It is coming up on ten years since I began writing the Early New England Families Study Project sketches. A lot of things are changing. As an example, I wrote the sketch for Nathaniel Glover of Dorchester in 2018, and at the time it was as complete as I could make it given the limitations on access to digital images of original records. Recently, reader Ben Moseley sent in some corrections and additions to the sketch he had found when comparing to his own work on the family. As I began cross-checking, I realized there was an important record collection I had not included in my research – the Suffolk County Probate copy books – because in 2018 I did not have access to the digital images online, or maybe I had just not learned how to access them yet. Today, I know how to see all Massachusetts probate images, including original documents and copybooks, through Ancestry.com, using their database “Massachusetts, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1635-1991.”
Nathaniel Glover’s family was treated in detail in 1867 by Anna Glover in Glover Memorials and Genealogies. An Account of John Glover of Dorchester and His Descendants, which includes many abstracts and transcriptions of Glover records. I had cross-checked some of these with the images of Suffolk County Probate files on AmericanAncestors.org, but those files are not complete in comparison to the many published abstracts, leaving me to default to using the versions in the book.
Ben’s questions picked out several places where his dates and amounts did not agree with what I had written. After puzzling my puzzler for a while, I finally realized that those cases involved facts I took from Glover Memorials, but which are not among the probate files, so, back to square one.
[Often] the copybooks include more records than there are surviving papers in the probate files.
Briefly, for all courts, information on original probate records was copied into bound ledgers to assure preservation in case the originals were lost and, technically, to be more legible. However, often the copybooks include more records than there are surviving papers in the probate files. Once I located the Glover copybook versions, I found many more of the records Anna Glover abstracted in Glover Memorials, and perhaps a few more, that I can now compare as I compile Version 2 of the Nathaniel Glover Early New England Families sketch.
Let this be a reminder to us all that no genealogy can ever be considered complete until all records have been studied, and how lucky we are to have more and more of these records made available to us digitally every year.
 I have previously discussed probate records for Middlesex and Essex counties on Vita Brevis, and will add Suffolk County shortly.
About Alicia Crane Williams
Alicia Crane Williams, FASG, Lead Genealogist of Early Families of New England Study Project, has compiled and edited numerous important genealogical publications including The Mayflower Descendant and the Alden Family “Silver Book” Five Generations project of the Mayflower Society. Most recently, she is the author of the 2017 edition of The Babson Genealogy, 1606-2017, Descendants of Thomas and Isabel Babson who first arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1637. Alicia has served as Historian of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, Assistant Historian General at the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, and as Genealogist of the Alden Kindred of America. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in History from Northeastern University.View all posts by Alicia Crane Williams →