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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Samuel Burrell, Son of Samuell Burrell and Susanna his wife was born May ye 26 1707 in Woodbridge Town Records

Followers of this blog know of the efforts to sort out Samuel Bunnell records. I haven't been active in this, only posting the work of others. It became clear the original records need to be consulted, or rather the microfilmed version. I was therefore thrilled to find via the FamilySearch catalog that my local family history library (in Orange, California) had a copy of microfilm 16,596, Early Vital Statistics of Woodbridge Township Liber A, filmed by Bibliofilm, Corp. in 1938. No one had to go to Salt Lake City! 

George Farris told me exactly what to look for so this morning I made the effort. I’ve looked at a lot of New England town records and naively expected them to be similar. Boy was I wrong. I completely understand why there’s disagreement about their contents because they are a mess.

The images on film are dark and often illegible because of blotches that may be stains on the pages or merely shadows. Can’t tell. The lighting wasn’t right when they were filmed 80 years ago. Scraps of paper were put on top of pages when they were scanned, concealing part of the page underneath. Sometimes the light beneath a page was so bright the writing on the back bled through into the image.

The records themselves are a mess. Loose pages. Indecipherable handwriting. Torn edges. Blotches and stains. Worse yet, they aren’t in any kind of order that I could find. One set of pages has marriages in alphabetical order, but anything after R is illegible, and it only covers a narrow period of time. Another set of vital records seems to be organized by family.

Bless the LDS volunteers because they helped me figure out how their one scanner-microfilm reader hookup worked. I captured 190 images as best I could. I took images of every page that seemed to have a marriage or other vital record. Some of them didn’t come out very well as the black around every page influenced the scanner adjustments. If I could have cropped the image before scanning it, the scans would have turned out better. I couldn’t. I felt lucky to be able to scan them at all. The volunteers suggested I take a photo of the image on the microfilm reader, but I don’t have a smartphone (I know, I'm a Luddite) and wasn’t smart enough to bring a camera or my iPad. Plus the images on the microfilm reader were awful. 

I wrote all this up in an e-mail to the Samuel Bunnell team and attached an image as a sample, the one page that had records for last names starting with B. The attachment came on my screen really big, and one of those serendipitous things happened. Right in the middle, huge and clear where I couldn't possibly miss it, was one of the items they were looking for. “Samuel Burrell, Son of Samuell Burrell and Susanna his wife was born May ye 26 1707.” Unbelievable!

This image confirms the accuracy of Rev. Joseph W. Dally's transcription in Appendix E, "The Story of a New Jersey Township" (available free at this link:  The Story of a New Jersey Township

I just hope we can find everything else they're looking for in the images I made.

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