Saturday, December 31, 2011

Post-Christmas Presents: Wishes for a New Year!

Wishing you all a Happy and Productive New Year!

Society Saturday: Wethersfield Historical Society

If you know nothing about the Wethersfield Historical Society (http://www.wethhist.org/), you're in for a treat. Established in 1932, the Wethersfield Historical Society is heavily involved in life in the historic district of Wethersfield. They own two historic homes, manage several other properties, house an extensive library, and run lecture series and walking tours within the town.

Most of my contact with the Historical Society has been through the museums and walking tours. The museums are set as period properties, an informative structure for anyone wanting to learn more about the time period and the location. Walking tours are organized around different topics, all featuring aspects of Wethersfield's history. Unless you know Wethersfield inside and out, you're guaranteed to learn something. I'm sure the library collection is equally informative.

Post-Christmas Presents: Connecting with your Genealogy Relatives

One of the greatest genealogy "gifts" is finding a relative who is also researching your family. I've found copies of a great-great-aunt's diary, family photos, and more. There is actually a resource set up to help you make these connections. Rootsweb offers a surname search option (http://rsl.rootsweb.ancestry.com/). Enter the surname and location. Rootsweb will return a list of people researching the surname, the location, the migration pattern of the family and a few more details to help you determine that you have a line in common. If this search happens not to return any relative, you can submit your own information. Hopefully your new relative will hold that missing key!

Follow Friday: Courant My Towns

One of the best ways to follow local happenings in the world of Connecticut history and genealogy - besides Patch.com - is to study The Hartford Courant's "My Towns" sections. Created using reader submitted comments, the "My Towns" section (http://www.courant.com/community/) features club and business events, movie notices, and historical society releases. It is that last category that I find most beneficial.
These releases announce often special events and new exhibitions. While I can't attend every event, these notices still help me with my research. There's always more to learn about Connecticut history. An announcement can provide the perfect starting point to discovering more about a town.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Post-Christmas Presents: That Missing Family Memoir

We all have one - that missing family diary that we salivate over. Of course, since all our ancestors wrote down their thoughts, they must be out there. Somewhere. Right?

Well, maybe. If your family was anything like mine, the more recent ancestor may have kept a diary. And the best place to look? Try the Connecticut State Library. The Connecticut State Library is home to several collections that might house your family documents. The History and Genealogy unit keeps what are called "Special Genealogical Files." Organized by family name, they contain information on that family within the state. Also check out the genealogical collections and manuscript collections. The finding aids (an advanced index) are at http://www.cslib.org/archives/FAIndexes/#genS. I found material under genealogical collections on one of my branches.

Happy searching!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Post-Christmas Presents: Finding Those Missing Artifacts

One of the great genealogical gifts is the discovery of a family item thought lost or gone for good. How often have we been lucky enough to stumble upon a long forgotten photo or cherished artifact?

An article from the Jacksonville (FL) Journal Courier has been making the rounds of genealogical newsletters and websites. That article, found at http://www.myjournalcourier.com/news/family-37126-long-county.html, describes a man's search for some long missing family photographs. It has started many wondering how to find their own "missing" (misplaced or long lost) items.

Marian Pierre-Louis of Marian's Roots and Rambles (http://rootsandrambles.blogspot.com/2011/12/genre-and-genealogy.html) has proposed some tips for finding those artifacts. She suggested beginning, much as the article's subject did, with contacting living relatives. Blog posts may also be helpful in making your search known.

You may also want to consider a few more things. Check genealogical message boards on Genforum and Rootsweb for your ancestor's area. Discovered items are often listed in posts. As aforementioned, make sure that you check eBay listings for the area and the type of artifact. Check with the local historical society to see if they've received any of your family items. And never forget Google.

Town Profile: Essex

A recent visit to the Connecticut River Museum's holiday train display reminded me of how important the village was to Connecticut's history. Essex traces its roots back to the founding of the Saybrook Plantation in the early 1600s. The Essex familiar to tourists - Essex Village - was first laid out in the mid-1700s. It quickly became a center of wooden shipbuilding. The British considered a serious military target during the War of 1812 and attacked the town. Modern Essex still reflects this colonial past, as well as much that has come after. Yachting has replaced shipbuilding as a town past ime. Essex Village still boasts 18th and 19th century homes, while the more industrial Centerbrook portion of Essex is home to the Essex Steam Train.

If you're interested in Essex genealogy, it is important to know where in the town your ancestor lived. Until 1854, all of Essex was technically part of Old Saybrook. Early vital records are likely stored there. Later records should be held by the town clerk. Church records will have a much wider span. Centerbrook had its own congregational church as early as 1722. Knowing the local church will be crucial. For other records, Essex Historical Society has a well developed collection and appears to be well worth a phone call.

Happy research!


References:
A very useful local history written by the town historian: http://www.essexct.gov/history/briefhistory.html.
Connecticut River Museum: http://www.ctrivermuseum.org/content/visitinfo.aspx?sid=0
Essex Historical Society: http://www.essexhistory.org/research-at-essex-historical-society.htm

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Post-Christmas Presents: Oral Histories

Among my Christmas gifts this year was the chance to listen to an oral history done with one of my relatives. That relative is now deceased, and with his death, we thought we had lost many of his stories. Fortunately for our family, the local historical society had managed to record what we had not. As a result, we have a thorough record of his business career, personal life, and more. Even better, it's in his own voice.

Hearing it was a reminder to me to take the time to record family stories. This oral history was fairly straightforward - an hour or so taken on an old fashioned tape recorder. The quality isn't great, but it is something that any of us could easily do at home. Just write out a list of questions and start talking. An hour isn't much to record a family treasure.

And if you're really lucky, the University of Connecticut may have already done some of the work for you. Their Office of Oral History has been recording Connecticut voices for some time. They've produced several major projects on Connecticut life and have developed a stockpile of interviews. Check out their website at http://www.oralhistory.uconn.edu/projects.html. You may find your ancestor or relative listed on their projects roster.

And one more useful resource...

I hate to admit it, but the Connecticut State Library newsletter was new to me. Take a look at the article part way through on the Ancestry.com digitization efforts: http://www.cslib.org/connector/11connector10.pdf.

A useful blog post...

This blog post struck me as being so helpful that I thought I'd share: http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art174507.asp.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Post-Christmas Presents: Ancestor Photos

I'm in the midst of finishing a new book to review, so you'll probably be seeing that shortly. In the meantime, I wanted to share what will no doubt become a post-Christmas tradition in our household.

Every so often, I alternate my framed photos and add a few new ones to my photo collection. This year, for the first time, I'm adding some photos of ancestors. There's something incredible about being able to look at a childhood photo of your great-(or more) grandparent. It's even more powerful once you realize that photo was probably the only one taken of him or her before their marriage, since photos were so expensive. I'm already thinking about how to find more for my collection.

How did I find the ones I have? A few stems on the family tree did take a lot of photos. However, some branches took almost none - and I've had to get creative to find what they did take. One of the best places to look is Ebay. Some antique dealers specialize in paper objects, especially photography. Try looking for the word "photography" and your ancestor's home town. This may yield only postcards, but often it will also return local photographers' work. Less known, but sometimes more successful, is FindAGrave.com. Relatives will often add photos to grave site information. Once in a while, historical societies will use this as a means to connect a photo collection with relatives. Take a look. You may be in for a surprise.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas to all!

Admittedly, I'm taking today off. Enjoy your holiday!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: Christmas Eve

Well, the holiday's officially here! We've finally decided what decorations are going up and which ones are getting packed again until next year. I have to admit that I enjoy this part almost as much as unpacking. We talk through each ornament and recall its heritage. It's a great Christmas gift, and the first of our many holiday traditions.

I hope that you enjoy a wonderful Christmas eve!

Friday, December 23, 2011

It's time to start the holidays...

As I get further into the holiday weekend, I'm starting to wonder about family traditions. I love hearing stories of special family traditions or ethnic heritage. Unfortunately, several sides of my family seem to have completely Americanized. They told of the traditional Christmas trees, holiday meal, and Christmas service. One side passed down great stories of Black Peter (it's Germanic, for those of you unfamiliar) and lighting the tree Christmas eve. Besides these little mentions, I'm left to guess what my ancestor's family Christmas celebrations must have been like.

I really wish I could find a way to fill in the blanks. It's easier said then done - a few holiday photos provide most of the details. Other than that, I'm out of ideas. So I'm throwing out the question: how do you discover your ancestors' past? Do you have great holiday stories?

Follow Friday: Patch.com

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Patch.com is an online newspaper. Based locally, the Patch.com sites tend to cover one to three towns. While the main page often has something to do with a major news event, editors often make space for history and genealogy subjects. This can be a great way to delve into an area's history.

So how do you get started? Visit Patch.com and click through to the local site. Once you're there, search for the word history. You'll be surprised at what turns up. For examples, take a look at this column: http://manchester.patch.com/columns/this-week-in-connecticut-history-ff8bbe8e.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Those Great Family Stories

As I'm preparing for this weekend's holiday, I'm finding myself very thankful for the great treasure trove my family has left me in the form of oral histories. Thanks to the insistence of one family member, I knew as a first grader that I was a Mayflower descendant - and precisely from which passenger I descended. That same family member soon added that I was also the descendant of a Revolutionary War soldier. Another family member gave me the story of their immigrant heritage in great detail. These often repeated stories were not acknowledged as they should have been when I was a child, but I am now incredibly glad of the gift. I'm also glad for the lesson those relatives taught me: pass on your family stories.

From those few details, I have been introduced to ancestors with tremendous histories. Remember that ship captain I mentioned in an earlier blog post? He was mentioned in a family legend. It has taken me years to locate him and to fill in the blanks in his stories. However, finding his ship's information gifted me with great insight into an ancestor who died in his early 30s. I have a dozen more stories like him.

I've also been taught some good lessons about genealogy. Those same relatives encouraged me to ask questions about their families. As a result, I had partially completed trees for several families as a child. They also reminded me to write things down. In a few cases, my notes stood as the only record of an ancestor's heritage. No one had done any other work. In short - ask, question, and record.

So why do I even bring this up? Just to remind you that the only gifts of the holiday don't need to be wrapped. Tell your family about their history. Force your youngest relatives to listen to those same boring old stories. Ask the older relatives every question you can think of. Don't be among those who wish they had asked when... Both generations will thank you for it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Connecticut's Civil War: December 21, 1861

In today's post, I decided to turn to my favorite topic of research - the Civil War. According to the website "Connecticut and Civil War," 55,000 Connecticut men served in the conflict. The site further indicates that that was 47% of the population between 15 and 50. In December 1861, many of the troops had yet to see conflict. Out of 29 Connecticut regiments, only the 1st through 11th had actually left the state.

December 21, 1861 found the 6th Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry (organized in New Haven) camped on Hilton Head. Union forces had captured the island in the Battle of Port Royal on November 7th. It was quickly transformed to serve two purposes. First, it became the military headquarters for the Department of the South. Second, and important to the 6th, it was also the home base for further occupying action in the South. The 6th likely used the time there to rest, train for future conflict, and solidify the Union gains on the island. In protecting the Union advance, the 6th laid the groundwork for the base that was to house a general hospital and eventually thousands of escaped slaves.

There are many ways to research the experience of the 6th. You can start with what are called the CMSR (compiled military service records). Connecticut records are not among those recorded on Fold3.com, so you will have to order the microfilm from the National Archives. Your local library may be able to help you. You can also take a look at The Letters and Journal of a Civil War Surgeon. The compiled memoirs of the 6th surgeon, it should provide details of the 6th's service. Finally, you can order your soldier's pension file from the National Archives. Hopefully one of the sources will have what you need.



For more information, visit the previously referenced sites:
http://www.ccsu.edu/page.cfm?p=2296.
http://www.hiltonheadislandsc.gov/ourisland/history.cfm
http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/regiments.cfm
http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/galleries/history/1861-1865_civil_war_places.php?page=4&term=
http://www.amazon.com/Letters-Journal-Civil-War-Surgeon/dp/1571970959/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1324481279&sr=8-3

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Can't find your CT river valley ancestors?

It can be infuriating to lose your 18th century Connecticut River Valley ancestors. Logically, you would assume that they didn't move far from their original home. They should - in theory - be found within a town or two of where their descendants settled. Except it doesn't always happen that way. Connecticut River settlers tended to move up and down the river, driven by the call of open land. I've seen many shoreline residents disappear from the shore to end up in a northern corner of the state. So, how do you find them?

For some strange reason, settlers tended not to cross the river. It may simply have been too much of a challenge. As a result, you can often trace settlers by moving from town to town up the river. Check each town as you travel north. It's methodical and sometimes boring, but it should get you what you need.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Town Profile: Chatham, CT

I was considering going back to some of my original themes and decided today would be the perfect time. I'm continuing the survey of Connecticut's non-town towns.

Chatham was established in 1767 and existed until 1915. Originally, it contained both modern day Portland and East Hampton. Portland, at the time called Conway, split off in 1841. The remaining town's name was changed to East Hampton in 1915, although you will still see the Chatham name used.
If your ancestor was born in Chatham, finding vital and baptismal records will likely require checking both towns. However, you may be saved a step if you can find their church. Each town had its own church. East Hampton Congregational Church was built in 1755. First Congregational Church of Portland was constructed in 1721. Each should hold the records for the local area.

For more information:
http://www.easthamptonct.org/Pages/2007visitorguide.pdf
http://www.cc-eh.org/our_church.htm
http://www.firstchurchportlandct.org/

Connecticut Valley Hospital Cemetery records

Connecticut Valley Hospital was founded in 1868 to treat, house, and occasionally provide a final resting place for the state's poor with mental illness. Some went home. Others died at the hospital and, having no other burial options, were buried onsite.
For their descendents, this has often meant a long search for their ancestors' graves. Grave sites were initially marked only by number. In the 1990s, an effort was made to acknowledge those buried at the Connecticut Valley Cemetery between 1878 and 1957. A listing of names is now available onsite. A digital roster is also available for those who cannot travel to the area. If you are among these descendents, consider visiting http://www.godfreydata.org/cvc.html.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Church Record Sunday: Online CT Church History

Searching for new church records this morning, I stumbled across a history book that might be of use to those studying early Connecticut church history. Benjamin Trumbull published his A COMPLETE History of Connecticut CIVIL AND ECCLESIASTICAL From the Emigration of its First Planters, from England, in the Year 1630, to the Year 1764; and to the Close of the Indian Wars IN TWO VOLUMES in 1898. Volume 1 has been made available online by Quinnipiac University's library at http://www.quinnipiac.edu/other/ABL/etext/trumbull/histconn1main.html. The book is admittedly a long and difficult read - and I've only looked at the first few chapters. However, it is worth your time. It carefully associates the original settlements in Connecticut with their origins in England, especially the church communities. If you're looking to make the jump across the pond, this may be of help.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Society Saturday: Cromwell Historical Society

The Cromwell Historical Society deserves kudos for maintaining a great website in addition to their onsite collection. Their "Cromwell History" section at http://www.cromwellhistory.org/Cromwell_History.html starts with a quick history of Cromwell, CT, highlighting its break from Middletown. The page continues by offering links to a variety of websites on local history. Some are images of local events; others offer detailed histories of local tool manufacturers. If you're interested in Cromwell's history, this website is the place to start.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Follow Friday: FamilySearch Wiki

This isn't precisely a blog, but I did want to share it because of its use to Connecticut researchers. As you may or may not know, FamilySearch.org hosts state focused wikis. Connecticut's (https://www.familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Connecticut) is run by the local branch of USGenWeb. The site outlines the basic history of the site, the county system, and where to find major types of records. It also includes an interactive map of the state. Click on a county, and you will find a list of resources within the county. Some of this material is reader beware - I found a link to the Middlesex County Library in Illinois - but much is useful to a state newbie. Good luck with your research!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Those Places Thursday: the Connecticut River

Looking for a topic this morning, I managed to both confirm a family legend and stumble upon a fantastic resource. One of my older relatives had held that our mutual ancestor was a riverboat captain. I was always a little vague as to the name, but this morning I finally found the census listing that sent me in the right direction. The ancestor's occupation was listed as "captain river packet." Doing a little more digging, I found Mystic Seaport's Connecticut Ships Database (http://library.mysticseaport.org/initiative/CuCustoms.cfm).

Started as a transcript of a WPA project, the Connecticut Ships Database lists most of the ships registered with the U.S. Customs Office between 1789 and 1939. The database is searchable by vessel name, a person's name, or company name. If you enter an individual's name, you will be provided with a list of all ships with which they were involved. In my case, that meant a list of three ships - separated by his status (either owner or master). You can then click on the ship's name to get a detailed description of the ship, including all owners and masters.

So thanks to my blog, I now that my ancestor worked riverboats for his early 20s. He owned one ship on his own and later worked for a relative. I love proving family stories!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Workaday Wednesday: Connecticut River Steamboats

Today's Geneabloggers prompt sent me on hunt for information on one of Connecticut's most fascinating historic jobs. In the 19th century, steamboats and railroads revolutionized travel in New England. Steamboats were considered both a comfortable and fast method of travel. Although the car should have made them outdated, they remained popular through the 1930s. In that time, men had worked on dozens of steamboats.

Where do you look if your ancestor happened to work on a steamboat? Start by learning more about the steamboating culture. Connecticut's Heritage Gateway provides a good overview at http://www.ctheritage.org/biography/topical_transportation/steamboats.htm. Once you have the name of his ship, you can find out even more. The steamboat Middletown is one of the best recorded.


For more information on the history of steamboats, visit the following:
http://www.cthistoryonline.org/cdm-cho/cho/journeys/j_infra_trans_steam.html.
http://www.cthistoryonline.org/cdm-cho/cho/journeys/j_enviro_river_hwy.html

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Where to look for CT birth records

Birth records can be a genealogist's nightmare. We've all run into a situation where the birth record is key to proving our case and we have no idea how to locate it. Many states did not require registrations until the mid-20th century. Even if the birth was registered, you still need to figure out how to access it. Some records are only available at the state level, others only locally. It's always complicated.

In Connecticut, the process is actually fairly simple. Births were recorded statewide after mid-1897 but do exist before that date in certain towns. Connecticut is a closed record state for birth records. To access a record dated after 1911, you need to be a direct descendant or a member of an incorporated genealogical society. Visit http://www.americanancestors.org/connecticut-vital-records/ for more information. Once you have a date of birth and an understanding of your ability to access the records, it's time to actually request the record. The fastest way to get a record is to approach the Town Clerk for the town in which the event occurred. You will have to complete their paperwork, likely provide identification, and pay a fee. If you are unsure of the date or location of the event, apply for a copy from the state office of vital records. Their application process is described on their website: http://www.ct.gov/dph/cwp/view.asp?a=3132&q=388130. Beware, they have a long turn around time.

Good luck with your search!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Connecticut Genealogy Book Reviews Continued: Postcard History Series, Durham 1900-1950

I'm still working my way though my latest library books with Postcard History Series, Durham 1900-1950. This is book is essentially a reformatted version of the Images of America publication. Many of the postcards are reused in this text, often with similar captions. Given the options, I would spend my money on this copy. Images are essentially the same (you will miss only a few postcards). This edition's writer relied less on local knowledge. If you don't know Durham, this is a good starting point to put faces to names and descriptions to buildings.

Mappy Monday: Rootsweb Town Search

Thanks to Cyndi's List for pointing me in the direction of this resource, which will save you time hunting down Connecticut maps.

The Rootweb Town Search (http://resources.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/townco.cgi) will help you find the information you need to locate your ancestor's home town. It allows you to enter the name of the town and the state. The search will then return the county with a link that county's Rootsweb site. The site cannot handle historic town names such as Chatham (modern Portland/East Hampton) but does return results for villages, such as Hadlyme. With the county name, finding the town on a map should be much easier.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Church Record Sunday: CT GenWeb

If you're looking for church records in a specific town, you need to start by locating the church that holds your family's records. An internet search may help you find what you need, but a trip to CTGenWeb is likely easier. Visit CTGenWeb at http://www.ctgenweb.org/. There, you will find a website devoted to each county and, within it, each town. The quality of GenWeb sites vary widely, but many contain information on all local records holders. Double check - your church may be there.

Connecticut Genealogy Book Reviews Continued: Durham, Connecticut Images of America

I can finally pick up my Connecticut genealogy book reviews again with Images of America: Durham Connecticut. Organized by the Durham Historical Society, the work relies on the usual Images of America format. It is made up with images and postcards of the town, organized into chapters and labeled with descriptive information. The chapters follow the traditional themes for such works: religion, education, industry and relaxation. Images are organized chronologically within the chapter.

If you can claim a Durham ancestor, this book is worth a look. Photos include head shots of Durham residents and images of their homes. Both kinds of photos are well-labeled with names and other such details. You may find a long-wished for photo of the family home or a missing ancestor.

This is not, however, an effective history book. Writers were locals, and that is apparent in their labeling. Photos of individuals are marked only with their names and not with details of their ancestries. Destroyed houses are described based on their modern placements. Learn a little about Durham first and you'll benefit from the Images of America book.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Society Saturday: Godfrey Memorial Library

If you've been doing Connecticut research for any period of time, you've probably already heard of them, but I wanted to feature Connecticut's genealogical library. The Godfrey Memorial Library (Middletown) was founded in 1947 by a local librarian and genealogist. The library has grown substantially since those early years. It now boasts around 200,000 genealogy-related books and periodicals, an online database service, and an outreach program that touches most of the surrounding community. Godfrey itself is free and open to the public.

In addition to its library services, Godfrey is home to an in-house Friends group. Friends of Godfrey Library support the library in a variety of ways, including fundraising. They also sponsor several genealogy related programs every year.

Both Godfrey and the Friends group are great resources for the new genealogist or the experienced one.


For more information, visit:
http://www.godfrey.org/mission.html.
http://www.godfrey.org/friends.html

Friday, December 9, 2011

Follow Friday: Hidden Genealogy Nuggets

Although it appears to have been started and then abandoned, Hidden Genealogy Nuggets (http://www.hiddengenealogynuggets.com/genealogyblog/) is worth a look if you study either Newtown or Southbury, Connecticut. Two entries detail the holdings of both local libraries, down to town level records and useful genealogical references. The author highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of each collection and their relevance to your research. The blog would be a great aid to research in either town.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Those Places Thursday: Immigrants to Connecticut

Where did your Connecticut ancestors come from originally? I was looking over today's blog prompts on Geneabloggers, and that was the first thing that came to mind. Mine were the traditional New England immigrants - born in the United Kingdom. Yet, some Connecticut residents can claim immigrant ancestors from Ireland, Italy, France, Poland, Luxembourg, even India. What about you? Where was your family from and should that change your research?

In my opinion, ethnic origin should shape genealogical research in Connecticut. Prior to the 1840s, most immigrants were probably of British origin. Those who were not were forced to fit in with the existing community. As a result, their records can be found in typical locations such as the town hall or the local congregational church. The mid-19th century brought waves of immigrants from across Europe. Uncomfortable communities segregated and isolated these new ethic groups. As a result, these groups kept their records in different places. Middletown's Irish used St. John's instead of the local congregational church. You need to know your local ethnic groups when doing any research.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Researching Pearl Harbor

Today is the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and a time to remember those who died there in our research.

What genealogy resources available to study Pearl Harbor? You can start by visiting the National Park Service website. At http://www.nps.gov/valr/historyculture/people.htm, you will find a list of those killed during the Pearl Harbor attacks, both civilian and military. Poignantly, you will also find the names of those brothers assigned to serve together on the U.S.S. Arizona. While some survived, many did not. You may also consider visiting the U.S. Navy's website about Pearl Harbor at http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/events/wwii-pac/pearlhbr/pearlhbr.htm. Filled with information about and images of the attacks, the site will help you better understand what survivors experiences. Finally, you can search for survivors records by name among World War II military records. Each site will provide you a little more information about those who served.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Travel Tuesday (and Tuesday's Tip) : Connecticut's Western Reserve

I decided to embrace today's Geneabloggers prompt to the fullest - and cover two topics.

Did some of your Connecticut ancestors disappear around 1800? You may want to start looking in Ohio. Connecticut held onto a portion of its territory after the American Revolution. When Connecticut started to become "overcrowded," families move west for new land. Settlers first stopped in New York, but when that filled, they continued on to Ohio.

That land was surveyed and ready for them well before they arrived. To turn the land into funds the state needed, the state had sold the land to speculators. They subdivided it into townships and sold off the pieces. This preparation meant that settlers built new lives in towns that were already organized - and quickly came to look like their homes in Connecticut.

For more information, visit the following sites.
http://www.oplin.org/evolution/regions/flnd.html
http://www.ctheritage.org/encyclopedia/topicalsurveys/migration.htm
http://content.bristol.lib.oh.us/connecticut.htm

What does this mean for you as a genealogist, besides that you may want to start looking for vital records in Ohio? It might be worth checking out the Connecticut State Library's Western Reserve papers. Most of their records relate to the sale of lands to specific land companies, but take a look anyway. You may find what you need. Visit http://www.cslib.org/westernreserve.htm.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday Madness: Is it Molly or Mary?

I've been tracing down my distant female Connecticut ancestors and in the spirit of Geneabloggers, I thought I'd share the one that is currently driving me mad.

Molly Graves was from the East Haddam or Lyme area. Born in Connecticut in 1763, she married Abiel Stark, Senior. Her son Abiel was born in 1790. I've checked the usual online sources and have a trip to that area planned. And right now, that's all I know.

Why I am dead-ending? First of all, there are the usual issues with tracing a female. Molly is well recorded in genealogies for the Stark family only after she married Abiel. Her primary purpose, according to the family genealogists, was to be his wife and Abiel, Jr's mother. There was no reason to find out more about her. Second, I have a sneaking suspicion I'm looking for the wrong name. Molly could have been born Mary or Margaret, according to several baby name website.

I'll be starting the search again slowly. This time I'll be looking for the extra information. Who knows what I'll find?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Church Record Sunday: Church Record Index and Boston University School of Theology Archives

It's Sunday, so it's church record day.

The Connecticut State Library is home to the Church Record Index. Made up of slips detailing each record, the Church Record Index is organized by name and then date. It is far from complete. It contains records for only around 150 churches, mostly Congregational churches. Records are limited in scope as well. The most recent date from the early 20th century. Despite its failings, the Church Record Index can be a good place to start if you don't know where to look for your ancestors' records. Find out more at http://www.cslib.org/church.htm.


The Boston University School of Theology archives hold records from many Connecticut methodist churches. While these records have yet to be digitalized, the online finding aid can provide you an idea of what may be found at BU. If you're looking for information on the early records of the methodist church in East Thompson, the archives may be what you need. Those records are missing after 1900. Take a look at their records at http://www.bu.edu/sthlibrary/archives/collections/neccah/records-files-state/ct-records/.

Good luck with your research!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ancestry.com releases WWII records

As part of the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, Ancestry.com is providing 14 day access to their World War II records. Of greatest use to Connecticut researchers are the Army enlistment records, which provide residence at enlistment, occupation, education, and marriage status. Hopefully you'll find something new.

For more information, go to www. ancestry.com.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Follow Friday: Ancestor Central

Well, it turns out my hunt for my new line has officially ended until I can travel. The New England Historic Genealogical Society - my usual source for online church records - doesn't have any records for my ancestor's home town. I'm going to have to go to old fashioned genealogy. That means going through the records in person. I can't wait!

Of course, as always, I'm wondering if I missed a good online resource. There aren't many out there for my family's small hometown. A few people have transcribed the vital records index. There's almost nothing else. Do you have a favorite shoreline genealogy website to share?

In the meantime, I thought I'd share another Connecticut blog. AncestorCentral is run by a genealogist from northern Connecticut. Her focus is her personal research and family traditions. While she's just getting started, it looks like she has some great information. She's already shared her own family traditions about Christmas and pictures of the local cemetery. If you're interested in northern Connecticut, take a look at her blog on her website: http://www.ancestorcentral.com/.

Do you have a favorite CT genealogy blog?

Wanted to Share a News Article

You might be interested in this, since it talks a little about CT in the Civil War : http://www.connecticutmag.com/Connecticut-Magazine/November-2011/The-New-Civil-War/.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Free time = research. Time for a new CT line!

It's been a busy few days, and I haven't had much time to research or blog - until now. Of course when I have downtime, my favorite place to head is my most recent ancestor on one of my Connecticut lines. These days, that means starting in the late 18th century.

This is both a blessing and a curse. By now, I have a pretty good research plan down in my head. It involves a search of the online version of the Barbour Collection, Connecticut's pre-1870 vital records index and any available family trees. This usually gives me an outline for where to go next - at least the names of her parents. Of course, once in a while you hit a case like the line I'm working on now. I'm starting with a female, which means I can more or less forget finding her in a family tree. ( I did look just in case). Her gravestone is under her husband's name, although she's in a cemetery bearing her family name. Barbour Collection turns up empty. And since this is the 18th century, there's no lovely census to bail me out. It's time to hit the church records (online just in case, and then in person)... which will have to wait until I have time. A little frustrating when I want to have my "I found it" moment now.

How do you handle 18th century records searches?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Solving Census Index Search Problems

I'm borrow a Geneabloggers prompt but only because the question came up in my research.

How do you get around the infamous search problem of knowing your family should be on the census from a town but not finding them? My first step is always to try a few alternate spellings. There's usually some way a family name can be scrambled - unless, of course, you're tracing a Smith or a Brown. Then I go to a page by page search of that town's census. Usually that turns them up under a misspelling I haven't thought of yet. These are my favorite solutions since my Connecticut ancestors usually stayed put...

Of course, in Connecticut, you also should make sure that your ancestors actually lived in the town you're checking. Keep in mind that town borders shifted as new towns were created. What once might have been in Lyme could eventually be in Old Lyme. A quick look at the town's history should help with that.

What are your favorite solutions to this problem?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mappy Monday: Resources for Connecticut Maps

Okay, I'll admit it... I'm too tired to focus, so we're using a Geneabloggers prompt again.

Being an older state, Connecticut should have a lot of historic maps available. You can find them on the wall in almost every public library, but how many of them are on the web? A lot, as it turns out.

When I saw this prompt, I set out to find a few good Connecticut map websites. The first thing that caught my eye was the University of Connecticut Maps Collection. Called Magic, it features maps from most of the towns in Connecticut. The site was designed for use with GIS so the photos leave something to be desired. It's a great starting point for research. Check them out at http://magic.lib.uconn.edu/historical_maps_connecticut_towns.html. For more modern maps, check out http://www.ct.gov/ecd/cwp/view.asp?a=1106&Q=250996. The Department of Economic and Community Development offers outlines of the towns within the county, current road maps, and county lines. It isn't too useful for anything more than 20 years old, but for modern information, it's priceless: http://www.ct.gov/ecd/cwp/view.asp?a=1106&Q=250996. And for one last stop, it's off to the Library of Congress. Buried deep in the Maps section are the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. Maps have only been digitized for a few times, but they provide information for a variety of years: http://www.loc.gov/rr/geogmap/sanborn/states.php?stateID=8&Submit=SEARCH.


These are just a start. Do you have your own favorite map websites?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Church Record Sunday: Archives of the Archdiocese of Hartford

Once again we're picking up on a Geneabloggers's prompt. Withall the recent discussion of the revised Roman Catholic Missal, I thought I'd return to the Catholic church. We're visiting the Archives of the Archdiocese of Hartford.

The Hartford Archdiocese once controlled much of the state's Catholic churches, including those that are now part of the Diocese of Norwich. It was established in 1843. Today it serves Hartford, Litchfield, and New Haven Counties.

Little of the Archives' material is available online, but the website does contain some interesting information. First, it outlines the contents of the archives and their accessibility. Additionally, it provides lists of parishes - key for locating your ancestor's records. Those parish lists are organized by establishment date, location, and closed status. Both kinds of information are useful for researching the Archdiocese.

Offline, the Archives store sacramental registers up to 1999. While they are sealed for seventy-two years, they can be incredibly helpful to your research. Sacramental registers contain baptismal records (which can include birth information), marriage records, and sometimes burial records (which can include death information). These can be a substitute for a vital record or fill in where they don't exist.

The Archives also has further information on the diocese.


Check out their website for more: http://www.archdioceseofhartford.org/archives.htm

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanks all for giving me a thanksgiving break! Now back to... More hidden resources... Otis Library Norwich and other public libraries

I have to admit I'm a little slow coming back from my Thanksgiving break and don't have a big blog post planned.

Just wanted to give a shout-out to the public libraries. While not every public library in Connecticut has a genealogy collection, several have fantastic collections and will work hard to provide you with the help you need. I've yet to visit, but Otis Library in Norwich has a fantastic website. They list their rates for research, provide information on their collections, and offer contacts for the local historical and genealogical societies. Visit their website at : http://www.otislibrarynorwich.org/genealogy.html. When you're doing research, don't forget the public library. You'll never know what you'll find!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What do you think your ancestors' Thanksgivings were like?

It's the day before Thanksgiving, and I have to admit I'm wondering what my ancestors' Thanksgivings were like. Like many of you who have Connecticut roots, I'm descended from farmers.

My Connecticut families raised meat and some hay, so I know they didn't grow most of what was on their tables. Wheat went West in the late 1800s. Connecticut's rocky soil made cash crops almost impossible to grow. From what my ancestors said, it was the growth of the big cities - especially New York - that saved their farms. They might have had a few vegetables from their garden, but they had to buy everything else.

They probably shared the meal with family. Old maps show that several generations lived within a mile of each other. I wonder who else shared their table?

How do you envision your ancestors' Thanksgiving?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Why it pays to research our female ancestors - continued.

First of all, a huge shout-out to Find A Grave volunteers. Without Find A Grave, I would have been headed to the wrong cemetery. Turns out my ancestor was buried in East Lyme, not Lyme as I had thought. Thanks to the volunteer, not only was I able to get her burial location, I also got her birth year.

With that information, I went back to Ancestry and ran a general search, just for fun. I always do this at least once when I'm researching. Often it turns up an answer I hadn't been expecting, because the database wasn't one that I'd planned on looking at. This worked out once again, turning up her marriage record and her father's name.

A child born in 1795 tends to scream American Revolution descendant to me... So, last stop was the DAR database. Armed with her father's name, I quickly turned up his record as well as her mother's name. Turns out I had a Revolutionary War line I didn't know about. Definitely a lesson in why it pays to research your female ancestors. Do you have a similar story?

Monday, November 21, 2011

How do we find those female ancestors?

As you probably have figured out, most of my blog posts are based my "poking." Basically, they're things that I discover or wonder about while I'm doing something else. Often prepping for my classes, working on an article or researching my own family turns up fantastic topics. Today's topic is based on a family research problem.

My end point for a family line has been my 2nd great-grandmother. I know the name of her father because she gave her son the same name. He was a prominent 19th century judge in Connecticut, but for some reason, I can't locate him on the census. Without that, I can't easily find his parents or his wife. I do have a printed genealogy that might help, but I don't entirely trust it. In short, I want to do this on my own.

I did manage to turn up my 2nd great-grandmother's mother this morning. How? The SAR application file on Ancestry.com. Turns out the judge was a Revolutionary War descendant. His grandson decided to apply for the SAR and had to list the judge's wife as part of the application. Always a good place to start if you have an old family.

So what's the next step back? I'd like to keep tracing the female line. I'm thinking I'll start with the local cemetery... Her birth and death dates would be useful...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Church Record Sunday: AmericanAncestors.org

As several of you have noticed, I decided recently to join Geneabloggers. This is my first try using their prompts, so here goes! We're looking at resources for church records today.

The place is to start for Connecticut church records is the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Their website, www.americanancestors.org, links to a variety of genealogical databases. Under the category "vital records," you can find transcripts for church records of several Connecticut towns. Usually those records belong to the oldest church in town - meaning that it is exactly where you want to look if you are searching for a colonial ancestor. Just make sure to play with the database a little before beginning your search. In one case, I discovered that the possessive in "person x's child" had been transcribed as part of the last name.

The state library also has a Connecticut church index. The index does not contain the same level of detail as the transcripts, but you can obtain the original records through a visit to the state library. Some records are also available on microfilm through the Family History Centers. For more information, visit http://www.cslib.org/church.htm.

More to come...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Should you always trace extended families?

At what point should you stop going sideways? This is a question I've been struggling with a lot lately. I have certain areas where I love doing research. (Connecticut is one, of course!) My problem is as follows. I'm actually starting to run out of direct line ancestors to research. Soon I'll have to explore a new area -or I can keep going sideways.

Thus far, tracing sideways has actually served a purpose. I had a few family members that I could only place by tracing the generation. I also have several spouses that shared a last name, even though they were not closely related. Only by tracing their full families was I able to figure out why this occurred. In these cases and in others like them, tracking down the whole family makes sense to me.

My fear is that I'll keep going sideways just for easy research. Is there any reason for me to know my third great-grandfather's cousin?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Hidden Resource: The History of Roman Catholics in Connecticut

Trying to sort out which Connecticut church holds your ancestors' records can feel almost impossible. In a large city, there can be as many as six or more churches. Each could, in theory, be the right place. But where do you look?

Although they set out to chart the history of their own church, members of St. John in Middletown have helped provide a guide: http://saintjohnchurchmiddletown.com/aboutus.aspx. Their webpage, entitled "our history," traces Roman Catholics in Connecticut from 1823 through the 1900s. The focus is primarily upon St. John's Church and how it has changed over the centuries. However, this website includes a detailed section on clergy appointments to central Connecticut before the construction of their first church in 1845. This information is quite helpful. If your ancestor was Catholic and from Connecticut, you now know that you may need to look in Boston to find their records.

More detail would be helpful, but this is a good start.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hidden Resource: Connecticut State Library Digital Collections

Whoever knew what ICONN (the Connecticut statewide library catalog) holds? In a search last night, I discovered an incredible resource. The Connecticut State Library has digital collections!

The Connecticut State Library Digital Collections website (http://cslib.cdmhost.com/) has less than comprehensive but very in depth coverage. Topics include "Account Books, Diaries, and Journals," "Courts," "Merritt Parkway Construction," and more. Within those topics, you'll find everything from a photo of the apple orchard that once stood at the start of the Merritt to the diary of Matthew Grant, the first surveyor of Windsor.

While it may not be immediately apparent, this website is very helpful for genealogy research. Start out by reviewing the topics covered. As a genealogist, you'll probably never use the Merritt Parkway material. However, you might find the employee records of the Colt Company incredibly helpful to your research. Once you've done that, make sure to open the topic links. Buried three pages into the "Personal and Family Vital Records" section is a index to early 19th century marriage intentions in Woodstock. A key resource may be hidden several pages in, just waiting for you to find!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Town Profile: Upper Houses, CT

If you're looking for Cromwell, CT colonial records in Cromwell, you're probably looking in the wrong place. From 1651 to 1851, Cromwell was part of Middletown. Called "Upper Houses," modern Cromwell had its own institutions, churches, and only limited contact with the town that governed it.

For more information:
http://www.cromwellhistory.org/Cromwell_History.html

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Little know Connecticut-factoid

And it helps if you remember to post the post! Here's the post that should have gone up last night.

I only have time for a short blog post, so here goes...
Did you know that Connecticut originally contained three British colonies?

Saybrook Colony was part of the Warwick Patent, which granted a large portion of Connecticut to fifteen men. It was first settled by Europeans in 1635. In 1644, the owners of the Patent sold the land to the Connecticut Colony.

New Haven Colony was chartered in 1638. It was strictly religious. You had to be a church member to vote. This caused problems after England dethroned and then restored the Stuarts. The New Haven colony tried to protect two people involved with their overthrown and ended up angering the King. They lost their land to the Connecticut Colony in 1662.

The Connecticut Colony provides the foundation for the modern state. Members first laid out their plan for governance in 1639 and were formally chartered in 1662. In 1687, King James II tried to revoke the charter. To do ceremonially, he needed the physical charter. Colonists' efforts to hide the charter and protect it led to the myth of the Charter Oak. And the rest is Connecticut's past...


For more information, please visit these sites:
http://oldsaybrookchamber.com/Content/Saybrook_History.asp
http://www.saybrookhistory.org
http://newhavenmuseum.org/
http://www.quinnipiac.edu/other/abl/etext/colony/chapter17.html
http://www.quinnipiac.edu/other/abl/etext/colony/chapter19.pdf
http://www.ct.gov/ctportal/cwp/view.asp?a=843&q=246434
http://www.jud.ct.gov/lawlib/history/charteroak.htm

Thanks to Cyndi's List for sharing us!

A shout-out to Cyndi's List for sharing our link. If you haven't visited yet, their address is http://www.cyndislist.com/. It's a great genealogy site and well worth a stop.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Waiting for my next book to come in...

While waiting for my next book to come in, I decided to surf the web for Connecticut history sites. The Google search turned up the usual suspects: The Connecticut State Library, a state government site, and the Connecticut Historical Society. And then, a little ways down the page, I noticed an odd title: "Laptop Encyclopedia of Connecticut History."

I'll admit I was expecting to find a person website containing only a small amount of research - but I was very wrong. The "Laptop Encyclopedia of Connecticut History" is run by the Connecticut Humanities Council and contains articles written by some of Connecticut's best historians. Topics include both broad history features and biographic profiles. You can find both "Education in Connecticut" and a profile of "John M. Bailey."

This is definitely my best find thus far and likely will become my first stop on my search for Connecticut history.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Stories in Stone: How Geology Influenced Connecticut History and Culture

Jelle Zeliniga de Boer's Stories in Stone turned out to be a nice surprise. The first chapter was heavy on the geological history. Honestly, I was almost scared off. It turned out the following chapters contained a lot of history. While I may still still have skimmed a few pages, Stories in Stone ended up being an informative and fun introduction to Connecticut history.

Organized around geological themes, Stories in Stone covers Connecticut gemology, topography, weather, and more. De Boer introduces the history first and then offers an explanation for why it occurred. Who ever knew that Connecticut once had an active volcano or that plate activity made quarries occasionally turn up gold? His structure offers both fascinating anecdotes and some good educational value.

While it will probably never find a home in my library, Stories in Stone made for a good solid read.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Next up.. Escaping Salem

So next on my reading list was... Escaping Salem: The Other Witch Hunt of 1692. I picked this one up out of curiosity when it kept turning up on my Connecticut history searches. Connecticut didn't have witch hunts, I thought. Turns out I was wrong.

In 1692, a seventeen year old girl in Stamford accused two neighbors of witchcraft. Escaping Salem follows her story from accusation to trial and beyond. The narrative is structured in snapshots: the initial events, the testing, the accusation, the trial, the acquittal and the aftermath. For anyone interested in witch trials, the story is fascinating.

As a genealogical history, it's less useful. You will learn a lot about the small community in Stamford involved in the trials. Author Richard Godbeer relies heavily upon transcripts and original narratives, meaning that you learn a lot about the story's players. However, the material could be summarized in one sentence: there was a witch trial in Stamford in 1692. Of course, that's not Godbeer's reason for writing.

Understand that, and you'll appreciate the time you spend reading.

Nothing like being behind the times...

Well, one lesson learned already. If you're going to blog about books, you need time to read. Oops...
Oh, well. I took a few extra days, but I have some books to share with you.

First up, the Images of America series. There seems to be one for every Connecticut town. I took a look at the one about Middletown. The book is a collection of images of Middletown across the last few centuries. For a native, this is a fun read. Images are organized by theme and span over two hundred years. If you're willing to sit for a while, you can begin to imagine what your neighborhood looked like in 1700. For a non-native, this is a frustrating book. There is no general narrative. Instead, the history is shared in the photo captions. While themes are useful in understanding the photos, the photos need to be organized chronologically as well. It's hard to jump from 1930 back to 1895. If I didn't know the area, I'd be lost. Long story short: it's a fun vanity piece if you live there, but not a great history textbook.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Connecticut Genealogy News

While not a book, Connecticut Genealogy News is a good place to start looking for information on Connecticut genealogy. A publication of the Connecticut Society of Genealogists, Connecticut Genealogy News contains articles written by local genealogists. Many of the articles are designed for genealogical beginners, such as recent features on census research. However, for those of us who are a little more advanced, Connecticut Genealogy News still has a lot to offer.

For advanced genealogists, features on Connecticut genealogy make a subscription worthwhile. Some have a historical focus: biographies of famous Connecticut residents or information on major events. Knowledge of this history helps all of us focus our searches. My favorite are the town history profiles. The most recent edition focused on East Haddam, CT. Writers include a general history of the town, records sites, and more. These are incredibly useful if you do research in that town. Thus far, I've found my subscription worthwhile.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Searching for a good Connecticut genealogy books

I've been on the hunt recently for a good Connecticut genealogy book and am discovering that they're hard to find! It seems like every Connecticut family has their own published genealogy. The problem is that if you aren't related to the family, the book isn't of much use. I'm hoping that a town or regional history might help me find what I need.

So,the journey begins. For the next few weeks, I'll be hunting down local histories and posting reviews as I go. Wish me luck!

Monday, November 7, 2011

I don't know which town to visit. Now what?

Connecticut's town record storage can pose a challenge if you don't know what town you need. You can spend a lot of time search and come up empty handed.

However, there are a few ways around it.
1) FamilySearch has an online index of Connecticut records. Dates are scattered, but it's a good way to start: https://familysearch.org/search/collection/show#uri=http://hr-search-api:8080/searchapi/search/collection/1674736.

2) For records since 1897, contact the state vital records office. They have a slow turn-around, but they do have an index to every record in the state. It may be worth the extra six weeks.


Enjoy searching!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Town Profile: Niantic, CT

Another one of Connecticut's non-town towns, Niantic is actually part of East Lyme. Niantic was originally the town's farming and fishing center. By the late 19th century, it was also home to much of the town's industry: mining of granite and manufacturing. As a result, East Lyme's main institutions are in Niantic.

The history of Niantic's records are complicated. East Lyme was formed in 1839 from Lyme and Waterford. Information recorded after 1839 should be held in East Lyme. Before that, they should be in Waterford. Contact the town clerks to find out for sure.

Enjoy your research!

http://www.eastlymehistoricalsociety.org/index_files/Page367.htm

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Finding Old Photos

Old family photos are one of my favorite genealogical finds. You might have an image of the whole family, an outdoor scene, or an image of a single child. There might be three photos of a family member at the different ages or only one photo as a child. There is nothing like discovering what your great-great-grandmother looked like (even at age 4)!
Of course, often times you're not lucky enough to find these photos in your attic. So how do you start? Check ebay for photos from areas where your family might have lived. Contact your family and the local historical societies. Check out findagrave.com to see if a researcher has linked their photos to a gravesite... and hope. Good luck! These are incredible finds.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Kudos to an Author ...

I started out reading Sheila Connolly's Bitter Harvest just for fun and was surprised to find some great lessons in genealogy. Connolly's protagonist Meg Corey discovers a mysterious sampler in her old home and goes on a hunt to discover its origins. In the process, she unravels a mystery - and learns a lot about genealogy.
Kudos to Connolly for incorporating solid teaching. If you're a cozy lover like me, the mystery made for a fun read. However, there was more to this book. Bitter Harvest incorporated lessons about original v. digitized records and medical genealogy. I'll be suggesting it to genealogical newbies in the future.

Connecticut Hero: Medal of Honor Winner, Christopher Flynn

Born in Ireland in 1828, Christopher Flynn enlisted in 14th Connecticut Infantry, Company K during the Civil War. Flynn was awarded the medal of honor for his actions during the Battle of Gettysburg. He captured the battle flag of the 52nd North Carolina at great risk to himself.


After the war, Flynn returned to Connecticut and worked in a cotton mill. He and his wife Catherine had eight children: John (b. 1859), James (b. 1861), Ann Jane (b. 1863), Joseph (b. 1864), Catherine (b. 1865), Sarah (b. 1869), Mary (b. 1872) and Thomas (b. He died in 1889 in Sprague, Connecticut.


Information drawn from the following sites:
"Christopher Flynn," FindAGrave (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=7766183: accessed 4 November 2011).
Charles Hanna, Gettysburg Medal of Honor Recipients (Springville, UT: Ceder Fort, Inc, 2010); digital images, GoogleBooks (http://books.google.com: 4 November 2011), 173.
Ancestry.com, Connecticut, Deaths and Burials Index, 1650-1934, database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 4 Nocember 2011), entry for Christopher J. Flynn.
1880 U.S. census, New London County, Connecticut, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 110, Sprague, p. 49 (penned), dwelling 179, family 296, Christopher Flynn; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 4 November 2011); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 108.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

So why bother?

I'm often asked why I do genealogy. If you're interested in genealogy, you can probably already guess my answer. But if not - here goes!

I recently looked at a map of a small Connecticut town dating from the late 19th century. On one street, I recognized almost every name. They were my ancestor's family: his parents, brothers, and cousins. I knew about their lives, their experiences, their dreams. In short, I could almost call them friends.

That's why I do genealogy. It gives me a connection to my past. In knowing my ancestors and their lives, I can truly tell you where I come from. In fact, I'm from here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Town Profile: Hadlyme

Hadlyme is one of those towns that isn't actually a town. Made up of parts of Lyme and East Haddam, Hadlyme has its own town center consisting of historic buildings. Hadlyme's Public Hall dates to 1911 and is still a part of town life. To learn about the town center or public hall, visit http://hadlymehall.com/About.html.


Hadlyme is best known for the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry. Established in 1769, Warner's Ferry was run by a local. At the time, it was the only way to cross the river. The ferry was renamed in 1882 when the town of Chester took over its function. While there are now other ways to cross the river, a trip on the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry is still a favorite activity for tourists and locals. For more information, visit the Department of Transportation's website: http://www.ct.gov/dot/cwp/view.asp?a=1380&Q=259724&dotPNavCtr.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Belated Halloween

Halloween + history = cemeteries. This time of year we see a lot of features about historic Connecticut cemeteries. Creepy, right? A little.
But they're also great teaching tools. Older communities tend to have a cemetery that served as the final resting place for the whole town. A visit is a great way to identify the earliest settlers, learn who was married to whom and maybe even find your ancestors. You can also see examples of folk art. Start looking at cemeteries as textbooks. Suddenly, they're a lot less scary.

Okay, so now it's cold.

If you're a Nutmegger still without power, you're probably wondering how your ancestors survived without central heating. They had some interesting ideas... Those big fireplaces in old homes served a purpose. Our female ancestors could both cook and warm the family home. High-backed chairs kept heat around the person sitting in them and not across the room. And those boxes made of punched tin? They're bed warmers. A warm house sounds really good right now :)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

Our first snowstorm makes Connecticut's settlement patterns seem much more logical. Old Saybrook, Wethersfield, and Windsor are Connecticut's oldest towns. All are - surprise, surprise - right on the Connecticut River. It was a convenient way to ensure you weren't lost in the wilderness. When the river was open, you could use it to travel. And if it froze... It gives you a new appreciation for how or ancestors planned to live without snowplows.

Why can't I find my town?

Looking for Rockfall or Taftville, CT records? You've probably already hit a dead-end. What do you do next? I'll let you in on a little secret.

Connecticut has a number of small villages and neighborhoods with their own names - most of which are part of larger towns. To find your record, youl will need to identify the parent town. An internet search for the town name + history will usually lead you in the right direction. If you get stuck, put a call into the town hall or public library in a nearby town. Hopefully, they can help. With the name of the parent town, it's easy to make the next step.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Why do I need to contact the town? It should be at the county seat. Right?

If you're not a "Nutmegger," the hardest part of research can be figuring out where the records are located. Many genealogists expect to find county systems that hold all records at the county seat. It's a relatively simple way to access records. Of course, Connecticut's counties don't work that way.

Connecticut's towns - not counties - have always been the state's political powerhouses. Traditionally, politics happened locally; records were stored locally. The reasons behind this are not entirely clear. Likely it had something to do with settlement patterns. Early arrivals settled around churches and left gaps between their communities. That church, and the town that eventually replaced it, easily became the center of their lives. According to the Secretary of State's website, the state of Connecticut entirely eliminated county governments in 1960.

What does that mean for you? It's time to stop looking for records on the county level. Time to try the town.