Books for the Connecticut Researcher
by Barbara Jean Mathews, CG
Posted: March 27, 2000
Connecticut genealogical researchers can rely on a rich and varied
bibliography. There are introductory books, general guides, handbooks,
registers, indexes, and specialized periodicals. There are books the novice
genealogist should read carefully and books the experienced genealogist needs
to consult regularly. And this is all before we even get to the rich resource
of town-wide genealogies that is such a boon for colonial research in
In this column I will discuss the general-purpose books that have proved most
helpful to me personally. These are books that address questions on locating
records for different time periods, which towns and probate courts were formed
from which other towns and probate courts, and now-extinct place names. I will
not attempt to address specific research issues, such as African-American or
Native American ancestry and resources. Such important topics, as well as
town-wide genealogies, require columns of their own.
Regardless of the "who and what," you'll get nowhere without first
addressing the "where and when" covered by the first four books
listed below. Connecticut's towns originated in two ways: by subdividing from
existing towns, and by groups of people having resettled to a new location. As
you work your way back in time, you will come to the beginning of the town that
interests you. Where did the first settlers come from? Where would earlier
records be located?
Very Useful Books
- The "Blue Book" or the Connecticut
State Register and Manual. The "Blue Book" is an annual
guide to town clerks, registries of vital records, libraries, and
historical societies as well as all other agencies of local, state, and
national government. This is the best book to use when planning a research
visit or writing to towns for vital records. In a town-by-town listing, it
provides names of town clerk, hours of operation, and mailing addresses.
In appendixes it lists all libraries, newspapers, and historical societies
in Connecticut. Please note that the book Connecting to Connecticut, is largely a
compilation from the Blue Book for the year 1994, with some reformatting.
Although relatively inexpensive, this book stills costs twice as much as
the printed version of the Blue Book and is already out-of-date. Those
with Internet access can consult the Register online.
- Marcia Melnyk, Genealogist's Handbook for New England Research,
Fourth Edition (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1999). Melnyk's book covers all six New England states. She
provides information about the establishment of towns and probate
districts and about the current repositories of various types of records.
It includes directions to major repositories as well as their hours of
operation, policies, copier costs, and a general overview of their
collections. There is also has a list of genealogical societies in
Connecticut; researchers trying to obtain birth information for the past
100 years must be members of legally incorporated societies, as I
mentioned in my last column.
Researchers should note that an additional column called "Alias(es)" has been
added to the chart of towns and cities in the fourth edition.
Unfortunately, the chart is so incomplete as to be misleading and should
be completely ignored. Please see Connecticut Place Names, cited
below, for more reliable information on obscure and extinct town and
- Thomas Jay Kemp, Connecticut Researcher's
Handbook (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1981). The book contains an
excellent overview of what records (vital, church, gravestone, etc.) are
available for each town, together with FHL film numbers or publication
information. The discussion on each town also provides information on the
establishment of towns and probate districts.
An introductory bibliography lists general subjects on Connecticut
research, such as adoption, the state archives, history, and census
records. A leisurely perusal of this area can give one many ideas.
While he was writing this book, Kemp lived in Connecticut, where he worked
as a librarian. By his own account, he drove to each town and spoke with
local librarians and record keepers. In this manner he uncovered a
numbered of under-used resources. Although the book is out-of-print and
out-of-date, every Connecticut researcher should make it a priority to
check the book for little-known resources. Most repositories have copies
in their reference sections.
- Arthur H. Hughes and Morse S. Allen, Connecticut
Place Names (Hartford: Connecticut Historical Society, 1976). Although
given to terse town abbreviations, such as WTBY and ROX, the book is an
invaluable resource for local village and community names. Unlike many
gazetteers, this book is not arranged alphabetically by geographic
element. One must use the index to find an obscure name, such as Chalybes. The index will refer the reader to the terse
town abbreviation, in this case ROX or Roxbury.
Thus, Oronoque is cited to INDIAN and STRA, and Oronoke to WTBY. Actually, in looking under the Indian
Names section, we find not just Oronoque but Oronoke and several various spellings of the same
Quinnipiac version of the Algonquin name for "curved place in the
river." The towns listed in the Indian Names section with regions
called Oronoque and its equivalents include RID,
STRA, WTBY and WDBY, that is, Ridgefield,
Stratford, Waterbury, and Woodbury.
This book is quite useful to those confronted by the more obscure
locations given in old letters, deeds, and wills. It includes many of the
nineteenth-century post offices that are now extinct as well as ancient
colonial villages within larger towns.
Generally Useful Books for
- Charles William Manwaring,
compiler, A Digest of Early Connecticut Probate Records, three
volumes (1904-1906; reprint Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company
- Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins, Immigrants to New
England 1620-1633 , in three volumes (Boston, NEHGS,
- Clarence Almon Torrey , Manuscript Copy of New England Marriages
Prior to 1700, NEHGS Reading Room (bound in 1971), arranged
alphabetically. Although marriages are published (Baltimore: GPC, 1985),
and corrections by Melinde Lutz Sanborn have
appeared, the manuscript contains reference abbreviations. A separate thin
green volume also at NEHGS contains full citations for each reference
- Frederic W. Bailey, Early Connecticut
Marriages as Found on Ancient Church Records Prior to 1800 (New Haven,
1896-1906). Reprinted with additions and corrections edited by Donald
Lines Jacobus (Baltimore: GPC, 1968), arranged
- Gary Boyd Roberts, ed., Genealogies of Connecticut
Families from the NEHGR (Baltimore, GPC, 1968)
- James Savage, A Genealogical Dictionary of the
First Settlers of New England...(Boston, 1860-1862). The reprint (Baltimore:
GPC, 1977) includes an index.
- Stamford Genealogical Society [now known as the
Connecticut Ancestry Society], Genealogical Resources of Southwestern
Fairfield County, Connecticut...(Stamford, 1959).
- Thomas E. Sherer, Jr., The Connecticut Atlas: A Graphic Guide to the
Land, People, & History of Connecticut (West Hartford: Kilderatlas Publishing Company, 1990). This book
enables one to track migration routes from pre-colonial times to the
Copyright © 2000, New
England Historic Genealogical Society