Sunday, October 11, 2015

Leave no Stone Unturned by Diane Reid

         Godfrey Memorial Library is an amazing place.  In the more than fifteen years I have been volunteering as a docent and researcher, I have met and been able to help genealogists from all across the United States, and in a few instances, those from other countries. Some people have lots of information about the ancestor they are researching, some have nothing more than a name, a general birth year, and, if we’re lucky, a town.  We are able to find information most of the time using the many resources available to us here at the Godfrey.   

Then there are the people that no one appears to be searching for.   They are the persons who died and are buried in cemeteries across the United States, most with no stone to mark their grave, buried in what used to be called “pauper’s graves”.  Most towns have lots for the burial of those without family or funds, and some churches have lots for that purpose also.

Indian Hill Cemetery in Middletown has both.  A beautiful cemetery opened in 1850,  Indian Hill Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 9,000 souls.  There is a large city lot, and a lot owned by the local Episcopal Church.   These lots contain very few stones to mark the final resting places for those buried here.  I have been researching those buried in the church lots to identify them and document something about their lives.  I hope to see a marker erected on the lots listing the names of those who rest among strangers.

The resources at the Godfrey have been of tremendous help in discovering the resting places of those who would otherwise be lost to history.   The Ed Laput Cemetery Cemetery Project has recorded names and dates from 950 Connecticut cemeteries and 37 in other states, along with photos of the sites if available.  This collection is just part of Godfrey's online materials available to members.

In addition, Godfrey has copies of the records of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity, and the vital records of Middletown and the Sexton Returns from 1892 to 1900. Add to this the Middletown City Directories, the Penny Press newspaper from 1884 to 1921, and the Indian Hill Cemetery burial records, and I have been able to locate information on close to fifty persons buried in the church lot since 1851.

As an example, the sixth and seventh burials in the church lot were the 800th and 852nd at Indian Hill.  They were of Elizabeth Martin and her son William Andrew Martin, who died six months apart in 1876. The Indian Hill Cemetery Internment Book says Elizabeth  was 35 years old when she died of pneumonia.  The Middletown Vital Records give her birthplace as Wilmington North Carolina and stated that she  was married to Henry John Martin, a stone worker.  The church records list two children, John Henry, b.2 Apr 1871, baptized the 12th of that month, and William Andrew b. 15 Jul 1875, and baptized 15 Aug 1875.  William died in  Sep 20, 1876 six months following his mother’s passing and was buried with his mother in the same grave.   In 1880, John Henry was living in the Hartford Orphan Home.  Neither Henry John nor his son John Henry were located in the 1900 census.

This is just one example of the many resources we have available to help you discover information about your ancestors.  To learn more, come in or go to our website.


Friday, January 9, 2015

Middletown Midwife Records

Birth records of any kind are invaluable to genealogists.  These are most often found in vital records for a town or county or sometimes in church records, though baptismal records are more common.  At the Godfrey Library, we are lucky enough to have a very unique birth record for Middletown and Ansonia Connecticut as a part of our collection.  In 2009, Marie Carta donated the record book kept by her great aunt, Sebastiana Grimaldi Misenti, a midwife.  But Sebastiana was not just any midwife: because she was born and initially raised in Melilli Italy, she was the midwife of choice for all the Italian families in Middletown and Ansonia who emigrated from that area.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s the Middletown area experienced a flood of immigrants from the village of Melilli on the island of Sicily.  Immigrants traveled to the Middletown area on the advice of a former resident of Melilli who wrote home about the great opportunities the Middletown area afforded.  Though they were not the first Italians to settle in the Middletown area, by virtue of sheer numbers the population of immigrants from Melilli had an enormous impact on Middletown's history.

Families from Melilli formed a close knit community in the area east of Main Street Middletown.   It was this community and a similar population in Ansonia that Sebastiana served as a midwife.  Her record book in the Godfrey collection contains the names of 934 children she delivered from 1909 to 1935.  Each entry contains the gender and name of the child delivered, the name of their mother and father, and their date of birth.  The records are written entirely in Italian.  The Godfrey was lucky enough to have a volunteer whose first language was Italian to help us index these records.  The index and scans of the original records are available in the Godfrey Scholar Digital Collection.

If you have Italian ancestors from Middletown or Ansonia Connecticut who originally hailed from Melilli Italy it is highly likely that they or their children were delivered by Sebastiana.  She sounds like an amazing woman who made an incredible impact in her community.  Despite this, there is little information to be found about her.  Her grave is a simple stone in the St. Sebastian's Cemetery (found using the Ed Laput Cemetery Project).  These records and that stone may be the only remaining evidence of the life that helped so many.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

This Week on the Scholar

Below is a list of the latest books and records added to the Godfrey Scholar Online Access. Next we will add more of the Godfrey's unique content from our physical collection that cannot be found anywhere else, including funeral records, church records, and much more!  Expect to see the rest of the Coughlin Lastrina Funeral Home records added to the Scholar within the next week!

The Genius and Character of Emerson
Maria Sanford

Church Records
Cromwell First Congregational Church Book of Remembrance 1889-1962
Portland Evangelical Lutheran Zion Church Record Book, 1880-1888
Portland Evangelical Lutheran Zion Church Record Book Volume 2, 1903 and on

Funeral Home Records
Coughlin-Lastrina Funeral Home Records: Burial Returns March 1912 to November 1914 Index
Roberts Funeral Home Record Cards, 1941-1942

Cuccel Family Records
Descendants of Richard Smyrk
Willard, Twigs and Branches

Military: Civil War
Sketches of War History 1861-1865: Volume 3

 Not a Scholar?  Visit our website to subscribe or call the library at (860) 346-4375 to join today