Friday, April 8, 2011

New England Regional Genealogical Conference - Day Two

A bit of a late blog entry today, as we just got back from a wonderful dinner with some Pomeroy friends at Mykonos European Restaurant. We all enjoyed wonderful food and great company!

The first session I attended this morning was entitled "Genealogy and The Six Degrees of Separation", taught by Colleen Fitzpatrick, Phd, a Forensic Genealogist. Colleen explained about the theory of connectivity and how the internet has allowed for greater connection, which is lessening the 6 degrees to about 3.5 degrees.

Colleen gave some great tips for finding anyone. First off, if you have an old address, look for neighbors, ask local reference librarians, ask local ministers, rabbis, and look for similar people - same ethic backgrounds and professions.

One particularly good tip, when making a cold call, is to be prepared - and when speaking with a stranger identify your self as a genealogist and give information that you've learned about the family, so that the person on the other end of the line won't think you're a telemarketer!

Colleen identified several common mistakes made by researchers. These are: being too focused on the problem so you forget the bigger picture, missing obvious clues and not understanding the geography and history of the place in which your ancestor (or the person you're trying to find) lived.

Colleen has writing several wonderful books. We own "Forensic Genealogy" and I just picked up "DNA Genealogy" today at the vendor hall. I can't wait to read it!

The second session I attended was entitled Travel, Highways, Ferries, Bridges and Taverns", taught by Richard C. Roberts. This class focused on the collections at the Connecticut State Library.

Record Group OO1 consists of Early General Records, public records of the Colony and later State, including the Particular Court 1635-1665, the Court of Assistants 1665-1711 and the papers of the General Assembly from 1640-1820, which contain information about the Colonial Wars, Indians, the Revolutionary War, and records pertaining to Travel, Highways, Ferries and Bridges which are in two series. The first series contains 1152 documents arranged chronologically spanning the years 1700-1788. The second series contains 1801 documents in arranged topically and spanning the years 1737-1820.

Indexes of the Connecticut Archives are available on their website at . Back to the travel part - in 1638 the first formal road in Connecticut was built between Windsor and Hartford. In 1643 each town was made responsible for making and mending "ways" within its bounds. In 1679 "ways" between towns were designated County Roads or Biways.

In January 1641 the General Court authorized a ferry at Windsor, which had already been in use and operated by John Bissell. And, did you know that in 1822 Connecticut started a project called the Farmington Canal? This canal was never finished, but there are some fabulous maps from the project that include names of property owners. So, head out to the Connecticut State Library website and start to poke around. Your ancestors just may be hidden in the many records the library contains!

We broke to visit the Exhibit Hall where I picked up a few books, including one entitled "The Isles of Shoals in the Age of Sail, A Brief History" by Russell M. Lawson, Phd. I'm excited to learn more about the place where Richard Pomeroy settled. We then met Diane L, an APHGA member and friend who came down to the conference from New Hampshire with her mom, Lucille. We had a nice lunch and wonderful conversation. It was so nice to meet Diane after e-mailing and having phone conversations with her for years!

The third session I attended was entitled "Erie Canal Genealogy" and was taught by John Philip Colletta. John gave a general outline of the history of the Erie Canal and explained in detailed the many types of jobs that were created by and for the canal system. The Erie Canal was the largest public works project funded by a state. The Canal Bill was passed in 1817 and construction started July 4, 1817, and was completed by 1825. The canal was widened between 1847 and 1862 to allow for boats with deeper hulls and to allow two-way traffic. John also explained how the canal was used both for travel/immigration and to move freight.

The records of the Canal Board, established in 1826 have been microfilmed and are available for viewing at the New York State Archives in Albany. These records contain many petitions and appeals from local landowners and workers. The New York State Museum, also in Albany, and connected to the Archives, also ahs payroll records of Canal employees.

The fourth session I attended was entitled "Diaries and Journals, Finding and Using These Valuable Resources" taught by Laura G. Prescott. Laura discussed the value of diaries an offered many tips for finding them, and included several websites such as with contains the diary of Martha Ballard, an early Maine midwife; which is part of the New England Historic Genealogial Association website; the Library of Congress website at; the Maine Diary Directory at ; - the National Union Catalog of Manuscrupt Collections; and Cyndi's list at

The last session I attended was entitled "Discovering Your Ancestor's Life, Political Affiliations and Their Records", by D. Joshua Taylor, MA, MLS. Joshua gave a consise history of political parties and movements in the US including where and why they were formed, key locations and platforms. By finding out what political parties were available in the places your ancestors lived, you can start looking for records that may contain information about these ancestors. Joshua suggested two books that detail political parties. The first was the "History of U.S. Political Parties" by Arthur Schlesinger (in 5 volumes) and the second was "National Party Conventions" published by the Congressional Quarterly in 1983. Joshua also explained that local newspapers often had political affiliations, so if you know which party your ancestor belonged to, you would be most likely to find him in the paper of the same affiliation. Some addional records to check are Convention Records (was there a political convention in the place where your ancestor lived?), which can include voting records, souvenir books and memorabilia from the convention. Check State and local Archives and Historical Societies private collections and University/College archives and Special Collections for these records.

That's it for tonight - I'm looking forward to tomorrow!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a busy day! Thank you for taking the time to re-cap it for those of use who weren't there.


Comment on this posting.