Thursday, May 31, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Thompson CT

   As sorry as I am to say this, I'm honestly not sure that I've ever been to Thompson. My roots are in the Connecticut River Valley. You tend to travel up the Valley to go north and along the shore to go east or west. I've been to that corner of the state as a tourist, but not nearly as often as I'd like. Of course, this makes today's post that much more fun.
   Marian Pierre-Louis provides some nice cemetery photos on her blog The Symbolic Past. Posted in the summer of 2010, they depict tombstones of some of the town's 18th century residents. The gravestones of Sarah Jacobs and Hall Mason are examples of that era's ornate tombstone art.
  For those more interested in buildings, consider looking at the websites for several of the town's tourist attractions. The Fort Hill Farms complex dates to 1889, and the website boasts photos from the early 1900s. The National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form provides a detailed history of the Thompson Hill area. While I'd love photos or detailed maps, this is a great starting point. And if you know the area, this is gold! If you're more interested in the North Grosvendordale Historic Mill District, a public Flickr stream provides some lovely images.
   Happy searching!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Workday Wednesday: Thompson CT

  19th century local histories are usually poorly cited but highly informative sources of information on village life and residents' occupations. Those on Thompson, Connecticut are no exception. Thanks to modern technology - and the patience of a few genealogists - more than a few have found their way online. The website offers a transcription of the history of Thompson Hill included in Richard M. Bayles's History of Windham County, Connecticut.  That small history details the village's evolution over the early 19th century. Another history of Windham County allows you to trace the careers of local individuals. Check it out on Google Books. Do some digging. You'll turn up some nice surprises.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesday's Tip: What are your favorite Connecticut research tips?

   I'm turning today's post over to you all. What are your favorite tips for researching in Connecticut?

I'll give you one or two to get started:
1) Check out the Connecticut State Library website. I couldn't survive without the unique place names list.
2) Public libraries are the best! Many know more about the town than you'd ever imagine.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Upcoming Genealogy Event

Free Walking Tour of Manchester’s East Cemetery on Monday, June 4, 2012
A walking tour of the elegant and historic East Cemetery will take place June 4 at 5:30 p.m. Join Ruth Shapleigh-Brown, Executive Director of the Connecticut Gravestone Network, and Susan Barlow, of the Manchester Historical Society, for this one-hour walk with commentary about the gravestones. Come out for an intriguing look at the past and present, with an emphasis on the symbolism used in old gravestones.
The tour will take place rain or shine. Participants should meet near the cemetery office, just off Harrison Street, down the hill from East Center Street. More information at<>

Mappy Monday: Thompson, CT Maps

   Maps of Thompson Connecticut ended up being quite easy to find. The town's website links to a searchable map of the community. The website also includes extensive trail maps for the area, making for a fun way to remotely visit the town. And if you want historic maps, you can turn to some of the Connecticut map sites I've already mentioned.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Church Record Sunday: Thompson Congregational Church

   When I first read the history of Thompson, Connecticut, I expected to find a historic church in every village. After all, that was what happened in East Haddam, where I've done most of my recent work. Ironically, that doesn't seem to be the case in Thompson. The Thompson Congregational Church was founded in 1730.  The current building dates from the mid-1800s, although it has undergone restoration to change with the times and to survive the 1938 hurricane.
   Unlike most churches in the state, the Thompson Congregational Church appears to have kept hold of its own records. The website  states that the Connecticut State Library has a transcript of some baptisms (1730-1795). There should be a microfilm copy of the records, accessible through the Family History Library. Otherwise, the records seem to still be at the church. Their contact information is on their website:

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Society Saturday: Thompson Historical Society

   I decided it was time to  push my comfort zone a little... So we're off to the other side of the state. (Please be forewarned: I don't research in this area, and this is a learning experience for me too!) Thompson is located on the Rhode Island border, just north of Killingly and Putnam. According to the town's website, it is divided into ten small villages. Each has its own character and center. Wikipedia indicates that the total population is under 10,000.
   The Thompson Historical Society was established in 1968. The Society's goal was to preserve the history of the town through the preservation of artifacts and buildings. Although the Society has expanded over time, its mission has remained the same. Today it leases two buildings and runs one as a museum.
  Although the Society's website states that genealogy requests are to be directed to the Killingly Historical Society, The Thompson Historical Society still has plenty of resources for the average genealogist. First and foremost, they provide a contact person for local history questions. Called their "Oracle," he promises to do his best to research all questions.Their museum shop includes three histories of the area. They've even digitized a small portion of their collection and provided an online exhibit on a local Civil War soldier. They may not provide traditionally genealogy resources, but the Thompson Historical Society will help you provide context.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Follow Friday: Judy and Conrad Productions, Middlefield CT genealogy website

   It's rare to find a family genealogy website that has a great deal of historic material. Too many of these websites were produced through an old option, which allowed you to transfer your family tree to a website. Many of those websites were simply pedigree charts. Many lacked citations, and almost all lacked photos or other documents.
   Judy and Conrad Productions was a nice surprise. While the website shares some of the characteristics of those websites such as low graphics, it has a ton of historic material. Most of the website is devoted the couple's individual family trees. However, one section covers Middlefield. At this point, the pages are largely undeveloped. Yet, the "Works in Progress" page has fantastic historic material. The couple has digitized a local oral history, posted an incomplete historic study of town held locally, and included photos of local elementary school classes. Although it looks like the website hasn't been touched in some time, I'm holding out hope that it will be completed. For a small town, this is a treasure trove.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Lyman Orchards, Middlefield

   Lyman Orchards has been a central part of life in Middlefield for centuries. According the company website, the land was first purchased by the family in 1741. 140 years later, they had expanded to 1,100 acres. The family "farm" has been home to a variety of industries over the years. They grew peaches, hayed, raised cattle, manufactured gun sights and more. In 1918, they planted their first apple trees. Since then, they've grown significantly. They could now be considered more of a business operation than a family farm.
   Today, Lyman Orchards (or "Lymans'") is known locally for apples and for the "Pick Your Own" operation. They grew apples, peaches, blueberries and more. It's a fun place to bring kids and attracts a lot of visitors on weekends. For Middlefield residents, they offer something else. Many locals work there during their summer vacations. If your family has been in Middlefield long enough, chances are high that you have some tie to Lyman Orchards.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: the Nettleton family plot, Durham Center Cemetery, Durham, CT

 Two Nettleton couples are buried together in Durham Cemetery. Henry and Cornelia (Camp) Nettleton and Henry and Rosetta (Miller) Nettleton. Presumably, Henry and Cornelia were the parents of Henry. Henry and Cornelia were farmers. According to the 1850 census, they lived in Durham and had four children: Rosetta was 10, Frances was 6, Henry was 3, and Sabina was 1. From the indications of the census, Henry and Rosetta were also  a farming couple. They were apparently childless, lived in Durham most of their lives, and eventually, retired to Middletown.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mappy Monday: University of Alabama Historic Connecticut Maps

  I was hoping to turn up a historic map of Middlefield online, but thus far I'm empty handed. One major lesson learned: maps of Connecticut's small agricultural communities can be hard to find. This is especially true when, as in Middlefield, they don't have a large town center.
  On the upside, I managed to turn up another great historic map site. Run by the University of Alabama, "Historic Maps of Connecticut" offers images of Connecticut maps. The oldest dates from 1799; the most recent dates from 1930. Maps run every 10 to 15 years in between. Most maps cover the state, but a few are of single towns. One example covers the town of Sherman. Dating from an 1868 atlas, the image is fully interactive. You can zoom, pan and more. As always, I'm impressed.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Church Record Sunday: St. Colman Church, Middlefield

  The history of Roman Catholics in Middlefield, Connecticut is confusing even to a local. The first independent parish in Middlefield was established in the 1960s. At first glance, it would seem that Catholics had just arrived in the area. The reality is different.
   According to a Hartford Courant article, early Catholics attended St. John's Church in Middletown. Established in the 1840s, St. John's history indicates that it was at first the only church in the area. As the Catholic population grew, the Hartford Courant article explains that new churches were established. In 1890, a Catholic church opened in Middlefield. St. Colman's was first a mission church of St. John. The history of  St. Francis Church in Middletown indicates that, after 1904, it became a mission of St. Francis.
   According to a Hartford Courant article of the period, a new church was dedicated in September of 1962. At that time, St. Colman's was an independent church.
    So what does it mean if you have Catholic ancestors in Middlefield? Before 1890, you're looking for records in Middletown at St. John's. After 1890, they should be at St. Colman's but may be held by the parent church. Middlefield has town, not religious, cemeteries. To reach the church office, call 860-349-3868.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Society Saturday: Middlefield (Connecticut) Historical Society

    Middlefield Historical Society is a bit of a hidden gem. Almost everyone who studies the county knows of the Middlesex County Historical Society, which - although based in Middletown - covers the entire county. Few have heard of Middlefield's separate institution. They've missed out.
    Based in the Middlefield Community Center, the Society's museum occupies one crowded room. That room is jammed with everything from historic quilts to cemetery indexes. My last visit was to explore the extensive records taken during a survey and subsequent restoration of Middlefield's Old North Burying Ground. The inscription records are priceless. The stones are very worn, and many inscriptions are now unreadable. You'll need a member familiar with the collection to guide you, but I suspect you may find more about your family's past than you ever dreamed possible.
   To access the museum, call (860) 349-0665. Be patient. Members are busy, and it may take you awhile to find someone who can let you in. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Follow Friday: New Hartford Historical Society blog - and my plans for future Friday posts to feature Connecticut blogs

   I've been gradually leaning this way for a while, but it's time to make it official. From now on, my "Follow Friday" posts will feature new-to-me Connecticut blogs. I promise I'll include more than my own research. I've subscribed to many of these blogs and read them on a regular basis. Others I will end up looking at only once, often because I don't research in that area. My rule of thumb is going to be this - if it looks like it might help a genealogist, I'll include it.
   Today's feature falls in the "look at once" category for me. New Hartford, Connecticut is in the northern part of the state near Avon. I research more in the center of the state. However, this blog might turn out to be useful for a few of you!
    The New Hartford Historical Society started a blog in January of this year. New posts have been added about once a week since. Posts cover different aspects of New Hartford's history, such as the walls alongside Route 44 or the naming of a local swamp. Each gives a detailed (though sadly, uncited) history of the location. If you or your ancestors are from the town, this is a fabulous way to learn more about its past.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Durham CT photos

  I'm still a bit reeling from yesterday's trip to East Haddam. My search for the Graves family turned up completely empty handed. It's time to look for back up options... maybe Colchester or the State Library. In the meantime, it's back to Durham.
    There isn't one "perfect" source for Durham photos online, but there are few websites that do a very good job. Historic Buildings of Connecticut offers an overview of Durham's historic homes. As always, Ebay has some great postcards. And if you have patience, you can find the National Register of Historic Places application - it's buried on the Durham Public Library's original website (which was replaced in April). Hopefully it will be easy to find again soon.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Workday Wednesday: Durham Connecticut more than agricultural...

  While Durham's image is that of an agricultural town, the story is a little more complicated. The town is part agricultural: it is home to the state's largest agricultural fair, and once hosted dozens of family farms. But that's never been all of life in Durham. By the turn of the 20th century, the town was home to two large manufacturing firms. Only one of the two is still extent - the Durham Manufacturing Company. There were also numerous small shops, supporting the agricultural community by offering goods. And finally, Durham had early commuters. Neighboring Middletown supported all of the industries of a small city, including jewelry stores, factories and more. Never take a town at first glance!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: Charles Coe, Durham Cemetery, Durham... and a mystery...

  This one's a bit of a mystery for me, so I'm asking for your help. I can't read the death date, and without that I can't get any further. Charles Coe is a very common name in Middlefield and Durham! I suspect early 19th century...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mappy Monday: Durham, Connecticut Historic District

   Unlike many of the surrounding communities, Durham made a concerted effort to protect its oldest homes by forming a historic district. Durham's Historic District can be explored through a variety of "maps." The first is the traditional map, which shows the Historic District outlined against the rest of town. A second is the historic district booklet, including the documentation used to form the district.Finally, there's a walking tour of the district. It's currently MIA from the town's website, but hopefully it will be back soon. Explore the district. It's a great introduction to Durham's past.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Church Record Sunday: Durham, CT churches

   After a few weeks of dragging you through my personal research, I thought it might be nice to feature another town - one that I already mentioned. I do a lot of research in Durham. Founded as the northern part of Guilford, Durham was historically an agricultural community. Over the last thirty years, it has gradually become a suburban bedroom community, but there are still a few active farms. The roots of the town stretch back centuries.
   For a small town, Durham's church history is relatively complicated. There are three church communities in town - but at one point, there was a fourth church. The town's Roman Catholic church is called the Church of Notre Dame. Founded in the 1950s, it was originally a mission church of St. Francis in Middletown. It has recently been "yoked" with St. Colman's in Middlefield. The Church of the Epiphany, the town's episcopal church, was established in 1802. The church building dates from the 1860s. The town's third church, United Churches of Durham, is the product of a merger between two older churches. According to Historic Buildings of Connecticut, the North Congregational Church originally occupied the current building, while the Methodist Church occupied the former grange. The site further indicates that merged in 1941.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Society Saturday: Durham Historical Society Reopens Today

  Durham Historical Society is having a grand reopening from 9 to 2 today. The Society has been renovating their building over the course of that last few years and will unveil that renovation today. More information is available on the local  site.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Follow Friday: Historically Speaking

   Time to continue our journey through Connecticut's local  history blogs. Today brings us back to Fairfield County - Greenwich to be specific. The Greenwich Public Library runs Historically Speaking. While much of the blog is announcements of local history events, there are some wonderful profiles of Greenwich natives, local buildings and more. If your family came from Greenwich, this is a must-visit.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Lyme photos

If you've been reading for long enough, you've probably figured out that I love historic photos. Turns out there's a great collection for Lyme buried in the Town of Lyme's website. Photos seem to date from the late 19th century through the mid-20th century. I especially loved the photo of Hamburg Cove. My ancestor sailed out of the Cove in the late 19th century.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: East Haddam

The Goodspeed Opera House, East Haddam Village, overlooking the Connecticut River.

East Haddam Village (looking away from the Connecticut)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: Charles Tucker, Durham Cemetery, Durham

  Charles Tucker's gravestone caught my eye because of how the family plot is arranged. Charles was married twice. Gravestones for his wives are placed side by side, while a marker for Charles ends the plot. I would have expected Charles to occupy the center plot. It was a little odd.
   I've already written about Sarah Tucker, the first wife. That post covers much of Charles's early life. It doesn't, however, cover the end. He did marry an Eliza. From her tombstone, I would guess her maiden name to be Ross. She outlived Charles, but my photo is so unclear, I can't tell howlong.
  I can't locate Charles on the 1900 census. I have to wonder what happened to his family.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mappy Monday: Lyme's and Old Lyme's "previous towns"

   The latest twist in my DAR work has me looking for the records of the Lyme Congregational Church. I did locate them - and in the process, found one of the best explanations of Lyme's history I've ever seen.   
   Connecticut towns were usually formed from other towns. To locate your ancestor's records at any point in time, you'll need to know the "current" and contemporary name of the town. If you've ever tried to trace a record for an ancestor who lived in Chatham, you'll know what I mean. It started out as East Middletown, became Chatham, and now, may be Portland or East Hampton.
   Lyme's history is equally complicated. Check out this page from the Old Lyme Public Library. While it's not a map, it does just as good a job!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Church Record Sunday: Lyme churches

  I've now identified the "gaps" in my lineage for my DAR application. While two major gaps are in East Haddam, most are in Lyme. The next step for me, as always, is to make sure that I'm looking for early records at the right church. I've missed churches in the past because the actual church no longer exists - and thus, was missing from most histories of the town.
   For Lyme, finding the right church has involved retracing the history of the town. Old Lyme (South Lyme) was initially part of Lyme, as was East Lyme. The area's oldest church appears to be the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme. According to the East Lyme Historical Society, it was established in 1665. Next,  according to the Society, was the First Congregational Church of East Lyme in 1718, on the eastern side of Lyme. While I'm unsure of the date, I also should be looking at the records of the First Congregational Church of Lyme. Given my family's history,I probably should be looking at all three churches.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Society Saturday: Get Lost in Heritage Program

  I saw this in The Hartford Courant recently and thought a few of you might be interested. Six local historical societies have banded together to create a sort of "history trail." You can collect a bracelet at each stop and, eventually, be entered to win an overnight trip. This might be my excuse to hit the few museums on the list I haven't visited yet! Check out a local article for more information.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Follow Friday: History's Newsstand Blog

I'm still putting together my DAR supplement, and one of the things I rely upon for sources is newspapers. That's why History's Newsstand Blog was such a fun find for me. Run by newspaper dealer Timothy Hughes, the blog features snippets from different historic newspapers. You can use key words to view posts by state, time period and topic. Limiting the search to material on Connecticut pulls up some features run in The Connecticut Courant in the 1790s (yes, The Hartford Courant does go back that far!). One is a joking piece about selling the rebellious country. What a great way to learn about the past!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Haddam Historical Society

  Thanks to you all for putting up with my disorganized posts. It's been one of those weeks!
  Since I've talked so much about Haddam and East Haddam lately, I thought I'd share a great resource for "visiting" Haddam. The Haddam Historical Society has placed descriptions of Haddam's historic sites on their website.  Many listings include photos and even links to other websites.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: Make It Easier for the Next Generations of Genealogists

   I spent part of this weekend piecing together the first few generations of a Revolutionary War line, document by document. It was a long process. It's made me especially glad for an ancestor's wisdom. She left me with a lot less work. I thought I'd use today's post to share her wisdom.

1.Be responsible for documenting your own life. Keep a diary or some sort of record. Write a memoir. Label your photos. Remember those ancestors you wish you knew more about? Don't become one!

2. Teach your family their past through your stories.  For every dozen (or in my case, 60-80) that doesn't listen, one will. I fell in love with the stories. Who doesn't want to create another genealogist?

3.  Share your "paper" knowledge. Photocopy your documents and give them to anyone who might keep them. I've gotten most of my family memoirs from distant relatives who had no interest in genealogy... and I have no clue where the "originals" are.

4.  Make sure someone outside your family protects your work. Despite my ancestor's best efforts, I'm sure some of her documents are missing from the family. But I know where to look for more. She donated some material to the State Library and copied other when she joined the DAR. She made sure that her family would be remembered even if her immediate descendents weren't interested. Donate - within reason - photocopies.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: Shelden and Helen Harvey, Durham Center Cemetery, Durham

   Back to Durham Cemetery! Shelden and Helen (Coffer or Corker) Harvey were born in the 1870s and died in the early 1950s. The 1910 census lists Shelden's parents as Chauncey and Eveline Harvey. According to the 1930 census, the Harveys had two children: Charles and Marion. Marion never married and is also buried in Durham Cemetery. The 1920 census indicates that Shelden farmed during most of his life. His work supported his family and his mother-in-law, Jennie.