Brickwall Buster – Using Local Resources

Saturday, March 28, 2015 Posted by

Do you have an ancestor which just can’t be found? Are you missing a date for a birth, marriage, death or some other event? Often overlooked and under-utilized genealogy resources are local to where your ancestor lived. Sometimes original records with scanned images can be found on local websites. Other times they may have some transcriptions and notes about the original resource. How great would it be to find something on a local website, which you might not be listed anywhere else on the internet. Sometimes the local website, might not have anything online, but may have a vast amount of records which they house locally.

This post is all about trying to find a local resource which might help you break through that genealogy brickwall. We will explore the types of data and records you can find. While reading this post, open up another page on your web browser to your favorite search engine and follow along.



One place you will want to find is the local genealogy club in the town where your ancestor lived. Let’s see an example of what you might find on a local genealogy website.

Enter one of the following criteria into your favorite search engine to find local genealogy club. Better yet, try them all and see what comes up.

  • Newtown Connecticut Genealogy Club
  • Newtown Connecticut Genealogy Society
  • Newtown Connecticut Genealogy
  • Newtown Connecticut Births
  • Newtown Connecticut Marriages
  • Newtown Connecticut Deaths
  • Newtown Connecticut BMD

The Genealogy Club of Newtown is one of the first websites which comes up with most of the web searches above. Take a few minutes now to go to the Genealogy Club of Newtown website. Explore some of the transcriptions available.

What did you find?

Here are some transcriptions which are available on the website;

  • 1890 Census Substitute including (School Records, Grand List, Voters, New Electors)
  • Listing of Irish Tombstones
  • Various Articles which include Bible Records

Don’t forget to contact the Genealogy Club after exploring what might be online. They may have more records or at least know where those local records might be stored.



Another great resource to look for is the local historical society or the town historian.

Enter one of the following criteria into your favorite search engine to find the local historical society or town historian. Better yet, try them all and see what comes up.

  • Oxford Connecticut Historical Society
  • Oxford Connecticut Town Historian
  • Oxford Connecticut History

One of the search results you will find is for the Oxford Historical Society. Take a few minutes now to explore the website.

What did you find?

This website has some links to class photos from the 1960s and 1970s. While there doesn’t seem to be anything else on the website, make sure you check out the links they have.

  • Oxford Past has cemetery transcriptions and genealogies from around town.
  • Our Oxford has digital copies of diaries, town reports, sexton reports of burials and more.

When you are browsing the local websites where your ancestor lived, do not forget to contact someone from the local organization. I know firsthand that these local organizations often have a vast amount of materials beyond what is indicated on the website.

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One more local resource to consult is the local library. Some libraries have records available online. Others have a genealogy room or a local history room.

Let’s see what we can find. Enter the following search criteria in your favorite search engine;

  • Bristol Connecticut Library
  • Genealogy Bristol Connecticut Library
  • History Bristol Connecticut Library

One of the first sites you find is for the Bristol History Room at the Bristol Public Library. Explore the Bristol Public Library Website now for a few minutes.

What did you find?

Did you notice the following items available at the Bristol Public Library?

  • Cemetery and Church Records
  • City Directories
  • Diaries
  • Newspapers
  • Probate Records
  • Yearbooks

After reviewing the website, you’ll find that although they may not have a lot of information online, there’s plenty of information and records available to plan a research trip to the library.

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Most towns will have at least one if not all of the resources described above, but what else might be out there online and how can I find them?

Open up your favorite search engine and enter the following criteria in them.

  • hidden genealogy records seymour connecticut
  • unusual genealogy records seymour connecticut
  • uncommon genealogy records seymour connecticut
  • rare genealogy records seymour connecticut

As you can see from the queries above using a different word in front of “genealogy records seymour connecticut” yields different results. Trying to find those needle in a haystack websites is like being like a detective. When I entered the search criteria of “hidden genealogy records seymour connecticut”, one of the first links provided was a link to some prior posts from this blog. This website indexed some school records from Seymour, Connecticut. Indexes of these records are available online and these blog posts are likely to be the only place you will find them on the internet. If you go to the Seymour Historical Society, you can consult these records in person.

At some point this year, I’m planning on getting these records into my research database so that they can be searched by name. For now though, these would have to be looked through one at a time for your ancestors from Seymour, Connecticut.

As you can see from the resources we briefly discovered, there’s a vast amount of local resources ready to be explored as you try to break through that proverbial genealogical brickwall.

Almost Wordless Wednesday – Doyle, Unknown Group, Bristol, Connecticut

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 Posted by

I’m trying to identify this image. The photographer is the Gale Studio in Bristol, Connecticut. It is most likely a group of Doyles from Bristol. Here are some questions I have about the photo.

  • When was the photo taken?
  • Who is in the photograph?
  • What is that item pinned to the woman’s dress who is sitting?

If you can help with any of these questions, I would love here a reply.

Doyle, Unknown group, Bristol, Connecticut

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Writing a Family History Using Census Records

Saturday, March 21, 2015 Posted by

As a continuation of this a series of blog posts about how to write your family history, this post is about using the US Census to write snippets about your ancestor. One way to write about your ancestor’s life is to divide your writings into chapters. One chapter could be about places they lived and the census record gives you a good indication about that. City Directories (a topic for a future post about writing your ancestor’s life story) if available, provide even more details about where your ancestor lived if they are available.

For earlier posts in this series see the following;

Want to know how many people lived in your ancestors town during a census year? Do a search on with only the town listed for the census year in question and indicate it has to be an exact match. Combine the census data with historical references about the town and you have the beginning of a great chapter in your ancestor’s life. The following snippet is just a small sample of what you can write about your ancestor. You can add more details about the particular town in which he lived. Use the addresses from the Census record and get a photograph from today of the place your ancestor lived. Better yet, if you can find a photo near where your ancestor lived at the time your ancestor lived use that (with permission of course if it’s still under copyright).

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Residences of Edwin A Banks – Civil War Soldier

In 1850 when the census was taken, The Town of Seneca in Ontario County, New York had about 8,500 people living there. A town that size would need a tailor or two and may have kept Edwin’s father busy, being that he was a tailor. At four years old, Edwin and his twin brother Edward would not have been old enough to go to school yet. They would have to wait another year or two.

While Seneca may have been a thriving larger sized town, Edwin’s early teenage years started in Newtown, Fairfield County, Connecticut. This was a much smaller town. Only about 3500 people were living in Newtown at the time the 1860 Census was taken. Three generations were living in the household. Edwin’s maternal grandparent Orrin and Sarah Shepard, Edwin’s mother Jane plus the twin boys Edwin and Edward. Orrin Shepard was a farmer and it’s likely that Edwin and his twin brother Edward worked a little on the farm.

Along some of the rivers which ran through Newtown, there were several small industries. Several small hat shops developed and larger hat factories were in the neighboring towns of Bethel and Danbury. Edwin’s mother Jane was a milliner and likely worked at a small hat shop in town or one of the larger factories in Bethel or Danbury.

After the civil war, which Edwin participated in, he lived in the thriving city of Hartford, Connecticut with more than 38,000 people living there when the 1870 Census was taken. This number would grow to more than 42,500 in within ten years. Edwin was living as an electrotyper in the 1870s. He must have been making a pretty good living for the time. The value of his personal state in 1870 was $1,500, which was more than the value of most other peoples family. In 1880 Edwin, his wife and their three children are living at 21 Harrison Ave. His mother-in-law Mary McKeown is also living with them.

1880 US Census, edwin banks

It is unclear what made Edwin and his family leave Hartford. In 1890 Edwin is living in Revere, Massachusetts. Revere is near Boston and was a small coastal town. With the completion of a railroad in town, Revere was rapidly growing in population. It had a population of about 5,500 residents in 1890.

Living in Brooklyn must have been like any other place Edwin lived at during his lifetime. By 1910, there are over 1.5 million people living there in 1910. He’s living at his son’s place at 2109 Pacific Street. Two grandsons, Alfred and George are also in the household as is the mother of his son’s wife Kate Wilson. He is still working as an elctrotyper and his son Alfred took up the same profession.

Fitch's Home for Old Soldiers Darien Connecticut

By 1920 Edwin is living in Darien, Connecticut. Darien is a small town in lower Fairfield County, Connecticut. There are a little over 4,000 people living there. He’s living at a home for old civil war soldiers.

1) “1850 United States Census”, database,, entry for Edwin Banks, Seneca, Ontario County, New York, accessed 2015
2) “1860 United States Census”, database,, entry for Edwin Shepard, Newtown, Fairfield County, Connecticut, accessed 2015
3) “1870 United State Census”, database,, entry for Edwin Banks, Hartford, Hartford County, Connecticut, accessed 2015
4) “1880 United State Census”. database,, entry for Edwin Banks, Hartford, Hartford County, Connecticut, accessed 2015
5) “1890 United State Veterans Census”, database,, entry for Edwin Banks, Revere, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, accessed 2015
6) “1910 United State Census”, database,, entry for Edwin Banks, Brooklyn, Kings County, New York, accessed 2015
7) “1920 United State Census”, database,, entry for Edwin Banks, Darien, Fairfield County, Connecticut, accessed 2015
8) Newtown Historical Society, Newtown in the Nineteenth Century , A Brief History of Newtown, by Dan Cruson
9) City of Revere Massachusetts Website, Brief Historical Background Revere Society for Cultural & Historic Preservation

Mystery Monday : School Photo Album About 1888, Revere, Massachusetts

Monday, March 16, 2015 Posted by

Who are the people in this photo album? What school is it from?

The following photos are from a school photo album from about 1888. One of the photos is almost certainly my ancestor Minnie Isobel Banks. Who the others are or which school this is, I would love to figure out. I don’t know for sure which is Minnie either. All of these photos are mini tin type photos.

If anyone out there can fill in any details, I would love to hear from you.

Cover Photo:
Edwin A Banks & Mary Ann McKeown

Page 1
Edwin A Banks & Mary Ann McKeown

Page 2
Edwin A Banks & Mary Ann McKeown

Page 3
Edwin A Banks & Mary Ann McKeown

Page 4
Edwin A Banks & Mary Ann McKeown

Page 5
Edwin A Banks & Mary Ann McKeown

Page 6
Edwin A Banks & Mary Ann McKeown

Page 7
Edwin A Banks & Mary Ann McKeown

Page 8
Edwin A Banks & Mary Ann McKeown

Page 9
Edwin A Banks & Mary Ann McKeown