Seminar: “Filling in the Gaps: Finding Your Family’s Role in American History”


Zuller Moyer Family Record A83_015_1DI1
Zuller-Moyer Family Record, 1825. Henry Moyer (b. 1785), Minden, New York. Museum Purchase, A83/015/1

August 6, 2016

9 AM-4 PM

$85 Seminar + Lunch or $65 Seminar only

Just announced! The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library will host the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s Family History Day on August 6, 2016 from 9 AM-4 PM. Entitled “Filling in the Gaps: Finding Your Family’s Role in American History,” this full day seminar will include speakers from both organizations and beyond to discuss how researchers can uncover lost stories about how their ancestors lived and worked. The seminar will take place at the Museum located at 33 Marrett Road in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Lectures will include how to use newspapers, military pension files and fraternal records to discover new information about your family’s past. Rhonda R. McClure, a nationally recognized professional genealogist and lecturer, will discuss “Finding Family Stories in Newspapers.” NEHGS’s Chief Genealogist David Allen Lambert will review “Occupations in Early New England” and “Researching Military Pension Files: Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War” to help registrants understand the daily lives of their ancestors. 

John without flash
John Coelho, Archivist

John Coelho, archivist at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library and frequent blog contributor will discuss “Researching Your Ancestor’s Role in Fraternal Organizations.” This lecture will include information on the types of Masonic and fraternal records that exist, where they are located, and how they may be useful to genealogical research. Coelho will also discuss how to use Masonic and fraternal resources in conjunction with more traditional genealogical tools to discover more detailed information about family history.

The seminar includes the opportunity to interact with genealogists and staff of both organizations, browse publications, enter to win door prizes, and meet other family historians. Details and registration are available at the NEHGS website

Lecture: Historical Maps and Digital Visualizations - Tools for Genealogists

From sixteenth-century maps depicting the location of Irish clans to maps of DNA test results showing ancient migration patterns, family historians use maps in many ways to tell the story of their ancestries. No longer content to use maps for reference, modern genealogists create maps employing a variety of software products and social media to research and share their ancestries.

MMHP4571Melinda Kashuba of Shasta College explores the wide range of maps family historians employ to research and document their families’ story in her lecture, “Organizing Wonder: Using Maps in Family History Research,” Saturday, April 12 at 2 pm at the museum. The lecture is free thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Ruby W. and LaVon P. Linn Foundation.

After the lecture, Ms. Kashuba will offer an informal discussion with interested audience members.

Melinda Kashuba holds a PhD in Geography from the University of California, Los Angeles.She is a popular lecturer and author of Walking with Your Ancestors: a Genealogist’s Guide to Using Maps and Geography plus numerous articles in genealogical magazines and other publications. Her specialties include nineteenth and twentieth century American records and maps. She performs genealogical research for clients and is a member of the National Genealogical Society, the Association of Professional Genealogists, California State Genealogical Alliance, and the Shasta County Genealogical Society.

This talk is part of the Museum's 2014 lecture series: “Speaking of Maps: An Exploration of Cartography and History.” This spring and fall, we are offering a series of programs related to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library’s collection of historic maps. Click here to see the most up-to-date topics, speakers, and dates and here to read a recent post about the series.

For our final spring map lecture, we will welcome David Bosse, Librarian and Curator of Maps, Historic Deerfield, to the Museum & Library on Saturday, June 7. His 2 p.m. presentation will be on: Map and Chart Publishing in Boston in the 18th Century.

For further information, contact the Museum at (781) 861-6559 or check our website:

Image credit:

Courtesy of Melinda Kashuba

The Sprague Family: An American Story

“William Sprague was the youngest of three brothers…who arrived in Salem in 1629, and from thence removed to Charlestown (then called Mish-a-wam by the natives) where they, with a few others, were the first to form an English settlement.” –Marcia A. Thomas, 1835

Sprague_Photo_1Thus begins the story of the Sprague family, an enduring, historically-significant group that calls New England home. The history of the Sprague family can be seen in a new collection at the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives. Through letters, manuscripts, genealogical charts, official documents, and photographs, a clear picture of the Sprague family develops—from their arrival in the 17th century up until the middle of the 20th century.

At the center of the collection is Harold W. Sprague, who assembled much of the material. Harold was an extremely active member in fraternal and civic organizations during his lifetime, being appointed Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in 1952, as well as being recognized by the Sons of the American Revolution. Harold’s involvement in these organizations demonstrates his sense of community and speaks to his interest in history and tradition. Much of the information gleaned from the collection comes from Harold’s own research into the Sprague family history. His investigations led him down a road of various Sprague relations, including the Burt, Taylor, and Adams families, among others.

It was through these familial connections that Harold was able to piece together the links between his ancestors and two great political families of the 18th and 19th centuries. William Sprague, who came to Salem in 1629, had numerous children with his wife Millicent Eames. Among these was Samuel (Harold’s ancestor) who remained in Massachusetts, and William, who moved to Rhode Island around 1664. William (the younger) established the Rhode Island line of Spragues that included two prominent leaders. The first, William Sprague III, was the 14th Governor of Rhode Island (1838-1839). William also served in Congress both before and after he was governor, first as a Representative (1835-1837) and then as Senator (1842-1844). His nephew, William Sprague IV, was greatly influenced by him and followed him into the political realm at an early age. In 1860, William IV was elected the 27th Governor of Rhode Island (1860-1863). He was only 30 years old at the time, making him one of the youngest governors in U.S. history. Like his uncle, William IV was also a member of Congress, serving two terms as Senator (1863-1875).

While the Sprague family in Rhode Island was certainly notable for their political power, it was through Harold Sprague’s mother that the family is connected to its most influential relatives. As Harold learned through his research, his mother’s side of the family could trace their lineage all the way back to Joseph Adams (1654-1736). Joseph was the uncle of founding father and statesman, Samuel Adams. Even more directly, Joseph’s grandson was John Adams, 2nd President of the United States. John Adams served as vice-president under George Washington from 1789-1797 before being elected president in 1797, serving one term. He was greatly influential as a political thinker and was one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence. His political legacy was carried on by his son John Quincy Adams, who served as the 6th President of the United States from 1825-1829. He then had a long career as a representative in Congress (1831-1848), winning reelection eight times!

Numerous letters, notes, and genealogical charts in the collection show the familial links between the Adams and Sprague families. In addition to these documents, the collection includes autograph books containing a variety of signatures, including those of John Quincy Adams and his son Charles Francis Adams. The presence of these signatures shows just how close the families were. In fact, numerous letters between prominent members of the two families can be seen in the Massachusetts Historical Society’s Adams Family Papers. A quick search through the MHS Online Adams Catalog reveals dozens of letters between the Adams and Sprague families.


The story of the Sprague family is a familiar one in American history. Beginning with a long voyage across the sea, three brothers set forth to explore and establish a new land. They made their home among the wilds of North America and built towns, cities, and families along the way. As time passed, the Sprague family expanded, and the founders of towns gave way to founders of countries and leaders of states. Theirs is certainly an American story, one that can be discovered in the collections at the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives.

If you want to learn more about the contents of this collection, we've made the Sprague Family Papers finding aid available online.

Photos from the Sprague Family collection, USM 077, Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives

Addison Putnam: A Genealogical Quest


Who was Addison Putnam?  What information can a researcher find from studying Putnam's Masonic certificate?  In this case, the answer is quite a bit of information! For a recent workshop on genealogy and Masonic records, we used a Masonic certificate from our collection in order to demonstrate how one might use a document like this as a starting point for learning more information about the person named on the certificate. In this case, we used a Royal Arch certificate issued to Addison Putnam in 1855 (see image on left).

From examining Addison Putnam's Masonic certificate, a researcher can discern where Putnam's Royal Arch Chapter was located - which was Lowell, Massachusetts - and make an educated guess that Putnam himself likely lived in Lowell. The certificate also gave the name of Putnam's Royal Arch Chapter - Mount Horeb Chapter - and the date he joined Mount Horeb, which  was 1855.

A quick check of the Massachusetts Grand Royal Arch Proceedings (the annual record of the business of this organization), 1856-1867, mentions Mount Horeb Chapter in the 1850s-1860s, but  does not mention Addison Putnam.  Evidently he was not active at the state level of Royal Arch.

Since Mount Horeb is a Royal Arch chapter, we know that Putnam must have joined his local (i.e. Blue/Craft/Symbolic) lodge first, before proceeding to the York Rite. In that case, time for a call to Cynthia Alcorn, Librarian at the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, to see if she had a membership card for Putnam. She does!  Putnam's membership card gives his local lodge as Ancient York Lodge (where he was a member from 1855-1868, until he demitted), and later Kilwinning Lodge (1867-), both meeting in Lowell.  The card also establishes Putnam's death date as April 28, 1905.

A search of the Library's online catalog tells us that we have a lodge history called By-laws And List of Members, Kilwinning Lodge, 1866-1907.  Exactly the time period we are looking for!  In a list of former members of Kilwinning Lodge is Addison Putnam's name.  With this information confirmed we move on.

Next we go to the database and put in the information that we know: name, place lived, and death date. [a subscription database] yields loads of information.  First I try the Federal Census material from 1860, then 1900.  I find Putnam's birthdate, November 1824, that he lived in Lowell, the members of his household (Hannah B., wife, children, Lilias, Addison, and Frank, plus two maternal relatives, Emily and Matilda Puffer).  I find that he married Hannah in 1848.  By 1900, his children are grown and not living with him except for one son, Addison Putnam, Jr. and his wife.

Next I check the New York Times obituaries.  Putnam's obit shows up in the April 29, 1905 Times, with his death date listed as April 28, 1905.  Now I know for sure that I am dealing with the same man that the Masonic certificate was issued to.  However, the New York Times does not mention that Putnam was a Mason.

I check Lowell Sun newspapers and find out his home address which was Nesmith Street in Lowell from the 1894 issue.  In another issue of the Lowell Sun from 1938, I find that Addison Putnam was a very prominent citizen of Lowell.  He had been given the title of "Grand Old Man of Lowell" and the title was just being passed on to someone new.

Finally, I check directories from Lowell, 1889-1890 and have some important information confirmed.  The Federal Census form simply read "merch. clothing" [perhaps merchant] for occupation.  Putnam was, in fact, a clothier in Lowell in 1889 and his business was located on Central Street and was named Putnam and Son. This directory confirms his home address as well.

Our quest is successful!


Royal Arch Certificate of Addison Putnam, 1855, Engraving on paper, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, A78/042

Handpainted Hearts

A83_015_1Tweb_version Pictured here is the handpainted family record, or fraktur, of the Zuller family, probably from Minden, New York. In the central heart image, we can see that Abraham Zuller married Mary Moyer (1787?-1850) on April 11, 1808. 

Above this heart is a circle containing many Masonic symbols laid out in a familiar pattern.  Among these symbols are the letter "G", which is interpreted within Freemasonry as a reference to the Grand/Great Architect of the Universe [i.e. God] or Geometry.  The arch without a key stone is not only a Masonic symbol, it is specifically a symbol of Royal Arch Masons As depicted here, the dislodged key stone allows the light from the all-seeing eye to shine through.  Other Masonic symbols depicted here within the circle are a coffin, a trowel, and mosaic flooring.  With the inclusion of of Masonic symbols on this fraktur, leads us to speculate that it is likely that Abraham Zuller had Masonic ties.

Surrounding these shapes are smaller hearts with the name of each child born to the Zuller family between 1808 and 1827.  The children include:  Daniel, Betsy, Caty, Abraham, Nancy, Mary, and John.  These hearts, like everything on this fraktur, were handpainted by the artist.  Later, as other children were born, hearts were written on in ink to give children's birth dates.  These include  Henry Zuller, born in 1827.  Other small hearts give the death dates of children.  Nancy Zuller died or "departed this earth" and was buried in 1829.

Henry S. Moyer (1785-1860), the artist who created this fraktur in 1825, was of German descent and lived in Minden, New York.  Moyer's style is considered as artistically as following William Murray, or "in the school of" William Murray. As with Murray's frakturs, the Zuller family fraktur is decorated with watercolor and ink on paper.

Image Caption

Zuller Family Fraktur, by Henry S. Moyer, 1825, New York.  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, A83/015/1. 


Franco, Barbara.  Masonic Symbols in American Decorative Arts. Lexington, Mass.:  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, Inc., 1976, p. 17-44.

Arthur B. and Sybil B. Kern. "Painters of Record:  William Murray and his School", The Clarion, vol. 12, no. 1, Winter 1986/1987, p.28-35.

'An Old Bible'

Oldbible_4What immediately gets your attention when opening the VGW Library & Archives copy of The Genealogies Recorded in the Sacred Scriptures According to Every Family and Tribe... by John Speed [Rare BS 569 .A4 1625], is the number of well known, early New England family names recorded on the endpapers and family information recorded within. This rare 1625 edition was donated to our library by the Wadsworth Family in 1982 but the documentation indicates connections to earlier Wadsworth, and also Glenson, Salmon, Stansill, Stoddard, Tappan, Pierce, and Cowles families. 

The earliest notes indicate John Glenson and Christopher and Thomas Wadsworth landed in Boston on September 16, 1632 on the ‘Lion’.  Wadsworth and Glenson family births are recorded for 1629 and 1633.  Thomas Stansill family birth records for 1722 and 1724 are included.  It is noted that Lewis Tappan Stoddard, born in 1807 in Northampton, MA presented the Bible to his uncle, John Pierce (1773-1849) of Brookline, MA, on April 11, 1833, and that his son, John Tappan Pierce, of Genesco, IL, sold it to S.W. Cowles in July, 1882.  An S.W. Cowles Bookplate lists his address at 891 Main St. Hartford, Conn. and handwritten are the dates 1882-1887.  It  is believed that the Bible passed again into the Wadsworth family from Cowles. An article entitled ‘An Old Bible’ which appeared in the Nov. 1, 1883 Hartford Courant, details much of the Bible’s provenance, and is affixed to the endpaper.

John_pierce_bookplateJohn Pierce’s bookplate appears as well.  Pierce was minister of the First Parish Church in Brookline, Massachusetts from 1797 to 1849 and looms large in much of Brookline’s early history.  According to the History of the Town of Brookline by John Gould Curtis, Pierce played an integral part in many of the civic and educational activities of the Town, and delivered some important speeches.  He was called upon to speak at Brookline’s memorial service for George Washington on February 22, 1800 and delivered a discourse at the 1805 Centennial for the Town.  Intensely interested in all things having to do with Brookline’s progress, it was once noted by another minister, "As I understand it, Dr. Pierce is Brookline, and Brookline is Dr. Pierce." 

Pierce married Lucy Tappan of Northampton, MA in 1802.  Her brothers, Arthur (1786-1865) and Lewis Tappan (1788-1873) were noted philanthropists and abolitionists and for a time Lewis lived in Brookline.  In fact, John Pierce officiated at the marriage of Lewis Tappan and Susan Aspinwall in the parlor of the Aspinwall home in Brookline in 1813. 

The Bible itself is of interest on several counts.  It contains engraved genealogical charts of prominent families from scripture, interesting old engravings and a map of ancient Palestine and Egypt.  According to Alister McGraph's In the Beginninng: the Story of the King James Bible and how it changed a Nation, a Language and a Culture [BS 186 .M33 2001], mapmaker and entrepreneur John Speed negotiated a special arrangement with King James I in 1610 to include these additional pages thus providing extra income for himself and the crown for each bible sold. 

Additional resources:

Dr. John Pierce's papers are held at the Massachusetts Historical Society.  See Lewis Tappan's papers at the Library of Congress; additional Tappan family material may be found at Oberlin College.  More on Lewis Tappan's anti-slavery activities may be found here and in:

Wyatt-Brown, Bertram.  Lewis Tappan and the evangelical war against slavery.  Cleveland: Press of Case Western Reserve University, 1969.

Is This Your Great-Great-Grandfather?

Josiah_drummond_web We get questions on a fairly regular basis from people who are interested in finding out more about their family history. Because of our collections, they usually come to us when there's a connection to Freemasonry or the American Revolution. We have some resources to help you get started with these kinds of questions, and we've put them together on a page on our website. The best place to get an introduction on how to approach genealogy that relates to Freemasonry is Paul Bessel's web page about Masonic genealogy.

Freemasonry actually consists of various different organizations, so there is no single place where all Masonic records are kept. And in answer to that question that might be on your mind, I'm sorry to say that there isn't one giant database that contains the names of every Mason who ever lived. However, there is still plenty of material available that's related to genealogy and Freemasonry, so take a look at the two pages I linked to above, and let us know if we can help you further.

The man pictured here is Josiah Hayden Drummond. Drummond was, among many other things, Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council 33°of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (which, I should mention, founded and continue to fund the National Heritage Museum). Drummond served as Sovereign Grand Commander from 1867-1879 - the first Commander to serve after the so-called Union of 1867 that unified the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction's previously competing factions. Drummond's obituary in the New York Times mentions that he was a jurist, politician, mathematician, and genealogist. Born and raised in Maine, he served as Speaker, Senator, and Congressman in Maine's legislature, and was Maine's Attorney General from 1860-1864.

For more information about Drummond's Masonic activities - which are many - you could consult the 1903 Proceedings of the Supreme Council of Sovereign Grand Inspectors-General of the Thirty-Third Degree for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (available in our library) where this engraving of Drummond, as well as a lengthy obituary, may be found. We have more materials available in our Archives too, related to Drummond's time as Sovereign Grand Commander.

Drummond was also a Masonic writer, and we have a number of books written by Drummond. Perhaps the most familiar - at least to Mason's in Maine - is the The Maine Masonic Text Book, which was first compiled by Drummond in 1877 (Drummond was Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Maine from 1860-1862). To find other books by Drummond in our library, please search our online catalog, or drop us a line.

Oh, and if Josiah H. Drummond is, by some wonderful coincidence, related to you, let us know!