Saturday, June 30, 2012

Society Saturday: Plainfield Historical Society, Plainfield, CT

    Continuing in Connecticut's quiet corner...
    The Plainfield Historical Society was founded in 1970. While the Society appears to be primarily a social group with no properties, collections or museums, they have made an excellent resource website available to the public.Under "preservation," you'll be able to find a list of local websites with resources for preservation groups. "Publications" provides a link to purchase a book on local history. And "Researching History" provides an extensive genealogy resource list, a bibliography of basic history and a list of all area cemeteries. This provides a great outline of how to research Plainfield's past.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Follow Friday: Sharon Historical Society Blog

  Sharon Historical Society's blog showed a lot of initially promise but sadly, hasn't reached its ultimate goal. Started in early 2010, the blog announced events and offered profiles of museum exhibits. A few of the profiles are definitely worth a look. In June, the blog covered the history of the Sharon Green. Early posts included an exhibit on the Sharon Hospital, complete with historic description. Unfortunately, the blog ends in October 2010. If your family is from Sharon, take a quick look. There may be something here. You'll have to follow up with the Historical Society for more details.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Plainfield Historic Photos

   I want to once again recommend an excellent blog: Historic Buildings of Connecticut. The blog features pictures and descriptions of historic homes in Connecticut. They've profiled seven buildings in town, including local churches and historic homes. I especially loved reading about the "Fenner-Matthewson Mansion." I'm always surprised to find a home with such strong manufacturing roots in rural Connecticut.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wedding Wednesday:'s marriage index

   Since Connecticut's records are kept on the town level, I love it when I can find a vital records index. It saves you hours of hand searching files. offers free access to such an index. Created from the state's vital records between 1959 and 2001, the index is searchable by spouse's name and basic identifying information. While you will not see the whole form, you can locate the town where  you can order the record. When you have a marriage date, a copy can be requested from the town's clerk.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tech Tuesday: WPA Architectural Survey

  This might officially be my new favorite online feature. The Connecticut State Library has digitized the "WPA Old Houses Survey." Taken between 1934 and 1937, the survey recorded the basic details of and photographed old homes throughout Connecticut. You can search by town, type of dwelling, and keyword. Not every town is up, but there's enough there to get a feel for the flavor.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Military Monday: "The War"

  While it only took me until June to finish the series I first wrote about in February, but I've finally finished The War (Ken Burns). I quickly realized how little I actually knew about World War II. I know the names of battles - I'm old enough to have known the men who fought in them - but I didn't know much of what they experienced. The War devoted time to covering each battle in detail, with footage and stories.
    I entered this process hoping to learn a lot about the World War II experience in Waterbury and did for the beginning and end of the war. Most of the footage understandably focused overseas. The American town with the greatest coverage was probably the one in Minnesota. I suspect that it may have been a matter of the footage available since parts of the film were compiled from older interviews. What was covered was well-done. The last segment traced the end of the war in Waterbury from the first newspaper announcement to the closing of brass factories.
   If you don't have the time or patience to watch the film, consider visiting the website.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Church Record Sunday: The First Congregational Church of Plainfield

 I figured it wouldn't hurt to cover another of the major towns in Connecticut's "quiet corner." Plainfield, CT was founded in 1699. Currently, according to GenWeb, the town has 14000 residents spread across four villages. Like many small towns, it has recent history of manufacturing.
   The First Congregational Church of Plainfield was founded in 1705. According to the blog Historic Buildings of Connecticut, the current and fourth church dates from 1819. Some of the church's records are available online. Others can be researched at the Connecticut State Library, as the church was included in the State's slip index. The church can be reached through the information posted on their website.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sorting Saturday: What do with documents of "non-family family?"

   I've spent the last few hours cleaning out documents and keep stumbling across photos of "non-family family" - those lovely people that you consider related but actually aren't. I've been struggling for a long time with how to store these photos and related documents.
     For now, I  use two methods. I have newer photos in scrapbooks. The conservator part of my brain hates doing that (scrapbook improperly can ruin photos for the long term), but they do display much better. And since I'm awful with organizing otherwise... I do try to store the older photos properly, but I'm fast running out of space.
    In the long run, I'm not sure how to keep them. Will I want them in 20 years? How do you handle this situation?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Follow Friday: Miss Wiggin's Attic (Litchfield Historical Society)

      The Litchfield Historical Society's blog Miss Wiggin's Attic is a treasure for anyone interested in local lore. Each post includes a time period appropriate history of an item in the Litchfield Historical Society's collection as well as links to online finding aids and other online sources of information. The Valentine's Day post covers letters from local couples to each other. Tapping Reeve's letter to Maria Tallmadge is a great read. Other posts provide background on local writers whose books the Society is in the process of digitizing; images of snow in Litchfield and more.
     This blog would fit into my "ideal" format. While it does not cover the general history of Litchfield, there is enough here to attract most local historians and genealogists. The posts are well written, detailed and well cited. My only complaint is that the Society posts little information about its writers. From how I accessed the page, you wouldn't even know what historical society it belonged to... Oh, well. If your family was Litchfield local, check this out!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Putnam Historic Photos

  I've got to admit that I'm rapidly falling in love with Putnam's town website (despite it being outdated). I've rarely seen seen a town website devote so much space to the town's history and do it so well. Under visitors and then photo gallery,  you'll be able to search the town's more recent events and, finally, historic photos. The 12 posted photos provide a nice overview of the town in the early 1900s. If you're ambitious, you can also explore the mills and the downtown. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Workday Wednesday: First to Last Picking

  As much as I hate to admit it, I didn't know nearly as much as I thought I did about either tobacco picking or Sicilian culture in Middletown. Sebastiano Santostefano's First to Last Picking: Sicilians in America: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow ended up being a nice education. Set across the summer of 1943, the  memoir covers Santostefano's experience tobacco picking and growing up in Middletown's North End. Each stage of picking is interspersed with descriptions of family life. Both paint a disappeared part of our local culture.  While some of the account is clearly embellished - it is unlikely the author remembered his conversation in such detail - his story is engaging and for an "Americanized" reader, a real education. It's worth the read.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tech Tuesday: New Blog Feature

   It's time to introduce a new feature on the blog. On the main page, you'll notice a tab entitled "Connecticut Map." Click on it, and you'll be able to search a Google map of Connecticut. The place markers indicate towns that have been covered in blog posts. Click on the place marker. You'll get a list of URLs for posts about that town. I'm hoping to eventually get those links live, but I'm still working. In the meantime, feel free to search the map and leave me notes for places you'd like me to cover.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mappy Monday: Putnam Connecticut Maps

   The town of Putnam has a search for maps a lot easier. They've compiled links to several maps and historic trail guides into one page, called "Maps & Guides."  The River Mills Heritage Trail Guide will allow you to "walk" the trail by reading the signs and maps. While Discover Putnam is outdated, it provides detailed information on sections of town. And if you're bored - or interested in geology - check out the US Geological Survey Maps.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Church Record Sunday: St. Mary's, Putnam

  I started out doing my usual search for "congregational church" + Putnam, hoping to find information on the town's oldest church. While I did turn up some basic history on the Congregational Church  of Putnam, it didn't seem to date back to the 1700s... and then I remembered. Putnam wasn't founded until 1855. The residents would have attended the closest church in Killingly and other surrounding towns.
   There's not much history on the Congregational Church of Putnam online. I suspect from the photos that it dates from the later half of the 1800s, right in line with the founding of the town. You can watch about their steeple restoration here.  If you're interested in organ restoration, you can read more about their process here.
   What I can find more about is St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church. There's a nice history on the town's website. With roots dating back to 1848, the first church was consecrated in the late 1850s. A new church, made mostly of brick, was consecrated in 1870. The church website provides more information. The second church was destroyed by fire and replaced in 1904. By 1956, the expanding parish renovated some church buildings and tore down others. The church is ethnically mixed: early pastors had French and Irish last names.
    If you're looking for records, you can easily contact the parish using the information on their website.The cemetery is listed on Find A Grave.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Society Saturday: Aspinock Historical Society of Putnam

   We're continuing our tour of Windham County with the town between Thompson and Killingly - Putnam. According to the town's website, Putnam was created in 1855 from portions of Killingly, Thompson, and Pomfret. The town was industrial through at least part of the 1900s.
   Putnam's historical society is named Aspinock after the town's first title. Founded in 1972, it operates a two museums and a research center, with an intent to open another site. The research center is open the 2nd and 4th sundays, from 2 to 4 pm. Give them a call before you go or to find out what information they have.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Follow Friday: Easton Historical Society Blog

  Just a hint to bloggers.... Don't make me dig through pages of material to find your best information!

  Easton Historical Society's blog is one of many that doesn't make full use of the main page. The main page is used to announce upcoming events. You'll need to turn to the side pages to find the historical information. "An 1867 Map" links you to a historic map image and explanation. "Photo Archive" displays vintage photos of town. Two links give the history of Society properties. Other pages offer membership and newsletter information.
  I would really love to see a redesign of this site. First of all, the historic information needs to be available on the main page. I've read the page before - and discounted it for not providing any useful information. If I'd seen the links, maybe I would have read on. Second, separate the Society information from the historical information. They both have their value, but sometimes they appeal to different groups. From  its placement (between newsletter and recent events), I would suspect "Photo Archive" contained photos of those recent events. It doesn't. I'd hate to see someone who isn't local skip over those great vintage photos. In the meantime, I hope you'll have the patience to go through the whole site. There's some great material here.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Historic Sites in Killingly

  Historic walking tours can provide a great entree into the history of a town. Of course, that means you have to be lucky enough to be able to visit - or does it?
  It turns out that Killingly had digitized historic walking tours of several sections of town. Don't expect them to be interactive, since they are PDF or JPG files. They still contain a wealth of information. The Downtown Walking Tour includes photos and descriptions of each site. Westfield Village contains a map and descriptions. There's even a tour of the local rivers. If you know where your ancestor lived, this is a great source. Have fun!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Workday Wednesday: Killingly Historical Society Online Journals

   Journal articles are probably the best way to learn about a town's occupations and history. What's better than a detailed article with lots of sources and description on just your subject? If you're researching a small town, it almost never happens - except in Killingly.
   The Killingly Historical Society has a nice collection of online journals, dating back to 1997. Each covers aspects of town history, profiles of famous people, and more. Many sections are excerpted from other sources, but others are written by locals. Happy reading!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tuesday's Tip: Connecticut town historians

  Not every Connecticut town has one and their contact information can be hard to find, but Connecticut's town historians are invaluable resource for any researcher. Many have lived in the towns their entire lives and have researched the town for almost as long. Technically, their job is to answer questions about municipal history, but some work with the local historical society and are willing to answer your general questions. Search town historian and the town name for more information or contact the town clerk.
   Be kind... These are volunteers!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mappy Monday: Killingly Maps

  I'll be the first to admit Killingly threw me. I really thought Danielson was its own town. Turns out I'm wrong... and I'm from Connecticut! This is definitely a town where we need a map.
   1. The town website offers one link:
   2. If you need more detail, the town even put up street cards  and parcel maps (maps of specific houses):{9C65C254-5E72-4076-9EFA-602DC7985214

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Church Record Sunday: Westfield Congregational Church, Danielson aka

   Founded as the First Church of Killingly, Killingly's oldest congregational church is now known as Westfield Congregational Church, United Churches of Christ.  According to a historical sketch in a 1905 booklet, the church was begun in 1715. That same pamphlet goes on to trace the church's history, minister to minister, through almost two centuries. After the date of the pamphlet, the church did join the United Churches of Christ. The church does not appear to have its own website, although its contact information can be located using Google.
  The current home of the church's records is unclear. According to an article on American Ancestors, they are not part of the Connecticut State Library's slip index but likely are still held by the state. A phone call to the church may clarify the situation. Recent records are likely held by the church.
  Cemetery records are available on Find A Grave. The cemetery is called the Westfield Cemetery.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Society Saturday: Killingly Public Library

  While they're not actually "societies," public libraries can as many if not more resources than your average genealogical society. Killingly's public library is no exception. Buried on the webpage describing their reference resources, you'll find a section on the archival collection. Accessible only by contacting the reference staff, this archival collection includes headstone inscriptions, memoirs, maps and more. I'm looking forward to hearing what people turn up from this great collection.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Follow Friday: Rocky Hill Historical Society

   You may be wondering how I find new blogs. To be honest, it's often a lot of time spent on Google. Many people don't feel the need to publicize their blogs thoroughly. I've often found a great blog - and one I never would have found otherwise - eight or so pages in. Of course, this method means that I tend to work a bit out of order. Today's  no exception.
  The Rocky Hill Historical Society's blog is somewhat of a mixed bag. The blog functions as the Society's website. Click on the links in the top right menu to learn more. There, you'll be able to find out more about interesting places in Rocky Hill history; local histories of the Historical Society, town, and ferry; the Rocky Hill Congregational Church; how to visit the Society and more. The front page of the blog functions as a typical blog. Postings, which are added irregularly, include obituaries of notable locals, major events in town, and reader questions.
  My reaction to the blog was also mixed. I was less than thrilled with the main page of the blog. The postings are a little too irregular for my taste. Unless I lived there, I don't know that I'd be able to follow the mixture of topics. The side pages were much better developed and function as a great resource. I especially loved the history of the Rocky Hill Ferry.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Comstock Ferre & Co.

  Comstock, Ferre, & Co. has a long history in Wethersfield. According to the company's history webpage, it actually can be traced as far back as 1811, when Joseph Belden first advertised in the Hartford Courant. The company, which has traditionally sold seeds, changed hands several times over the 19th and 20th centuries. I was lucky enough to first know it when it was owned by Pierre Bennerup during the 1990s . At the time, the company boasted an extensive nursery section - as well as a historic garden store. For me, the historic seed collection was an incredible discovery. Remember, this was before heirloom tomatoes had come back in. History and gardening... perfect mix. Comstock-Ferre (as we knew it locally) was sold in 2008 and the buildings were threatened with demolition. The company's page doesn't explain those proposals, but you can read them in detail on a local Wethersfield news page.  I'm glad to say that the proposals didn't end where expected - Comstock, Ferre & Co. was sold in 2010 and is back operating as a historic seed company. I've sadly not been back yet, but I can't wait to check it out!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Workday Wednesday: Wethersfield State Prison

  Admittedly, I never thought I'd be covering the local prison for a "Workday Wednesday" post, but for a small population of Wethersfield, prison warden was an actual job. In 2010, Connecticut History Online posted historic photos of the Connecticut State Prison on their Flickr stream. While some photos provide too much detail for my taste, the architecture and history of the site is interesting.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: Wethersfield Historic Burying Ground Project

  The Wethersfield Historic Burying Ground Digitization Project provides a new way to trace your ancestors buried in Wethersfield's oldest cemetery. The Wethersfield Burying Ground was established in 1638 and has been expanded as recently as 2004. Thanks to the work of Allison Golomb, an interactive map of the grounds and an index of burials has been placed online. Click on "interactive map" and you'll be able to search the cemetery. Results returned will include the name, date of death, a photo of the tombstone, inscriptions, and a map. If you need more information about the full cemetery, you can visit the history section. Good luck with research!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mappy Monday: Wethersfield Historic Properties Inventory Database

   I stumbled across the Wethersfield Historic Properties Inventory Database while looking for maps of historic Wethersfield. While the database isn't a traditional map, it allows you an in-depth historical visit to parts of Wethersfield that you may otherwise never see. Start on the search page. There, you'll be able to search by a variety of criteria, including age of the building, style, and street address. The results page will provide you with a list of houses that fit that criteria. Click on one property to find photos, a description of the home, details of its historic significance, and a link to available public records. If you're not fluent in architectural styles, there's a page that will help you understand each description as well. Need more history of Wethersfield's building periods? That's there too. Happy research!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Church Record Sunday: First Church of Christ, Wethersfield

   Wethersfield's First Church of Christ is one of the few churches can claim a heritage extending back to the first part of the 17th century. Founded in 1635, the church's present building dates from 1761. The community has changed denominations several times, going from a formal Congregational church to a member of United Churches, before becoming an independent Congregational church. You can trace the entire history on their website.
   The church has worked hard to make their history accessible. Besides that webpage, the website includes email addresses for their archivist and historian. Make sure to look at the top of the history page. The Connecticut Church Records Slip Index also includes records from First Church. They are detailed in an article posted on American Ancestors. Their work should make life easier for many of us.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Society Saturday: Wethersfield Historical Society (updated) and Webb Deane Stevens Museum

   Connecticut Open House Day is June 9th. If you're at all able to get to Connecticut, this is the day to come. Many of Connecticut's museums and historic sites will open their doors for free. Open House Day often features special events and new ways to learn about the state. In Wethersfield, a number of sites will be open. This is a great chance to learn about the town's history.
   I wrote about the Wethersfield Historical Society in a December 2011 post. While the Society doesn't seem to have any special events planned, their buildings will be open. These include the Wethersfield Museum, a local home kept in the style of the early 1900s, and a warehouse reflecting the shipping trade.
   The Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum consists of four historic homes on Wethersfield's Main St. Run by the Colonial Dames of Connecticut, the museum presents each of the home as a house museum reflecting a certain period of Connecticut life.  If you can't visit, the website is rich in detail on each home and the individuals who owned it. The website hasn't been updated since mid-May, so the site's participation in Connecticut Open House Day is unclear.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Follow Friday: Wethersfield Historical Society Curator's Blog

   I rarely get to play tourist in Connecticut, but when I do, Wethersfield is one of my favorite places to visit. Childhood memories of reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond remain pretty strong. (If you haven't read the book, it's set in old, traditional Wethersfield with an outsider British girl as the lead.) On top of that, the town has amazing character on its own. It has managed to maintain an extensive historic district. According to the Historic District Commission, the district contains over 150 structures built before 1850. If you love old homes, it's a great place to visit. Yet, I have to admit, I know very little about the individual people who live there.
   The Wethersfield Historical Society Curator's Blog is a good place  to start learning. Some of the blog post cover the town's historic homes and their contents. One post traces the entire history of a tea caddy. The author looks at both the tea caddy's historic role and the history of the individual owner. Other posts focus on Wethersfield natives. A December 2011 post recounts the history of Lt. Jonathan Church, a marine from Wethersfield. Church passed away in 1804. The blog isn't updated regularly, but the content is excellent.