A Piece of Connecticut History

By Maureen A. Taylor

Photo courtesy of Derby (CT) Public Library

Could this woman be Nancy Freeman, widow of Roswell Freeman, who was one of Connecticut’s “Black Governors“? That’s the big question, and this query has a lot of pieces.

Janet Woodruff, an archaeologist with the Archaeology Laboratory for African & African Diaspora Studies at Central Connecticut State University, sent me this photo for analysis. Dr. Warren Perry, Prof. Gerald Sawyer, Woodruff, and students and volunteers have been conducting archaeological excavations at this homesite since 2010.

Photographs lie at the intersection of history, genealogy, family history and even archaeology.

The tradition of the Black Governors dates back to Colonial Connecticut. These individuals were elected by members of their communities. The Connecticut State Library has an interesting online article and bibliography.

Roswell and his father Quash were both Black Governors. This property may have been willed to Roswell when his father died. Roswell married Nancy (possibly Thompson) in 1826 and they had 13 children, although records have been found for only nine.

The elderly woman pictured stands in her front yard (the front door is next to the ladder). Behind her is a shed. Archaeologists aren’t sure of the purpose of that building.

I’m trying to answer several questions about this image. Next week, we’ll look at a few of the details. There is more research to be done, so watch for updates to this story.

Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album