Friday, November 30, 2012

Follow Friday: Hidden in Plain Sight

   Okay, it's official... I know nothing about Litchfield. Fortunately, the blog Hidden in Plain Sight is offering me the opportunity to take care of that. The author profiles different aspects of life in Litchfield through both words and images. Recent posts covered John Brown (I bet you didn't know he grew up in Connecticut!), a local portraitist, and more. I love the level of detail in these post and how well the images correlate to the words. My only "complaint" would be that you're not sure what the blog is going to cover next, whether it be people or places. Great read!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Motivation Monday: Update to last week's post and Durham, CT resources

   Well, I finally took my own advice. I mentioned in last week's post that I hoped genealogists would take the time to update the FamilySearch Wiki. Many beginners start there, and it's a good way to give back. I noticed recently that my blog was coming up in searches for Durham, Connecticut. I write a lot about Durham, but often, not in a way that a beginner could use. Maybe it was time to fix that.
   So I spent some time updating the FamilySearch Wiki page. Here's the updates - I added to what others had begun - and I hope they're helpful.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Genealogy Mysteries?: My Favorite Mystery Novels...

   I'm a bit of a "cozy" mystery addict. (For those of you who don't know, cozies are light murder mysteries. No gore, just a good story.) And recently, I've been noticing a trend. A lot of cozy writers have begun weaving family stories into their novels. Sometimes the detail adds flavor to a story; others, it's key to the story.
   Here are a few of my favorites. Have I missed anything?

Melissa Bourbon, Magical Dressmaking Mystery Series: The characters in this series are endowed with magical gifts, courtesy of their common ancestor - Butch Cassidy. Harlow Jane Cassidy, the main character, uses her magical gifts to help solve mysteries in her Texas town. Here's the author's website.

Sheila Connolly, The Orchard Series: Meg, the main character of the series, solves murder mysteries while exploring the history of her inherited home.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Small Business Saturday: Don't Forget Your Local Genealogist :)

  I think I've heard Small Business Saturday mentioned at least a hundred times this year... And I'm glad for it. For those of you who don't know what I'm taking about, the premise is pretty straight forward. You shop at local businesses. Because they buy locally and pay local taxes, it benefits your local economy. Neat, right?
  Just wanted to share a quick reminder that local business can include your local genealogist. Stuck on a research problem, want to give a great gift (warning- it may be too late for Christmas, but there's always next year...), or have someone else do the work? Check out to find a genealogist near you.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Follow Friday: Revolutionary CT

  Founded by the Connecticut Sons of the American Revolution and a group of museums and historic sites, is designed to encourage Connecticut residents to explore their Revolutionary heritage. Much of the site is tourism oriented. For example, the site helps tourists "letterbox" their way through historic sites. (If, like me, you didn't know what letterboxing is... Here's an explanation.) However, there are some nice features for those who can't visit. "Featured Places" profiles historic homes or people related to the war.  A "Timeline" traces the Revolutionary War experience of the men who owned the house museums. The "Gallery" offers images from the collections of these museums. "Blog" is largely aimed at house museums and reenactors but is worth a read if you're interested in finding about how the site runs.  is just getting started... but it shows a lot of promise.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Ellington photo identification

   Happy Thanksgiving! I stumbled across this column while looking for a new blog and thought it might provide a fun puzzle for those of you with Ellington roots. "A Moment in Time" posts new photos every week and challenges readers to identify them. Most are of buildings but a few are of people. Here's a recent photo. Consider this a break from the turkey :)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Thankful for Connecticut's Past

Since it's close to Thanksgiving, I thought I would share my favorite features of Connecticut landscaping... the stone walls!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tech Tuesday: Suggestions for Historical Society/Genealogy Group Facebook Pages

  As part of my persistent attempts to organize my files, I went through my Facebook news feed and likes list. I ended up removing many of the pages. And there were many I never added. Why?
  1. There isn't  a page. Some groups are not comfortable establishing a webpage, blog or Facebook page. They stick to a mailbox and a phone number. Believe it or not, people tend to be more patient about the turnover time it takes to answer emails than the time it takes to return a phone call. Provide a page that, at the very least, lists an email address. 
  2. The page hasn't been updated.   I will gladly hunt down a page, but if it hasn't been touched in three years, I'm going to assume the page (and the group) aren't active. Make sure to update your page at least once a month. We'll want to know you're still there. 
  3. The page only includes things interesting to the members of the group. If your page is going to be all about people already in the group, you may want to consider making it private. Why? Because your Facebook page acts like an entrance to your business. Covering the page with information of interest only to members is like pasting a "members only" sign on the front door. 
  4. You've not made it clear what the benefits of joining your group would be. Make it clear why I want to join your Facebook page. Are there interesting conversations? Clear indications of what your group does? An interesting enough Facebook page may lead me into paying to join your group. 
  5. You don't reach out. Help me find what I want to know by linking to other pages. It's a nice "touch" to your page.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Motivation Monday: Bored? Consider updating the FamilySearch Wiki

  I recently received an exiting announcement from FamilySearch. They've made it much easier to update a Wiki article. Instead of doing the formatting yourself (something I struggle with doing correctly!), you can now submit a fill-in the blank form. A volunteer will transcribe the information for you. You can read the announcement here.
  Why do I care? Because the FamilySearch Wiki is used by beginners as a way to research new locations. I used it to search several Connecticut towns recently and discovered that many haven't been finished. They're useless - researchwise. But that's some that can be easily fixed. Have an interest in a town? Consider sharing it. You'll be helping the whole genealogy community.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Website update: East Haddam links added

  Just a bit of an update. I've added East Haddam links to my Middlesex County links list. Please check it out, and let me know what I've missed. I'm always looking for new resources!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Follow Friday: CT

  I think I may have profiled CT  months ago, but with Veteran's Day fresh on our minds, I thought it might be worth a second look. The site - which is readable as both a blog and a website - consists of profiles of Connecticut monuments. The front page reads like a typical blog. A September post covers Connecticut monuments at Antietam battlefield. The first part of the post serves as an overview, listing all the monuments related to Connecticut. For example, you can read a basic description of the monument for the 8th Connecticut. Click on the monument's subheading, and you'll be treated to a more detailed description. It won't give you a history of the monument, but you can see discover the monument through the tourist's eyes. Want to use the site as a website? There are tabs right under the page title that will allow you to look at all monuments of a certain war. Click on World War II, and you'll be able to read about Connecticut monuments as well as monuments made by Connecticut manufacturing companies. Think your ancestor might be recorded on a war memorial? Here's your chance to virtually visit.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Veterans Memorial Green, Middletown

  I've driven by the Veterans Memorial Green for years and had always wondered about its history. I knew it contained war memorials, but I knew little else. According to the City of Middletown's website, the park is 4.1 acres, containing memorials to veterans of every war. A 1985 historic register nomination is a little more explicit: the eastern park monument was to veterans of the Civil War; the western to the veterans of the first World War.The 1904 Civil War memorial is described in detail on the Connecticut Historical Society site.
   Now if I could only manage to take photos... There are a few on Flickr, in the meantime.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tech Tuesday: My Source Box

   Did you know it is possible to save documents if you're working on FamilySearch while away from home? Make sue you have an account before you get started. To create an account, click on "Sign in" and then "Create a New Account."  Once you have that, log-in. The  "My Source Box" will appear when you've opened a search result.  Click on "Add to my Source Box" to save the item. Once you're home, log in again. You'll be able to find your "Source Box" by clicking on your user name.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Military Monday: A Civil War Research Problem

  In the spirit of Veterans Day, I thought I would share a research problem (even though it does not involve a Connecticut ancestor). While I do a fair amount of Civil War research, I have an ancestor who continues to avoid my searching. That ancestor lived in a region of Maryland bordering North and South, although his home was technically in the North. When the war came, he went South. And that's all I know.
   I've tried a few things. My first step was searching the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors database. The only person of that name from Maryland fought for the Union Army and lived in a different region than my ancestor did. I've also tried to find his death information. My ancestor supposedly died in Petersburg, VA soon after the battle. I've checked Find A Grave without success.
  So what would be your next step?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Happy Veterans Day!

  Happy Veterans Day (or in the old term, Armistice Day!). Today is our day to remember the service of the nation's veterans. Do we know who in the family fought? What efforts have we made to understand their service?
   If the answer is no and nothing, today is a good day to start. There are some great resources online to teach you how to research your family's military ancestors. offers an online class on using their military databases. The lecture is designed for their American databases. I prefer a little more systematic course - studying war by war - but if you just need a starting point, this may be it. FamilySearch offers even more options. There are 30 online courses that mention military records. Many are basic "how-to" courses or do not cover American records, but take a look. You're liable to find something help.
   And as always, I'm willing to try to answer any questions.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fun with Search Terms Leads to New Resources

  I started out this post intending to another fun with search terms... but this time, I learned something.
Here were the search term: "Connecticut quarterly genealogy." I know why my blog turned up - one of the historical society's I write about calls their newsletter the quarterly. Combine it with my blog title, and you can guess the rest. What I didn't know was what the Connecticut Quarterly was.
  Turns out, the Connecticut Quarterly was a magazine published in the late 1890s. Its official title makes reference to art, literature, and history. While many of the features are pure fiction, others are historical, discussing local beaches, family history and more. One edition is available on Google Books. If you want to learn more about late 19th century Connecticut, this appears to be a good resource.
  And blog reader - thanks for getting lost.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Follow Friday: Best of New England

While the blog is clearly intended for travel (where else do you see "Best Five Mountain Bike Trails?"), Yankee Magazine's Best of New England has some nice features for genealogists. Click on "History" (under categories) to sort the posts. You'll be treated to a great article on historic hurricanes in New England, an article aimed at tourists to Boston, and one on the most beautiful cemeteries. While the cemetery article seems to be a little more touristy, I loved the hurricanes... Happy reading!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Treasure Chest Thursday: Godfrey Memorial Library, Bible Collection

   Hidden treasures are the best, aren't they? It's rare that you find new documents or sources about your family... The rarity makes them that much more special. While many of these "hidden treasurers" are in your home or with close relatives, a few may be housed in libraries or archives.
 The Godfrey Memorial Library in Middletown houses one such treasure chest. Godfrey long collected family Bibles. While their collection is eclectic, it provides a starting point in your search for possible treasure. They can be contacted here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Talented Tuesday: Beatrix Ferrand

   Talented landscape Beatrix Ferrand (read her full biography here) was not a Connecticut native, although she had a significant impact on the state. According the Beatrix Ferrand Society, she was born in New York. The biography explains that she went on to build a career in landscape design during a period when women were not often welcome in the field. Ferrand traveled across the country, but she designed a number of gardens within the state.
   Many of the better known gardens throughout the state were designed by Ferrand.  Yale University's gardens were created by Ferrand during the 1920s and 1930s. According to the University's website, she was hired by Yale in 1923- their first paid landscaper - and worked on the grounds for sixteen years. Those grounds have undergone changes over the years, but efforts have been made to reconstruct the campus. The most recent were traced in a 2012 Yale Daily News article. She also worked on gardens in the Hill-Stead Museum and Harkness Memorial State Park. Her Harkness Garden is my favorite.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Town Profile: Rockfall

   Located on the edge of Wadsworth State Park, the village of Rockfall (despite having its own post office) is actually part of Middlefield. Like Middlefield, it has a long agricultural history. Rockfall was also home to many of the town's industries, which made use of water power on its rivers.
   Looking for Rockfall records? Before the Civil War, you'll need to start in Middletown. After, records will be in Middlefield. Happy hunting!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Fun with Search Terms...

  I'm borrowing a post theme from Amy Coffin of We Tree. In her "Fun with Search Terms!" posts, she comments on the (anonymous) searches people make that turn up her blog. Sometimes she offers more information, in case they come back. You can see an example here.
   My turn! The following are a few of the recent search terms that found my blog. And yes, in most cases I can help.
  1) Connecticut genealogy blog
     Entering this will probably bring up a Connecticut State Library blog, but there are a lot of genealogy blogs out there. Check out my (partial) list here.
  2) Harkness Memorial State Park
      Disclosure: this is one of my favorite places in Connecticut, so I write about it a lot. But what you probably wanted is the state park's website. Here's the address:
  3) Genealogy for Gillette Castle
      Okay, my posts on Gillette Castle were more history than genealogy. But there's a nice biography on the park's website.

Happy reading!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Follow Friday: Fresh Pickin's

  I don't normally follow university archival blogs. For some reason, most university blogs revolve around university events instead of the contents of their collection. If you're not there, it's useless.
  Fresh Pickin's incorporates both sides of the university archival blog. Many of the posts are announcements about changing exhibits, archives month and more. A few, however, are gems.  A September post offered pre-1912 photos of Mansfield. Another post offers links to primary documents being used in History Day. Enjoy the read!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thrifty Thursday: Property Cards

  Looking for land records? An alternate way to find information about a property is the town's property cards. While they don't list every owner - most cover only back to the mid-1970s - or adjacent properties, they do provide detailed descriptions of the property. Many property cards  include images of the home and a few other fun details. It may not be as detailed as the land records, but the property cards are still fun... and they're often available on the town's website. Check out the tax assessor's office