Sunday, September 30, 2012

Church Record Sunday: First Congregational Church Guilford

   I know New England churches had a long history, but this one's older than most. According to its website, the First Congregational Church  of Guilford was founded in 1643. Like many Congregational churches, it went through various religious changes. Today, it is part of the United Churches of Christ. Of course the building isn't quite that old. According to a history of the church, the current church dates to 1830  It has features typical of the period, although some are 1930s era replacements. According to that history, the steeple was lost in the 1938 hurricane. This mix of architectural and social history created a legacy that influenced all the surrounding towns.
   Why? Because many were formed from Guilford. That means your  colonial and early American ancestors may actually have a church record in Guilford. To access them, you'll probably want to start with the Connecticut State Library's slip index or a microfilm from the Family History Library. But read carefully. Many towns split off in the 1700s. You can read each church's records to find the foundation date or work in the opposite direction and look for the splits.
Happy research!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Society Saturday: Great Connecticut Historical Societies and Libraries

    A recent discussion on a genealogy listserv set me to thinking... What are your favorite features of local libraries and historical societies? What societies do something exceptionally well? I wanted to share a few of my favorites.
   1. Middlesex County Historical Society: The Historical Society holds the collections of genealogist Frank Farnsworth Starr. His extensive notes provide hints into the genealogy of Middletown families.
   2. East Haddam Historical Society: With hard working volunteers, the Historical Society has built a great collection of East Haddam material from Moodus (yes, that's part of East Haddam) to Millington. Most of it is not available anywhere else.
   3. Durham Historical Society : How can I praise the collections of a historical society when I've never used their written collections? Because their oral history knowledge is fantastic. Have a question about Durham? The board can probably answer it - or tell you who in town can.

What historical societies or libraries would you recommend? Share your favorites.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Follow Friday: Norwich Nuggets

  From Norwich? Yes, there is a blog for you. The Norwich Bulletin plays host to Norwich Nuggets. Written by Beryl Fishbone, a local historian, the blog covers the events of the Leffingwell House Museum and the history of Norwich. Recent posts focused more on the museum than anything else. However, dig a little deeper, and you'll find some interesting material. Fishbone has published cousin connections, history of the local tavern and more. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Connecticut Trolley Museum

   This is another one on my "I really should have been to by now..." list. Located in East Windsor, The Connecticut Trolley Museum presents trolley cars from the 1890s through the 1950s (when buses took over...). According to the website, it was founded in 1940 as a way to preserve a fast disappearing part of American life. In house exhibits trace the full history of the trolley, while outside, visitors can take a street car ride. It looks like fun, but what caught my eye even more was the blog.
  If you're interested in trolleys, streetcars, and more, check out their blog. Most of the blog covers museum events, but there are some great histories and photos. Happy reading!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Workday Wednesday: Local Farms in Salem

   As you've probably noticed before, I love celebrating the history of the family farm. Salem has a long history of farming, and a few are still owned by original families. Check out these local farms with great history.
  Salem Herbfarm: Originally owned by the present owner's grandparents, Salem Herbfarm today functions as a nursery. The Herbfarm considers its past part of the charm. It's closed for the season, but check out their website.
   Salem Valley Farms: I wasn't able to find out much about its history, but I know the shop has been around for awhile. It has lost its herd of cows in the last few years but still makes its own ice cream. Check out their website for flavors! It's not every ice cream shop that gets reviewed by the New York Times.
   Treasure Hill Farm: Today, the farm is a boarding facility, but the site dates back to the 18th century. Read about its history on the website.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: How do I locate a gravesite in Connecticut?

  Every genealogists has a great story of how finding a gravestone "solved" a brick wall. So how do you find that gravestone in Connecticut?
   1. If your ancestor died after 1930, your best bet is probably the website Find A Grave. However, there are other options. Some towns have public cemeteries. A web search should help provide some hints.
   2. For a burial prior to 1930, you have the option of the Hale Collection. Long story short, it is a long list of gravestone inscriptions. It's available several different ways, including microfilm and website.

If you're looking for an older stone and know the town, try the Hale Collection. Such stones are sometimes missing from Find A Grave. However, if you don't know the town, start with Find A Grave. The Hale Collection lacks a central index. Good luck!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mappy Monday: Salem Plantation

   This was my first time looking for information on Salem Plantation. Haven't heard of Salem plantation? You're not alone. I had only heard rumors of slaveholding in Salem, Connecticut. Maps seemed a good way to start, since they should show me the layout of the farms. Of course, as it turns, the maps don't exist. The plantation had almost disappeared by the early 19th century.
   However, I found something a little better. In 2002, the Hartford Courant ran a complete description of  Salem plantation. It's not a map, but it is a start.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Church Record Sunday: Congregational Church of Salem

  Sometimes the churches predate the formation of the town... And that's true of Salem, according to the church's website.
   While the town of Salem was founded in 1819, the Ecclesiastical Society of New Salem was actually founded in 1725. The Society included residents of Lyme and Colchester. The current church appears to date by 1838. Since 1890, the church has existed independently.
   I'm unclear as to whether the church records are included in the State Library's slip index. You can always contact the church for more information.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Society Saturday: Salem Historical Society

  I've always loved traveling through Salem - and no, I'm not lost, there is a Salem, Connecticut. Of course, that may have something to do with ice cream. (For non-locals, Salem Valley Farms makes very good ice cream!) However, Salem has a much more complicated history, which you can read about on the town's website.
    In the meantime, if you have ancestors from Salem, you have options. The Salem Historical Society is only open a few weekends a year at their house museum in the center of Salem Village. However, a phone call never hurts. Contact information can be found here

Friday, September 21, 2012

Follow Friday: Simply Ledyard CT

  Ledyard... Where's Ledyard? (For those of you who don't know, it's due north of Groton, in New London County.) Run by a Ledyard real estate agent, Simply Ledyard CT  provides an overview of life in Ledyard. As a genealogist, you may not be interested in all of the site's content - which include the author's political views and real estate listings- but there are some great things here for you to look at. Check out "Photo Friday" for images of life in town. "Ledyard History" includes some snapshots of the town's past, including its connection to submarines. For a mid-sized Connecticut town, Ledyard is getting some wonderful coverage.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Those Places Thursday: The Institute Library, New Haven

  There's one aspect of blogging I'm starting to fall in love with - finding out new things about Connecticut. I didn't know Connecticut has (or ever had) a subscription library. I've used and loved the collections at Boston's Athenaeum, and it turns out New Haven has an equivalent.
   According to the library's website, The Institute Library was founded in 1826 as a mutual education society for New Haven's apprentices. Formally chartered in 1841, it was a popular literary site in New Haven through the late 19th century. The popularity of the Institute Library declined following the foundation of a free library in the late 1800s, but the Library itself has held on.
   If you don't live in New Haven, why should you care? Because, as is featured on the Institute Library's blog, the library has an extensive local history. Check out the blog for more details.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wedding Wednesday: How accurate is the Barbour Collection?

     A recent genealogy group question set me to wondering... How accurate is the Barbour Collection, really? There's no secret it's incomplete - seriously incomplete. But, thus far, what I've found has corresponded perfectly with the actual records. (Disclosure: I try to double check.) What has your experience been?
   Why am I wondering? Because I'm in the process of completing a genealogy project that requires copies of my records. Either I submit the certified copies - at $20 a record; head to the State Library; or use the Barbour. Hmm...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tech Tuesday: Watertown & Oakville Connecticut Website

  It's basic programming and outdated,  but Watertown & Oakville Connecticut actually provides good genealogical information. Looking for a church record from the 1870s, a burial listing, or an old map? This might be the place. Some links are faulty, but most are working and useful.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Motivation Monday: Happy Constitution Day!

  September 17th is the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. Are you a descendent of a Constitution signer? Even if you're not, you still have a holiday to celebrate! Constitution Day is a great way to review and renew your love for the Constitution. Here are a few ways to celebrate:
1. Reread the Constitution on the National Archives website.
2. Check out the links on the Nevada Department of Education website.
3. Learn about your state's signers. Read about them on the National Constitution Center website.

Happy Constitution Day!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Church Record Sunday: Are your ancestors memorialized in church windows?

   I was in a local church today and noticed a kind of "church record" I hadn't thought much about before. Each stained glass window had been given in memory of a specific person or people These often contain birth and death dates. A few even mentioned maiden names. If you know where your ancestors attended religious services - and if they had some money - the church windows may provide some hint to their past.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Surname Saturday: Is this my Mary Ransom?

I printed out a Find A Grave listing recently, for a woman named Mary Ransom (wife of Joseph) who died in 1791 and was buried in Tartia Cemetery, East Hampton. I have a Mary Ransom on my tree. My Mary was the wife of Benjamin Graves of East Haddam. That Mary would have been listed as the wife of Benjamin Graves on her tombstone, so the two women are not the same. Might her mother have been also named Mary? It's possible.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Follow Friday: Once Upon a Time in New Haven

   Although she originally hails from England, New Haven genealogist Claire Ammon has developed a good grasp of what life was once like in New Haven. I stumbled across her article on Arthur Parmalee while looking for websites on Connecticut during World War I (disclaimer: I already know Claire through local genealogy activities.) The short article traces Arthur's early life and premature death from wounds received in the trenches near Verdun. More recently, she has blogged about an early New Haven sampler and life in Connecticut during the War of 1812. Claire's posts are quite detailed and well cited, covering the story with great thoroughness. Read more of her blog here.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thrifty Thursday: know your Connecticut vital record policies...

   Connecticut vital record can get expensive. Certified vital records are $20 a copy. If you don't know where the event took place, you will have order a certified copy from the Connecticut State Vital Records Office (this only works for an event after 1897). If you do, you might be able to save yourself some money. Here are some things to consider.
  1) Do you really need a copy of the record? 
    I know, I know. I'm committing the ultimate genealogy sin here. But consider looking at a transcription, if you don't need the original record to prove your case. offers indexes and transcriptions of Connecticut vital records. They're not perfect - vital record transcriptions often miss a few details available on the actual document - but they can help you fill in some blanks. Consider looking at the death index online, and then finding an obituary and gravestone image to help you build your case.
  2)Is it an older record? The Family History Library microfilmed many records in the 1980s. Make sure you check the catalog. You can order microfilm online and have it shipped to your local Family History Center. If you need to do a lot of work in one town, this is the most economical option.

Good luck!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Workday Wednesday: Zagray Farm Museum

  Connecticut's farming history has slowly given way to suburbs as family farming has been replaced by commercial enterprises, and development prices outpaced farm land prices. Whatever your feelings on the issue, you have to love seeing a site where the farming life is still active. The Zagray Farm Museum in Colchester and Hebron appears to be just that.
   I stumbled across the website for the farm while researching Colchester, a place I admittedly haven't visited often. Founded in 2001, the farm is run by the Quinebaug Valley Engineers Association. The Association is committed to collecting , restoring and promoting antique farm equipment. While it is unclear whether or not the Museum is available for regular visits, there is a fall show scheduled for October 6 and 7th. If anyone has visited the farm, I'd be curious to hear more about it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tech Tuesday: One More Free Genealogy Site Review...

  I'm back to continuing the reviews of the free Connecticut genealogy sites. They're kind of fun, and I have to admit, I'm finding some new resources.
  1) The Olive Tree Genealogy Site: While I have gotten some great resources from this site, I wasn't entirely thrilled with the Connecticut offerings.  It lists "ship passenger lists," "naturalization records," "coffin plates," and "Connecticut ancestor photo albums." The "ship passenger lists" leads to somewhat generic information - essentially that you should be looking in New York and Boston. "Naturalization records" are essentially a dead-end. You are led to a page with example images of the records and told to click on county names to view the records. None of the county links are live. (By the way, Connecticut naturalization records are not available online.) I was a little too uncomfortable to check out the coffin plates, but the Connecticut ancestor photo albums look promising. If you have Civil War ancestors, the section appears to be mostly about CDVs.
   Lesson learned - don't expect everything to be at your fingertips for free. But sometimes you might find some good resources.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Military Monday: Connecticut and the War of 1812

  Do you know anything about the War of 1812? If so, you're a step ahead of most Americans. I know almost nothing, and I have an ancestor who fought in the war... (my sincere apologies to a Connecticut private who deserves better.) Of course, there's a reason why the War of 1812 is often called America's forgotten war.
  The New London Historical Society is working hard to change that. This summer, they opened an exhibit on the war and helped publish a book outlining the war. They've now gone one step further. Connecticut and the War of 1812 launched in early August.
   Like the book, the website tries to put Connecticut's experience of the war into a greater context. Some topics are the same, like the supposed role of Mrs. Stewart. Other aspects, such as the timeline, are aimed at those with less interest. And a few - including biographical profiles - are perfect for the genealogists among us. Have an ancestor who was a major figure during the war? You'll be treated to a nice overview of his or her life.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Church Record Sunday: Colchester Federated Church, Colchester, CT

  It's time to return to our tour of Eastern Connecticut... The town's website provides a good history for us to explore. According to the town website, Colchester, Connecticut was founded in 1698. Originally a farming community, it - like many Connecticut towns - became industrial in the 19th century. By the 20th century, it had once again changed roles. Since the 1930s, it has become part of the shoreline tourist culture and a bedroom community for the area cities.
   According to the church website, the Colchester Federated Church was founded in 1703 as a Congregational church. The current and fourth church dates to the 1840s. The Congregational church combined with the area's Baptist and Methodist communities in 1949, becoming a Federated Church. The cemetery records are available on Find A Grave, while the church records through 1937 are part of the State Library slip index.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Surname Saturday: Sally Pratt (Williams) Ely

  I just learned  - once again - the value of using Google as part of my research. I always do a general search on any person I'm researching. You'll never know what you'll turn up... This time was no exception.
  I've been able to piece together basic information on one of my ancestors. Per entries on Find A Grave, Sally Pratt Williams was born in Connecticut on 23 October 1812 and died on 24 May 1901.The photo on the listing also shows the grave of her husband, John G. Ely. According to the census, Sally lived in Lyme her entire life. But I never knew where she was from.
  A Google search provided some help. According to several entries, Sally was born in Essex to Roderick and Philenda Williams. It's not proof, but it is a start.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Follow Friday: Hagaman Memorial Library Archival Preservation Blog

   Note to all library managers: make sure you make a reference to your town in your blog title! The Hagaman Library blog provides a fantastic overview of life in East Haven, and I wouldn't have found it if not for a recent post on the H-Connecticut listserv.
   A quick overview of the blog will give you a quick overview of life in East Haven. Recent blog posts cover the downtown in the early 1900s; a 1789 land deed; and the restoration of a 1930s newspaper. The blog is big on pictures and thin on writing, but it shows a lot of potential. I'd highly recommend it for future reading.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Planning for Family Papers

   I've heard too many horror stories recently. People didn't plan for their family papers and photos. Descendents have sold them to antique stores or on Ebay. Some disappear forever.
   I've been relatively lucky. Most of my ancestors handed items down to people they knew would care for them. A few were more proactive. One of my ancestors donated her family papers to the Connecticut State Library. Another donated art to a local museum. In doing so, they ensured the items were to be protected. And, as I remember often, they also made sure the items would be available to me when I wanted them - as well as to their other descendants.
   So, while I'm being thankful, I try to remember  to plan for my own collection. What will I do with my papers? Hopefully it won't come up for a long time, but it never hurts to be prepared.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Durham Fair

   Fair season has started, so I thought I'd share a photo from last year's Durham Fair. The 2012 Fair will run from September 27th to the 30th. Read more about the Fair, and its history here. Chances are high that if you have family from Durham in the last century, they've been involved with the Fair.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tech Tuesday: Connecticut Genealogy Blogs page

   How many Connecticut genealogy-related blogs are there? Believe or not, a lot - and most people don't know more than one or two. To make it a bit easier to find new blogs, I've added a new page to the blog. That page will provide links to the blogs I've reviewed on Follow Friday, a bit of information on the blog, and a link to my review. Approach it with some patience, since it's taking me some time to add the links.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Motivation Monday: What would you like to see on the FamilySearch Wiki Connecticut section?

   I recently read an article in the Lebanon Daily News about the new role of the Wiki. The article discussed FamilySearch's desire for collaboration: they are offering researchers the ability to share their knowledge, and small organizations can provide links to their online records and the names of their offline ones. It sounds like a win-win for many small organizations.
   But it left me wondering: what will get done first? I've been working on updating the Luxembourg page as a way to check my skills. I've also added Connecticut pages, little by little. I'd love see what someone else could do. Where would you add your skills?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Church Record Sunday: St. John's Church, Cromwell

   Someone asked me recently about the history of St. John's, the Roman Catholic church in Cromwell. The church was founded in 1882, according to the parish website. An online history indicates that the first mass in town was said in 1877 and subsequent masses were held in public buildings. Before that, Catholics likely attended St. John's, Middletown. Today, the church is staffed by Franciscan friars. In the diocese of Norwich, parish records are held locally. Contact the parish for information.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Sorting Saturday: FamilySearch Wiki Articles on Organizing

    Like every genealogist, I struggle to find an effective sorting system. Mine's a bit more complicated than most as I've inherited years of material from family historians. I have to use basic archival techniques to preserve what I've inherited, let alone what I've added to it. Most people don't need archival boxes and plastic sleeves. But even with all that work, I sometimes can't find what I need.
   That's why I'm always glad when someone points me in the direction of great information on organizing. The FamilySearch Wiki on organizing is one of these sources. Designed for a beginner, it combines information on how to search - research log anyone? - with what to do with documents once you've found them. It also suggests sources for further reading. Some were a bit outdated. For example, the link to now leads to a general page on beginning research. But of course, if you find errors, you can always update the Wiki!