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  • #38 Royal Descents, Notable Kin, and Printed Sources: The "Connecticut Core" in Print and at NEHGS, Part 1

    Gary Boyd Roberts

    Published Date : September 25, 1999
    NEHGS is now acquiring pre-1881 Connecticut probate records (and those for 1881-1915 for districts A-New Haven), and since the Society’s renovated new Library opened in 1997 has added the multi-reel “Index to the Vital Records of Connecticut Churches” and the Hale Collection of cemetery transcriptions and newspaper marriage and death notices, to the Barbour Collection of VRs long available on film (the entire state consolidated) and in books (by town). These large new acquisitions, plus the selection of topics for my two lectures next year at the NGS conference in Providence (I speak on “Best Printed Sources for Colonial Families of Rhode Island and Connecticut” and “Best Printed Sources for 17th-Century New England”) inspire me to update a lecture I last gave at the NEHGS Summer Conference in Farmington, Conn. 29 July 1994. That lecture identified printed or readily available sources for “the Connecticut core” – an area bound roughly by Hartford, New Haven, New London, and Woodstock, and within which, I maintain, most genealogical problems are solvable.

    Hartford and its neighbors Windsor, Wethersfield and Farmington are well or adequately served genealogically by L.B. Barbour’s Families of Early Hartford (1977), second volumes of histories of Windsor (1892, repr. 1976) and Wethersfield (1904, repr.1987) by H.R. Stiles, and the Wayne C. Hart manuscript collection at NEHGS, which incorporates the Julius Gay manuscript collection on Farmington families at the Connecticut Historical Society (CHS). New Haven and its neighbors Guilford, Milford and Fairfield are well served by, respectively,  the 8 vols. (1922-32, repr. 3 vols., 1974, which also includes Branford and Wallingford residents) of Families of Ancient New Haven by D.L. Jacobus; Families of Early Guilford, Connecticut by Alvan Talcott (1984, but prepared in the 19th century.), plus 50-plus articles in Genealogies of Connecticut Families by Talcott “rivals” Ralph Dunning Smith and his grandson Bernard Christian Steiner; Families of Early Milford, Connecticut, by Susan W. Abbott (1979, incorporating manuscript collections of Nathan G. Pond and George C. Bryant at the New Haven Colony Historical Society); and Families of Old Fairfield by D.L. Jacobus (3 vols., 1930-32, repr. 1976, covering all of Fairfield County for the 17th century, but only the town of Fairfield for the 18th century.

    New London is nicely served by the Charles Dyer Parkhurst manuscript collection at the Connecticut State Library (CSL) and on film at NEHGS, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, and elsewhere, which contains 36 small volumes and covers New London–area families, for Groton especially. Woodstock is in general splendidly covered by the 8 vols. of history/genealogies (of that place) by Clarence Winthrop Bowen, published 1926-1943. Mr. Bowen died after completion of vol. 6, however, and vols. 7-8, covering Hayward-Z, were completed by Jacobus and W.H. Wood, and the manuscript notes for the entire series were given to NEHGS. For surmames A-Hayden, often geographically comprehensive genealogies were attempted, and families of neighboring Pomfret and Thompson were included as well. (Object lesson: “Endow genealogical projects with enough money.”The $10,000 left by Bowen to finish the project covered treatment only of Woodstock families while in Woodstock by Jacobus and Wood.).

    Fairfield County after 1700 and outside Fairfield – even with the several volumes by Orcutt covering Stratford, Bridgeport, Derby, New Milford, and Wolcott – remains difficult. Litchfield County in the northwest can be almost as daunting as neighboring Dutchess Co., N.Y. For the “box” formed by drawing lines between Hartford, New Haven, New London, Woodstock and Hartford again, however, additional sources are enormous. The greatest of these sources, two in number, are the life’s work of two early twentieth-century genealogical “giants” – Lucius Barnes Barbour and Donald Lines Jacobus. Barbour, the genealogist of Hartford families, also originated the great slip, card and photostat volumes at CSL, which include all civil VRs (the Barbour Collection above); wills and probate records (alphabetical) and deeds (by town) on film; many volumes of church records (but only ¼ of total holdings); and cemetery inscriptions and newspaper abstracts (the Hale Collection above).

    Jacobus, the genealogist of New Haven and Fairfield families, also founded and edited, 1932-1965, The American Genealogist (TAG). Under Jacobus and his successors G.E. McCracken, Robert M. and Ruth W. Sherman, and David L. Greene, TAG has published much of the work of the “Jacobus school” scholars G.A. Moriarty, W.G. Davis, H.F. Seversmith, M.L. and W.L. Holman,.C.A. Torrey, H.M. Pitman, J.I. Coddington, M.B. Colket, Milton Rubincam, W.L. Sheppard, Jr., J.G. Hunt, D.H. Kelley, Florence and Roberta Barclay, Paul Prindle and, post 1980, their contemporary successors, largely still active. During Jacobus’s tenure especially, but often afterwards as well, TAG emphasized Connecticut fasmilies. Even before checking the slip, card and photostat volumes at CSL, researchers may wish to use the subject index by Jean Worden to TAG, vols. 1-60. This index is divided into several parts – the first lists articles on American families, and the second lists articles covering European (mostly English) origins. Barbour may be said to have initiated the movement to consolidate county records in a state-wide facility, usually a state library or archives; Jacobus is often considered the “founder of scientific genealogy” or the “back-to-documents” revisionist movement that has animated most American genealogical scholarship since the 1920s. For a further discussion of the life’s work and overall importance of Barbour and Jacobus to both Connecticut and American genealogy generally, see my article “Some Reflections on Modern Connecticut Genealogical Scholarship” in The Connecticut Nutmegger 12 (1979-80): 371-85. The work of these two “giants” has made Connecticut genealogically the best-covered state in the country.

    Major printed compendia for Connecticut include Genealogies of Connecticut Families From NEHGR, 3 vols. (1983), C.A. Torrey, New England Marriages Prior to 1700 (1985; 6th printing, 1997); and English Origins of New England Families, two series, 6 vols. (1984-85), all with introductions by me, plus M.L. Sanborn, Supplement to Torrey (2 vols., 1991, 1995); and The Great Migration Begins (3 vols., 1995, covering all immigrants to New England through 1633) by Robert Charles Anderson, plus vol. 1 (A-B, 1999) of its successor series, covering immigrants 1634-35. For the Torrey and Anderson projects see my commentary in the Register 150 (1996): 451-53, where I also note three major databases that researchers might also want to check early in their research on any Connecticut family – the six volumes of Register indexes (covering vols. 1-148); the American Genealogical-Biographical Index (AGBI, published by the Godfrey Memorial Library in Middletown, Conn., which covers in the first 200 volumes of the current series, A-Wilson); and the LDS International Genealogical Index (IGI).

    Older compendia by Hinman (1852), Goodwin (Notes, 1856, repr. 1969), and Cutter (Conn. set, 4 vols., 1911) should be used with caution. Very fine, however, is Genealogical Notes on the Founding of New England (1926, repr. 1973) by Ernest Flagg, which covers the New Haven, Hartford, and other ancestry of Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt II of “The Breakers” and the Scribners, publishers, of New York City. Among older town histories, manuscript collections, etc., note especially the D.W. Pattterson notebooks on East Haddam at CHS; Allen on Enfield (3 vols., 1900); Mead on Greenwich (1911, mediocre); R.C. Anderson on Lebanon (1983 thesis; at NEHGS – and for Trumbulls, see Detroit Society for Genealogical Research Magazine 15 [1951-52]); Woodruff on Litchfield (1900, mediocre); Adams on Cromwell (Middletown Upper Houses, 1908, quite fine); Baker on Montville (1896, a useful addendum to the New London manuscript by Parkhurst); Andrews (1867) and Camp (1889) on New Britain; Caulkins on Norwich (1874, without a genealogical section – but a major manuscript on Norwich families remains in local private hands); Wheeler on Stonington (1900, mediocre); Davis on Wallingford (1870, largely superseded by Jacobus on New Haven); Bronson on Waterbury (1858); Weaver on Windham (1864, A-Billings only, plus Weaver’s genealogical articles in the Willimantic Journal – Jonathan Clark’s 2 vol. manuscript on Windham and Hampton families is at CHS); and Cothren on Woodbury (1854, 1872, 1879).

    In the next installment of this review of Connecticut resources I will list 31 immigrants to Connecticut of royal descent, note a published list of some of their major notable descendants, mention various genealogies covering a sizable percentage of town residents, and discuss the best guidebooks, bibliographies, and “how-to” works for this genealogically “best-covered” New England state. The passout for my NGS lecture next year will include a bibliography for 100 Connecticut families.
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