Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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Begin With Yourself...
A primary rule in starting genealogical research is to begin with yourself and go backwards through the generations, collecting as much information as you can from family members and records. This provides a solid basis for future searching and gives clues on the dates and localities in the lives of earlier generations.
Harriet Ward BEECHER
James Earl "Jimmy" CARTER, Jr.
Dwight David "Ike" EISENHOWER
John Paul JONES
If part of the name is not known, leave a blank or draw a line where the unknown part should go. If an entire name is not known, leave the space blank or draw a line.
Thomas __________ "Stonewall" JACKSON
20 October 1770 or 20 Oct 1770
1 March 1842 or 1 Mar 1842
16 May 1871
If part or all of the date is not known, draw a line where the information should go.
1 Mar ____
County government was never strong in Connecticut and was abolished in 1960; vital records and land records are kept by the town clerk. However, knowing the county where an event took place can be very important when trying to obtain Connecticut census information or documentation from other states and countries.
Vernon, Tolland, CT
Seattle, King, Washington
Calamus Twp., Dodge, Wisconsin
Pierre, Dakota Territory, USA
Frouard, Meurthe-et-Moselle, France
It is important to remember that boundaries for governmental units may have changed with the years. Record the event in the unit it was in at the time of the event in question.
If part of the location is unknown, draw a line where the information should go.
Portland, ______, ME
________, Litchfield, CT
Bell, James B. Family History Record Book. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1980 [CSL call number HistRef CS 16 .B358].
Dollarhide, William. Managing a Genealogical Project: A Complete Manual for the Management and Organization of Genealogical Materials. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1988 [CSL call number CS 16 .D64 1988].
These forms can also be home-made, purchased through genealogical societies such as the Connecticut Society of Genealogists or the New England Historic Genealogical Society, purchased through a genealogical supply company, or are found as part of a computer genealogy program.
Useful Introductory Books
The following lists include useful books with suggestions on how to organize your material. They also discuss various types of records to search to find missing pieces of family information:
Consult published sources such as family genealogies, local histories, and city directories. Check the Connecticut State Library catalog for books available for use here. (Note that most genealogies and local histories are not available on interlibrary loan.)
The International Genealogical Index
The beginning genealogist may save some time in finding records by consulting the International Genealogical Index (IGI). The computerized version of this index, available at the Connecticut State Library, LDS Family History Centers, other large genealogical libraries, and through the Family Search website, lists over 200 million names from records around the world, with concentrations in North America, Mexico, Great Britain, and Europe. Names are placed in the IGI by researchers or through name extraction programs. If your ancestor is in the IGI, you may be able to find the date and place of his or her birth, marriage, and/or death.
There are many types of original sources. Examples and suggestions for research may be found in many of the books included in A List of Some Suggested "How-to" Books for Family History. It is best to begin with vital records (births, marriages, and deaths) and church records, before moving on to Bible records, census records, newspaper marriage notices and death notices, headstone inscriptions, probate records, military records, and tax records.
Record Your Sources
There are few things more frustrating for researchers and librarians trying to assist them than not being able to re-locate information because no notation or an incomplete notation of its source was made. Record your sources for all notes, photocopies, and microfilm printouts. For published sources include the title, author, volume, page, place, and date of publication. For archival and manuscript sources include the box or volume number, record group, or library classification number, and record group or item title. For microfilmed material, be sure to include the microfilm reel number.
Keep a Research Log
Keep a list of all names searched and sources consulted. Knowing what you have already searched helps prevent duplication of effort. Headings for a typical research log are:
Remember that meanings of words have changed over time. As examples, "brother" could once mean "brother-in-law"; "cousin" usually was a generic term for any relative; "son-in-law" could mean what we know today as "stepson"; "in-law", in the past could mean anyone related by marriage; "father-in-law" and "mother-in-law" could mean what we now know as step-parents.
"Junior" and "Senior" did not always refer to a father-son relationship; but may have distinguished an uncle and nephew, or older cousin and younger cousin. If there were three individuals named John Jones in a town, the oldest was commonly designated John Jones, Sr.; the next oldest John Jones, Jr. or 2nd; and the youngest John Jones, 3rd, with each moving up a position as the older individual(s) died or moved from town. Women were also sometimes called "Junior" and "Senior".
Names and Naming Patterns
Note any information on the surname(s) you are tracing even if a connection has not yet been made to the specific family you are researching. The information may eventually tie into your line.
One pattern in British countries and colonial America was to name the oldest son after the father's father; the second son after the mother's father; the eldest daughter after the mother's mother; and the second daughter after the father's mother.
Be aware of nicknames, i.e., Nancy for Anna; Polly for Mary; Sally for Sarah. A father transferring land to a daughter Nancy in a town's land records and leaving money to a daughter Anna in his will may actually be making reference to the same daughter. See A Listing of Some 18th and 19th Century Nicknames.
Don't overlook variations in spelling of names. The way in which names were spelled could vary with the clerk, recorder, or census taker. Even signatures varied from document to document. William "Johnson" and "Jonson" may be the same person.
Daniel vs. Samuel vs. Lemuel
Amie vs. Anna
If the name began with a vowel or an "H", look under every vowel:
Hannah vs. Anna
If the name began with a consonant, try looking under each vowel following that consonant:
Brinson vs. Bronson vs. Brunson
Button vs. Bouton
Hale vs. Hall vs. Hull
Watch for additions/deletions in prefixes
Bean vs. MacBean
MacKey vs. Mackey vs. Key vs. Keyes
When checking card and computer catalogs for maps, published local histories, etc., always check every possible geographical area, i.e., if you want materials about Storrs, Connecticut check:
Storrs (the community)
Mansfield (the town)
Tolland (the county)
Connecticut (the state)
Town and county boundaries have changed markedly over the years. In many instances several towns have been formed from one original large town. For example, Southington, Bristol, Burlington, Berlin, New Britain, and Avon were all originally part of Farmington.
The names of towns have changed over the years, for example:
Chatham to East Hampton
Saybrook to Deep River
See our publication Connecticut Towns and Their Establishment and the following reference books for more information on changes in town and county boundaries and names:
Hughes, Arthur H. and Morse S. Allen. Connecticut Place Names. Hartford: The Connecticut Historical Society, 1976 [CSL call number HistRef F 92 .H83].
Long, John H., ed. Atlas of Historical County Boundaries: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994 [CSL call number HistRef G 1211 .F7 A8 1994].
Prepared by the History and Genealogy Unit, Connecticut State Library, 11-96.