Sam was born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He received B.S. and M.S. degrees in Psychology from Eastern Michigan University and worked as a Human Factors researcher in automotive safety for 13 years. He entered the field of commercial software development in 1983 and acted as software developer and development manager at Wang Laboratories and The Foxboro Company. Sam joined the NEHGS staff in 2005.
Sam's interest in genealogy began shortly after moving to Massachusetts, when he and his family chanced upon the Sturgis Library in Barnstable, during a vacation on Cape Cod. There he discovered that he is a descendent of the Sturgis family that settled on Cape Cod in the 1630's.
Sam and his wife Gail live in Medway, Massachusetts. They have two grown children: Katie, a Registered Nurse in Wrentham, and David, a software developer in Somerville.
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In my study of Sturgis family history, I have found many branches of Sturgis families besides “my” branch, which begins with Edward Sturgis of Charlestown (1635) and Yarmouth (1639.) There are Sturgis (or Sturges) families in Connecticut, Delaware, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania.
I began looking into Pennsylvania Sturgis families because of Samuel Davis Sturgis, who was a West Point graduate and Brevet Major-General during the Civil War. I am fairly sure that I am not a direct relation to the famous General, but I would like to learn more about his ancestry. Continue reading Sturgis – or Sturgeon?→
Did I say television? The boob tube? Is that possible? Well, actually, before I learned about the Mayflower on TV, I was taught the story of the Pilgrims in various elementary school Thanksgiving pageants. They were quite inspiring, if not downright fanciful. It wasn’t until many, many years later that I read Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, an extremely interesting read that I highly recommend. It tells a story that is much more accurate than the one in the pageants, and thus, much more bleak, if not tragic. Continue reading Everything I learned about the Mayflower→
As a volunteer at NEHGS, my current assignment is to proofread and potentially correct the indexed records of the Massachusetts: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston Records, 1789-1900 collection. If you have taken a look at this database, you’ll know that the handwriting in the records varies from “very clear” to “indecipherable.” We have even made use of a “Transcription Challenge,” where we post names from the scanned record book pages and ask users what they think the handwriting represents. Not too surprisingly, the suggested names vary quite a bit amongst themselves.
Contributing to the confusion is that many of the given (first) names in the collection are expressed in Latin form. In other words, the name “Guillimus McCarthy” represents “William McCarthy” in English. Continue reading The only existing record→
Captain Daniel Patrick was a well-known and powerful figure in the Massachusetts Bay Colony of 1640. He had been a “common soldier in the Prince’s guard” in Holland, and that experience was sufficient for him to be appointed Captain of Militia in Massachusetts Bay. He commanded 40 soldiers in the Pequot War, and he and his company were notable for executing the “fighting age” Pequot male prisoners captured near present-day Ledyard, Connecticut, on 5 July 1637. Captain Patrick was clearly a formidable character.
He was also a well-known philanderer and eventually departed the colony: “For though he had a wife of his own, a good Dutch woman and comely, yet he despised her and followed after other women and perceiving that he was discovered, and that such evil courses would not be endured here, and being of a vain and unsettled disposition, he went from us… ” Continue reading ‘I was much amazed’→
[Editor’s note: This post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 17 July 2014. Since the time of that posting, we have made enhancements to our search functionality on AmericanAncestors.org that return broader results without using wildcards. The wildcard strategy still works as advertised, however.]
When we were deciding how our AmericanAncestors.org database search would work, one of the key considerations was that we didn’t want to return search results that contained a lot of ‘noise.’ On other websites, the database architects allowed for a certain (sometimes significant) number of irrelevant search results. This was undoubtedly intended to be helpful, but it is actually quite frustrating. So we decided to do ‘exact’ searches with a couple of twists. The goal was to give results that were exactly what you searched for. We spent quite a lot of time tuning our search algorithm, trying different approaches and analyzing the results. We’re pretty happy with our final approach, but it’s definitely helpful to understand how it works. And what the twists are. Continue reading ICYMI: Tips for searching on AmericanAncestors.org→
In his monumental work The Pioneers of Massachusetts, Charles Henry Pope summarized the occupations and trades of 1,725 of the 6,000 “pioneers” for whom the information was available. These 6,000 individuals were identified “in the journals and lists of the colonies, towns, churches and counties of the period 1620-1650, inclusive, as well as those perpetuated in the passenger-lists of that time which have survived to our day.” (Pope’s “day” was 1900, 115 years ago.) Continue reading 17th-century occupations in Massachusetts→
A few nights ago, I was watching Hercule Poirot on TV, working to solve a complicated mystery. At one point, he found himself stumped and said, “I am an imbecile. I see only half of the picture.” As an aspiring genealogist (read: amateur detective), I can certainly identify with the great detective in that way. I get that feeling all the time! I feel much more like Miss Lemon, who replies, “I don’t even see that.”
I guess it’s common knowledge that many aspiring (and even accomplished) genealogists see genealogy as a British murder mystery, a puzzle just begging to be solved. I know I do. And I have at least as much trouble solving my genealogical puzzles as Hercule, Miss Marple, and, dare I say it, Inspector Morse. Of course, the big difference is that those fictional detectives solve every case by the end of the episode. We genealogists can struggle for years, trying to solve our mysteries. Fortunately, very few of our cases involve murder. Continue reading Detective Stories→
When I was a child, my classmate Jimmy would often tease me about my middle name: Paine. “Why is your name ‘Pain?’ Were you a pain to your mother when you were born? (Tee-hee!)” When I complained to my mother that my name was a problem and a target for Jimmy’s teasing, she replied, “Well, the name Paine is an old and extremely honorable name. You are, in fact, a descendant of Thomas Paine, who wrote the famous pamphlet Common Sense, which was one of the main inspirations for the American Revolution!” Wow! Was Jimmy impressed!
Not only do I have an old and honorable name, I’m also the descendant of a famous patriot! Of course, Jimmy stopped teasing me and I became a bit of a third-grade celebrity, for a day or two, anyway. Continue reading A Ruth by any other name→
Robert Henry Eddy was a life member of NEHGS who died in 1887 and bequeathed a substantial sum of money to the Society.* Mr. Eddy had been an architect, civil engineer, and in later life, a very successful patent attorney. In 1902, NEHGS used $20,000 of the Eddy bequest to establish the “Eddy Town-Record Fund, for the sole purpose of publishing the Vital Records of the towns of Massachusetts.” This fund would become the basis of a major project to preserve early Massachusetts vital records. Continue reading Who was Robert Henry Eddy, and why should you care?→
When we were deciding how our AmericanAncestors.org database search would work, one of the key considerations was that we didn’t want to return search results that contained a lot of ‘noise.’ On other websites, the database architects allowed for a certain (sometimes significant) number of irrelevant search results. This was undoubtedly intended to be helpful, but it is actually quite frustrating. So we decided to do ‘exact’ searches with a couple of twists. The goal was to give results that were exactly what you searched for. We spent quite a lot of time tuning our search algorithm, trying different approaches and analyzing the results. We’re pretty happy with our final approach, but it’s definitely helpful to understand how it works. And what the twists are. Continue reading Tips for searching on AmericanAncestors.org→