Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Talented Tuesday: James Wadsworth of Durham

    Do you have a "James Wadsworth" in your family tree? If so, chances are high that your family is from the Durham area. There are two well known figures in the Wadsworth family line: James Wadsworth, Sr. was a founder of Durham, while his namesake was a major figure in the American Revolution.
   James Wadsworth lent his name to the area's Daughters of the American Revolution chapter and information on his life can be found on their website. According to the site, Wadsworth served first in Conteninental Congree, then distinguished himself as a soldier, and finally as a judge.  He served honorably in each of these roles.
   For me, the most interesting part of Wadsworth's life comes in his interaction with a man named Jack Arabus. An enslaved man, Arabus was cited in a newspaper article as having served during six years of the American Revolution. The author explains that he was promsied freedom in exchange for his service. It didn't happen. Wadsworth role in the story is described here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Motivation Monday: Organizing Electronic Files

  I've recently been faced with cleaning out my teaching files. What a mess! I have a multitude of handouts, my teaching notes, photos and more. I'm gradually trying to sort through the documents and decide what to keep and what to delete. My hope is that eventually I'll be able to locate what I need quickly.
  Like my paper sorting, this has required me to establish some ground rules.

1) Is it the version I'm currently using? For some strange I kept the original draft of my documents.
2) Have I touched it in a few years? I keep old project files. Some are great options for journal articles. Others really should be deleted. If I haven't touched it, it's time to decide if it's going to be useful.
3) Should it be stored somewhere else? Something are better on a back-up drive.

What are your rules?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Black Sheep Sunday: Connecticut's Underground Railroad

  Today we view them as heroes, but in the 19th century, they were breaking the law.  Connecticut men and women helped escaped slaves move north on what has become known as the Underground Railroad. While many are unknown, some have their lives documented as part of the Freedom Trail. 
    Interested in a family or home documented as being on the Underground Railroad? There are some great sites available. Check out the Connecticut Museum Quest for a visitor's view. An old Hartford Courant article explains how a site was chosen for inclusion on the trail. And Historic Buildings of Connecticut  explains the history of the houses.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Surname Saturday: Joshua R. Warren, Lyme

  Judge Joshua R. Warren was born  to Moses Warren Jr. and Mehitable Raymond in the late 1700s. Joshua's father was  a Revolutionary War veteran, and Sons of the American Revolution applications provide most of the information on Ancestry.com. A few more details of his life are available in a profile of his grandson in an 1898 book. He was a local judge of probate, a state legislator, and a veteran in the War of 1812. Joshua died in 1854 and is buried East Lyme with his wife Harriet.
    As far as I know Joshua had two children: a girl and a boy. Am I missing anyone?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Follow Friday: GenBlog

  Written by Julie Cahill Tarr, GenBlog  covers topics in genealogical research. Posts feature lists of useful articles, resource links, and book reviews. The author is a professional genealogist. Posts reflect her interests. They're worth a read just in case your interests overlap.
   So why am I recommending a general genealogy blog? Because one of her recent posts covered Connecticut links. It's not useful if your family arrived in the 1800s. If they came any time before, take a look. She's covered many sources for colonial records.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Being the Student (even when I'm supposed to be teaching...)

  I get to teach genealogy on a regular basis. While I enjoy sharing the subject, I've started to appreciate something else more: student questions. I don't know everything, and my students' questions never cease t make me aware of that. I get questions about everything from the format of the Hartford Courant databases (yes, it is online) to the contents of the U.K. census. It's hard to admit you don't know everything, but this has become a great learning opportunity. I've delved into subjects I never would have covered.
   My lesson: take the opportunity to teach. Share your genealogy with your family. Write an article. You may find out what you don't know... but you'll learn.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tuesday's Tip: 1939 to 1949 Connecticut death records

  If you've tried to search for death records for the period between 1939 and 1949, you've probably hit a dead end. Why? Records for that period are not available online. You have two options for locating them "off-line." If you know the town where the death took place, you can order the records from the town clerk. If you don't, contact the State Vital Records Office. The state maintains duplicate copies of vital records. It also has an index to records - crucial in locating a record. Good luck!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Military Monday: War of 1812 Records

  How many of us know anything about the War of 1812?  The PBS.org website provides a nice overview as a part of the website accompanying the "War of 1812" film.  I've heard a few versions of the history, including the "Second War of American Independence" and the "forgotten war." Long story short, it was another war with Great Britain, and Connecticut was right in the center.
   What does this mean for your genealogy? Records of the war are helpful in several ways. First and foremost, the history is fascinating. Many Connecticut towns were attacked or burned during the war. Second, even if you don't case about the conflict itself, his pension can provide a stepping stone. His records - including pension files - can take you a generation further back.
  Only a few records can be accessed online. Check out the beginning of a collection on Fold3.  Others can be ordered from the National Archives. Happy research!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Black Sheep Sunday: Old Newgate Prison

   Believe it or not, one of Connecticut's oldest prisons was actually underground. According to a state of Connecticut site, the Old New-Gate prison started life as a copper mine. In the 1770s, it was converted to a prison. Prisoners lived in the mine's old tunnels. Conditions were poor, and the prison was closed in the 1820s.
   There are some great histories of the prison online. The Colebrook Historical Society describes several of the infamous escapes. The town of East Granby keeps an events calendar. If you have an ancestor who "lived" in Old Newgate, it's time to do some research...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sorting Saturday: What books do I keep?

   Every time I review archival and paper storage techniques, I'm left with questions about how to manage family collections. Books are my personal challenge. Most families inherit a mix of books from many eras. Many were popular novels in the era. Some have become classics; others have not.
  As a result, I've tried to develop a system for deciding which books to keep. These are my rules:
    1. Does it directly relate to my family? Personally, I've inherited a genealogy or two and other useful documents.
    2. Is it rare or otherwise unique?
    3.  Am I going to read it?

  What are your rules for deciding what to keep?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Follow Friday: A Preservationist's Technical Notebook

  I skipped right over this blog the first time I saw it, but I'm so glad I decided to take a second look. A Preservationist's Technical Notebook  is part of a website designed around the author's experiences - and business (?) - restoring old homes. Since he's based in Connecticut, his blog posts are hugely relevant to locals.  In one recent entry, he traced the history of the Stone House (Guilford) and the Mansfield House (Middletown).  Other entries describe preservation battles in the area. Definitely worth a read if your family lived in Connecticut for a while.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tuesday's Tip: Starting Research in a New Connecticut town...

   You've probably wondered how I find resources in a new town, when I don't live, work or study in most of Connecticut (I'm Middlesex/New London County focused). Here are a couple of my favorite methods:

  1. Start with Google. Search for the term genealogy + "(insert town name)." You're almost guaranteed to find a few new sites. 
  2. Contact the town's historical society and local library. Most have local collections. Even if they don't, they generally can tell you who to call. 
  3. Connecticut has a few formulaic contacts:
    1. Vital records: town clerk or, in a city, health department.
    2. Land records: town clerk. 
    3. Colonial church records: search for the "First Congregational Church" + town name.
Still stuck? Consider contacting the town historian!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mappy Monday: 18th Century Waterbury, Connecticut

  While I have to admit I find the impetus for this project disturbing, Fortune's Waterbury is worth a read for anyone with ancestors in early Waterbury, Connecticut. The website traces the experience of an enslaved man in early Waterbury. Sections cover religion, slavery, biographies of African-Americans, biographies of slave owners, and maps. The interactive map links points on a static map to images of the original town. Want to know where the old church was? This is a good starting point...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Society Saturday: Killingworth Historical Society

   It's rare you can get a solid introduction to a town's history off a historical society website, but Killingworth Historical Society goes beyond just providing a town history. Founded in 1969, the Killingworth Historical Society's website includes a walking tour, promotions for a recent photography book, photos of recent events and historic buildings... and much more! They also hold regular meetings, provide a venue for historic speakers and do fundraisers. They should be a good source for local questions. And if you're looking for a home for Killingworth related items, they're happy to provide.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Follow Friday: Cathy's Genealogy Blog

   Written by a genealogist specializing in Italian history, Cathy's Genealogy Blog traces the author's personal genealogical experiences. These include her DNA research, her Italian history, and of use to our Connecticut research, her work tracing her mother's early American ancestors. Her blog posts profile a research trip to Connecticut, the history of her family, and visits to cemeteries throughout the area. Even if you're not directly related to her family, you may appreciate her website tracing that trip. Great blog to check out!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Those Places Thursday Waterbury, CT

  Interested in learning the history of Waterbury's landmarks? It turns out that there are a few sites that offer historical walking tours of town. First up, the City of Waterbury's website. While not exactly a walking tour, this list of "Famous Waterbury Landmarks" provides nice details of the history of various sites around town. And there are a few other options. The Waterbury Time Machine carries images of the town. You can also check out the Waterbury Observer's series on brass's role in the town's history. Happy research!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Workday Wednesday: Waterbury Observer and Waterbury Industries

   Finding good online history of a town's industrial past  can be a challenge. The Waterbury Observer has made researching Waterbury's past much easier. Their website makes it possible to search through previous articles on Waterbury's history. Most include photos and a solid base of research. Happy reading!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tuesday's Tip: Are you considering joining a lineage society?

   I've talked to several people lately who had considered joining a lineage society but had given up because it was too hard or they didn't know how to do it. Those who did may have given up too soon.  Most lineage societies will offer some sort of help to someone who has a genuine interest in joining. You will have to do your own work (don't plan on getting your genealogy done for free!), but they may be able to offer your some guidance. Check out the group's website for a section on how to be come a member. You can view the DAR's description here.  Once you've done that, reach out to the local group. Good luck!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Mappy Monday: Connecticut's disputed border

   Did you know that Enfield once belonged to Massachusetts?  I didn't know until I read the Connecticut State Library's history of the "Southwick Jog." Apparently, the town petitioned to secede because of the high colonial taxes. According to the history, Massachusetts tried to get Enfield back - and failed.
   So what does that mean for the genealogist? Probably not much in the day to day. Vital records were kept locally. According to the Connecticut State Library's town and counties list,    the  town was formed in 1683. The clerk would have started keeping records sometime around that point. Deeds should also have been kept locally, no matter the time period.
   Where you may see a difference is in the records kept on the county level. These were only kept in a few sites. Such sites, however, may not be in Connecticut. Court records, military records, and other colonial records may be in Massachusetts. Consider checking with the Massachusetts State Archives for records prior to 1749.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Black Sheep Sunday: Tory's Den, Burlington

   I first visited Tory's Den while on a local trip. At the time, the name seemed a little weird - and admittedly I didn't take it seriously. Would tories (British supporters during the American Revolution) actually have hid out in a cave? The short answer is yes.
  Of course, the story is a little more complicated. You can read the full  back story on Connecticut Museum Quest but according to the article, there is a short version. Farmers in the surrounding reason ran afoul of the local patriots for various reasons, usually for crimes such as refusing to pay a fundraising tax. An angry patriot could mean problems. They hid rather than risking personal harm. Read the full story, and you may discover the true story of why your ancestors were called "tories."
   If nothing else, you may understand why Tory's Den is considered a place to visit by the Courant's reporters...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Society Saturday Colchester Historical Society

  Back to Colchester, CT... (Yes, I'm still using my Google maps.) As I mentioned in a previous post, Colchester was founded in 1698. The Colchester Historical Society lays out a detailed history of the town. As the site indicates, the town began as an agricultural community and remained so through the late 19th century. Like many other "rural" towns, Colchester became a resort community and then a bedroom community. In short, it mirrored life in many other Connecticut towns.
  But every town has things that make it unique, and the Colchester Historical Society is trying hard to protect those features. The Society maintains several museum problems, hosts an annual festival, and has started to sort through an extensive research collection. Check out their Facebook page for more information. Right now, the genealogy options are somewhat limited to visiting the museums, but it shows lots of potential!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Follow Friday: Old Hartford

  Old Hartford may not be a website, but it's still worth a "Follow Friday." An open group on Facebook, Old Hartford  is a space for anyone interested in the history of Hartford. I've only been on the group for a few weeks, but I've already been treated to images and movies of Hartford in the past, questions about history and more. Thanks for a wonderful group!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Guilford, CT

   I love tour videos for one reason only: if you can't visit a place that your ancestors lived, these videos can give you a chance to virtually "see it." Guilford has produced one such video. While it's more relocation promo than history lesson, it is a way to see part of town. And there are some nice shots of the Green in the fall...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: Noah Webster

   Connecticut doesn't have a wordsmith like Benjamin Franklin, but we do have a historic figure with an equally great influence on language. Heard of Webster's Dictionary? Noah Webster, the first author, was native of Connecticut. Born in West Hartford, he spent most of his life in New Haven. The Noah Webster birthplace in West Hartford provides a full sketch of his life.
   If you think you may be descended from Webster, you have several options for learning about his life. The West Hartford site has a collection of his items, stored in his birthplace. The New Haven Museum holds a small collection of his papers, including notes for the first two letters of his dictionary. Others are held by Amherst College. He is buried in the Grove Street Cemetery in New Haven. There, he is featured among the prominent burials, and maps make it possible to locate his gravesite.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tuesday's Tip: Accessing Connecticut newspapers

   We've all used newspapers as an alternative to vital records. But how do you go about accessing those newspapers?
   1. Visit news.google.com/archivesearch. A way to search the older postings on Google News, this search option probably provides the fastest way to search Connecticut newspapers. The statewide coverage of sites is spotty, but it does have The New London Day for the early 1900s. The ability to search names and towns is a huge help.
  2. If you live in Connecticut, you can access the Hartford Courant databases (the main state newspaper) through www.iconn.org.
  3. Looking for a 19th century newspaper? The Connecticut State Library offers a nice selections online.
  4. Still stuck? Contact the public library in the nearest large town or city. Chances are high they have microfilm of the major local paper - or can tell you how to access it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Motivation Monday: Getting Started Writing....

   I have an ancestor with a fantastic story. Child of immigrants, he lived an incredible life of his own.  Part of it has been maintained in family lore, but since he died without descendents, that lore is missing a few details. That's where the genealogists' role comes in.
   I've been procrastinating on writing that ancestor's story for a while now. There's a draft sitting in notebook near my feet... and I'm reaching the bottom of my to-do list. It's almost time to get started.
   So which leads me to my question: how do you get started?

These are my tips - thus far:
   1. Bring a notebook with you when you travel. At least you'll eventually be forced to start.
    2. Make sure you can see that notebook when it's time to start typing... (Guilt trip!)

And I'll let you know when I manage to start!