Friday, March 29, 2013

Follow Friday: Manuscripts and Archives Blog, Yale, New Haven

   Few of our Connecticut ancestors have ties to New Haven, let alone Yale - but if yours do, you now have options for learning more about their past.The Manuscripts and Archives blog is a partially developed blog run by Yale's Manuscripts and Archives section. Some sections are "buyer beware." Click on "About," and you'll be treated to WordPress's filler for that page. Those filled in are far more interesting.. The earliest post dates to December 2012 and links to an article on Yale alums who died at Pearl Harbor. More recent posts offer exhibit information, links to newspaper and magazine profiles, and in one case, great history
   My favorite post thus far is definitely the one on William Howard Taft. Taken from a Yale alumni publication, it chronicles the future President's decision not to take the presidency of Yale. Since I knew little about Taft, the view into his thought process was fascinating. The man should probably be know for more than the bathtub story.
 The blog is- and probably will remain - a clearinghouse for material from other Yale publications. However, if you need a place to find Yale history, this is definitely a place to start.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tech Tuesday: Trying to Find an Article in a Connecticut newspaper?

   (Thanks to reader Mike Sullivan for the suggestions!) Are you struggling to locate an ancestor's marriage record or obituary? You have a lot of options for finding the document, but you'll need to be able to answer a few questions first:

    1) Do you know what newspaper it came from? If you don't check out the directory on Chronicling America... Run by the Library of Congress, the directory lists all the newspapers published in a certain town. Of course, you need to approach it with a bit of caution. Small towns may have gotten their news from a larger local town.

  2) Do you know where to find the newspaper?
        a) Start with the Connecticut State Library "newspaper" page. Their page offers detailed instructions for accessing papers statewide. You can inter-library loan many newspapers. Before you do that, check to make sure it isn't available online.
       b) Google News  has a few scattered newspapers. If you're interested in the New London Day, this is the place.
        c) Have you contacted the local library? Some libraries charge for copies, but many don't. Just be nice - and if you can, offer a donation. It keeps up the genealogy goodwill!

   3) Are you ready to work? By now, hopefully you will have found the paper... If not, it may be time to ILL the microfilm - or hire someone to look up the article at the State Library. Contact your local library for suggestions and help. Good luck!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Matrilinear Monday: Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame

     Do you know if your ancestor was a famous Connecticut woman? It may be time to find out. The Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame was founded in 1993 to celebrate influential Connecticut women. I'd never heard of the organization but was very impressed when I stumbled across its website. The Hall's physical contains portraits of women in the Hall of Fame; the website contains portraits and much more.
   Each feature has interesting attributes. "The Inductees" lists all of the members. Have you ever heard of Margaret Rudkin? Click on her name, and you'll discover that she had a lot to do with your children's goldfish...If you're hoping to teach Connecticut history, you'll want to review "Educational Resources." There are even interviews with inductees.
    Is this site going to show every interesting Connecticut woman? No. But it's a place to start.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Follow Friday: North Haven Historical Society

   A big shout out to the North Haven Historical Society for their efforts in developing a new website. Set up as a blog, the website features membership information and a lot more. "Alternatives to Demolition" encourages owners to save their historic homes. "Available Publications" lists several books that can be purchased from the Society, as well as a few that can be accessed online. "Past Programs" allows you to preview slideshows from recent events - even if you missed the event. "What's New in Preservation" chronicles the Society's efforts to save town buildings. "Life in Early North Haven" provides a nice overview of lighting.
    The site is evolving to cover three separate topics - the Society, historic preservation, and history - and honestly, I'd love to see them separated a little more clearly. I takes me a second to jump back and forth. Also, consider adding the word "Connecticut" to your title so that it shows up a little more easily in websearches. Beyond that, I'm impressed. Content is detailed and well written. A regular effort is being made to update the site. It's accessible.  Great job!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tech Tuesday: Research Database for Connecticut Town and Record Information

     Have you ever wondered where to find records for a specific town, how to access them, or  where to ask questions when you get stuck? The Connecticut Society of Genealogists is doing their best to offer a solution. For years, their website has hosted a "CSG City/Town Details" database. It has long been a great resource for locating vital records or contacting the town historian. The latest issue of The Connecticut Genealogy News indicates that they're making a real effort to expand the database. While you need to be signed in (see the upper right of page) to do so, you can add new information on libraries, websites and more. And, hopefully, you'll be able to benefit from other's expertise.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Follow Friday: Hartford Daily Photo

  Do you love virtually visiting your ancestor's home? I stumbled across another great photo blog that can help you make that visit. Hartford Daily Photo is published by Jack, a West Hartford native. Jack photographs anything Connecticut related that interests him.I scanned about ten posts and saw exhibits by Connecticut artists, farmhouses in Bloomfield, and cafe chairs. His photos are eclectic and a lot of fun to see. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Those Places Thursday: What protection does the National Historic Register listing offer?

   Apparently none.
   It's (temporarily) over, and I'm less than thrilled with the results. If you've been reading my blog over the last few weeks, you know that I've been following the debate over changing zoning for a section of Washington Street in Middletown.
   Like many once industrial cities, Middletown has been struggling for decades to keep itself vibrant. New opportunities are understandably embraced with open arms. Tax breaks, new permits, and ease of development are used to draw new businesses into the city. Unfortunately, it often comes at a cost: the loss of historic homes.
    Do you remember Middletown's vibrant historic waterfront or the older homes that filled the streets between Main Street and the River? If you've ever passed through town or gone to the movies there, you've probably seen them. Still confused? The harbor homes - or the remnants - are under Route 9.  River access is limited to one street, and one often flooded tunnel. The sites of those old homes are currently parking lots surrounded by retail strip malls. The end result of "urban renewal" isn't pretty.
   I had hoped that Middletown had finally learned its lesson. While "urban renewal" draws businesses and traffic into the city, it doesn't often keep them there. Those retail strip malls stood empty through most of the 1990s. Most businesses turn over within only a few years leaving storefronts empty for months or even years at a time. And empty storefronts aren't good for business. Route 9 did temporarily draw shoppers to Main Street, but how many bypass the city completely? It's impossible to bring back the lost history, but it is possible to prevent more from being lost.
   Last night's Planning and Zoning decision will not protect the town's historic homes. You can read the coverage of the meeting here at Middletown Patch and on the Hartford Courant. P&Z permitted development (including drive-throughs) within the only remaining area of Middletown with a large group of historic homes, provided that it fit within the "character" of the area and met certain limitations. They made a nod to historic home preservation by agreeing not to demolish any home on a 2005 inventory of historic places.
   I went to take a quick look at that "inventory." If it's the one I found, it was first published in 1979... which means a house in the area being demolished was not currently on that site! It also clearly states in the introduction that the inventory was of "outstanding and representative structures." In other words, it does not include every building in the area. Basically, what the committee agreed was that any structure that wasn't "good enough" could be demolished, without regard to its history or the continuity of a historic neighborhood. Never mind the fact that it was on the National Register of Historic Places... Because, yes, the National Register listing does not stop the home from being demolished.
    This plan bothers me on so many levels. First and foremost, there is the loss of history. Important people lived in these homes. Frankly, they're what makes Middletown beautiful. How much would you like to visit your ancestor's home and discover that it is now a parking lot or drive-through? Second, what's to guarantee that this great new development won't be empty in three years?
    I'd love to see Middletown and the United States start talking about this logically. For me, the issues boil down to this:
1) What can we do to accommodate the business and development needs of town? The developer likes the site. Honestly, I can't blame him. It's close to Main Street and the (captive) audience of Wesleyan University.
2) What can we do to protect our history? Making way for new businesses doesn't mean we need to knock down the past. Older buildings can be adapted to new purposes. If that process is taken seriously, all sides can benefit. An owner can get his site - and coexist with an 1860s home.
    Where do we go from here? As genealogists, I feel like we have to make some attempt to protect the past.  If you're interested in becoming involved in Middletown's debate, you can volunteer your efforts to the appeal process. I'm sure they could use genealogists and house historians to research the sites, as well as people familiar with historic preservation.  On a greater level, let's start talking about development. This discussion needs to move beyond a small percentage of Middletown's residents. NGS and other organizations have mentioned the idea as a kind of genealogy advocacy but rarely addressed head on.Working together, perhaps we can find responsible ways for towns to meet their present needs without destroying their past beauty. Are there ways to rehabilitate old buildings? What benefits can be offered for doing so? We need to decide what we consider important to preserving in our ancestors' pasts. Is it only going to be their gravestones? 


Those Places Thursday: Connecticut in 1934

  Have you ever wondered what your ancestor's home looked like in 1934? I was first introduced to the University of Connecticut website in a article. The website uses mapping software to compare aerial images of modern Connecticut addresses with those present in 1934. It's an interesting way to see how much the state has changed. The last address I tried was a farm field in 1934. Now if they would add images from the front!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fun with Search Terms

It's time for "Fun with Search Terms" again! Frankly, these are getting a little boring... because most of these topics were actually covered in my blog!
 1)Unique Place Names in CT: This is a fantastic document produced by the Connecticut State Library that tells you where "places" in Connecticut were actually located. Here's the document.
 2)DeKoven House Middletown: You're probably looking for the Rockfall Foundation, which owns the house. You can read more about its history here.
  3) Charles Tucker, Durham: Here's the link for his Find A Grave entry.

Happy research!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Motivation Monday: Why are Historic Homes Missing from Development Plans?

   As I've mentioned in previous posts, I've been following a plan for a development zone change in Middletown with interest and a fair amount of concern. The issues are complex: increased tax base for a city that needs it, new jobs, commercial traffic into a residential district. While I can appreciate a few of the points made by both sides, the argument being carried out in public is essentially boiling down to the following.
      1) Middletown needs the jobs, no matter the cost.
      2) It's a safety/development risk to a residential neighborhood. (You can read one of those viewpoints here.)

   What strikes me as odd is that the area being discussed is on the National Register of Historic Places - and that fact has not been mentioned once.  Why is historic tourism/historic preservation not in the mix? And what can we do as genealogists to change their minds?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sorting Saturday and Sunday... Keeping the blog list straight

   I tend to sign up for a lot of blogs. It's an unfortunate side-effect of how I research and write my own blog. I need to know what's going on in New England genealogy! Unfortunately, that also means that I pick up blogs that - for one reason or another - I don't end up reading on a regular basis. End result: cluttered inbox.
   I finally decided to clean out my blog list this weekend. I thought I had gotten it straightened out. And then I opened Blogger this morning. All the blogs I had unsubscribed were back! Turns out I had unsubscribed in Google Reader. Since they were in still active in Blogger, Google had just readded them. Lesson learned: if you need to unsubscribe to a blog in a Google account, do it in Blogger by clicking on the wheel. Save yourself time. Now let's hope I read what I kept.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Follow Friday: Connecticut Commemorates the Civil War

 Planning on visiting Connecticut? Interested in learning more about Connecticut's experience during the Civil War? Try visiting the Facebook page "Connecticut Commemorates the Civil War." Organized by area history groups, the page lists events and shares links for  history articles. It is of most use to locals, but there are lots of suggestions for future research. Happy reading!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Thrifty Thursday: Connecticut State Library Card

  Are you a Connecticut resident and interested in doing genealogy research? The Connecticut State Library is a hidden secret for amateur researchers. Not only does the library have fantastic special collections onsite, but it also offers ways to do research from home! A state library card will give you access to borrowing materials as well as a variety of research databases, many of which are genealogical favorites. You can read about their options here.
   Tempted? Apply for a card here.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tuesday's Tip: Suggestions for Beginning Connecticut Genealogy Researchers

   In reading message boards and answering student questions, I see many of the same themes come up over and over. People want help locating birth, marriage, and death records for their ancestors... and don't know how to start. Here are a few suggestions:
  1) Determine what time period your ancestor lived in: I know it seems simple, but records vary widely depending on time period.
  2) Determine what records are available for your time period: In Connecticut, vital records may exist back to the start of the town. However, the state did not require recording until 1897. While there is an index available for some dates before 1897, it does not include every record and is missing most records after 1860.
  3) Determine the town's name for the period - and where those records are currently held: Connecticut town names have changed over time. Can you find East Middletown on a map? What about Chatham? You'll need to determine where the town's records were held when they were written. The records haven't moved - but the town's boundaries have. There's a Connecticut State Library webpage that can provide a good way to start.
   4) Learn what records might exist for your town. Start with the FamilySearch Wiki for Connecticut for more information.
...And start researching.

Happy Research! If you have questions, please comment below!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Military Monday: World War I Veterans Database

   Time to feature another Connecticut State Library database...  The World War I Veterans database documents military service during World War I. Sort of. In the late 1910s and early 1920s, according to the state's webpage, questionnaires were sent to military veterans asking them to describe their service. While the database doesn't contain information from the questionnaire, you can learn if your ancestor filled one out, where they were living, and if it includes photos. The main page tells you how to order photocopies. New military file to order :)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Follow Friday: A Fashionable Frolick

  Are you interested in what your ancestors wore? A Fashionable Frolick is authored by two Virginia-based sisters who are interested in 18th century fashion. Posts cover accessories, reenactments including reproduction vintage photos, and more. It's definitely a connoisseurs blog - and I'll admit, parts don't catch my attention. So what's the CT connection? They're great about including fashion related exhibits and events that take place in Connecticut. Who knows - you might learn something!