Connecticut Microfilms at NEHGS, Part 1

by Barbara Jean Mathews, CG

Posted: November 26, 2001

A Truly Wonderful Microfilm Expansion
One of the highlights of recent years for me personally has been the expansion of the microfilm collection at NEHGS. The collection of Connecticut records has burgeoned, making research so much easier and efforts to document events so much more successful. The expanded microfilm collection at NEHGS now gives Connecticut researchers the opportunity to go beyond family genealogies and identify church records, vital records, and probate records with ease.

This column will highlight the Connecticut records now available on microfilm on the fourth floor of the NEHGS Library. The collection is so extensive that I am dividing the discussion into two parts: This first part will cover vital records, newspaper marriage and death notices, and headstone inscriptions, while the second part will cover probate records, censuses (both state and federal), and the Corbin and Cooke collections.

The Barbour Collection of Vital Records
The Barbour Collection of Connecticut vital records is an index created on pieces of paper called slips rather than on index cards. These slips are arranged alphabetically by name and within each name by year, and cover the entire state up until the year 1850. There are over one million entries.

The Barbour index was a project started by Lucius Barnes Barbour, the state's Examiner of Public Records. During the early part of the twentieth century, Barbour began by publishing the vital records of towns such as Bolton and New Haven. From his position at the state, in the days before the photocopier, he moved to ensure that the state had its own copies of local town vital records. To do this, he hired James N. Arnold, famous for his published series on Rhode Island vital records, as well as other transcribers. The transcriptions of town vital records were accessioned to the Connecticut State Library. There, the team working on the Barbour index would transcribe one event per slip, first by alphabetizing the slips by town, then by typing a town index to vital records. Once the town index was done, the slips were filtered into the statewide index in a strictly alphabetical order by the individual's name.

Each slip includes a reference to the town book from which it was taken. A citation such as "1:59" means that the record came from the 59th page in the first volume of vital records from that town. Other common abbreviations include "TR" for town meeting records, "LR" for land records or deeds, and - for the town of Windsor - "MG" for the Matthew Grant "Old Church" record, an early manuscript containing seventeenth-century vital records. The Barbour Collection microfilms [F93/C71] are housed on the fourth floor of the NEHGS Library.

Researchers using the Barbour collection should always remember that they are working at best from a transcription of a transcription of an original record. As is the case with any index, it is advisable to only use it to locate and investigate the original records.

The Hale Collection of Newspaper Marriage and Death Notices
Charles R. Hale was responsible for an abstracting project involving newspaper marriage and death notices up to the mid-nineteenth century. As did the Barbour project, this one produced a statewide slip paper index as well as individual volumes based on towns or newspapers.

This project produced bound volumes of marriages and deaths published in ninety newspapers throughout Connecticut. Each event is listed first by the newspaper and second by the issue in which they were published. The marriage notices range from simple announcements of names and location to the more complete listing with the date of the marriage and even perhaps the names of the fathers of the couple. Not all deaths listed are local deaths; it was not unusual for an emigrant "Nutmegger" to have a death notice published back in his hometown.

The deaths and marriages were entered on slips as well. There are slips for both the bride and groom or for the deceased. Each slip contains the name of the newspaper, the issue date, and a page number where that event appears in that newspaper's volume. The marriages and deaths were alphabetized separately. The NEHGS collection includes both the slip indexes and the bound newspaper abstract volumes. The newspaper collection is on the library's fourth floor and shares the category F93/H35 with the collection of headstone inscriptions described below.

The Hale Collection of Headstone Inscriptions
This microfilm contains the slip index to Connecticut gravestone inscriptions compiled in the 1930s. The gravestone slips are interleaved with slips for newspaper death notices that were originally part of the Hale newspaper project described above, combining two resources for one type of event.

Charles R. Hale began the collection of cemetery headstone inscriptions shortly after the death of Lucius Barnes Barbour. The Works Progress Administration carried out the considerable task of abstracting the headstones. Over the course of a few years, 2,269 cemeteries were found and selected information from their standing headstones copied. Two products resulted from the Hale inscriptions project. The first product consisted of bound volumes of all cemetery inscriptions, sorted by town. The headstones are listed in order by aisle and plot, so that the researcher can understand when families are buried together. The second product was a slip index similar to the slips used for the Barbour collection. The slip index covers all inscriptions in the state in strictly alphabetical order by the individual's name. NEHGS has microfilm copies of both the single statewide slip index and the bound volumes by individual towns. They are all located under F93/H35 on the library's fourth floor.

The Church Record Index
The Connecticut church record slip index covers approximately one-quarter of the churches whose records are stored at the Connecticut State Library. This particular index, covered in detail for an earlier column on Connecticut, has been obtained by NEHGS on microfilm [F93/C6].

Copyright 2001, New England Historic Genealogical Society