Friday, January 29, 2016

Daughters of the American Revolution Insignia has Middletown Ties

     Some of Godfrey's collections touch on history far outside the Library's New England focus. The insignia of the Daughters of the American Revolution is a point of pride for the Society. One Godfrey collection suggests that the insignia might have had Connecticut ties.

    The Godfrey Library is the repository of the Collection of books and papers of Daughters of the American Revolution, Wadsworth Chapter. Page 29 of the Historian's Report, Volume II recounts the founding of the Chapter - and its ties to the insignia's creator. According to the website of a South Carolina DAR chapter, George Goode designed the insignia, modeling it on his mother's spinning wheel.
      "Our indebtedness to Dr. G. Brown Goode of Washington, and to his wife, our first member, can never be over-estimated. Dr. Goode, a graduate of Wesleyan and a citizen of Middletown (we are proud to recall) while visiting friends in Middletown, in  1891, spoke of his great interest in a new society that was organized a year before in Washington, and known as the Daughters of the American Revolution. He so impressed some of our patriotic women that he was requested to forward from Washington the requisite application blanks, twelve in number. These blanks were received and soon executed, and his ladies are now designed as charter members of Wadsworth Chapter."

     Wadsworth Chapter, Connecticut's first, therefore, can claim a role in the creation of DAR's best known symbol - or perhaps the reverse is true!

    Interested in the history of Connecticut's DAR chapters? Check out our library catalog for a DAR publications, papers, and more!

Friday, January 22, 2016

We're More that Just a Website: the Library's Unique Revolutionary War Collection

If you're in the midst of preparing a DAR or SAR application, you know how valuable sources with information about your ancestor can be  - and how hard they often are to find. Godfrey can help!

Our collection goes beyond what's available online. For example, this book might be a valuable resource.

Compiled in 1976 by the Stamford Genealogical Society, this copy of Stamford's Soldiers: Genealogical Biographies of Revolutionary Patriots from Stamford, Connecticut is one of only 500 printed. And for a DAR applicant, it is a gem. The book contains short biographies of all 738 men with known connections  to Stamford during the Revolution. While it is uncited, it offers the dates and places where a soldier died, was buried or had his will probated. For a lineage society applicant, this book might make your research much easier.

Thinking it's time to visit the library in person? Visit us at for directions.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Godfrey's Family History Center Helps Bring History to Your Fingertips

Have you wondered how to access your ancestors' records when they lived far away? Today's guest post gives you a glimpse of what can be found using films delivered to Godfrey's Family History Center. For more information about the center's hours, please visit our website.

Use of Real Estate Deeds to Uncover Spousal Identity

            Identifying the names of spouses during the 1700s and 1800s is always a challenge.  Real estate deeds can be a useful tool in this effort.  Other than a few commercially prepared abstracts, information from real estate deeds can be obtained either by going to whatever jurisdiction in which the deed was recorded or (more easily) by obtaining microfilm through a Family History Center such as found at the Godfrey Memorial Library.

            For many years I worked on the family of one of my 4th great-grandfathers, George Smith.  I found his 1772 marriage record to his wife Barbara, baptismal records for their children and other records which traced their life together in Upper Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania for about twenty years.  Then, in 1796, a deed was recorded where George Smith sold his land in Pennsylvania, prior to his move to Sussex County, New Jersey.  Pennsylvania law required the spouse to also sign the deed and to do so “to be their free act.”  In this case, his wife’s name is listed as Susannah.  Since no death or burial record was ever found for the first wife of George Smith, and no marriage record was ever found for this second wife, this deed becomes the only evidence that his first wife was deceased and that he had remarried.

            As I tracked George Smith’s real estate transactions in New Jersey, his wife continued to be Susannah.  An 1808 marriage record for George Smith to Sarah Compton was found among the Sussex County records but without confirming evidence, the record could not be relied upon.  This confirming evidence was found in an 1809 real estate deed where George Smith and his spouse, Sarah, are seen selling 10.92 acres of land.  The deed states that Sarah was the widow of Jacob Compton and that she had acquired the land from a William Compton.  Thus, this record confirms the 1808 marriage record and further agrees with the 1812 will of George Smith where he identifies his spouse as Sarah Smith.  Obviously, his second wife, Susannah is deceased prior to the date of the 1808 marriage.  Still to be determined is Sarah Compton Smith’s maiden name.  Nevertheless, the use of real estate records can identify a spouse’s given name; give approximate time periods of a marriage and also the date by which a prior spouse is deceased.  Also, as seen in this case, the prior marriage of a spouse is identified and if the land was inherited from her father, his name would have been identified.

            Much of early real estate law, and all other laws, was modeled on English common law which in general did not provide rights to females.   Nevertheless, the concept of a spouse’s right of dower to her husband’s estate was generally found in common law.  Similarly, English common law, while generally denying a wife of a separate identity, did provide a protection to a woman by preventing a husband from selling real property without the wife’s consent which was also adopted by many of the colonies.  Thus, the spouse is identified when they are selling real estate and her signature (or mark), provided freely (and often after a separate interview) was required on the deed in many states. 


Friday, January 8, 2016

Searching Godfrey Scholar just got easier!

Searching for a Smith or Brown ancestor?

Searching in Godfrey Scholar just got easier.

Thanks to recent updates, you can add a year or range of years to your name search.

If you know the exact year, enter in the box next to "year."

Need to search a ten year period? Imagine you want to search for someone who died between 1880 and 1890.  Enter 1885 in the year box. Change the zero to five. The search will now include any results dating from five years in either direction.

No more having to read through results too old or too recent to be your ancestor!