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Overheard in GenForum: Moodys of Lowell, Massachusetts, 1800s
by Rhonda R. McClure

Each week Rhonda answers a question from the GenForum message boards and gives her expert answer here. We'd love to hear anything you have to add. Go ahead and leave your comments on GenForum with the original message.

November 04, 1999
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Q: Does anyone have any information about the Moody family living in or descendants coming from Lowell? My grandmother, when I was inquiring about where my Moody family came from,...said Lowell, MA. As far back as I can tell my Moody family all came from Maine. Does anyone have any information to back this up? Any information is appreciated. My grt.grt. grandfather was Daniel S. Moody supposedly born around 1849, and his father was again, supposedly, Joseph Moody born about 1810.

-- Melissa

A: New England research is one of the easiest, hardest areas to research. It is one of the easiest because there are so many records and resources available. It is also one of the hardest because there are so many records and resources available.

When dealing with research in Maine, it is important to remember that for a long time, it was a part of Massachusetts. It was not until Maine attained statehood in 1820 that it became a separate political entity. However, records that were created in the towns of Maine are located in Maine. It is important to remember that vital records and most of the other records generated are housed in the individual town halls.

Prior to 1820, Maine was politically connected to Massachusetts.

Where Are You in Your Research?

Your message said that as far back as you could tell the family was from Maine. However you didn't say just how far back that was. Depending on the records you have used so far in your research, it may be possible that you are traveling down an incorrect branch of the family tree. This happens to even the best of us at least once. In New England, because of the plethora of records and the commonality of many of the given names and surnames, it is possible from time to time to misunderstand the proper relationship between two individuals as found in the records.

If you haven't done so already, you will want to locate your family in the census records. Your goal should be to trace the family back to the 1850 census. It could very well turn out that the family does trace back to Lowell, Massachusetts. This is not unheard of.

New England by Way of Lowell

When you look at a map you begin to realize how small the New England states really are. So I suppose we shouldn't be surprised when we discover our ancestors have migrated from one state to another. I have a number of lines in the late 1700s that go from Massachusetts, to Maine (for a generation) and then on to New Brunswick, Canada.

Recent research on one of my lines traces the line from Lowell, Massachusetts in 1850 back to Epping, New Hampshire in the early 1800s and late 1700s. So, you can see that others were moving in and around Lowell during that period of time.

Published Vital Records

Unfortunately Maine has not been outstanding with the recording of and publishing of their vital records. In fact they have the worst collection of records out of all the New England states. This is because those of us who are researching New England have come to expect the recording of vital records from the creation of the town. And in the case of Maine, this is seldom true.

However, as far as Massachusetts is concerned, you could say there is a plethora of vital records for the towns of that state. In fact, about half of them have been published up to the year 1850. These volumes can be found at some libraries with larger genealogical departments. Most of them are also available on microfilm through your local Family History Center.

Plan of Attack

Armed with the information from your grandmother, you will want to devise a plan of attack. This plan should include those items discussed here. Another possible resource, that you may not as yet have checked, is the International Genealogical Index.

The IGI may help you in immediately finding your ancestor. Many of the published volumes of Massachusetts vital records have been extracted and added to the IGI. If you can locate your ancestor in the IGI, be sure to check out the Batch number, serial sheet and film number. It is possible that it is an extraction entry, which would then clue you in to the original source of the extraction.

In Conclusion

Generally the information our families share with us have a few grains of truth buried in them. The trick is to discover just what the truth is. To do this, in your case, will mean turning your attention to the records of Lowell, Massachusetts.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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