State Research Guides: Connecticut
6/1/2005
Spice up your search for Nutmegger ancestors.

Connecticut is a small state with a history as long as its name. Its sobriquet, the Constitution State, has nothing to do with the US Constitution. In 1639, a full 150 years before our forefathers wrote that document, Connecticut's people proclaimed a democratic principle of government in its Fundamental Orders. They received a royal charter to back up those orders in 1662, then hid the charter in an oak tree a quarter-century later when a rogue governor tried to curb the privileges it granted.

Both the state and the river that bisects it take their name from the American Indian word Quinnehtukqut — Mohegan for "Long River Place" or "Beside the Long Tidal River." The first Europeans to explore the area were Dutch; English Puritans from Massachusetts set up the first permanent white settlements in the 1630s. These 17th-century colonists turned to manufacturing after land scarcity curbed their agriculture- and trade-based economy. But historians believe one of the state's bygone trades left its legacy in Connecticut residents' nickname — early merchants' interest in West Indies spices earned them the moniker Nutmeggers.