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From the Jan. 12, 1961, Eagle

Eagle Archives, Jan. 12, 1961: Pilgrims not America's first settlers, says photographer of Pittsfield records

“Contrary to public belief, the Pilgrims were not the first to settle in America,” said L. Garrett Myers Jr., microfilm photographer for the Genealogical Society of Salt Lake City. “I have filmed original church records in Bangor, Maine, dated 1608, 12 years before the landing at Plymouth Rock. These settlers are thought to be English.”

This statement, probably rather shocking to the Mayflower Society, was made by Mr. Myers as he diligently photographed Pittsfield’s vital statistics records dating from 1761 to 1900. Working for the nonprofit society, supported by the Mormon Church, Mr. Myers’ job is to film papers which will provide genealogical information.

“I received a letter,” said City Clerk John J. Fitzgerald, “requesting permission to film our early records. I quickly extended an invitation to the society. In return the City of Pittsfield would receive a positive microfilm copy. I hope to store the film in a safety deposit box, separate from our records in case of fire or the like.”

“Pittsfield’s early vital statistics are in good shape,” said Mr. Myers turning pages and pushing a button which operates the camera. “During the day of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the original records were transferred to new books and re-recorded in type.”

Pittsfield records are the first in Berkshire to be filmed by the society. Mr. Myers hopes to cover all the towns in the area, recording early documents.

“The fathers of the Mormon Church were from the New England area,” said Mr. Myers, “so we are concentrating on filming all of the early data in this part of the country.

“I have covered most of Connecticut and Maine and am starting on Massachusetts. Springfield and some of the Hamptons have been done, and we’re trying to get the Boston records. Of course, they’re in a state of political turmoil at present, but we hope, shortly, to get down there.”

The Genealogical Society does not restrict its operation to just New England or the United States. Some 181 microfilm photographers are working around the world snapping pictures of old records.

If all the microfilm the society has stored in Salt Lake City were connected into a single strip, it would wrap twice around the world or about 50,000 miles.

This Story in History is selected from the archives by Jeannie Maschino, The Berkshire Eagle.

Community News Editor / Librarian

Jeannie Maschino is community news editor and librarian for The Berkshire Eagle. She has worked for the newspaper in various capacities since 1982 and joined the newsroom in 1989.

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