Monday, March 17, 2014

Check Out the Genealogy Club!

For those of you who do not know, the first Saturday of the month from 9:30 to 10:30 AM the Godfrey Library Genealogy Club meets at the library to talk about their findings, methods, and listen to presentations put on by members and visiting speakers.  The past few months have been particularly exciting, with Executive Director of the Godfrey Library Beth Mariotti speaking on the resources in the Godfrey Collection and how to find them, Godfrey Board Member Jen Zinck presenting on the exciting new field of using DNA to help your genealogical research, and guest speaker Bryna O’Sullivan discussing the DAR and Revolutionary War Records. 

Let us proceed chronologically with Bryna O’Sullivan’s talk on February 1.  Bryna is a member of the Wadsworth Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution and has a degree in History with a focus on the American Civil War.  She spoke about the membership requirements for the DAR and how to use DAR membership records to help your own genealogical research. 

January 4 brought us Jen Zinck’s presentation on using DNA testing to further your family tree if the paper trail runs cold.  Jen is affiliated with Family Tree DNA and was able to tell us all about genetic genealogy: a new experience for many of us!  It is amazing how far science has come!

The most recent presenter for Genealogy Club was the Godfrey’s own executive director and professional genealogist, Beth Mariotti on March 1.  Her talk went into detail about some of unique records and collections housed in the Godfrey on in our online collection.  She included information on our growing online collection and a brief tutorial on using our Scholar+ database.  This presentation can be found online here.

The Genealogy club’s next presenter is another familiar face at the Godfrey: Ned Browning, Godfrey board member and long time volunteer will be speaking on Early New England Research: 1850-1620.  We are all looking forward to his presentation!

If you would like to sit in on presentations like these and get together with others who share your interest in genealogy, why not join the Genealogy Club?  We meet on the first Saturday of every month from 9:30-10:30 at the Godfrey Library.  You are encouraged to bring your laptop and stay after the meeting to research. There is a $25.00 annual membership fee.  We would love to see you there!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

An Inside Look at the Ed Laput Cemetery Project

One of the Godfrey's most valuable resources is the data collected by board member Ed Laput and his small army of volunteers in Ed's quest to update and improve the Hale Cemetery Inscription Collection.  The Ed Laput Cemetery Project, as it is called, currently contains data from over 700 Connecticut cemeteries, with more being added all the time.  Aside from Ed himself, the person best able to give a real insider's look at the project is Ed's right hand man, Gene Gumbs.

"When I signed on to join Ed Laput, former Godfrey Memorial Library Board Member, and his merry volunteer band of brothers and sisters in his effort to catalogue and photograph every cemetery in the State of Connecticut, little did I know that the project was about to become an obsession and a quest to find out more about some of the names I found on the stones. It’s a daunting task Ed has undertaken – there are more than 2300 cemeteries in Connecticut – but, if you’re a student of history and genealogy like I am, it’s also a fascinating and exciting look into the past. It’s a journey of mysteries and puzzles – some of which I find myself taking time to look into a little more.

A case in point…. Buried in Brewster Cemetery in Preston is Jonathan Brewster, son of William Brewster who came to America in 1621 on the Mayflower. In fact, Jonathan was supposed to be on the Mayflower but stayed in Holland with his sick wife who later died. He joined his father in Plymouth a few months later, making the trip west on the ship Fortune. He married again while in Massachusetts came to Connecticut in 1649, settling in New London where he died in 1659.

Another interesting inscription sent me scouring the Internet for answers. On the base of an obelisk in Colonel Ledyard Cemetery in Groton is this inscription: “The body of Capt. John Seeley Æ42 rests here who with his wife Cordelia Æ36 & son Mighil Æ14, drowned Oct. 23, 1856.”  After my initial thoughts of sadness for the tragic end for this family I started wondering what actually happened.  Could it have been an accident on the Thames River? Perhaps parents trying to rescue a drowning son in a swimming mishap. Did it happen in the State?  After a little digging I discovered it happened off Turks Island in a shipwreck. Captain Seeley was trading salt between New England and the islands when his ship went down in the shoals off the island.

We have also run into times where headstones and graves show up in places they’re not supposed to be. Jared Covey’s headstone rests in the basement of the library in Burlington, CT. The only problem is that Jared is supposed to be buried in the Seventh Day Baptist Cemetery in town. Covey, who died in 1804, actually helped build the Seventh Day Meeting House with his sons. He actually deeded the land for the cemetery from his private property.  So the question remains – is he actually buried where the library now stands? Or was his headstone removed from the Seventh Day Cemetery to the library?

Ed and I stumbled on another stumper when we were in Montville. We were in a remote spot in the woods on top of a hill taking pictures of what remained of the Spicer Cemetery. When Charles Hale surveyed the cemetery in the early 1930’s he noted just four burials – all named Spicer – dating from 1839-1887. The only problem is that we found the headstone of Anna Bolles lying on the ground. How did that headstone get there? Is she actually buried there or did some prankster remove her headstone from elsewhere and transport it up a 500-foot hill to a stonewall-enclosed family cemetery? Could Hale have just missed her stone 80 years ago?

Unfortunately, I have yet to unravel the mystery. There was indeed an Anna Bolles who died in 1830 listed in local obituaries in the Montville area but Hale did not register an Anna Bolles in any of the nearly 50 cemeteries in the town.

To date, the Ed Laput Cemetery project has cataloged and photographed more than 730 cemeteries. There are more than 160,000 photos and 230,000 names in the database! The Godfrey Scholar+ gives anyone complete access to the collection, as well as dozens of other genealogical databases, and it is growing daily. It is an invaluable resource for anyone looking to trace their family roots.

If you’d like to get involved with the Laput Cemetery Project we need people who can type information into spreadsheets, rename digital photos, and help us find the abandoned and remote burial grounds throughout the state of Connecticut. If you love history and mystery this is the volunteer project for you!"- Gene Gumbs, Godfrey Volunteer

If you want to help with this incredible endeavor call 860-346-4375  
We'd be happy to have you!  

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Finding Your Ancestors in Church Records

In celebration of the Godfrey staff and volunteers being well on their way to adding much of the content from Middletown's Church of the Holy Trinity records as searchable content in our online database, we'd like to share with you an article written by the Godfrey's own Dianne Day Reid.

Finding Your Ancestors in Church Records

Diane Day Reid


Church records can be an excellent source of information. The early records, kept by the clergy, were generally basic - the date of baptism, child’s name, father’s name, and the names of the sponsors.  Some are easy to read, having been written in a legible style, while others appear difficult to read and decipher.  Marriages simply listed the names of the couple and the date of marriage.  Deaths were simply recorded, usually with the name of the deceased and the date of burial.  Later records, in the mid to late 1800’s, might offer the cause of death.

Some Church records can also be a rich source of history of local families and social customs.  Records might list not only baptisms, marriages, and deaths, but on occasion provide poignant insights about people and happenings.  Consider the following, found in the records of the Episcopal Church in Middletown:  Imogene daughter of Nathan and Ann Haley, born in Philadelphia August 31st 1838, baptized in Middletown in private on account of extreme illness, June 13th and died June 16th 1840.

They are an excellent source for locating information about your ancestors, but can be difficult to locate.  If your ancestors were from a large city, you might need to locate the section of town where they lived to determine the closest church to their home.  If you are searching in a small town, there are probably only a few churches to check out.  If your ancestors settled in the wilderness, the search is even more difficult, but perhaps not impossible.  You will have to determine if there even was a church in the area in which your ancestors settled.

Daniel Henshaw, b. 1762, and his brother Joshua, b. 1765 were at  Middlebury Vermont about 1800.  The brothers built stores, mills and dwellings; they were also engaged the in mercantile business for several years. They were prominent men in the early history of the town. Daniel Henshaw fitted up a room in which Episcopal church services were held from 1817 until the stone church was completed in 1827.  Joshua and his family were members of the Congregational Church.  The History of the town of Middlebury says that the church at Middlebury was dependant upon visiting clergy for their services. The Episcopal Church at Middlebury was formed on St. Stephen’s Day, 26 Dec 1811, and the church, consecrated in 1827, is named St. Stephen’s on the Green.

The 1790 census shows Daniel Henshaw with one male over 16 and three females living at Middletown CT.  In the Episcopal Church records of Christ Church, Middletown, I found an entry for 1802 showing that the Reverend Joseph Warren, whose contract with the parish allowed him to be absent one-fourth of the time “in case his business should require it”, was in Vermont on June 23 of that year when he baptized thirteen children at Middlebury CT. These baptisms were recorded in the Christ Church,Middletown Connecticut church records, Volume C, as there was no church in Middlebury before 26 Dec 1811 according to the History of the town of Middlebury.  However, the History of the town of Middlebury says that the church at Middlebury was dependent upon visiting clergy for their services. (The Episcopal Church at Middlebury was formed on St. Stephen’s Day, 26 Dec 1811, and the church, consecrated in 1827, is named St. Stephen’s on the Green.)  Eight were the children baptized that day were the children of Joshua and Esther (Burnham) Henshaw, formerly of Middletown. 

The lesson here is that if there was no church in the area, check the church records of the town from which the family lived previously.

At the library, we are fortunate to have the records of several early churches from the Middletown area.  Available to Godfrey Scholars online are the First Congregational Churches of Middletown and Cromwell, the Groton Congregational Church and the Second Church of North Stonington.  Not online are the records of Portland Zion Church, the Northford Congregational Church, and some records from Plymouth Connecticut, as well as the Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity, Middletown, formerly named Christ Church.

If you would like us to search the church records here at the library, simply print out the American Genealogical Biographical Index search request (AGBI), and for $10 per name (and rough date) we will search the church records for you.  Mention that these are the church records you would like us to search.