Connecticut History and Research Overview

Connecticut History and Research Overview

Learn about Connecticut's history and available records in this research guide that includes a map and bibliography.

HISTORICAL OVERVIEW

Prior to European settlement, Native American tribes including the Mohegan, Nipmuc, and Pequot resided in the area that would become Connecticut. Connecticut towns founded in the early 17th century by European settlers include Windsor (1633), Wethersfield (1634), and Saybrook (1635). Congregational minister Reverend Thomas Hooker and his followers from Massachusetts, seeking political and religious freedoms, established Hartford in 1636 and became part of Connecticut Colony. Hooker’s beliefs formed the foundation of The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut (1639), the first written constitution in the colonies that codified laws and allowed residents to elect public officials.

In 1662, King Charles granted Connecticut Colony a new charter that gave settlers land and control over their governance. Connecticut Colony merged with New Haven Colony, which included only six towns along Long Island Sound, in 1665. Colonial conflicts, such as the Pequot War of 1636 and King Philip’s War of 1675-76, erupted between native populations and Europeans.

During the American Revolution, British troops captured Fort Griswold in New London and raided towns along the coastline. After the war, Connecticut delegates objected to the strong central government proposed for the new country. They lobbied for The Connecticut Compromise, the two-house legislature with equal representation in the Senate and population-based leadership in the House — the system still used today. Connecticut became the fifth state after ratifying the Constitution in 1788.

In 1818, a new state constitution allowed most men age 21 and over to vote and disestablished the Congregational Church. Connecticut outlawed buying and selling slaves in the state in 1784, completely abolishing slavery in 1848.

Until the early 18th century, most of the population farmed the rocky soil, but in the 1720s, they began migrating to the cities for work in mills, mines, and small factories. “Yankee Peddlers” traded the manufactured goods to other areas of the country. During the 19th century, immigrants from Italy, Germany, Canada, Ireland, and Poland sought employment in Connecticut’s growing industrial economy.

Transportation innovations improved the exportation of goods via the Farmington Canal (1828-1847) and rail lines between Providence and Stonington (1837) and between New Haven and New York City (1848), just two of the many operating in the state in the 19th century. Several towns along the southern coast built ships and participated in the whaling industry. Many early insurance companies formed in Hartford to insure goods being sent overseas.

Nearly 60,000 Connecticut soldiers fought in the Civil War, and its factories produced uniforms, weapons and ships. Connecticut men and women participated in all the major military conflicts of the 20th century and manufactured many of the weapons.

COUNTY MAP
(click to enlarge)
Connecticut state map with county outlines

RESEARCH TIPS

  • Many Connecticut vital records from 1650 are microfilmed or published, indexes for many are available at the Connecticut State Library at http://cslib.org.
  • If tracking colonial ancestors, check out Connecticut Census of 1670 by Jay Holbrook (Holbrook Research Institute, 1977). It’s a census substitute based on information from tax, land, church, probate, and freeman records from 1667 to 1673.
  • Land records contain deeds, attachments, mortgages, tax liens, and other useful materials, and can be found in the town in which they were recorded.
  • Records of military service for the colonial period from the Pequot War are published and can be found at the Connecticut Historical Society.

CENSUS RECORDS

  • Federal census: 1790, 1800, 1810, 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920
  • Federal mortality schedules: 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880
  • Special military census: 1917

GENERAL RESOURCES

  • Black Roots in Southeastern Connnecticut, 1650-1900 by Barbara W. Brown and James M. Rose (New London County Historical Society, 2001)
  • Burpee’s The Story of Connecticut, 4 vols., by Charles W. Burpee (American Historical Co., Inc. 1939)
  • A Catalogue of the Names of the Puritan Settlers of the Colony of Connecticut by Royal Ralph Hinman (Printed by E. Gleason, 1846)
  • A Complete History of Connecticut by Benjamin Trumbull (Arno Press, 1972)
  • Connecticut, a Bibliography of its History Prepared by the Committee for a New England Bibliography, edited by Roger Parks (University Press of New England, 1986)
  • Connecticut Genealogical Resources compiled by Barbar S. Giles (Fiske Genealogical Foundation, 1991)
  • Connecticut Research Outline by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (online at http://familysearch.org/eng/search/RG/guide/connecticut.asp)
  • Connecticut Researcher’s Handbook by Thomas Jay Kemp (Gale Research, 1981)
  • Connecticut Sources for Family Historians and Genealogists by Kip Sperry (Everton Publishers, 1980)
  • Connecting to Connecticut by Betty Jean Morrison (Society of Genealogists, 1995)
  • Early Connecticut Marriages as Found on Ancient Church Records Prior to 1800, 7 vols., by Frederic William Bailey (Bureau of Ancestry, 1896-1906)
  • Encyclopedia of Connecticut Biography, Genealogical-Memorial; Representative Citizens, 10 vols., compiled by Samuel Hart et al. (American Historical Society, 1917-1923)
  • Families of Ancient New Haven compiled by Donald Lines Jacobus and Helen D. Love Scranton (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1974)
  • Founders and Leaders of Connecticut, 1633-1783 by Charles E. Perry (Books for Libraries Press, 1971)
  • A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, 4 vols., by James Savage (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1965)
  • Genealogical and Family History of the State of Connecticut by William Richard Cutter, et al. (Clearfield Co., 1994)
  • Genealogical Research in New England edited by Ralph J. Crandall (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1984)
  • Genealogist’s Handbook for New England Research by Marcia Melnyk (NEHGS, 1999)
  • The Greenlaw Index of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2 vols., by William Prescott Greenlaw and the New England Historic Genealogical Society
  • Guide to Archives in the Connecticut State Library (Connecticut State Library, 1981)
  • Guide to Vital Statistics in the Church Records of Connecticut by the Historical Records Survey (The Survey, 1942)
  • The History of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut by Eben Edwards Beardsley (1893)
  • Illustrated Popular Biography of Connecticut compiled and published by J.A. Spalding (Press of the Case, Lockwood Brainard Co., 1891)
  • Inventory of the Church Archives of Connecticut, Lutheran by the Historical Records Survey (The Survey, 1941)
  • Inventory of the Church Archives of Connecticut, Protestant Episcopal by the Historical Records Survey (The Survey, 1940)
  • List of Officials, Civil, Military and Ecclesiastical of Connecticut Colony: From March 1636 through 11 October 1677, and of New Haven Colony Throughout Its Separate Existence, Also Soldiers in the Pequot War who then or Subsequently Resided within the Present Bounds of Connecticut compiled by Donald Lines Jacobus (R.M. Hooker, 1935)
  • Men of Mark in Connecticut edited by Colonel N.G. Osborn (W.R. Goodspeed, 1906-1910)
  • New England Family Histories: State of Connecticut by Lu Verne V. Hall and Donald O. Virdin (Heritage Books, 1999)
  • Nutmegger Index: An Index to Non-Alphabetical Articles and a Subject Index to the Connecticut Nutmegger, volumes 1-28, 1968-1996 by Helen S. Ullmann (Picton Press, 1996)
  • The Public Records of the State of Connecticut, 7 vols., by Charles J. Hoadly et al. (Case, Lockwood & Brainard Co., 1894-1948)
  • The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut by Frederic Gregory Mather (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1972)
  • Report of the Temporary Examiner of Public Records, 1906 by the Connecticut Temporary Examiner of Public Records (Hartford Press, 1907)
  • The Rogerenes: Some Hithero Unpublished Annals Belonging to the Colonial History of Connecticut by John Rogers Bolles (Stanhope Press, F.H. Gilson Co., 1904)
  • Sketches of Church Life in Colonial Connecticut edited by Lucy Cushing Jarvis (Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Company, 1902)
  • Who’s Who in Connecticut by Ward E. Duffy (W.C. Cox Co., 1975)
  • Women Before the Bar: Gender, Law, and Society in Connecticut, 1639-1789 by Cornelia Hughes Dayton (University of North Carolina Press, 1995)


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From the Family Tree Sourcebook
Also available: the State Research Guide Book, State Research Guides CD and The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy.

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