Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday's Tip: Finding Your Ancestor's Newspaper Obituary

     To find your Connecticut ancestor's newspaper obituary, you have to start by finding the correct newspaper. Sadly, this isn't easy as you might hope. Connecticut only has a few major newspapers now, all of which cover slightly different parts of the state. That wasn't true twenty, seventy-five or two hundred years ago. The number of newspapers and their coverage region has changed dramatically overtime.
   While there's no ready source for determining a newspaper's coverage area, the Library of Congress has a resource that makes identifying the local newspapers much easier.  The Chronicling America Online Newspaper Directory is an online index of the newspapers published for an area. You can narrow it by time period. You will still miss some newspapers - Chester obituaries often appeared in the Middletown Press - but it's a starting point.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Matrilinear Monday: Use the Cemetery to Trace Your Family Ancestors

   I've been struggling to find out more about Eunice (Crocker) Way for months. I knew her marriage date, who she married and the names of her children. That was it. She was just one of those female ancestors that is almost impossible to trace. She shows up often in records but only alongside her husband Revolutionary War soldier Lt. Elisha Way. As of yet, I haven't found one record that mentioned her birth or death date.
  Until I remembered what should have been obvious from the beginning - the local cemetery. Ancestry.com's Connecticut Deaths and Burials index listed her husband's burial location. I made the leap and guessed that she was buried there as well. Thanks to a local Find A Grave volunteer, I now know that Eunice Crocker was buried in 1823 - at age 59. I'll have to wait for the proof, but I now have dates to work with. Next stop, the Barbour Collection, Connecticut's index of birth records. Sadly, there are two Eunice Crockers born that year, so I'll have some work to do.
   The lesson that I'll take away from this is to start with the cemetery. I wasn't turning up Eunice in any of the vital records indexes. Perhaps she was never recorded. But her family made sure to mark her  gravestone. I would have saved a lot of time by checking there first, rather than checking and rechecking the same index.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Middletown Connecticut genealogy websites

I've updated my website with a list of Middletown genealogy links. Happy reading!

Connecticut Immigrants: Ethnic Heritage Center at Southern Connecticut State University

   I discovered the Ethnic Heritage Center (http://www.southernct.edu/ethnic_heritage_center/) courtesy of a recent discussion on H-Connecticut and am very impressed with what I've found. Based in new Haven, the Ethnic Heritage Center houses five ethnic heritage groups. Researchers interested in using the collections of The Greater New Haven African American Historical Society, The Connecticut Irish American Historical Society, The Italian American Historical Society of Connecticut, The Jewish Historical Society of Greater New Haven, and The Connecticut Ukrainian American Historical Society only have to make one stop. The Ethnic Heritage Center has a library designed to make access to these collections and the university's own ethnic resources simple.
   The EHC is more than just a research library. It also houses exhibitions and events for each society. Their website is out of date on this subject, but listings should be available from the local news sites. These exhibits appear to be a way to get a feel for the site without knowing what you need to research.
    If your family represents any of these ethnic groups, you may want to pay a visit to the EHC. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Surname Saturday: Lyman Family

  If you research in Connecticut long enough, you will find thousands of references to the Lyman family. Although the most famous branch was from Middlefield, they lived all over the state. I don't research the family, but I thought I'd compile some links for those of you that do. Hope this is useful!


Genealogy Websites:

This is just a small sample of what's out there. And don't forget the local historical societies!

Follow Friday: Random Genealogy

   I stumbled across Random Genealogy while reading through another blogger's Follow Friday posts. While the blog initially seems focused on Kentucky genealogy (scanning through this month's posts), a few posts would be helpful to a Connecticut genealogist. Teresa writes about her husband's family in Rhode Island. Some of those Rhode Island ancestors experienced things that would be very familiar to a Connecticut ancestor. I especially loved her discussion of King Phillip's War.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Connecticut Historical Societies

    I've been doing research on a new state lately. Stumbling through roadblock after roadblock, I've become enormously glad for a little recognized part of Connecticut genealogy - the local historical society. I'm sure other states have the same thing, but they're often county-wide and harder to use. Connecticut's are nice and easy.
   Almost every Connecticut town boasts a local historical society. Usually volunteer run and only open for a few hours a week, the society may be almost impossible to access. Once you get inside, however, your patience will be rewarded. Most societies began collecting in the late 19th century. Their archives may contain everything from 17th century records to 20th century war memorabilia. Oftentimes, they're staffed by at least one informative local. If he or she doesn't know the answer to your question, they'll at least be able to tell you who to talk to.
    Even if you can't get to the local society, make sure to check out their website or give them a call. I recently stumbled across the website for the Sharon Historical Society. Although the town has less than 3,000 residents (per Wikipedia), they've built an impressive online presence. The website boasts a town-wide surname listing, headstone transcriptions, diaries, and more.  If you're headed to Sharon - even digitally - it should be a stop.

Thanks to all the historical society volunteers. You do make a difference!

Connecticut's Civil War: Events Listing

As part of the Civil War anniversary, groups throughout Connecticut have organized commemorative events. If you're planning to visit the state, any of these would be worth a stop. For more information, visit: http://finalsite.ccsu.edu/page.cfm?p=8231.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Workaday Wednesday: Connecticut's Teachers and Genealogy

    Like many nineteenth century and early twentieth century farmers, my ancestors also served as teachers. These experiences marked their transition from children to young adults. For the first time, they were living on their own and making a contribution to the family budget. They were out of the reach of their parents' rules and their parents' critique. In some cases, this was where they met their spouse. In short, it was a huge part of their lives.
     Yet, there are almost no records of their experience. Many worked in small local school houses. They boarded with and were paid by parents. In a few towns, the school's records have survived. In many others, however, the records are long gone. Sadly, this is the case with my ancestors' schools. Some teachers or students may have kept a memoir. Again, this is rare. How often do people record their lives in elementary school? n may family, these memoirs do exist, but they have never been formally published. Unless you were lucky enough to know someone with a copy, you wouldn't know they existed.
    So how do you find out more? Begin by checking the census. If your ancestor is a boarder in his/her teens or early twenties and was also listed as a farmer at another point in his/her life, you may have a teacher on your hands. Double-checking the occupation category may provide you a few more clues. Once you have that, start calling the town archives, historical societies, and libraries. Look for town or school records. They may have shown up in the budget or someplace else you'll never think of. I'll likely never find anything about one ancestor's service, but I know all the details about her sister's. It was buried in the local library's town history files. 

Useful website for beginning genealogists

  I received something in a genealogy-related email this morning that I wanted share. The Genealogy Guide defines genealogical terms. It's helpful for beginning genealogists... and sometimes, for me!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tuesday's Tip: FamilySearch.org's Facebook Online Communities

     An article in this morning's Eastman's Online Newsletter turned up a fantastic new resource for me.  Turns out FamilySearch has set up Facebook groups devoted entirely to genealogical research in a specific state or country. I took a quick look at the site for Massachusetts. Thus far, it features everything from requests for help to a listing of resources. The site is run by an administrator-volunteer who has to have research experience in the state. These look like a wonderful starting point for a "newbie" or a place for guidance for a more advanced research.
     Unfortunately for us Connecticut researchers, there is no Connecticut site as of yet. This is a pilot project, and FamilySearch is adding new sites as they are requested. You can weigh in at https://www.familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Join_a_Facebook_Research_Community. Maybe you'll be lucky enough to find a community for another place you're researching!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Military Monday: Yeomen (F) at New London Connecticut

   For some reason, the "Military Monday" prompt struck a cord with me today. Searching for a topic, I quickly thought of the first women enlisted in the U.S. military. The Yeoman (F) or Yeomanettes were recruited by the U.S. Navy beginning in 1917, thanks to a loophole in a 1917 law. By the end of the war, eleven thousand women had enlisted. They filled Navy clerical positions, translators jobs, and more. Most stayed close to home, but still broke a significant barrier - the restrictions against women in the armed forces.
   One of my ancestors was a Yeomanette. She enlisted in 1917 in New London and served in various clerical positions until her discharge in 1918. Ironically, her military "tour" never took her more than a few miles from home. Sadly, she didn't talk much about her service. What I know, I've learned from her military service records. I had to jump through some hoops to get them - World War I records are still protected by privacy laws, and you need permission from an immediate family member - but I'm glad I did. She was incredibly proud of being a veteran. Thanks to her records and a little reading on the Yeomanettes, I now understand why.
    If you want to learn more about the Yeomanettes, I'd recommend starting with the Navy's website on the subject: http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/prs-tpic/females/yeoman-f.htm. There's also a good overview on the National Archives site: http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2006/fall/yeoman-f.html. Feel free to send me a question if you have one. This one's close to my heart :)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Church Record Sunday: Early Connecticut Marriages..., Fredric Bailey

   The Geneabloggers prompts are sometimes a great reminder of resources you've forgotten about. Fredric W. Bailey compiled pre-1800 marriage records from local vital records and published them in a series of books in 1896. At least one volume, Early Connecticut marriages as found on ancient church records ..., Volume 1 is available from Google books. I haven't compared it to the Barbour Collection, but it should provide you with an additional resources... Of course, my family was in Rhode Island during this period ;)

Connecticut Genealogy Book Reviews: Suggested Genealogy Reading From the Connecticut State Library

   For those of you interested in genealogy books, this link might be of interest - http://www.cslib.org/how2ct.htm. This is the Connecticut State Library's recommended genealogy reading list. As you'll note, many of these books are outdated, so review them carefully.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Society Saturday: Middlesex County Historical Society

  Based in Middletown, the Middlesex County Historical Society's collection encompasses the history of all of Middlesex County. The collection includes a variety of artifacts dating from the founding of Middletown through the 20th century. Current exhibits cover the Civil War in Middletown and the history of the General Mansfield House, the Historical Society's home.
   The Society is also home to an extensive research library. The library includes everything from the early court documents from Middlesex County to World War I letters, and more. Members have been collecting since 1901, and the upper tier of Middletown's society is well represented. Efforts have been made to trace Middletown's immigrant groups. The library is accessible only by appointment.
   If you're interested in Middletown immigrants, the Middlesex County Historical Society's website is well worth a visit. A digital version of a 1990s exhibit has been added to the website. Pages give an overview of each group's arrival in the area and how they became integrated in Middletown's daily life. The section on Greek immigration was eye opening for me. For more information, visit http://www.middlesexhistory.org.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Connecticut Genealogy Research Guide Recommendations

   Thanks to Colleen for posing the question that inspired today's post. She asked what Connecticut genealogy books I'd recommend.
   My answer is - it depends. I've yet to find a good how-to genealogy book for Connecticut. I've seen references to some webinars on the subject and some books by large genealogical publishing companies. Honestly, I haven't looked at most of them. There just aren't enough hours in the day and dollars in the budget!  The best I've seen thus far was  the Connecticut Researcher's Handbook, despite it being outdated. In contrast, there are a plethora of good local books and articles. Connecticut Genealogy News offers case studies, source descriptions, and more. Any one of these may provide the information you need to research an ancestor. My favorite features are the town profiles. These give you not only the history of the town but also the local genealogical resources. Historical societies and civic organizations regularly publish history books and profiles of famous locals. I've found references to my ancestors in some of these publications.
   If your goal was to find a how-to guide, there are some solid substitutes. Start by checking the FamilySearch wiki. Their county profiles may guide you straight to your family records. You can call the local historical society. Often their volunteers are familiar with the local records, although their research experience varies. Some may charge for their time. You can call the library of the largest city in the area. In Connecticut, the cities tend to have one or more librarians with genealogical experience and a knowledge of local records - although this isn't always true. Finally, if you're stuck, you can always consider hiring a professional genealogist.

Connecticut's Civil War: Book Review - Connecticut in the American Civil War: Slavery, Sacrifice, & Survival

   I took a second look at Connecticut in the American Civil War: Slavery, Sacrifice, & Survival today. I had read this book once, quickly, to keep up my Civil War knowledge (For those of you who don't know, I'm trained as a civil War historian). I read it again as a genealogist.
   Without going into great detail on Warshauer's sources, analytical framework, or more, I'll give you a brief overview. Connecticut in the American Civil War is divided into six sections: one for each year of the war, and one chapter each for the time before and following the conflict. These sections alternate between a discussion of the state's political issues and its experiences on the battlefield. Warshauer fits the Connecticut experience neatly into the experiences of the Union.
   For a genealogist, this book has both strengths and weaknesses. It is an easy way to discover what your ancestor's general Civil War experience might have been like. You can quickly estimate who he might have voted for or what battles he might have fought in. You cannot tell what his day to day experience might have been like. There are no battle descriptions discussing specific regiments or pictures of life on the home-front. This is a general history and makes no bones about it.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Blog revisions... and a little more about me!

   As some of you have probably noticed, I've been playing around with my blog template. I've started linking my sites together. I'd love to have you take a look at all of them and discover a little bit more about what I do. A few points to note before you get started. First of all, my Connecticut resource page on the Charter Oak Genealogy website is getting built slowly. I'll get there eventually, but have patience! Second, I'm by no means an expert on Luxembourger genealogy. I'm lucky in that I was handed my Luxembourg line almost fully traced but unlikely in the fact that their ethnic background was almost missing from the story - my Luxembourg ancestor married a German woman. I'm learning as I go. I do speak and read French but German and Luxembourgish is new.
   With those blog revisions, I'm also considering how to improve my blog topics. I'd love to hear - within reason - what topics you'd like to see me cover. I can't guarantee I'll get to everything, but I'd would like to try a few.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Connecticut Genealogy Book Review: Connecticut Researcher's Handbook

    Note to self - never store the information on books you're intending to review at the bottom of your library bag. You won't find them for months...
     I started looking for a genealogy guide specific to Connecticut this summer and stumbled across Connecticut Researcher's Handbook (Thomas Kemp, Gale Research, Detroit, MI, 1981). This guide is screaming for an update and reissue. It dates from 1981 and is no longer easily obtainable. I found a copy at the local library.
      This book is divided into two sections. The first is a bibliography entitled "Connecticut General Subjects." That portion touches on everything from Jewish history to information on loyalists. While it is now outdated, it is still a valid starting point for research. The second part of Connecticut Researcher's Handbook covers counties and towns. The county pages are somewhat vague. They contain the county organization date, a list of towns within that county, and a list of published works about that county. The town pages are possibly my favorite of the resources. They list the name, county, organization date, and parent town. They follow with cemetery listings - and the appropriate citation for the Hale Collection; transcriptions of census and church records; the name of the library and historical society; the probate district; the coverage of the town vital records collection and more.
     Much of the author's work is now outdated, but a few sections are still of great use. The town clerk's vital record coverage can be almost impossible to determine without help. All towns had to keep records after 1897; some towns started much earlier. Probate districts can also be confusing. Your ancestor's will may be three towns away from his residence because of the probate districts. This guide, although it does not take into account recent changes in districts, can provide a starting point for finding the appropriate court.
     I would love to see this book reissued for the internet age. It has great bones. With a little work, it could be a fantastic current resource.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tuesday's Tip: H-Connecticut Listserv

   I'm sure many of you are familiar with the Rootsweb listservs, designed to appeal to genealogists. But how many of you have heard of H-Net? Designed as the history of equivalent of Rootsweb, H-net also offers fantastic opportunities for collaboration with historians, scholars and genealogists.
    H-Connecticut is run by the Connecticut state historian and offers regular posts about history, genealogy, local workshops, and more. The latest series of posts discussed sources for learning about Connecticut immigrants. There were some great suggestions for further reading and for research. Joining the listserv gives you the opportunity to participate in these discussions and have new information arriving in your mailbox. Visit http://www.h-net.org/~ctlist/.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King, Jr's visit to CT

     Enjoy your Martin Luther King day holiday. I hope many of you will be honoring Dr. King through community service today!
     I stumbled across this news article about Dr. King's visits to Simsbury this morning and how they shaped his later philosophy. Take a look: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/01/17/assignment_america/main7255823.shtml.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Church Record Sunday: How do I find my Irish (French-Canadian, Italian) ancestor's Catholic church?

  Thank you so much for the wonderful comment that prompted this post. The question was posed in terms of Waterbury and Irish immigrants, but it could also apply to Italian or French-Canadian immigrants: how do you locate the Catholic church that might hold their records? The ethnic church of today might have looked very different when your ancestor arrived.
  I'd be the first to admit my technique isn't perfect, but it works fairly well in Middlesex County, where I am most comfortable. I start by determining the current list of Catholic churches in the town using Google. I then open each church's website. Most churches - although not all - have a web page with a short history of the church. Look for and record each church's establishment date and ethnic traditions. Soon you will have a timeline that you can compare against major events in your ancestor's life. If there are two or more churches in the area, first check the church closest to your ancestor's residence. Second, consider using your list of ethnic traditions. Your ancestor could have attended either one.  Good luck!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Society Saturday Update: Connecticut Historical Society

  Thanks to a few of my Connecticut genealogy friends for sharing Connecticut Historical Society's latest tour. Thought it might be of interest to a few of you the next time you visit CT.  The Connecticut Historical Society is offering a behind the scenes tour on the second Saturday of each month. Here's the information copied from their website:

Behind-the-Scenes Tours

Saturday, January 14
FREE with general admission

Join us each second Saturday in 2012 for one or both of these 45-minute guided tours:
2:00 Behind-the-Scenes Collections Tour

Get a sneak peek into non-public storage areas and see some of the CHS collection not currently on exhibit.
3:00 Secrets of the Veeder House

From the servants' quarters to the original elevator, this is a rare opportunity to explore the architecture and see some of the non-public details of the 1928 house that is now CHS.
For more information, call (860) 236-5621 x209 or email Mary Muller.

I'll probably not make it up this weekend, but I'm definitely adding this to my to-do list. I can't even imagine what the CHS vault looks like.  CHS has been in Connecticut since the 19th century, so I can imagine that it has a lot that could tell me about my ancestor's lives. I can't wait.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Follow Friday: A Blog Post on Organizing Colonial Ancestor

   I was a little starved for blog ideas tonight... okay, I'll admit it, I'm exhausted. As a result, I did some web searching and discovered some old posts on organizing your colonial New England ancestors on Elyse's Genealogy Blog. It has some neat ideas for organizing ancestors. I don't know about you, but mine all seem to be interrelated. Organization helps.
   Here goes: http://elysesgenealogyblog.com/organizing-colonial-new-england-ancestor/.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Connecticut's Immigrants: the Irish

           I could spend a lifetime describing how the Irish ended up in Connecticut. I'm sure we all can think of the basic causes: the Irish Potato Famine and political turmoil. However, it's usually more complicated. Don't forget to look at your ancestor's experience after the United States. It's often reflective of why they immigrated. Not everyone wanted to be an industrial worker in a city.
         How do you find records of your Irish ancestors? You can start by reviewing books on Irish genealogy. Tracing Your Irish Ancestors is one of my favorites. It's a good way to familiarize yourself with the basic local sources.  Then try to track down the local Catholic church. Many Irish immigrants were Roman Catholic, and their churches, often the oldest RC churches in Connecticut, document their life in great detail. Finally, don't forget immigration and travel records. I finally located my Irish ancestor's birth location on his daughter's passport. An ancestor's naturalization papers may also list that information.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Workday Wednesday: Connecticut Impressionists

  The word "Impressionist" often brings to mind Giverny, France, but many Impressionists also called Connecticut home. The Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme was once the center of an artists' community. Beginning in 1899, artists traveled regularly to southern Connecticut to paint. Many lived in the house and painted on the grounds. Others settled in the area of Lyme and Old Lyme. Although their style of art eventually fell out of favor, the artists never completely left the Lyme vicinity.
  Arts groups still call Old Lyme home. Lyme Academy of Fine Arts, a four-year art based college, is located in Lyme. The Lyme Art Association, created to sell the artists' work, is still functioning as an exhibition hall, class space, and resale space. Both are located within a few blocks of the Griswold Museum.
   If you believe your family might have ties to the American Impressionists, consider visiting the Florence Griswold Museum in person or on the web at www.florgris.org.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tuesday's Tip: Don't Forget to Chase Down Those Unrelated Household Members

I wanted to share this tip after finally piecing together a matrilineal line. Don't forget to trace down those "unrelated" individuals on the census! My ancestor's husband had died within six years of her marriage, leaving her with two small children - and me with no idea of her maiden name. Her first name was too common to be of any use by itself, but the person she was living with finally solved the problem for me. In following the family from the 1860 census to 1870, I was able to identify the "boarder' in the house as the woman's brother.
With that information, I followed him back on the census. The census soon yielded their parents' names as well as the names of their siblings. A quick search of the Barbour Collection located her exact birth date and location. I went back three more generations that day. All because I finally decided to follow everyone in the household, not just the person I was sure was related to my ancestor.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Military Monday: The Spanish-American War Army

I've been doing writing on my favorite field - the Civil War - so I thought it was time to talk briefly about a different time period. The Spanish-American War is often forgotten by our 21st century culture. Spurred by the "attack" on the U.S.S. Maine, the war with Spain over Cuba lasted from 1898 and 1899. Americans joined the Army to fight, drawn by the desire to defend the country's honor. Connecticut men enlisted in local regiments, much as they had during the Civil War. Most served for just under a year.
Spanish-American veterans' records can be found in a variety of locations. Published regimental histories of the 1st Connecticut Volunteer History, two of which are available on Amazon.com, can offer insight into a soldier's day to day life. The National Archives hold pension files and compiled military service records of local veterans. Local historical societies may hold records of your ancestor's service - everything from bullets to letters. Finally, like Civil War veterans, Spanish-American War veterans had their own fraternal organization. It was eventually disbanded, and the Connecticut State Library now holds its records. Visit the finding aid at http://www.cslib.org/archives/finding_aids/rg081.html for more information.
This is just a quick beginning of a fascinating subject. I hope it inspires a few of you to do your own research!


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Connecticut's Civil War: Connecticut's African-American 29th Connecticut Infantry

I was reading through Geneabloggers's Civil War blogs list this morning, looking for new resources. In so doing, I stumbled across The USCT Chronicle (http://usctchronicle.blogspot.com/2011_01_01_archive.html). The USCT Chronicle offers genealogists and historians an introduction to the United States Colored Troops. These were units of African-American who served as part of the regular Union Army. If you know nothing about them, the blog is worthwhile reading.
Connecticut did not have a USCT regiment, but a Connecticut African-American regiment did serve during the American Civil War. The 29th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry (Colored) was organized in New Haven in March of 1864. They had trench duty outside of Petersburg and Richmond - hard, dangerous work - for almost a year. When Richmond was abandoned, they were first infantry regiment into the city. The 29th occupied some of the South's cities until November 1865.
The 29th's service has only been recently recognized. A group of descendants made sure than their ancestors were honored. Monuments to the regiment were erected in Danbury in 2007 and New Haven in 2008. The group's efforts have made information about the regiment widely available.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Society Saturday: The Connecticut Historical Society

I thought I'd use this Saturday as a chance to profile one of my favorite Connecticut historical societies. The Connecticut Historical Society is located in Hartford, near Elizabeth Park. Founded in 1825, the CHS has an incredible collection that encompasses all of Connecticut history. Their website has limited capabilities - the only online exhibit is a profile of the G. Fox Department store - but their museum, library and staff more than make for these limitations. A permanent exhibition outlines Connecticut history, while rotation exhibitions touch on different aspects of Connecticut life. A recent exhibit on needlepoint samples was a state-wide favorite. Their staff is equally impressive. I've had quick responses to emailed inquires about local restorers and more. If you're looking for an introduction to Connecticut history or basic genealogy information, this is a good place to start. For more information, visit their website at http://www.chs.org.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Genealogical Niche?

A blog post on Marian Pierre-Louis's Roots and Rambles got me thinking about genealogical niches. Her blog post (http://rootsandrambles.blogspot.com/2012/01/everyone-needs-niche-right.html) was unfilled niches. I started wondering about how one defines their own niche.

For me, it's been a mix of where I live, my family history, and my academic background. Connecticut's always been part of life for me. The fact that the most genealogically obsessed branch of my family is from here just makes it that much better. I'm trained as a historian and stumbled into Civil War history fairly early on - actually after finding a letter written by/for an enslaved man serving with the Confederate Army in a Connecticut archives. Funny how these things happen, right?

I do have other branches of my family history that intrigue me, and frankly, if I lived closer to where that history took place, I'd probably claim it as part of my "niche." I stumbled across the Connecticut Luxembourgers while researching another branch, not from this area.

On the other hand, I have branches of my family tree I've traced no more than two generations back. Sometimes it's area; sometimes it's just not having those stories. You never know.

So how did you define your niche?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Connecticut's Civil War: "Connecticut Military and Naval Leaders in the Civil War"

I'm always on the hunt for new Civil War books. It's been one of my favorite research topics for years, and I'm lucky enough to be able to teach classes on the subject. A new book generally means something new for me to research!
This time, I decided to take a look at The Connecticut Civil War Centennial: Connecticut Military and Naval Leaders in the Civil War. Produced for the Centennial in 1965, this is technically a pamphlet - although the local library system treats it as a book. Only 42 pages long, the book is comprised of short biographies of Union military leaders with some tie to Connecticut. Some are familiar faces, such as Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy. Others I'd never heard of, such as New Haven born Luther Prentice Bradley (p. 30).
While a few of the profiles are overly laudatory, most are a concise rendering of the individual's life and service. They offer a birth date and location, a small outline of antebellum civilian life, and finally, a detailed listings of postings and battles up to the end of the war. If you don't have a Civil War ancestor, this may seem boring reading. However, if you number an ancestor among these men, this pamphlet is a goldmine. You now have a listings of battles in which your ancestor served. A quick search for battle accounts should be enough to tell you about your ancestor's experience in great detail.

Happy research!

Middletown Captains' Graves Rediscovered

Those of you with Connecticut trading ties might be interested in the following item: http://www.courant.com/community/middletown/hc-middletown-sea-captain-20120102,0,7742499.story.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Connecticut Immigrants: Luxembourgers

Wondering what I'm talking about? You're probably not alone. We all know the groups that immigrated to Connecticut en masse: Irish, Italian, and Polish are probably among the most familiar. Yet, migrants from other countries have also called Connecticut home.
Immigrating around the same time as the Irish - and also driven by famine and the instability of life in Europe - some immigrants from Luxembourg found their way to the Meriden area. Their numbers were never large. Drawn by farm land, most immigrants chose to settle in the Midwest. Those who remained in Connecticut may have mixed with the local German population, as they shared a common language.
If your "German family" came from Meriden, who knows? You may in fact be Luxembourger.

For more information:

“19th Century,” Institut Grand-Ducal, Section de linguistique, d'ethnologie et d'onomastique (http://www.institutgrandducal.lu/Joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=128&Itemid=239: accessed 20 April 2011).

Suzanne L. Bunkers, “Reflections of Luxemburg in the Rural Midwestern United States,” Reflections of Luxembourg in the U.S. (http://www.intech.mscu.edu/bunkers/reflections_of_luxembourg_in_the_u_s.htm accessed 13 April 2011).

Octavie Modert, speech given at the Annual Cultural Conference, New Luxembourg, Wisconsin, 6 August 2010; transcript published by the Ministère de la Culture, de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche, Ouverture d’esprit (http://www.mcesr.public.lu : accessed 14 April 2011).

“The Luxembourgers in America,” The Library of Congress, European Reading Room (http://www.loc.gov/rr/european/imlu/luxem.hmtl: 17 April 2011).

"Getting Started,” The Luxembourg American Cultural Society (http://www.luxamculturalsociety.org/links.html#geneology_research: accessed 20 April 2011).

“Luxembourg Settlements,” Institut Grand-Ducal, Section de linguistique, d'ethnologie et d'onomastique (http://www.institutgrandducal.lu/Joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=128&Itemid=239: accessed 20 April 2011).

“19th Century,” Institut Grand-Ducal, Section de linguistique, d'ethnologie et d'onomastique (http://www.institutgrandducal.lu/Joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=128&Itemid=239: accessed 20 April 2011).

Dick Witry, “Luxembourg Brotherhood of America,” Luxembourg Brotherhood of America (http://www.luxam.info/LBA.html: accessed 20 April 2011). “The Luxembourgers in America.”

“Links,” The Luxembourg American Cultural Society (http://www.luxamculturalsociety.org/links.html#geneology_research: accessed 20 April 2011).

Information and Press Service of the Luxembourg Government, ed. “About….History of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg,” Government of Luxembourg, Informations et actualités du gouvernement luxembourgeois (http://www.gouvernement.lu: accessed 17 April 2011).

George McDonald, Frommer’s Belgium, Holland & Luxembourg, 10th Edition (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2007), 506.

(And my apologies for the improper citation... “Luxembourgers in the New World” – Two Volume Set – Nicholas Gonnor translation and index by Jean Ensch, Jean-Claude Muller, Robert E. Owen)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tuesday's Tip: Finding Connecticut Obituaries

I'm a member of many of the Rootsweb listservs for this area and just stumbled across a request for an obituary look up. It made me wonder: how many can be found online? The short answer - not many. You will usually have to hire someone to do a look up for you. But online indexes can help you locate the correct newspaper and make a look up a lot easier. Here's a preview of a few sources:

1) From the JewishGen, a partial index of The Connecticut Jewish Ledger. This index is of scattered years, mostly in the 1970s and 80s: http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/USA/Connecticut.htm

2) The Ridgefield Public Library has created an index for The Ridgefield Press. They also have an organized way to look up obituaries for you: http://acorn-online.net/acornonline/obits/obindex.htm.

And always call the local library. They may be able to tell you where to find an index - before you have to pay for a researcher.

Happy hunting!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Mappy Monday: Connecticut "Unique Place Names"

Connecticut has a tendency to name parts of towns as though they were municipalities. This can cause problems for non-locals who, naturally, believe that they're looking at a reference for an actual town. It's only when they search for a town clerk's office that they discover they have a problem. If you've ever tried to locate the records for an ancestor living in Tylerville (Haddam), you know what I mean.
This morning's search to place a village in the proper town finally motivated me to find a resource that could do it for me. As luck would have it, such a thing does actually exist! The Connecticut State Library has something they call the "Unique Connecticut Place Names" list. It can be found at http://www.cslib.org/placenames.htm. This list, which can be sorted alphabetically by either village name or town name, lists the village name followed by the town. It's a huge time saver.
I'm still searching for a version of this list that links to map images...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Connecticut's Civil War: Tracing Your Civil War Ancestors

I hunted down Bertram Hawthorne Groene's Tracing Your Civil War Ancestors in hopes of finding a good Civil War genealogy textbook. Unfortunately, the book is very dated, despite having been reissued in 1995. Of the eight chapters of Groene's work, all but "Acquiring and Identifying Civil War Equipment" should be of use to Civil genealogist. Most have to be approached with great caution now.
In the section on the National Archives, I would recommend only the first page. That page provides an outline of the records available onsite. The remainder of the section describes, in great detail, the use of NATF Form 80. The genealogist attempting to use Form 80 would find themselves lost. It is no longer used by the Archives.
The section on the state archives is, sadly, completely unusable to the genealogist. It recommends that one write a letter to the state archives, requesting all information that they may have on a specific soldier. While most archives would respond to such a letter, the results may be lacking. One needs to know what records exist to be sure that they have all been consulted.
Of great use to the genealogist is the section on the Official Records. Made up of various publications of the Army and the Navy, these publications are usually forgotten by genealogists. They're well worth your time - as I hope you'll discover for yourself.
The final sections of the book refer to publications on the war. Many may still be of use, if you're willing to wade through the long list offered. I'll admit I skimmed this section.
While I will not be using this work as a textbook, I would recommend it to a newbie. It's worth a look.

New Year's Resolutions?

I had a bit of fun this afternoon reading the Geneabloggers feed on New Year's resolutions. Some of the resolutions were ones that many of us share, such as the desire to get published, or to join a new society. Others were a little more personal. A lot of us seem to want to research in some obscure location. We definitely have family in some strange locations!
It started me thinking about my own research and what my goals would be. In terms of Connecticut research, it turns out I'm actually headed in the right direction. I'm still exploring lots of different avenues. I tend to jump on to whatever topic interests me. And my distraction has turned out to be a good thing. I've learned a lot about my own family and about Connecticut: I've discovered the mysterious ancestor who captained a ship on the Connecticut River, found a lot of new lines, and learned about periods of history I knew nothing about. I'd never heard of Chatham until about six months ago. Where would I go from here if I had time? Probably to track down a few of those female lines that no one had bothered to trace.
What about you? What are your genealogy resolutions? I'd love to hear.