Saturday, June 29, 2013

Society Saturday: Cornwall Historical Soceity

   Researching Connecticut's smaller towns can be quite the challenge. There's no local newspaper, no well organized website, no easy way to access resources - unless, of course, you know how to reach the local historical society. Historical societies are the best way to research a small town. They often have hundreds or thousands of boxes of documents, not to mention a great oral history.
   The Cornwall Historical Society's website provides an entry point to the history of Cornwall, CT. The site provides not only suggestions for research - books for purchase, access to the genealogy library - but also for learning more about Cornwall. "Cornwall Cemeteries", linked to from the "Points of Interest" page, traces the past of Cornwall's burying grounds. Other page delve into the Historical Society and more.
   Happy research!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Follow Friday: Barkhamsted Historical Society

   It's basic - but they're there. The small town of Barkhamsted (population of 3500, according to their website) actually has a historical society blog. The blog's main page covers recent events at the Society, while "community" would be of interest to someone living elsewhere, as it is where most of the history articles are posted. "Squire's Tavern" features the Society's property.  "History" concerns - guess what - history...,and "Contact Us" will help with requests for research.
   The site is barebones but has everything you need to get started...

Friday, June 21, 2013

Follow Friday: Revive, Restore, Renew

  Next in the series of old house blogs I found listed on - Revive, Restore, Renew. The blog focuses on the restoration of the Wilcox home in East Berlin. Revive, Restore, Renew is divided into five parts: "Home," "Who Lived Here?," "About Us," "About the House," and "Paint Colors." "Who Lived There?" contains exactly what you'd expect: a history of the house divided by period. "About the House" offers a style history of the house; "About Us" talks about the owners. "Paint Colors" contains... guess what?... paint color choices.
   If you're interested in house renovation, start with "Home." It's a pretty regular update (up to last January) of events in their house, complete with photos. You'll love the before and after. Otherwise, enjoy the "Who Lived Here?"

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tuesday's Tip: Remember to Check the Town's Website for Record Information

  When you search for a Connecticut vital record, do you start by checking the town's website? This is so basic, I often forget to do it. It seems so easy. You send a request to the town clerk along with twenty dollars. You have your record. But was the record taken in that town? Checking the town website can save you a few steps. Connecticut towns were often formed from other towns. That means your ancestor's record may not be where you think it is. Some Connecticut towns (such as Canton) have made an effort to help. You might as well take advantage!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Follow Friday: Bringing Back Holleywood

   I was blog surfing again... (For those of you who wonder how I find new blogs, my keyword combination has changed a few times - but here's the current model. Find a map of Connecticut and start searching using the a)name of the town b)words genealogy and blog and c) Connecticut. Why do I add Connecticut? Because it turns out that Massachusetts has a lot of the same town names.)... and found a great new site. provides a place for old home restorers to share stories, look for help, and even list their house. I'm falling in love with its story listing, as it turns out, it's a great place to find house history blogs. I'll be sharing a few over the next few weeks, starting with one from Lakeville, CT.
    Bringing Back Holleywood tells the story of two New Yorkers who purchased the 19th century home. The "Welcome" page charts their interest in the property. "House Before" is a photo montage. "Restoration Diary" is a photo journal of the project, day by day, ending in August 2012. Of most interest to genealogists will be the "History" and "Heritage" sections. "History" provides a quick overview of the home, and its connection to the Holley and Rudd families. "Heritage" provides snapshots of the family's life.
   Is the blog fine literature? No. Entries tend to be short, and mostly photos. However, if you love old houses and DYI projects, this is a great read. Please take a look - and share your thoughts.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tech Tuesday: Teach Me Genealogy

    When I get busy, I tend to neglect my "tech genealogy" - except for one thing. I always read the new blogs list on Geneabloggers.  It's a great way to see what's new in the field, what's out there that you may have missed, etc. My find for this week is a website called Teach Me Genealogy.
     As many of you probably know, I teach beginning genealogy. I love the enjoyment my students get out of their first steps in research... but... someone always has project specific questions that you can't easily answer and keep the attention of the rest of the class.  and FamilySearch are big ones. That's where Teach Me Genealogy comes in. The "How To" section covers everything from how to export your family tree from Ancestry to how to use Google Maps. Other sections look equally helpful. "Free Printables" includes pedigree charts and more. "Getting Started" starts with the basics - including how to create a family tree folder on your desktop. If you've never done genealogy before or if you're looking for a great website to share with your students, this is definitely a  possibility. It doesn't quite function as a stand-alone site, but it's getting there. I will be recommending it in tandem with other course resources.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Motivation Monday: Looking for a summer history/genealogy project for your child?

  Okay, this is only tangentially genealogy related... but I'm excited and want to share! I'm in the process of preparing the materials for this year's American History Essay Contests for my DAR chapter. What's that you ask? The DAR actually runs two. One is for middle school; the other for high school. The rules (and the rewards for participation) vary slightly by age group. Topics change every year. This year's middle school topic is fantastic:
Pretend you are a boy or a girl during the colonial fight for freedom. Using historical facts, discuss how the war is affecting your life. The war dramatically changed the lives of children during the Revolution. Some actually followed their fathers into battle; others stayed home and assumed new responsibilities that were necessary for their families’ survival. Imagine yourself in the place of such a child taking on important and often adult responsibilities. Describe some of the changes that are taking place in your life and that of your family as you face this new situation. You may portray either a historical child or a fictional child living in the era of the American Revolution.

   Why is this so cool? Can you imagine a better way to get your child digging into genealogy? Send them looking at their Revolutionary ancestor's kids. They could study battle narratives. They could look at pension files. There are a multitude of options. What a great teaching tool!
    How do you find out more? If you're not my chapter's area, you'll need to contact your local chapter for details.  Or feel free to post comments. I'll do my best to answer questions or point you in the right direction. Remember one thing, though - they need to do their own work! You're just the teacher :) 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Follow Friday: Sprague Family Research

   So guess what? There's a Sprague Connecticut and a Sprague family. The two may or may not be related... (If someone knows, please tell me. The town's website focuses more on its villages than the town history.)... but as it turns out, some of these Spragues were from CT.
   Sprague Family Research is a surname study blog. How does a surname study blog work? The blogger highlights family members with the same surname. In this case, the surname is Sprague.  Posts cover the background of one branch of the family. Sometimes branches are related. Sometimes not.
   Sprague Family Research hasn't been updated since 2012 but showed a solid foundation. Posts do more than just detail findings. They provide the author's research path. Sometimes they include a critique of previous research; sometimes they make it clear that he started from scratch. It's an interesting view into the Sprague family - and how a surname blog can work.