Genealogy answers at the Connecticut State Library

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Searching for Sidney W. Ford at the Connecticut State Library

Not so long ago, I found myself working in Hartford within walking distance from the Connecticut State Library (CSL). My dad had done a lot of research of the family and many lines went back to the 1600s or earlier. There was one line of the family which seemed to have a number of holes and unanswered questions. Sidney W Ford was my 3rd great grandfather. I knew very little about Sidney’s father (Schuyler Ford) and even less about his grandfather (Reuben Ford). Nothing was known beyond Reuben Ford. The last time I was at the Connecticut State Library, I felt completely lost and I would only have 30-45 minutes a day during lunch to perform my research. I’d have to have a good research plan.

I first decided to review what I knew about Sidney W. Ford.

• He was born in about 1832 in Michigan.
• He was married to Mary Elizabeth Turner.
• They had three children, George born in about 1854, Edwin born in about 1856 and Lovinia born on 12-Apr-1860 in Albany, NY.
• He was in Rensselaerville, NY in 1850.
• He was living in Hartford in 1870.
• He apparently died by 1880.
• Daughter Lovinia died 7-Jan-1901
• Wife, Mary died 18-Apr-1918
• Sidney’s parents are Schuyler & Lucy Ford.
• Sidney’s paternal grandparents are Reuben & Eunice Ford.

Besides being recorded in the research my dad conducted. what were the major sourcerd of the known facts about Sidney Ford?
• 1850 US Census Rensselaerville, New York household of Schuyler Ford
• 1870 US Census Hartford, Connecticut household of Sidney Ford
• 1880 US Census Hartford, Connecticut household of Elizabeth Ford
• Death certificate for Lovinia Ford.
• Obituary of Mary E (Turner) Ford

Here are some questions I’d like to find answer about Sidney Ford.
• When and where did Sidney Ford die?
• Where is he buried?
• Where did he live throughout his life and when?
• Can I locate his 1860 US Census record?
• Can I find an exact date of birth and marriage date for him?
• What else might be found at the CSL about Sidney Ford?

The first day at the CSL

The first day I went there during my lunch, I was very lucky. Fellow Genealogy Club of Newtown member and professional genealogist Harlan Jessup was there. He gave me a tour of the CSL Genealogy Department. I wasn’t able to really look at any of the records that day, but I took a good stock of what records they did have. The next day I decided to focus in on my first research question.

When and where did he die? Sidney last shows up on the 1870 US Census. His wife is listed on the 1880 US Census without him. Presumably he died between 1870 & 1880. There are a number of vital record sources at the CSL. I looked for Sidney in the following sources.
• Newspaper Obits Collection
• Hale Cemetery Inscriptions
• Hartford Probate Index
• Connecticut State Probate Index

Sidney was not to be found in any these indexes. So much for a quick hit trying to find this information. If I couldn’t find the dtae of death in these sources could I narrow down the date of death? I checked the Hartford City directories, which are on microfilm at the CSL. Sidney last shows up in the Hartford City directories in the 1872-1873 edition. His wife is listed in the 1873-1874 edition. Bingo, this was a very good indication that he died between 1872 and 1873.

Could I use this to find the exact date of death. I presumed he died in Hartford, so I checked the following records
• Hartford Connecticut Vital records on microfilm for deaths in 1871 – 1875.
• Surrounding towns vital record for deaths in 1871 – 1875

He was not listed in Hartford or any surrounding town vital records index. I guess you can’t win them all. I decided to ask for guidance from CSL Staff. They rechecked the Hale Collection with me and we noticed Sidney’s wife was listed and was buried at Zion Hill Cemetery in Hartford. Zion Hill Cemetery is several acres. Walking the cemetery to find the plot would be very time consuming. There was a ‘L741’ listed next to her name. The CSL staff did some digging and found they had an old map of the cemetery. The plot map was off-site and required me to get an archives pass. I would also have to wait for the next day during lunch.

The next day I was there I consulted the map. S. W. Ford was listed right on the map. Another hit, Sidney died more than 40 years before his wife and since his name, not his wife’s name was on the map, I felt confident I found where he was buried. It was time to review the information I found. Sidney apparently died between 1872 & 1873. He was only about 40 years old when he died, leaving his wife and teenage children. He was buried in Zion Hill Cemetery in Hartford. This was much better than what I knew before. I did not have an exact date of death, but I decided to move onto another question.

Where did he live throughout his life and when?
I decided to move onto the next research question. Where did he live throughout his life? I had already consulted the Hartford City Directories from 1870 – 1874. I reversed the order and started working back in time. When did he first arrive in Hartford? He was listed in every Hartford City Directory on Microfilm starting from 1861. I did not see any earlier Hartford city directories, so I asked a CSL staff member. She told me that earlier city directories exist, but they are on Microfiche. We took a look. We saw one city directory back from 1799. I pulled Hartford for 1859 and 1860. He was not listed in either 1859 or 1860. So it appears he arrived in Hartford in about 1860 or 1861.

I knew his daughter Lovina was born in Albany in 1860 and while looking for the 1859 & 1860 Hartford City Directories, I noticed they had some neighboring states city directories as well. I looked for Albany and was in luck. I check the Albany City directories and Sidney first starts showing up in the 1854 City Directory. He showed up in every city directory all the way through the 1860 Albany City Directory, which was the most recent Albany City Directory the CSL had.

I had one nagging question. It was recorded that Sidney was born in Michigan? The 1870 Census record indicated this and Lovinia Ford’s death certificate indicated this. When I re-looked at the 1850 US Census, it showed Sidney was born in New York. Since this is closer to his birth, this might be a more accurate account. Subsequently looking for Schulyer Ford in the 1840 Census, Schuyler was found in Rensselaerville, with a son who would be about Sidney’s age.

Here’s a quick review of where Sidney lived during his life. He was born in about 1832 in New York, presumably Rensellaerville, NY. He presumably lived in Rensselaerville, NY until about 1853. He moved to Albany, NY and lived there until around 1860. He moved to Hartford, CT until his death in about 1872 – 1873

Below is a detailed look at where Sidney Ford lived throughout his life.
1832 – Born in New York
1850 – Rensselaerville, New York
1854 – cartman, 8 Lumber, Albany, New York
1855 – cartman, 249 n Pearl , Albany, New York
1856 – cartman, 14 Railroad Avenue, Albany, New York
1857 – cartman, 16 Jackson, Albany, New York
1858 – carman, 175 1/2 Montgomery, Albany, New York
1859 – hostler, 57 South Lansing, Albany, New York
1860 – carman, 152 Colonie, Albany, New York
1861 – sawyer, h. 10 Ellery Street, Hartford, Connecticut
1862 – sawyer, h. 10 Ellery Street, Hartford, Connecticut
1863 – sawyer, h. 10 Ellery Street, Hartford, Connecticut
1864 – hackman, h. 10 Ellery Street, Hartford, Connecticut
1865 – hackman, h. 5 Huntey Ave, Hartford, Connecticut
1866 – hackman, h. 5 Huntey Ave, Hartford, Connecticut
1867 – hackman, h. 3 Huntey Ave, Hartford, Connecticut
1868 – hackman, h. 3 Huntey Ave, Hartford, Connecticut
1869 – hackman, h. 3 Huntey Ave, Hartford, Connecticut
1870 – hackman, h. 3 Huntey Ave, Hartford, Connecticut
1871 – hackman, h. 3 Huntey Ave, Hartford, Connecticut
1872 – hackman, h. 3 Huntey Ave, Hartford, Connecticut
1873 – His wife is listed at 6 Huntley

While he lived in Albany, New York, he loved every single year. I pondered why someone might move that often in a city in the 1850s. However, I decided to move onto the next research question.

Can I locate his 1860 US Census record?
Armed with new information that Sidney lived in Albany in 1860 and Hartford in 1861, I took shot at trying to find the 1860 Census record on and Heritage Quest. No luck again, perhaps he moved prior to the census being taken in 1860 in Albany, but after the census was taken in Hartford in 1860. Perhaps the census record just does not exist for Sidney in 1860. I moved onto another research question.

Could I find the exact date of birth or marriage date of Sidney?
Sidney was apparently born in New York, not Michigan. Most likely he was born in Rensselaerville, where his parents lived. Sidney was also most likely married in New York, in or near Rensselaerville. Although the CSL has an extensive array of vital records for Connecticut towns and churches, there are few vital records for the area of New York I was looking into. It looks like I will have to research elsewhere for this information. Onto the last research question I had from my original list.

What else might be found at the CSL about Sidney Ford?
I searched the Hartford Courant Historical Newspaper. Incidentally you can access this from home for free with any library card you have from the State of Connecticut. I found an article which indicated his daughter (Lovina) was very badly bitten by a dog in July of 1867. I checked for an obituary or a death notice for Sidney and found none.
I did however find an obituary for his wife, Mary E. Ford who died in 1918. It said she left a sister behind in Michigan.

I remember that Harlan had showed me rows upon rows of books for just about every part of the country. I checked to see if there was anything for the small town of Rensselaerville, New York. I wasn’t really expecting to find anything about this small town. To my surprise there were two books “The Story of Old Rensselaerville” by Torrence and Rensselaerville – Reminiscences and Rhymes” reprinted from village newspapers. I looked through the index to see if Sidney was listed in either book. He wasn’t listed, but his father and grandfather were listed.

One of the books had a set of maps in insets. There was a map from 1854 of Rensselaerville, His father and grandfather were listed right on the map were they owned property. Within the same book there was a copy of the 1866 Beers Map of Rensselaerville. Sidney’s father was again listed on the map where he owned property.

The CSL has a lot of family lineage books. I checked to see if the CSL had a family lineage book I was familiar with, “One Dorman Family and Allied Lines”. My first cousin once removed had written it. They did have it; Sidney Ford, Schuyler Ford and Reuben Ford were all listed. That’s as far back as that book took my Ford line. I also checked the extensive collection of other family lineage books. To my surprise, my Reuben Ford was listed in another book entitled “Ford Family Genealogy” by H. C. Ford. This book took my Ford family back another five or six generations to Pembroke and Marshfield, MA in the early 1600’s and before. I still need to verify the information from primary sources, but it certainly provides a great avenue of research.

Let’s review how we did on our research questions
• When and where did he die?
• Where is he buried?
• Where did he live throughout his life and when?
• Can I locate his 1860 US Census record?
• Can I find an exact date of birth and marriage date for him?
• What else might be found at the CSL about Sidney Ford?

We may not have found all the details we were looking for but we found a lot more detail on a number of the research questions we started out with.

At this point I need to stop and think about what the next steps are in researching Sidney Ford’s life. I should contact the city of Hartford, which maintains Zion Hill Cemetery to see if they have any burial records.
• I should plan a visit to Zion Hill Cemetery to see if I can find Sidney Ford’s grave. Perhaps his name was just missed when the Hale Cemetery Transcription Project was undertaken. If his gravestone is not there, at least his wife and daughter should be there.
• I should get a copy of Mary Elizabeth Ford death certificate. How many of you recognized when reading this article, that this was a missing piece of evidence.
• I should Go to a research facility in New York to look for Sidney’s birth or marriage certificate. Perhaps the local family center has records for this area and time on microfilm.
• I should plan a research trip to Rensselaerville, NY. See if I can find the property where Sidney grew up, visit the cemeteries where Schuyler Ford, Reuben Ford and Abel Ford (Reuben’s father and revolutionary war veteran) are buried.

I realize that while researching this one ancestor, I used quite a variety of records available at the CSL. Although I consulted quite a number of record collections within the CSL, there are quite a number of record collections I didn’t even get to. Some of these records include;
• Land records
• Early Connecticut Church records
• Military records (I found no evidence that Sidney Ford served in the military)
• Bible records
• Ship passenger records
• Extensive collection of Connecticut newspapers on microfilm
• Collection of databases (, heritage quest, on-line newspaper archive)

If you have ancestors from Connecticut and have not visited the CSL, plan a research trip. I’m sure you’ll be glad you did. I believe the Connecticut State Library has a subscription to

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