherwise stated all vital record dates included refer to Braintree, Mass. A review of Sprague’s work by Gary Boyd Roberts can be found at the beginning of the 1983 microfilm edition of Genealogy of the Families of Braintree, Mass. 1640-1850. This review also appears in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register (139:155-58). Waldo Chamberlain Sprague died at Quincy on July 21, 1960, at the age of fifty-seven, leaving a legacy of Braintree research for future generations to utilize.
Sprague’s “Braintree Families” CD-ROM uses Folio Views software, an excellent choice in my opinion. Macintosh owners will be pleased to note that this CD-ROM works on their systems as well as on Windows.
The information is presented in an electronic representation of Sprague’s original index cards. All the data from the cards was transcribed in Register format. The CD-ROM opens with an index on the left of the screen and data on the right. The index shows the twenty-six letters of the alphabet, plus Acknowledgements, Introduction, and “Out Of Town.” By clicking on the letter “E”, the first of the alphabetized index cards with a family surname beginning with E is displayed. The user then scrolls down the screen to look at the following families.
Here is the entry for David Eames (or Ames), showing what a typical entry looks like:
 DAVID EAMES (Ames/Emes), came from Dorchester, probably son of David Eames who died there 1716: Bought land in So. Precinct in 1725.
David Eames first mentioned in Braintree records in 1730 when he and others petitioned for a road near their houses. In 1731 this was proposed in meeting and laid out in 1732 and he was chosen a surveyor of highways that year. This way from his house to meeting house (now Mill St. Randolph) was discontinued as a town way in 1749. He lived on present Center St. Holbrook where it was formerly joined by Mill. St., now unused.
He was one of the original South Parish, now Randolph Church members in 1731.
David Ames (Eames) married Dec. 10, 1719 Mehitable Paine, dau. of Samuel & Mary (Penniman), born Dec. 8, 1693, died -
Children of David & Mehitable:
i. child, buried Dec. __ 1726 - Diary of Rev. S. Niles.
ii. John, son of David Eames bapt. Apr. 19, 1730 at So. Precinct (by Rev. J. Hancock, 1st Church Rec.).
iii. Elijah, (Ames) s. David bapt. Apr. 16, 1732 (So. Parish).
iv. Mehitable (Eames), dau. of Mehitable bapt. __ 1734 (So. Parish).
As you can see from the above example, a lot of information is presented in a brief space. Sources of the information are often listed, although not always. Nonetheless, Sprague’s data is considered to be very accurate although not perfect. (No genealogy records are ever perfectly accurate!)
Even though the records are in alphabetical order, the CD-ROM also contains a great search tool that can produce surprising results. For instance, when writing reviews of new genealogy products, I always look for occurrences of my own surname. I didn’t expect to find any Eastman families in Braintree, and a check of the alphabetical index cards confirmed my suspicions: there were no listings for any families of that name. However, I clicked on the Search icon and entered my own surname. The CD-ROM instantly reported that the name appeared in four different places! I looked at the four citations and found that, indeed, there is unexpected genealogical information about families of my surname. For instance, in the middle of the entry for Sumner Wild Arnold, I discovered an entry that said, “Married May 1, 1842, Rosette Eastman, born 1815 (GS) at Bow, N.H., died 1898, (GS) Elm St. Cem., dau. of ____.” In Barzillai Thayer’s entry I found a listing for his eldest daughter, “Evaline, about Feb. 1802 at Weymouth, m. Sep. 2, 1832 (Holbrook Ch. Rec.) Chandler Eastman.” It also listed an interesting note about the division of John Vinton’s estate listing “Evalina (or Emeline) Eastman wife of Chandler [Eastman]” as a beneficiary.
In short, thanks to the search capability, I was able to find unexpected genealogy information about families that married into Braintree families, even though they always resided elsewhere. The search capabilities are extensive, supporting Boolean search terms: and, or, not, exclusive or, phrase, wildcards, ordered proximity, unordered proximity, record proximity, sentence proximity, paragraph proximity, and much more.
Unlike a lot of other genealogy CD-ROM disks that I have used, I found it easy to copy-and-paste data from Sprague’s “Braintree Families” into other Windows programs. The above information on David Eames/Ames only took a few seconds to copy from the CD-ROM and paste into this newsletter. Likewise, printing was easy: highlight a record and then click on the printer icon. The selected record was then printed, along with a copyright statement on the bottom of the page. I also found that I could export records as ASCII text files, saving them to a file on my hard disk or on a floppy disk.
Sprague’s “Braintree Families” also has the capability to bookmark records of interest so that you can quickly return to them again and again. You can also write “sticky notes” that are appended to records. This is great for keeping notes about your other findings, research notes, or corrections. Every time you return to that particular record in the future, your “sticky note” will re-appear with the information you entered. Keep in mind, however, that bookmarks and “sticky notes” are on your computer’s hard disk, not written to the CD-ROM disk. If you move the CD-ROM disk to another computer, the bookmarks and “sticky notes” are not moved with it.
This CD-ROM contains high-quality genealogy information not previously accessible without a visit to eastern Massachusetts. It is easy to use and to export data, and it works on both Windows and Macintosh computers. Frank E. Dyer, Jr., Robert J. Dunkle, Michael J. Leclerc, Carolyn Shepard Oakley, D. Brenton Simons, and the others involved in creating this genealogy CD-ROM disk are to be congratulated on their excellent product.
“Genealogy of the Families of Braintree, Mass. 1640-1850, including the modern towns of Randolph and Holbrook and the City of Quincy after their separation from Braintree in 1792-3” lists for $39.99 (U.S. funds) but is available right now for $34.99. You can order it directly from the New England Historic Genealogical Society, either by mail, by telephone, or on the Society’s Web site. The Web site includes a secure order form where you may safely enter a credit card number.
For more information about the “Genealogy of the Families of Braintree, Mass. 1640-1850, including the modern towns of Randolph and Holbrook and the City of Quincy after their separation from Braintree in 1792-3,” go to: http://www.newenglandancestors.org/store/browse/product.asp?sku=3118
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