Wednesday, December 28, 2011

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!

A very useful local history written by the town historian:
Connecticut River Museum:
Essex Historical Society:


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. The town of "Saybrook" (1635) no longer exists. Today the towns that were formally "Saybrook" are:
    Old Lyme (1665),
    Lyme (1667),
    Chester (1836),
    Westbrook (1840),
    Essex (1852) - includes Centerbrook & Ivoryton
    Old Saybrook (1854),
    Deep River (1947).


    The Deep River Town Hall is the source for many early (circa pre 1850) records.

  3. Thank you for your feedback. For more information on Old Saybrook - and historic Saybrook - please consider reading the Old Saybrook town website:

  4. Also, for researchers, please double check with the town where your ancestor lived. You will likely need to back trace through several town splits and renamings. Old Saybrook was the most recent parent town for Essex. As was pointed out, Old Saybrook can be traced back through Saybrook plantation. It gets complicated!