Monday, December 31, 2012

Motivation Monday: Genealogical Tourism - Middlefield/Middletown

     Well, I finally decided to stop procrastinating. What am I talking about? Connecticut has an incredible history - and it's often ignored. Large cities are famous for destroying historic homes out of desperation to build their tax base. Sadly, too often, they end up with no historic home and an empty modern building. I've seen too many of these cases. They're heart-breaking.
   What I would love to see is an effort made to build up tourism as a way to save historic homes. Genealogical tourism would be perfect. There are many of us who have Connecticut roots. Most never visit. Sometimes it's because they can't afford the trip - something I can completely understand - but often, it's because they can't see a reason to come. You can get everything through the Connecticut State Library, the Family History Library, or online, right? The reality: that's not really true. 17th century Middlesex county court records, for example, are held by the local historical society in Middletown. Just think, you could research, vacation, and help preserve the past.
   Yes, I know it's idealistic, but I'm making my small contribution to cause. I've created a new tourism tab on the top of the page. It will lead you to places to stay and eat in the area. I'm only using places I know, so I may miss some finds, but it's a start. My goal over time will be to improve and build on this. Maybe it's a model we can all use.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sorting Saturday: Write as You Go

   If you've been following the genealogy listservs recently, you've probably already heard about this topic. Write as you go is the idea that - surprise, surprise - you compile a family narrative as you go, instead of just listing the information in your genealogy database.
   My first response was that this was a great idea in theory. Who doesn't love it? You immediately know what information you're missing or, if you're lucky, you end up with a completed document that you can share. Of course, that's presuming that you actually have the time to research and then write.
   It wasn't until today that I realized the true wisdom of this advice. I've been trying to put together a family narrative for some cousins. Thus far I've been through all of my file on the family - and realized that I never printed census documents and am missing a few other things. I'll have to order some things. Oops. Lesson learned.
   From now, I may try to take this good advice.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Follow Friday: Holmes Genealogy, Connecticut

   I'm sharing another surname blog in the hopes that it might be of use to a few Connecticut researchers. The Holmes Genealogy works research problems on different generations of the Holmes family. As the blogger explains, the line extends from "Nathan Holmes of Montville, New London County, Connecticut and Hamilton, Madison County, New York around 1800 back to John Holmes of Plymouth Colony in the 1600s." Unfortunately, you need to know the line to truly understand the posts. Titles are a bit vague, such as "Generation 8." Posts will provide an outline of one generation and the spouses. I'd love to see more details, such as source citations and a family tree. However, for a research with the name "Holmes" in the line, this blog provides a fantastic resource and starting point.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas to all!

   In the spirit of Christmas - and a much needed vacation - I'll be taking a break from posting for the next few days. Today, I'll let someone else take over the blog. An eight year old named Virginia. On the Newseum website, you can read the full text of Virginia's letter to the New York Sun. I hope you'll enjoy the spirit of her words and all that the response implies. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

change to blog posting schedule...

 I've decided it's time to reclaim my sanity - and my enjoyment in my blog - by limiting myself to topics I like. I'm changing my posting schedule to three to four times a week. I'm hoping this will allow me to explore a little more, write better posts, and enjoy what I'm doing. Thanks for your patience!

Society Saturday: Simsbury Free Library

   I love stumbling across new genealogy groups -chances are they have a resource I haven't heard about yet! This week's new group is the Simsbury Free Library. Founded in 1874, the library operates a genealogical and history library on its first floor. The library contains many of the classic Connecticut collections, including the Hale and Barbour Collections, as well as other resources. All can pay for access to the library, but members can enter for free. Members also get the option of genealogical consultations. If you're looking for Simsbury research, this might be the place to start.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Follow Friday: Samuel Griffin Family Blog, Killingworth

  Are you related to the 18th century Samuel and Mary Griffin of Killingworth? Turns out, there's a great genealogy available for the family - and it's right at your fingertips. A member of the family runs a great genealogy blog. Called the Samuel Griffin Family Blog, the blog offers the family history through images and transcriptions of the period's primary sources. It's up to you to build your own analysis. Stuck? Looking for a cousin? This is a great place to start.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Lighthouses

  One of the highlights of a visit to the Connecticut shore is a chance to see the lighthouses. Old Saybrook actually has two - the Lynde Point Light and the Breakwater Light. I could give a history, but others have done it much better. Here are some reading options:
1) Breakwater Light:

2)Lynde Point Light

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Website update: Essex

  I've updated my business website to include links for Essex. Check it out here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tech Tuesday: What would you like to see on a Connecticut genealogy tourism website?

   I've playing with the idea of genealogy tourism for a while. I've traveled to my ancestor's home towns before but never in an organized manner. I've been lucky enough to be able to speak the language and to understand how the archives work. But I couldn't do this in all of my ancestors' homes.
   In addition to wondering about how it might benefit me, I've also wondered about how genealogical tourism might benefit Connecticut. We're the "hometown" for much of the country. I've seen suggestions of great genealogical tourism websites, including  from Oklahoma and Scotland (thanks to APG members!), but I'm not quite sure what the best way to build one for Connecticut would be. We're not foreign - and a lot of our research is available online. What would you like to see from a Connecticut genealogy tourism website?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Military Monday: Civil War Manuscripts, Connecticut Historical Society

   Doing some research today, I stumbled across what might be an invaluable resource if you have Connecticut Civil War ancestors. The Civil War Manuscript Project was compiled by the Connecticut Historical Society in the early 1990s. It is a finding aid to the Society's manuscript. In short:  you can search the project to find out if the Society holds a letter written by or to your ancestor and what that letter's about. You can then contact the Society for more information. What a great resource!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Church Record Sunday: First Church of Christ, Old Saybrook

  The First Church of Christ in Saybrook bills itself as the original church of the Saybrook settlement. According to the history section of the church's website, the present building - which dates from 1840 - is the fourth incarnation of a church first established in the small fort.
   Church records are a bit scattered. Some of the church records are held by the Old Saybrook Historical Society, which does research for $10 per hour. Others are in publication form, accessible from a local bookstore. According to an article on American Ancestors, records are also part of the state church record index.
   Happy research!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Society Saturday: Connecticut Ancestry Society and Southwestern Connecticut

  I thought I knew about most of the Connecticut genealogy societies, but as it turns out, I was wrong. If you had family from Southwestern Connecticut (near Stamford), there's a society just for you. The Connecticut Ancestry Society was founded in 1954. Most of their work is locally oriented: they run regular workshops and advocate for records preservation. However, if you're cross-country, there may still be a reason to join. Their scholarly journal publishes articles on families in that region. It may even include yours!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Follow Friday: New England Travels

  It's official... I love travel blogs when they "show" me where my ancestors lived. New England Travels is one of these blogs. Written by a New England based travel writer, the blog offers mini-histories of different towns through their landmarks. I've separated the extensive postings just down to Connecticut. While I have seen some critiques as to the blog's accuracy, the basic histories seem to be good. I loved the story of Chester (which is definitely true). I just wish I could identify my relatives in the photos - a few served as extras. The Middletown post was also a gem. I've been by that statute many times and knew nothing about it. My only complaint - please use citations. I'd love to know where your information comes from!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

website updated with Deep River genealogy links

 My business website has been updated with links to Deep River genealogy websites. Happy research!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Workday Wednesday: Deep River, Connecticut

  The realization that I knew nothing about Deep River convinced me it was time to do research. Deep River began life as part of the large town of Saybrook.
   According to the blog Historic Buildings of Connecticut, Deep River was once home to the ivory trade. The blog mentions the manufacture of ivory combs, but I also remember hearing about the production of pianos. In fact, I think the factory was still there when I was child. There's a nice photo of one factory on Connecticut History Online.
   Like all Connecticut River towns, Deep River also likely had some fishing and shipping. At least the images of Connecticut History Online suggest that...
   So what else do you know?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Kids and Genealogy Online Resources: Tech Tuesday

   I've been doing a lot of adult genealogy teaching, but I've started to wonder what resources might be available for teaching children. Turns out there are a ton!
 1)  About Genealogy offers a list of sites with beginner lessons for child genealogists. Many of these sites have a parent or grandparent in mind.

2) Family Tree Kids! is the child oriented website of Family Tree Magazine. It teaches the child to act as a genealogist through a series of activities. (The teacher site is somewhat outdated, but the child's version is still functional...)

3) Blogger Jennifer shares worksheets she uses to teach her children about different aspects of her family history on Climbing My Family Tree.

4) The Allen County Public Library offers a list of genealogy books for children.

and I'm just getting started. Can anyone recommend a great genealogy picture book? What are your favorite sites?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Military Monday: Wreaths Across America (TM) and How do you honor the military service of a veteran ancestor?

  (Disclaimer: I am part of a group actively involved in organizing a Wreaths Across America TM ceremony.)

So, Wreaths Across America TM is coming up next Saturday and that got me to thinking...
     First of all, what's that? I'm going to take the following from a press release written by a local organizer, Ellen Halstedt (with permission), since she explains better than I can: 
Twenty years ago the Worcester Wreath Company in northern Maine donated hundreds of wreaths which were placed on the graves of Veterans at Arlington National Cemetery.  This simple wreath-laying event has grown over the years and has become a tradition as a living memorial to veterans and their families – a symbolic way to show appreciation for our freedoms. 

    The idea is pretty simple. Local groups hold a short ceremony and then  honor deceased veterans by placing donated wreaths on their graves.While a donated wreath cannot be placed on a specific grave, a family can bring wreath to the ceremony. You can find a local ceremony at 
Since the holiday season is the time when we tend to remember our pasts - and our ancestors - it can be a great way to pause and honor their service. (And yes, I know I sound like a PR coordinator - I've been participating in publicizing the event - but I also believe it!)

So what was I thinking? How do you commemorate the service of a veteran ancestor? Is it through service in a lineage organization? It is through flag placing on Memorial Day?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Fun with Search Terms...

 Thanks again to Amy Coffin for the idea. I'm reprising a "Fun With Search Terms," because guess what? I have fun writing them. And I always learn a ton. So here are this week's search terms...

1)Connecticut Town Historians
    These are useful people to know. While the position is not common in cities, most towns have a town historian. This person is the local  repository of knowledge on the town's past. Technically, the job only covers the town's history, but most town historians also know a lot about local genealogy. Best place to find their names? The website of the Connecticut Society of Genealogists.

2) Luther Burke, Durham
    Someone adopted an oft-recommended search technique with this one... Google. I wrote about Luther Burke in a "Tombstone Tuesday"  entry. Does anyone know more about him? 

3) Civil War Tombstones Deep River
     Oops... I don't think I've actually done an entry on Deep River (originally part of Saybrook). Here's your best resource - the Deep River Historical Society.

4) Favorite mystery novels 2012
   Okay, that's what I get for talking about my love of genealogy related mysteries. Does anyone have any new ones to share?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Follow Friday: The Enos Kellogg Homestead

  This was a new one for me. A family in Norwalk has recorded their efforts to restore an 1784 home on a blog. Called The Enos Kellogg Homestead, the blog traces the restoration project from start to finish.  Recent posts have covered damage from Hurricane Sandy and views of the house in the late 19th century (from an inherited album).  Some posts are more detailed than others, such as the post on the extensive process of rehabilitating the "milk room."
  So why should you care? For some of us, it's just the fact that we love old homes. For others, it may be the fact that you're descended from a Kellogg or Comstock. It's possible that your ancestor lived there. Happy reading!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Those Places Thursday: West Hartford Photo Identification

   As it turns out, Ellington is not the only site with a weekly photo identification contest. If you love playing with old photos of your "home towns," you may enjoy West Hartford's "A Moment in Time" column. Using collections from the Noah Webster house, the site's editor posts a weekly photo and challenge question. See if you can answer by clicking on the above link. It's a fun way to test your local history knowledge.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tech Tuesday: Google Reader

   So what's Google Reader? Created by Google, the Reader allows you to look at all the blogs you've subscribed to at once. To add a blog, click on "posts" or "all comments"  under subscribed, and then click on Google. That will make the blog available in Reader.
  Once you're into your Reader account (accessible from the bar on the Google homepage, assuming you have a Google account), you'll be able to see a list of the newest posts from each blog. Click on the posting title to read the post. Once that page is open, you'll be able to scroll down to read more on the blog or click on your subscriptions (to the side) to read a new blog.
   While this may not be new territory to a long time blog reader, I hope it's useful to the rest of you. I'm still trying to decide if I like the notification telling me what I haven't read yet. It's always a high number!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Motivation Monday: Write It Down, Please...

   I've been piecing together the life story of an ancestor. I've been relatively lucky. I have a lot of written sources for this family - from memoirs, to local newspapers, to family association records - but I'm also missing a lot. Why?
   There were two main reasons. My ancestors were busy people. Working the farm, attending to your family, and attending to the town didn't leave much time. They didn't write much down until they were elderly (the youngest was in their early 80s). And they wrote what they assumed their children didn't know. I've got great descriptions of my ancestors' childhoods. But things get much thinner when I need information about their adult lives.
  They assumed their children would tell those stories. Unfortunately, they assumed wrong. Some of their children wrote, but like many children, they saw themselves at the center of their own childhood. How often did you know about your parents' relationship or where they met? Others were just too busy. In those families, the tradition fell away.
  So, to my plea... Don't leave those gaps in your children's genealogy. Write a letter to a child or grandchild. It doesn't have to be long. Just give the basic details about your life, about what you remember. Yes, they'll still miss a lot - but at least they'll have something. And if they don't care now, put in the safety deposit. Maybe you'll save them a few "I wish I'd asked."

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Shopping Saturday: Christmas Fairs

  I've been able to indulge in one of my favorite shopping experiences recently - the Christmas bazaar or fair. These may be a nationwide tradition, but they seem to be especially common in New England. Designed as fundraisers for the local churches, they showcase the work of church crafters, baked goods, silent auctions, white elephant sales and more.  Sadly, as the average church population ages, it's harder to find people to staff these bazaars... and they're starting to change a bit in structure.  More and more provide space for commercial vendors instead of the church itself.
   But one of these bazaars always makes me wonder. What was it like 100 years ago? Did these bazaars exist? I know they've been around for at least fifty years. What were they like then?

Website updated: Chester Links added

   I've added some links to Chester webpages on my business website. Please let me know if I've missed anything.