A Page From North Quabbin History: Tracing family roots

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By Carla Charter

Doris Lake of Orange has had an interest in her family history since she was a child.

“Even as a child I would ask a lot of questions. I would listen to stories and visit people. The interest was always there, but I didn’t have time to trace my family history until my youngest child was 10,” she said.

In 2008, Lake joined the Orange Tree Climbers Genealogy Group to begin to trace her family’s roots.

“I joined in 2008. In 2020 the group suspended meetings due to Covid,” Lake said. “In 2023, several members of the group passed away, including the leader of the group and Town Historian Linda Temple. It was up to us to keep it going.”

Now known as The North Quabbin Tree Climbers Genealogy Group, members meet on Tuesday nights at the Athol Public Library.

“I came up with the idea of the Athol Library because the parking, library and archives room were accessible,” she said. “The group has had three meetings at the library and each time attendance has grown, with those attending being a mix of people new to genealogy and those with more experience. I didn’t know a lot about my ancestors before starting. You build on what you know.”

As for the search for her ancestors, Lake said “I was definitely fascinated with what I found. People will ask and say ‘you’re not done yet?’ You are never done, there is always more you can find. The hobby gets addictive real fast,” Lake said. “The more you find out, the more you want to find out. I started out with one binder of information—now I have lots of binders of information.”

Along with learning about her family’s past, Lake said she occasionally solves a mystery as well. This happened when she sent to North Adams for copies of the marriage and death certificates for her great-grandparents, Mary Jane and Albert Hewitt.

“Sometimes formal documents can contradict each other,” she said. “My great-grandmother was born Mary Jane Keeler and married Albert Hewitt. In the death record she was listed as Mary Jane Keeler, but on the marriage certificate she was listed as Jenny Perine.”

Upon speaking to an older cousin, Roy Caproni, Lake discovered that Mary Jane Keeler was orphaned by 1876 when her father Charles Beale Keeler died. Her mother had died in 1871. Mary Jane was then adopted by Alonzo and Mary E. Perine of New York City and is listed as their adopted daughter on the 1880 census.

Among the genealogical resources housed at the Athol Library, according to Library Director Jean Shaughnessy, are copies of the Athol Daily News, Athol Transcript and Worcester West Chronicle on microfiche. Other resources include vital records books from many cities and towns in the state—including the North Quabbin towns—and a map cabinet. She said that as of Jan. 1, 2024 the Athol Library is planning to provide access to Ancestry.com at no cost.

The North Quabbin Tree Climbers Geneaology Group meets on Tuesday nights from 6-7:45 p.m in the archive room at the Athol Public Library.

Carla Charter is a freelance writer from Phillipston. Her writing focuses on the history of the North Quabbin area. Contact her at cjfreelancewriter@earthlink.net.

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