Saturday, March 31, 2012

Society Saturday:'s Facebook Group is live!

    In a January post, I wrote about the research communities that was in the process of setting up on Facebook. The Connecticut Research group is now live. It's just getting started. Currently, the site has a few photos of local sites and a few questions. I suspect it will grow quickly. Check it out and enjoy!

Society Saturday: Looking to Locate the Local Historical Society?

   I regularly send my students to the local historical society to find certain kinds of military records, such as the files of the Grand Army of the Republic Chapter. While some students can find the local historical society on their own, many come back to me with a question: where is it? Sometimes it isn't easy to answer.
   A page on the Secretary of State's website eases that search. Entitled "Historical Societies," the page lists all the state's historical and genealogical societies. They are in alphabetical order, but if the town name is not part of the title, the page adds it as the first word. The information listed includes the name, the contact information, all officers and occasionally, additional information. The site is a nice short-cut.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Follow Friday: Historic Buildings of Connecticut

  One of my favorite resources for researching historic properties is a blog called Historic Buildings of Connecticut.  Regularly updated, the blog profiles historic buildings in each of Connecticut towns. The writer offers a photograph, followed by a short history of the location. You can sort profiles by architecture type, town, or building type. It's a great resource. Have fun!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thrifty Thursday: Killingly Historical Society Research and the Family History Library

   One of the biggest expenses of doing research in Connecticut can be accessing vital records. Currently, vital records copies are running $20.00 a record. You might be able to find an online transcript of earlier records, but recent records can be almost impossible to access.
   As turns out, studying a family in Killingly just got much cheaper. Records up to 1903 can be ordered on microfilm from the Family History Library. Here's the link for the ordering process. The Killingly Historical Society has worked to make more recent records available. You can order research through the website. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Workday Wednesday: Connecticut History Online

   Have you ever wondered what your ancestor's occupation looked like? A Connecticut website has made it possible for you to see into the past. Designed as classroom resource, Connecticut History Online is a database presenting pictures, documents, and more from Connecticut history. Photo essays in the site's "Journeys" section  allow a visitor to glimpse someone's work life. An essay entitled "Women in Music, Art, Literature" includes snapshots of a film editor and a women's orchestra. "Women as Educators" depicts the local school houses. Take a look. While you may not find photos of your ancestor, you're likely to walk away with a clearer understanding of his or her life.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: Rosa S. Bailey, Durham Center Cemetery, Durham

Rosa S. Bailey's death is recorded on the family monument at the edge of the Durham Cemetery. Born in 1867, she passed away in 1947. The daughter of James and Electa Bailey, she was raised in Durham. Rosa disappears from the census after 1880, living me with few details of her life.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Military Monday: The New England Civil War Museum, Rockville, CT

   It's funny how things get buried in your memory. Until I stumbled across the New England Civil War Museum's website this morning, I had forgotten that their collection had been recommended to me (by someone who should know) as the best place to research the 14th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. While I still haven't made the trip, I'm looking forward to making the visit.
   Organized and managed by Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War Camp #45, the New England Civil War Museum has an extensive collection of Civil War memorabilia. Their website features just a few items of weaponry and headgear. Their library holds additional material. A quick look at their website shows that, just for Connecticut regiments, they hold several published and unpublished histories, scattered letter collections and more.
   Once you get beyond the basics of your ancestor's Civil War service, consider checking with the New England Civil War Museum. They may be able to fill in some details.
    You can visit their website at, write them at, contact the museum by phone at 860-870-3563, or write them at 14 Park Place, 2nd Floor, Rockville, Connecticut 06066.
   Good luck!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sentimental Sunday: What are the items that you consider genealogical gold?

   Thanks to a wonderful gift, I finally have an original copy of Charles R. Stark's The Aaron Stark Family. Why do I care about having a copy of a genealogy book published in 1927? For a few reasons. This is the "gold standard" for that line of my family history. It traces the family from the early 1600s to the generation born in the 1860s. Stark's work was well researched, and even now, we find few errors - although he did leave a lot out when discussing the women who married into the family. Second and more important, this was the resource everyone went to answer my genealogy questions. When I was a small child, my elderly relatives spent a lot of time telling me about my family history. Of course, there were always a few questions I couldn't answer. They went straight to Stark's book. No surprise, it soon took on genealogy "Bible" in my house. Until now, I haven't had a copy.
  The gift started me thinking about what else I consider "genealogical gold" - a must-have item. For me, it's this book, family photos, and a few other things. What about you?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Surname Saturday: Graves or Greaves of East Haddam, Middlesex, CT

   As you probably have already figured out... I'm on the hunt for a new family line! My ancestor Molly (Graves) Stark was originally from an East Haddam family. Thus far, I've gotten the line back to her father, Benjamin Graves. I, of course, then got stuck on finding his gravestone. I'm still searching. In the process, I also turned up his father's name - Benjamin. The first Benjamin baptized his children in the East Haddam Congregational Church in 1734. Until today, I hadn't been able to trace him any further.
  Once again, it turned out to be a matter of spelling. While I - and the church records - used Graves, Benjamin Sr.'s gravestone records him as Greaves. Hand-searching an online transcription of the Hale Collection, a W.P.A. project to index gravestones in Connecticut cemeteries, turned up Benjamin Sr.'s alternate name. From there, I was able to find a the stone on Find A Grave. At least now I have a probable birth year of 1699.
   Now if I could just find Benjamin, Jr's grave. Ideas, anyone?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Follow Friday: Connecticut Invents! (Museum of Connecticut History) blog

  Your ancestor was a Connecticut inventor?... There's a blog for that! Connecticut Invents!, run by the Museum of Connecticut History, profiles famous (and less-so) patents from Connecticut inventors. The latest posts include pop-up valentines and weather gear. The author adds a small background story and then a description of the patent. It's not regularly updated, but it's an interesting way to search through Connecticut history.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thrifty Thursday: Connecticut State Library Connecticut History Resources Page

     My latest new discovery is the Connecticut State Library's "Connecticut History Resources" page. A list of digital resources, databases, and more, the "Connecticut History Resources" page covers Connecticut history from the colonial period  to present. Some of the resources can only be accessed from the State Library or with a library card. Others are easily accessible online. While the page is focused primarily on governmental records, there are many resources that might appeal to the average genealogist.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Workday Wednesday: Air Transport Auxiliary, 1939

   With the release of the 1940 census, we'll be learning new information about the World War II generation. While some of their experiences were still in the future as of 1940, a small population of Americans would shortly be involved in war. In 1939, the British had formed a civilian organization called the Air Transport Auxiliary. The ATA ferried planes, allowing RAF pilots to devote themselves to combat missions. In August 1940, they began seeking out American pilots.

  For those determined to enter the war, this was the perfect way to fight. Men and women both could protect their American citizenship and serve the cause - joining the RAF would have been considered treason. Women had an added reason. They weren't yet permitted to join the military effort at home as pilots. The ATA veterans would lay the groundwork for the Women's Air Force Service Pilots and, eventually, women in the Air Force.

   If you're interested in indexing the 1940 census, visit


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: Corp. Timothy Lown, Old North Burying Ground, Middlefield, CT

   It's time to return to Middlefield's Old North Burying Ground for a look into the life of Leora Lown's husband, Timothy. As aforementioned, he was New York born. According to's "U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles," he enlisted in the 14th Connecticut in 1862, serving until 1865.  As previously noted, the 1870 census noted that he was married and working as a painter. His wife Leora passed away after the 1870 census, but Timothy survived her.
   He remarried sometime after Leora's death, this time to a woman named Estella. Estella filed for a widow's pension after Timothy's death, according to "Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934" from I lose track of Estella within two years of Timothy's death, . Did she remarry?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mappy Monday: USGS Historic Maps

   If you're interested in old maps, the University of New Hampshire Library has made a wonderful resource available. Their website ( offers two views of topographical maps for many Connecticut towns. I took a look at Middletown's. The first was from 1893; the second was from the mid-20th century. Taken together, they allow an understanding of how Connecticut has changed. It's fascinating if you have family land to study.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Church Record Sunday: Locating Roman Catholic Cemetery Records, New Haven County

  I recently had a question posed to me that I didn't know the answer to... The individual wondered how to figure out who "owned" a Roman Catholic cemetery in New Haven County when it didn't appear to be associated to a church. I tried to use the old trick of cemetery name = parish name. It didn't work. So I did a little digging on my own.
  It turns out the cemeteries - even the old ones - are managed by the Catholic Cemeteries Association of the Archdiocese of Hartford. A quick visit to the website will give you the name of the cemetery's manager and an associated phone number. Definitely a lot simpler process than what I had suspected.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Society Saturday: Mansfield Historical Society

   As a follow-up to Friday's post, I wanted to give you some insight into the Mansfield Historical Society. Based in the northern Connecticut town of Mansfield, the society was founded in 1957. In the years since, it has its base in a variety of historic buildings around town. It current occupies the Old Town Office Building. The building contains both a museum and a library.
   The library, open during museum hours, is the most likely to be of interest to a genealogist. Currently, the collection houses over 3,000 manuscript items related to the history of the town and local families. While the collection is not listed online, the Society may be able to offer you more information by phone. Good luck!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Follow Friday: Mansfield Historical Society blog

   If your family hails from the northern Connecticut town of Mansfield, there's a great new resource available for your research. The Mansfield Historical Society has set up their own blog. Each profile features items from the Historical Society's collection or a snapshot from town history. Recent posts have touched valentines and a tower on a local building. It's shaping up to be a great history blog.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Find A Grave Volunteers!

   I've given blog "shout outs" to the volunteers for the website Find A Grave before, but it's definitely time for me to do it again! Find A Grave photos have come in very handy for me not once but many times in the last week. My students have used them to locate new relatives... and I've been able to use them to build Molly (Graves) Stark's story even further.
  I'm in the midst of trying to trace - and support - the lineage from Benjamin Graves down to me. Find A Grave photos are proving to be a big help. Several of Molly's children are buried locally. Their graves have been photographed for the website. While the men's gravestones do not list their spouses, the women's do. Their stones list their maiden names, spouses, death date, and age at death. Those photos have become a useful way of identifying maiden names and confirming marriage.
   So, in short, I want to say Thank you! to all you volunteers.  And if you live near a cemetery, please volunteer to take photos.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: Leora A (Bassett) Lown, Old North Burying Ground, Middlefield

   I was going to write about Benjamin and Mary (Ransom) Graves... but I still don't know where they're buried. It's time for a visit to the Hale Collection! In the meantime, let's return to Old North Burying Ground in Middlefield.

   Leora A. Bassett Lown was the wife of Civil War veteran, Timothy Lown. Her Find A Grave page is here but contains little more information than her gravestone. She died extremely young, at 24. The 1870 census for Middlefield reveals a bit more. Leora, born in Massachusetts, was married to Timothy Lown, housepainter. Timothy was from New York. The two were parents to Connecticut born Harvey, aged 3.  Based on these dates, the Lowns (or Louns, as the census enumerator spelled it) probably married in 1867 or even earlier. Leora would have been only 17. I wonder what her parents thought.

(Apologies for lacking the proper census citation... It's been a busy day!)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Military Monday: What actually happened to Benjamin?

      One of the biggest mysteries of my search for Molly thus far has been what happened to her father. Family genealogies on the web and the DAR are pretty clear. He was wounded at Fort Griswold during the Battle of Groton Heights on September 6, 1781 and later died of his wounds. The problem - he's absent from all of the published discussions of what happened.
   As I mentioned before, I can find him in the records of Connecticut men in the Revolutionary War. It's pretty clear that he fought. But there's no mention of the battle, and thus far, no grave. I'd love to fill in the rest of the story. Back to the drawing board. Ideas anyone?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Church Record Sunday: Continuing the Story of Molly...

    To finish telling Molly's story, I decided to discover more about Molly and her family. Vital records are spotty for this time period. I did check the Barbour Collection (which covers vital records up to 1870) but discovered no mention of Mary Graves in East Haddam... so it was on to the back-up sources! The East Haddam Congregational Church kept records of the community's baptisms.
   While the original church records are stored in the state library, the New England Historic Genealogical Society has a transcription that they've  made available online. You'll need to be a member to access the database. Once you've logged in, you can search the database catalog. I use the location search. Enter United States and then Connecticut. On page two, you'll find "East Haddam, CT: Records of the First Congregational Church, 1704–1802."
   This transcript has a bit of a search issue -the writer used possessives in their records. Be sure to consider adding an extra s when searching last names.  If you fail to do so, you may be informed that a record doesn't exist. I tried both ways and found my ancestors as "Gravess."
   My search wasn't as fruitful as I would have liked. I located a baptismal record Benjamin, Molly's father, in 1734. Despite searching from 1763 (Molly's birth) to 1780 (the date of Benjamin's death), I didn't find one for Molly. Why? It's possible that the family may simply have lived closer to another church. To be thorough, I should also check the records for churches in Lyme and Colchester. That's a project for another day!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Society Saturday: The Daughters of the American Revolution Genealogical Research Databases

   In my posts entitled "Is it Molly or Mary," I wrote  about discovering a new Revolutionary War ancestor. The father of Mary (Graves) Stark, Benjamin Graves of East Haddam, died of his wounds after defending New London against the British. While another Stark Revolutionary ancestor was well-known, I'd never heard of Benjamin.
  So how did I get there? One of my favorite sources of hints provided half the answer. The Daughters of the American Revolution (disclaimer - I'm a member off of that aforementioned ancestor) provides an online database of their applications. Those Genealogical Research Databases allow you to search by member (the person that applied for the DAR), a Revolutionary War ancestor, their descendants, and more. I've used all of these search formats at various times.
   This time, I worked back until I hit the last quarter of the 1700s. This brought me to the descendant of Benjamin, his daughter Molly. Using the descendant search, I was able to pull up her father. Benjamin Graves is listed as having died September 6, 1781 from wounds received in battle. I initially got the rest from an online genealogy... but it's time to fill in the story properly. On page 404 of Connecticut Men in the Revolution is listed Private Benjamin Graves of East Haddam. He apparently served in the local militia...

Friday, March 9, 2012

Follow Friday: Connecticut Museum Quest

   If you've not figured this out by now... I love history... any history... which leads to me reading blogs that have nothing to do with genealogy and everything to do with Connecticut history. If nothing else, they teach you where to look when you have a question.
   My latest discovery is a blog called Connecticut Museum Quest. The blogger is a Connecticut native who has set out to visit Connecticut's many museums. He's created a list by town - which links to the museum's page and often a profile of a visit. He's not perfect. Middlefield is listed as having no museums when the historical society has a fantastic museum space. I've also caught small mistakes in his visit profiles about a few museums I know well. However, his resource is the best I've ever seen for figuring out who might own your ancestor's relics. And if you're local... Tourist time!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Middletown's "Urban Renewal"

   Having visited Middletown after the "urban renewal" process, it's hard to envision what downtown Middletown looked prior to the wrecking ball's arrival in the 1950s and 60s. That process destroyed much of the harbor housing and the area from Main Street to the Connecticut River. It took out historic homes, the original city hall and more.
   Recent news articles have detailed the damage. One article in The Hartford Courant explained how the old city hall has largely given way to parking slots. Another (which I currently can't locate) included shots of the city pre-destruction. However, all of these articles offer only generalities.
   This has always left me to wonder. What did we actually lose? The areas described as slums probably had 18th century homes. One was rumored to be the residence of George Washington's body servant.
   Do you have family ties to these "renewed" regions? What is modern Middletown missing?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Workday Wednesday: Hartford and the Insurance Industry

   "The Insurance Capital of the World" - you've heard the term if you've ever lived in Hartford. Many of the nation's insurance companies have at one point called the city home. The tradition started in 1810 with the founding the Hartford Fire Insurance Company (now the Hartford). The business's reach expanded greatly over time, as insurance became more popular.  Aetna followed with a large local office in 1857. expanding several times over the years.  Travelers followed shortly after. The last two left made their mark on the city by creating local historic landmarks.
   So, how do you know if your ancestor was involved in the insurance industry? Check the census. Chances are this may be the only evidence of your ancestor's work. Aetna and others don't seem to have accessible archives.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: Bela Coe, Old North Burying Ground, Middlefield

    I took this photo of the gravestone of Bela Coe while writing an article on the restoration of Old North Burying Ground. You can read the article on the local site here. Evidence of restoration is visible in the photo. The stone, which split in two, has been cleaned and put back together. The hard work of volunteers has rescued the efforts of Bela's family to mark his final resting place.
   I intended to post this photo to Find A Grave but discovered that someone was far ahead of me! Jan Franco's description gives a solid history of Bela, a local farmer, and his intermarriage with the Ward family. Anyone studying Middlefield will recognize his offspring.  The Coe name is well-known locally.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Connecticut Gravestone Network Spring Symposium

Thought this might be of interest to a few you who are CT local!

Press Release:

Connecticut Gravestone Network Annual Spring Symposium

Saturday March 31st, 2012

At: South End Senior Center
70 Canterbury Street, East Hartford, CT

Doors open at 9am and the last lecture is at 3:00pm
Refreshments and Lunch Snacks are available for a donation.
Admission is $10.00 to the public and $5.00 for CGN, CGS & FCC members

This is a day devoted to sharing history and all that encompasses caring and protecting
our historic burying places. The program consists of a room full of vendors and displays,
and the following lectures:

Welcome and Introduction for first time attendees.
9:30 am
by Ruth Shapleigh-Brown, Exec. Dir of Connecticut Gravestone Network.
Brief overview of what you should be looking for went visiting old colonial burying grounds from changes that have occurred overtime, identifying stone carvers and symbols.

The Mysterious Peet Burying Ground –of New Milford
10:30 am
Historic Researcher/Genealogist Melanie Marks and historian Morley Boyd will take us on a visual tour of Connecticut's most unusual family burying ground.  Beside a rushing mountain stream, hidden from public view and completely unmarked, this strange but wonderful site is anchored by a massive glacial boulder where it is said the original 18th century settler, Samuel "the Hermit" Peet, prayed several times a day.  Six generations of the Peets lived on this rugged and hauntingly beautiful land and many of them are buried here.  After recently spending more than a year researching the Peets for a private client, Melanie and Morley have uncovered startling new information about the family and will discuss some of their findings as they relate to the lore surrounding this hidden piece of history.

Pere Lachaise Cemetery: Collective Effervescence in Dark Tourism
11:30 am
Come on a journey through Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Considered "the most visited cemetery in the world," Pere Lachaise is the burial place of Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde and Frederic Chopin. Our journey will include the exquisite architecture of stones, crypts, and even pyramids of Pere Lachaise while discussing the personal benefits of visiting cemeteries on guided tours. One of the greatest benefits, referred to as "collective effervescence," includes a collective emotional energy shared by visitors in places associated with death and loss. We'll also look at various forms of memorialization in Pere Lachaise, what historians have said about changes in society handling death from the Middle Ages to the present, and the effects of these changes on individuals.

Chris Kullstroem is a life-long Halloween, horror and dark tourism enthusiast. Her publications include Making a Monstrous Halloween, Monster Parties and Games and Deadly Roles: Interactive Games of Murder & Mystery.

CT Militia Who Fought in the War of 1812
“1812 the forgotten war the forgotten veterans”
1:45 pm
Focusing on a Real Daughters project to make every town aware of the 1812 Veterans graves contained within its borders.  The presentation will highlight Hero’s of the War of 1812
Information about grant s that are available for marking graves of the War of 1812 soldiers will also be explained.  Presented by Betty Oderwald and Stephanie Lantiere

East Haddam Stone Carver John Isham
3:00 pm
Later colonial stone carver and apprentice of carver Silas Brainerd, John Isham developed a simple but easily recognized style effigy with an under the chin wing designed. Dr. Stofko of East Haddam will introduce to Isham;s work and life, however there is still much to discovered – perhaps you could help.

For more information email
Events page at
Or call Ruth Brown at 860-643-5652

Mappy Monday: Connecticut Historical Maps Mash-Up

   I just stumbled across a fantastic new feature on the UConn website. Connecticut Historical Maps Mash-Up allows you to enter a modern address and use that address to search a variety of historic maps, dating back to 1766. It has some definite limitations - some years are only available for one city - but it's a fun way to explore what your ancestor's home would have looked like at different points. I searched one ancestor's address. Prior to 1800, there was nothing there!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Church Record Sunday: Diocese of Bridgeport

   Finishing up my "tour" of Roman Catholic records, I'm revisiting the records for the Diocese of Bridgeport. Like the Diocese of Norwich, it was created in the 1950s. Sadly, unlike Norwich, it does not have a diocesan archives. For baptism, marriage, and funeral records, you'll have to contact the local church. However, the Diocese of Bridgeport does have a coordinated Catholic Cemeteries office. Oftentimes, such offices hold burial records for the Diocese. Visit that office at

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Society Saturday: Bridgeport Public Library

   It's always a pleasant surprise to discover that a local public library has created a well-developed website - or even an online exhibit. The Bridgeport Public Library's History Center staff has done just that. In addition to advertising an extensive local history collection, they've built a top notch website. That website includes articles on Bridgeport's history, descriptions of Bridgeport's neighbors, lists of local parks and more. In essence, they've accumulated much of what you'd need to online research on your Bridgeport ancestors. And once you need to go offline, they've explained how to order research.
   Sadly, in migrating to this new website, they've left behind some of the extensive online exhibits they had developed. Thankfully Connecticut's Heritage Gateway has kept some of the original links. Check out Bridgeport Working. This online exhibit traces industrial life in Bridgeport through the 20th century using photos, oral histories, and more. I can't wait to see what other exhibits they've created.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Follow Friday: News from CSL

  If you're looking for new online resources, you should be following News from CSL. The blog of the Connecticut State Library, News from CSL highlights the new online additions to the State Library's website, as well as many of their onsite improvements. I was surprised to realize how much I'd been missing. Check out these 1903-1906 photographs of Hartford.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Middletown's Russell Library

Middletown can't boast the oldest library in the state - that honor falls to Durham - but it does boast one of the earlier libraries in the sense we mean it now. Built in 1834 as the local episcopal church, the brownstone was bought in 1874 by Frances Russell. After a significant restoration and "updating," the Russell Library opened in 1876. It was part of a wave of library building that continued into the early 1900s.

   The name Russell comes not from Frances but from her husband Samuel. Head of a prominent family, Samuel prospered in the East India Trade. His money funded a large home now occupied by Wesleyan University, as well as numerous other ventures in town. Frances wanted to ensure that he was remembered by his community.
    The library Frances endowed soon took off. New wings were built in 1930, 1972 and 1983. Each significantly expanded the library, often giving it an uneven look. In 1983, architects were determined to undo some of the damage by unifying the facade and reinstalling some of the original stained glass. The effort worked.
    Today the library maintains touches of its past and serves a very modern population. Genealogists will be fascinated by Russell's local history collection, housed in the Middletown Room. That collection includes oral histories, mayoral scrapbooks and more. Visit for more information. 

"Russell Library, Middletown (1834)," Historic Buildings of Connecticut ( accessed 29 February 2012).

"A History of the Russell House," Wesleyan University ( accessed 29 February 2012).

Elizabeth Warner,"Ode to Russell Library," MiddletownPatch ( accessed 29 February 2012).

"Library History," Russell Library ( accessed 29 February 2012).