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:

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:

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!


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 :)