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Yankee Ingenuity
9/4/2012
Give thanks that our Pilgrim forefathers and those who came after them left a cornucopia of records. Here's how to get started researching your New England roots.
New England may be small — a mere 66,000 square miles compared to Alaska's 591,000 square miles — but whatever it lacks in size, it makes up for in variety. Mark Twain once said of New England, “In the spring I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of four-and-20 hours.” But along with rapidly changing weather, each state has a distinct mix of character and history. Forget the stereotypic small-town New England of Peyton Place or “Murder, She Wrote” and the horrific happenings of Stephen King's Maine. Once you start researching your New England roots, you'll discover the true diversity of the region.

To uncover your New England family history you need to shake off everything (well, almost everything) you've heard about the area and acquire a basic historical background on the six New England states: Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. As every schoolchild knows, the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620 in what's now Massachusetts, and the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere's ride helped launch the American Revolution there. But unless you live in New England you may not know much more than these fundamentals.

For instance, not only did much of American history start here, so did many American families. More than a quarter of the people living in the United States today have some New England connection. That means a lot of people need to know how to find genealogical treasure in the area — and you can find it if you know where to look.

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