Saturday, November 15, 2014

How not to wait 6 to 8 weeks for a record... or the best ways to order vital records in CT

I saw a message board post recently which made me cringe. The original poster planned on order in a record through VitalCheck. A second poster suggested that she save some money by ordering it through the statewide office of vital records - provided she didn't mind waiting for six to eight weeks. All of these options have their value, but the original poster knew the person's name, the place, and the date the event occurred. She should have started somewhere else.
In Connecticut, if you know where the event occurred, <em>ALWAYS</em> start with the town or city. Depending on the location, records may be in the town clerk's or health department. They'll need verification of your relationship to issue birth certificates less than 100 years old, but all other records should be issued upon request. The town will charge you $20 a record (which is a statewide standard). They can often overnight the records, provided you pay for the service. If not, most have a turn-around of a week or so. Call them and ask for details before requesting.
If you don't know the date of the event, then turn to the state office. They have an index to all events in the state beginning in 1897 (when duplicates of the records were required). They do have a much slower turn-around time of 6 to 8 weeks, so you may want to consider checking area towns first. Most towns will confirm is if they do or do not have the record. If you need the record overnighted from the state, then consider VitalCheck... And if you've used it, I'd be curious to know how it works. I've never had to try.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Did your female ancestor serve in World War I?

Have you ever heard of the Yeomanettes? Women in their teens and twenties were enlisted in the Navy as part of the military effort to support the First World War. Most served as stenographers or clerks, although a few were posted overseas. Their service likely provided the ground work for women's units during World War II - and women's roles in the modern military.
One of their bases was New London, Connecticut. Women staffed offices so that men could be deployed overseas. My own great-grandmother served her enlistment out at New London.
Don't forget to check military records for your female ancestors! Many are listed in rosters issued by the local Adjutant General's office. From there, you can order their service records. Who knows what you might find.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Cleanout failure

I've been cleaning out my genealogy library over the last few days. I hadn't read Buzzy Jackson's "Shaking the Family Tree" for about 4 years - and was intending to clean it out.
Needless to say, it won't be leaving. In deciding whether or not to keep it, I did another read through. "Shaking the Family Tree" is a solid introduction to genealogy. The author dove into her own tree from all directions, touching upon both her father's colonial Virginia and her mother's Jewish heritage. She researched her tree using interview techniques, DNA, and far more. Jackson offers solid tips for beginners while presenting her own successes and failures.
If you have a family member who doesn't quite "get" your obsession with genealogy, "Shaking the Family Tree" might just be the place to start.

Monday, October 27, 2014

What's a "real daughter?"

I wish this question had come up under slightly different circumstances, but we can’t always choose! A Connecticut facebook writer noticed the damage done to the gravestone of a “real daughter.” You can read more about it here… and hopefully offer to help.
So, what is a “real daughter?” Real daughter is a term used by the Daughters of the American Revolution to identify a member who was a biological daughter of a Revolutionary War patriot. All members are called “daughters.” The statement is simply more accurate for these members.
Real daughters can be, and often are, honored by DAR with memorial plaques. If your “real daughter” hasn’t been honored, consider contacting your local DAR chapter to find out how to get a grave marked.
Why do you care? If you find one on an ancestor’s gravesite, you may be able to skip a few steps in your research. Their connection to a Revolutionary War patriot is likely document in the DAR library.
Happy research!

Middlesex County Resources updated...

Clinton has been added to Middlesex County Resources on the new site. Here's the link:

Like us on Facebook to make sure you get updates!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Gradually migrating to a new blog...

Announcing For Us the Living ( , my new  blog and webpage. The migration is happening slowly. Expect some double posts for some time. Please let me know your thoughts!

Your ancestors are American... Right?

 In doing research recently, I've run into the same circumstance over and over again: American families crossing the Canadian border, or vice-versa. If you've been raised in New England, it's not something you necessarily expect. We have a mentality that all New Englanders were Puritan settlers who remained here from their first settlement.

That's not always true. Families from northern New England or eastern Canada migrated across the border in search of new jobs or new opportunities. They may have stayed for years or just months.  Sometimes their descendants forgot that they were anything but American.

Why do I raise the issue? Simply to challenge how you think your research. It's very easy to fall into a pattern of just looking for records in one area. If we assume a family was from Maine, we tend to focus on our work there. By doing so, we may miss the ancestor's actual records, just over the border in Canada. Always do an open-ended search - just in case!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Are you sure you found everything?

Because my home area is heavily immigrant, Catholic church records are a huge source of information.

 Most of us remember the typical: baptism, marriage, and burial. The records should be checked even if you have already located civil records. The Catholic records required sponsors or witnesses, often when civil records do not. These names may turn out to be an unknown sibling, aunt, or uncle.

But you shouldn't forget other sacramental records! Early on, Confirmations did not take place on a regular basis. They occurred only when a member of the church hierarchy visited the area. That meant individuals of all ages were confirmed when St. John's was the only church in the area. Yet, if you are searching for a Connecticut record after 1900, they should appear every year or two at the most. Sacramental records can be used to estimate age when other documents do not exist. I've even used them to estimate marriage records.

Catholic-non-Catholic marriage? In the early 20th century, one individual had to convert or the marriage had to receive a special dispensation from a member of the church hierarchy. That dispensation can provide additional information about the couple's life at the time. In my family's case, it should the applicant's ties to his home diocese - even though he was living across the country

Don't just stop with the baptism records. What you need may be buried deep in another document.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Vintage photo crafts

If you've been following me for long enough, you know I'm a little... okay, a lot... photo obsessed. But I've started trying to channel it. I'm experimenting with different kinds of photo crafts. Most of these will be available through my genealogy business. But in the meantime, I thought you might enjoy the pictures!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A new Civil War research database

Thanks to Dick Eastman for introducing me to the Sons of Union Veterans' online grave database. The database contains the burial information, including full name and Civil War unit, for both Union and Confederate veterans. You can read his extensive write up here. I just did a quick search of my own, using a common Connecticut surname - 121 matches, all from Connecticut. This looks like a great research option!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Sheila Connolly's Scandal in Skibberdeen

Although it's not mentioned often, I know the mystery lovers among us are thrilled every time we succeed in locating a "genealogical" mystery. There are a few well known ones, such as the Torie O'Shea series. A few lesser known works also weave in genealogical themes. Yet, every time I stumbled across one of Sheila Connolly's books, they always seem to fit the bill.
 Her latest, Scandal in Skibbereen, centers on a search for a missing painting. And of course, the former professional genealogist weaves her training.  To find the missing masterpiece, a New York museum curator and an American born pub owner end up delving deep into a family's history - with a few unexpected results.
   I don't want to spoil a read with any more details, but I highly recommend the novel!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Starting your child off in genealogy?

  If you're interested in starting your child off in genealogy, a great place to start is the Daughters of the American Revolution American History essay contest. Designed for grades five to eight, it asks students to write a short essay about a topic in history.
  Here's this year's:

The year 2015 marks the 125th anniversary of Ellis Island as an immigration station. On a typical day, immigrants arriving on the island could expect to spend up to seven hours in processing activities intended to determine whether or not they were legally and medically fit to enter the United States. Imagine yourself as a child traveling through Ellis Island in 1892. How would you describe your experience to your cousin who has never heard of Ellis Island? 

Imagine the possibilities. You could offer your child a chance to learn about the site through history books - or you could introduce them to an ancestor who visited the site...

Friday, September 19, 2014

Follow Friday: Connecticut Genealogy Research Group

FamilySearch has just announced that their local research pages are changing form. Instead of being focused on one state, they will now focus on an entire region. Visit the Connecticut page ( for more information.

 Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Honestly, I'm not sure. The theory behind the original page - a space for people to share information about localized resources - was a strong one. It's not likely to be replicated on a regional page. Visitors won't have the same level of knowledge or interest in material from another state. At the same time, the local page has never had much traffic. There is a chance this move might work.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tuesday Tip: Finding an obituary in the Middletown Press

 I often see online requests for someone to help with an obituary in older versions of the Middletown Press or the Penny Press, its precursor.  The request is actually more complicated than most people think. Except for recent years, the Press has not been digitized. It is only available on microfilm.

  For most researchers, that would make the Connecticut State Library their first stop. The CSL microfilmed many local newspapers as part of a preservation project in the 1990s. While the CSL is a good resource, it would not provide you with a complete picture. The CSL only has records from 1919.
  In this case, Russell Library has the most complete collection available. Microfilms cover most of the paper's run. And, if you do not have an exact date, they have an index to the papers from the early 1900s. Contact them at Librarians will do their best to help with your research.

Monday, September 15, 2014

What are your favorite ways to teach kids about their history?

I love teaching - and as a result, end up loving any project that might engage kids and adults in genealogy. I've looking for great kids' genealogy books and finally stumbled across one I love. The Family Tree Detective by Ann Douglas does a great job of highlighting the types of records that can be used to trace family stories. I loved the explanation of what you can learn from old report cards. What are your favorite books?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Those Places Thursday: House Histories in Middletown

 House histories are becoming increasingly popular in genealogy. Instead of tracing a history of a family, you instead trace the history of a home. When was it built? Who lived there? Did it have any special stories? It's a neat way to give depth to your home's stories.
   If that home is in Middletown, your work just got that much easier. The Middletown Room at Russell Library holds the notes for the architectural survey of Middletown conducted by the historic preservation trust in the early 1970s. The trust didn't survey every home in town - they chose representative examples - but for those they did, they made very good notes. You may find information about the home's original style, the amount of land, who built, and much more.
   I've also used the collection to figure out where a family was living when... and why. In one case, the family built a new home, next door to their old one, when their fortunes improved. The detail was something I would never have found on my own. Just think of it as a variation on title searching!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Talented Tuesday: Another hidden collection

 The Middletown Room of the Russell Library (Middletown, CT) is full of fabulous collections you've never heard of...
  This time I'm showcasing a collection that might be of use if your ancestor was ever mayor of Middletown. Each administration kept a scrapbook of important news clippings about events during their term. Instead of being kept in City Hall, they're actually part of the Middletown Room collection. It's a nice way to avoid skimming generations of newspapers. Happy hunting!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Those Places Thursday: Wesleyan University

Wesleyan University has set up a resource page for family history researches. They will help with researching students and faculty of Wesleyan, but admit their resources on the rest of town are limited. Check out the page here.

How do you use Google+?

   I am reevaluating my use of social media. Like many genealogists, I jumped on the Google+ bandwagon. But little by little, I've stopped using it. Why? Because most of us end up simply recopying feeds from our blogs. The rare times I use it, I end up doing exactly the same thing...
  I wonder: is there a more effective way to employ Google+? I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Family Tree Magazine

  Yes, I am way behind on this one! I officially got access to Family Tree Magazine for the first time today.  I have to say that I am impressed. The publication provides a solid background in genealogy. Despite the fact that I do a lot of reading in genealogical topics, I found that the issue I was reading covered records I'd never considered. Who would have thought about poor house records? Many of the other articles felt very timely. I'm in the midst of reorganizing my office space... and guess what one of the cover articles was?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Family Photo Detective

 Since I periodically teach beginning genealogy, I love stumbling across clear explanations of genealogy techniques and theory. I am in love  with Maureen Taylor's new book. Family Photo Detective introduces genealogists to the different ways that photographs can be used in genealogy. She touches upon how to date a photograph from type of photography, clothes, and even the photographer's mark. This is the ultimate "how to." Have you ever examined your photographs that closely?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Follow Friday: Connecticut Digital Archive

 UConn is in the midst of developing something that will eventually be a huge help to Connecticut researchers. The Connecticut Digital Archive is still a work in progress, and you can trace the steps on their blog. However, the foundation of the project is already laid. With the help of UConn, local institutions have the opportunity to digitize their collections and to make them accessible to the public. Check out the documents already online. You may find some information about your family.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tech Tuesday: It's not always all there...

  As a Connecticut genealogist, I often hear the comment "everything I need is at the State Library. Why should I go to the town?" In theory, the genealogist is right. Town records were filmed by the Family History Library in the 1940s and 1950s. Going to the State Library can provide a quick shortcut to researching in multiple towns.
   However, as I discovered recently, the Family History Library didn't film everything. I needed to look at Middletown's 18th century land records. The films were easily accessible, but almost impossible to search. Different films covered the same years, and the index was no where to be found. Instead of throwing in the towel, I ended up in the deed vault at City Hall.
  The trip was well worth it. The town's copies of the records were organized by year and the index was easily accessible. Were the microfilms off a different copy? Had the town records been rebound? I have no idea. But if I'd stuck with the microfilm, I never would have found my records. In the town, I found them in minutes.
  Which provided a good lesson. Although some may argue microfilm or digital copies to be "original" sources, they are only as good as the person filming and the copy being filmed. It is easy to leave out records. It's worth double checking when you can't find something.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Follow Friday: Godfrey Library Blog

  I often see questions come up on genealogy listservs about the Godfrey Scholar and the genealogy resources they offer. What's the best way to find out? Turns out they have a blog. Check out their new updates at

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Those places Thursday: Polish Genealogical Society of Connecticut

   Researching Polish genealogy in Connecticut can be a major challenge. Most immigrants arrived in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and while they "made" the census, they may have left few other records of their lives. Most were Catholic industrial workers. In cities, you'll have better luck. Catholic churches were established by about 1910, so church records become an option. City directories and newspapers may provide more details. Small towns are much more of a challenge. Most of these options simply don't exist.
   If you or your family is from the New Britain area, you may have another option for research: the Polish Genealogical Society of Connecticut. While the society's records are strongest for Poland, they do provide surname connections to other researchers. It's worth a try.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Did you know Connecticut had a precursor to Lewis and Clark?

    At least according to Bill McDonald. Peter Pond was a native of Milford and a western trader. He was one of the early explorers, although he was never recognized for his achievements. It's an interesting story, and one I knew nothing about. Read more about Pond on McDonald's site here.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Those Places Thursday: Tracing Your English Ancestors

  Sometime the "oldies" are the best sources. I was recently asked about British genealogy, which I know almost nothing about. I followed my usual procedure of reviewing any genealogy book I could find in my local library. This is how I discovered Colin D. Rogers's Tracing Your English Ancestors: A Manual for Anaylsing and Solving Genealogical Problems, 1538 to the Present. It's an "oldie" (dating from 1989)but delves thoroughly into the available sources, possible problems with these sources, and how to overcome them. You can easily skip the outdated sections - and many resources are now available online. I would highly recommend the read!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Francois Weil Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America

   I finally managed to finish Francois Weil's Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America. I've heard many critiques of the books, as well as many positive reviews. I'd been waiting to read it myself for quite a while.
  Everything said and done, the book was an interesting read. Although it is not presented as such, the book functions as a history of genealogy in white, English America. Family Trees is strongest in its initial analysis. The book convincingly places the average 18th and 19th century genealogy effort within America's efforts to define itself: was the country to be white, European, aristocratic? It falls apart in the later sections. Weil suddenly jumps from European genealogy to the study of Roots. He also adds in a discussion of the professionalism of genealogy - a touchy subject in modern genealogical discussion. Begin the book as a colonial history, rather than a true history of genealogy, and you will enjoy it much more.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tech Tuesday: Ancestry Family Trees

  I've heard all the debate about trees: they make it too easy to copy bad information, people will add whatever they want, etc. Only rarely do I hear the good comment - that they offer great hints.
  I've been doing some research in a new region lately and had hit a brick wall. I always check Ancestry just in case. I figure that it never hurts... Well, surprise, surprise, a public tree referenced a publication on a family that sounds like it will be a huge help. Since I don't research in this region, I never would have checked that journal. What fantastic luck!
  The longer I research, the more open I become to open-ended searches. I've found graves in other countries than expected - and this time, a set of vital records that wasn't supposed to exist.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Those Places Thursday: Wadsworth Mansion, Middletown

  I've already talked extensively about Wadsworth Mansion, so I"ll save a reprise. But if you're related, take a look at their blog. It's a fun view into the new "life" of this historic home. And yes, historic buildings do not have to be replaced to be modernized...

Friday, February 7, 2014

Follow Friday: Arnold Genealogy

 I love recommending family genealogy blogs - no matter how basic - just because they may offer you that needed clue.  The blog Arnold Genealogy fits squarely into this category. Right now it is very basic. The main page summarizes the family line, while "Colonial New England" lists the family's famous ancestors. However, it looks like it might turn out as a fantastic read. I love the fact that they've included an anecdote section!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Another photography site

   I have mixed feelings about promoting genealogy sites selling historic family artifacts. I don't want to encourage family members to part with their things just for the chance to make some money (it happens), but I also know how much finding these items means to those of us who study our family history. Laurel Cottage Genealogy has a post-card that might mean something to a Norwich family.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Those Places Thursday:

 Has your research moved into a new town? offers you a way to play catch up. Their town pages offer a short history of the town, a list of sources to learn more about the town's history, places to visit in town, and links to documents concerning the town.
  I  took a quick look at Middletown's page. While it was missing a few places (Wesleyan University, anyone?), it provided a good introduction to town.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tech Tuesday: Genealogy sites...

  Not to name a specific site but as anyone noticed a proliferation of questionable genealogy sites lately? I just did a quick search on Connecticut "how to" sites. The results - a lot of not-so great sites. Many Connecticut how-to sites contain basically okay information but have spelling errors or miss huge details.
   What's my test for a good genealogy site? If it lists historical societies, does it include Middlefield's? Middlefield has a small and largely inaccessible historical society - but the resources are fantastic. If it's mentioned, the person has done their research. Are library names actually right? Madison's library name is not Madison Public Library. Check and make sure someone has done their homework. Otherwise, they're just trying to sell ad space.
   The laziness is frustrating.