Family genealogy turns into town history project
People with family roots in Newry and nearby towns have a new online resource available to search for their ancestors, as well for old photos and other history of the area.
What started 20 years ago as Mark Vail’s personal genealogy project grew into a Newry-area history and genealogy effort.
“When my father died (in 1990) I didn’t know anything about my genealogy,” said Vail, a Newry native. “I decided to do some research.”
He was living in the right place at the time – Salt Lake City, where the Mormon Church has an extensive genealogy library. He also was in the right line of work – computer design management.
Vail spent three or four years tracking down his family tree by connecting to the church’s computer genealogy system. His work predictably led him to many people in Newry.
That’s when he decided to branch out.
He began compiling information on other Newry families. That, in turn, led him into neighboring towns. “I realized if I was going to do Newry I also needed to do Upton and Grafton,” he said.
His sources included town histories, census and military records, and vital statistics records (births, deaths, marriages).
Vail’s research went on for years. About 10 years ago he set up a website, OxfordTriangle.com, to display his information.
In 2005 he had to put his work on hold for health reasons.
He retired and moved back to this area last year. Vail now lives in Bethel and is continuing his work.
Being here has enabled him to obtain other hard copy historical records to add to his collection. For example, he said, “I got all of [Newry midwife] Amy Hanscom’s midwife books with records from 1920 to 1930.”
Vail estimates he now has more than 30,000 names in his system.
A person visiting the website may find out how he or she is related to someone listed on the site. In addition, he is also compiling old photos, newspaper clippings and other archival material that local residents have loaned to him to scan into his computer. There’s a collection, for instance, of newspaper articles compiled through the 1940s, when local servicemen went off to war.
Among the photos are pictures of Newry’s old Poplar Tavern and the Bear River Bridge. “I have about a thousand photos of my own, and a couple thousand total so far,” he said.
After he scans items people loan him, he returns the material, along with a flashdrive of the scans.
Vail plans to shortly add the photos and other items to the website. Soon, he hopes, he will be able to add other features for people to use. “They can comment on, and link to people and places,” he said.
Anyone wishing to contact Vail with items for scanning may call him at 801-209-4887 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
With his health now declining, he hopes to get as much compilation done as possible in the near future. He also hopes to find someone who can continue the project when he can’t.
Another Newry native, Brooks Morton, has provided photos for Vail to scan and posted some of Vail’s collection on his Facebook page. He’s considering ways to help support Vail’s efforts.
“It would be great to generate enough interest in developing Mark’s vision for an Internet-based Historical Society,” Morton said. “I have tried to work to learn his program but I just do not know enough to be of much help.
“The greatest need is to find some people with computer coding skills willing to help preserve his program. The feature that shows how two different people are related is amazing in and of itself. The part of the system that connects the names with a physical location and pictures will make it an amazing research destination.
“I really don’t think people realize the amount of information he has collected. Each piece of the puzzle added makes the picture of our ancestors that much clearer. If it takes forming a Historical Society, then that is the route to take. My main concern is to preserve his work."