Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Number Four of my 4-Pronged Research Plan

The last item of my research plan was to investigate what resources there are online. I was amazed at how much more there is available online than just five years ago when I started this project.

As I said before, many organizations are working at a fast pace to get much of their materials online and available to everyone. The Godfrey Library ( in Middletown has a tremendous amount online and is putting more up every day. What you can access is dependent upon what level of membership you have but even at the lowest level, there is an incredible amount of information literally at your fingertips.

Another valuable online resource is Find a Grave (, and it is free. Hundreds of volunteers travel to different graveyards and record the information found on gravestones. Putting this research online is a great boon for people looking for their ancestors. If you are doing a family history or looking for an ancestor, try searching through the millions of grave records they have accumulated. That sounds like a difficult task but they have it so organized, it is not. Many family histories have to start with finding when the person died and working backwards with that information to find out more about the life of that person.

The Connecticut Historical Society ( has a number of catalogs online, including manuscripts. They have a blog outlining some of the available manuscripts at They are part of a collaborative digital collection found at

It is also possible to just Google a name. A word of caution though, what you will get may be helpful but these records need to be verified. These family histories put online by amateur genealogists are not always accurate. Some mistakes are so glaring that you cannot miss them. In one record I was researching, the person has one of their subjects being born and being married on the same day.

I have found though that they sometimes give me a clue that fits into my giant jigsaw puzzle. In one case, I thought the resource was all wrong but then realized there was a stepmother involved that I knew nothing about. Even if the rest of the record was wrong, this gave me a new avenue to follow. I see my whole project as one huge jigsaw puzzle with myriad little pieces that have to be found. Since I love puzzles, I enjoy this.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Number Three of 4-Pronged Research Plan

One of my big questions about the Herstory project was whether there would be enough printed materials on women in the seventeen century. I soon found out there are numerous books for me to research.

I have to thank Nancy Price at the Rathbun Memorial Library ( for her assistance in finding some of the books I wanted. Sometimes she had to contact universities to find them.

The CCAR program for libraries is a wonderful program that is a boon to someone like me, who wants books from all over the state. I cannot imagine what it would have cost me to travel around the state picking up books. The CCar brings them right to your library of choice and that is where you return them no matter where they came from.

The State of Connecticut keeps threatening to cut this program and we all need to be diligent in supporting CCar. There are many people dependent upon this program to find the books they need. Just imagine if each library had to go back to trying to keep up with purchasing all the new books. This way if a library has already purchased a popular book, all the other libraries do not have to buy it. I have contacted Gov. Malloy’s office and added my two cents as I hope many others have also.

I quickly learned that there were specific writers that were respected for their research of women’s lives in that time period. Elisabeth Anthony Dexter Ph.D. was one of these writers. Another one was Alice Morse Earle, who wrote a number of books about different aspects of the lives of colonial women.  One good way to find out who the writers to read were was to read the bibliographies of these women and see from whom they got their information.

Of course, there are the printed family genealogies. It would seem that if you want to know something about a certain family you would just need to consult a family history. It is not always that easy. Many of these histories were written in the nineteenth century before there were the communication resources we have today. Some of their information is strictly family oral tradition.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Number Two in 4-Pronged Research Plan

The second part of my research plan for my series of books, Herstory, Stories of the Women of East Haddam through the Centuries, was to look at what organizations there might be that would have some benefit to a historical writer. It is important to belong to organizations that bring like-minded people together so they can network and share information.

I immediately became a Godfrey Library Scholar ( Their wonderful library in Middletown is crammed full with historical research resources, especially for family and genealogy. They have volunteers who are working tirelessly to get more and more files online. By becoming a “scholar,” I not only support the organization but gain access to both the physical facility to draw help from, as well as their extensive online resources.

Another valuable group is the American Association for State and Local History ( Although this organization is national and more oriented to history professionals than to writers, their publications give a good overview of what is going on in the field. They have a local annual event with speakers that should be informative.

AASLH has a section on their website called “Hot Topics,” which is a great medium for keeping abreast of at-risk funding for libraries and museums. AASLH board members, who are on national boards and task forces, testify at governmental hearings when needed to support funding for organizations promoting preserving our history.

Another organization that is especially valuable to my project is the Connecticut Society of Genealogists ( They provide information on all the facilities in the state that have genealogical holdings, where the Family History Centers are located, and what local facilities have one-of-a-kind resources such as manuscripts, diaries and account books listed by town. They generously provide telephone numbers and addresses. CSG also has a number of informative publications, which can be read in printed form or online. Members have more access to the content and features on the website.

Then there is the Association for the Study of Connecticut History ( As its name states, ASCH addresses a vital need by promoting the study of Connecticut history. ASCH publishes Connecticut History, the only journal dedicated expressly to the state’s history. It also publishes an informative newsletter. I am thrilled that ASCH has chosen me to be one of the presenters at their fall meeting in Nov. at Manchester Community College. Synergy at work again, the theme this year is “Women in Connecticut.” It will be an honor to share my research at this meeting.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Developing a 4-Pronged Research Plan

I am a planner by nature so developing a research plan was top on my “to do” list when I decided to move ahead with the Herstory, Stories of the Women of East Haddam through the Centuries series. This is something I suggest anyone starting a big project take the time to do. Relying on my journalistic background I saw a research plan as basic who, what, where and when.

The 4 points of my research plan were facilities, organizations, reference books and the Internet. Today I will talk about the facilities that have resources available to me.

For researching local family histories and women in history, you have to start with libraries and   historical societies that have family/local histories and genealogies in their collections. For instance, my series of books is about the women of East Haddam, CT. That does not mean my research will be restricted to East Haddam. Especially when you are talking about the seventeenth century, I have to cast a wider net than that. Especially considering I am writing about the female unsung heroes that no one has written about or in most cases paid any attention to in print.

I put together a list of the top 10 resource facilities I would want to visit.
Rathbun Library History Room  (
East Haddam Historical Society
Haddam Historical Society (
Godfrey Memorial Library (
Middlesex County Historical Society (
The Connecticut Historical Society (
Connecticut Society of Genealogists (
Hartford Public Library History Room (
Connecticut State Library and Archives (
Meriden Public Library History Room (

Each of them has materials that pertain to the settlers of East Haddam. Names like Cone, Hungerford, Brainerd, Lord, Chapman, Gates, Olmstead and Spencer to name just a few.

The next step was to make a list of telephone numbers, addresses and contact person for each place. Then I was ready to start making appointments. It is always a good idea to call and make an appointment so the individuals you will be meeting with have an idea of what information you are seeking.
My plan was to start close to home at the Rathbun Library History Room. Rathbun has such extensive local history records that I could just hole up there for months. I will detail my experiences at each of these resources in later posts.

Next post, I will talk about some of the organizations I have joined, and why that is important.