Last Friday I attended a meeting at the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford, and had the pleasure of viewing the exhibits and exploring the library. Founded in 1825, CHS has served as a repository for the state’s artifacts and archives for nearly two hundred years. If you have Connecticut ancestors — and even if you don’t — you will likely find much to engage your interest here.
CHS, located in Hartford’s West End in a mansion built in 1928 by Curtis Veeder, offers plenty of free parking. The main exhibit, Making Connecticut, “is the story of all the people of Connecticut, from the 1500s through today. Themes of daily life, clothing, transportation, sports and leisure, work, and social change run throughout the exhibit.” Don’t miss the gallery of inn and tavern signs; the CHS collection is the largest in the country. My favorites were the early toll road signs. There are also changing exhibits. The CHS website features some interesting collection highlights.
Genealogists will feel right at home in the cozy Research Center. The website’s research page provides a good introduction to the collection, and includes links to online catalogs, finding aids, and subject guides. Open shelves contain Connecticut city directories, genealogies, and local histories. The local histories aren’t limited to Connecticut locations; I saw many Massachusetts county and town resources, as well as material for the other New England states. Also available are Connecticut atlases, genealogical and historical reference books, and general reference notebooks on various collections available in the Research Center, including many paintings and photographs.
Other resources in closed stacks can be retrieved upon request. Of particular interest are the genealogical manuscripts — hundreds of boxes and files containing material on particular families and towns compiled by family researchers and professional genealogists. The information within the files “includes compiled family histories, data sheets, notes, copies of Bible records, miscellaneous abstracts of probate, land, church, and vital records.” The work of genealogists such as Lucius B. Barbour and Donald Lines Jacobus, among others, is represented. To access this collection, speak to a librarian.
Additional information about family history resources at CHS is available online.