Archive for category Tuesday’s Tip

Tuesday’s Tip: Using Diaries in Your Family History

Posted by on Tuesday, 30 April, 2013

It was Christmas Eve in Oxford, Connecticut and it snowed dreadfully. John, the first born of John and Jane Doe was born on that fateful day in 1856. How would you like to be able to describe the day when one of your ancestors was born?

Not everyone is going to have a 18th or 19th century diary written by their ancestors or even a close relative. Even if you do not have access to a diary of your ancestors, it is possible a diary of a neighbor or someone living in the same town is available today. In the Diary of Laura Davis transcribed by Oxford, Connecticut’s historian Dorothy DeBisschop it describes the weather of most days at the start of each entry. It did indeed snow dreadfully on December 24th, 1856 in Oxford, Connecticut at least according to Laura’s diary.

Here in Connecticut and New England in general, the vital records that were kept and survive today are very good. However in some areas such as upstate New York vital records started very late. Even after vital record keeping started, it was not always reported and there may be gaps. Diary entries may be the only mention about a particular date to a birth, marriage or death.

Here are just a few vital records contained within the Laura Davis Diary mentioned above;

  • Nov 2, 1856: Charles son of Bennett Scoville died aged 6 months
  • Nov 7, 1856: Daughter of Cyrus Sanford burned to death
  • Dec 9, 1856: Lyman Johnson buried
  • Dec 18, 1856: Orlando Cables died
  • Dec 19, 1856: Henry, son of George De Forest, drowned in Falls Pond, Seymour
  • Dec 29, 1856: Mrs. Henry Church gave birth to a son
  • Dec 31, 1856: Henry son of Mrs. Harison Tomilinson (sic) died

These are the vital records from just two months of her diary. If you can find the diary from someone in the same town at the same time period as your ancestor lived, it may just provide that hidden piece of data you’ve been looking for. You can also glimpse into daily life of the townsfolk; attending festivals and learning about the relationships of friends and neighbors and perhaps see a mention of your own ancestor in a neighbor’s diary.

Now that I’ve hopefully convinced you to search for a diary from the time and place your ancestor came from, where would these hidden genealogy nuggets be found? Here are a few places to start your quest to find that diary.

  • The local historical society:
  • Most areas will have a local or county historical society where diaries of it’s citizens would be stored in their archives. The state archives or library may only be interested in prominent citizens of the state and thus a diary of a common citizen may be more likely to be archived at the local level.

  • The local town historian:
  • Find out who the local town historian is and contact them. They are most likely working very closely with the local historical society, but they may have further information and insight into where some local diaries may be kept.

  • The state historical society or state archives:
  • Although the diary of a common person may be more commonly archived at the local level, don’t overlook the possibility that a diary you’re interested in is stored at the state level.

  • Academic Libraries:
  • Find out what major colleges or universities are close to the town where your ancestor lived. Contact the college library to see if they have diaries in their archives.


Tuesday’s Tip – Utilizing Town Reports In Your Genealogy

Posted by on Tuesday, 6 November, 2012

Town reports can be a tremendous find when looking for information about your ancestors. I have found a lot of hidden genealogy nuggets within town reports especially town reports from the mid to late 1800s. More than just town officials are located within this report. The towns poorest residents were listed as they often received monetary support from the town. The town often needed to pay for the burial of someone who died and couldn’t afford the burial costs. This may be the only evidence of your ancestors death in some cases.

Old town reports may be kept within your local town hall. Check with your town clerk. They may also be kept at your local historical society or even your local library.

The image below is from the 1891 Town Report from Seymour, Connecticut. For towns which did not have a cityor town directory, this type of report may be used to help create a census substitute.
1891 Seymour Connecticut Town Report Page 12
Here are a few highlights from this page;

  • J. W. Bassett digging grave for J. Iles 4.00
  • J. W. Bassett digging grave for Samuel Lum 4.00
  • W.B. Stoddard house rent for Thomas Sheehan 10.00

As you can see there can be some very helpful information about your ancestor. I’ve found about 10% of of a small town’s population are listed within a town report. If you do find your ancestor listed in one years town report look for the other years.

Below are some entries about my ancetsor Patrick Fraher/Fryher. Those of you who are regular readers of this blog will know a little background about him.

1870 New Britain Connecticut Town Report
1870 New Britain Town Report - Patrick Fryher

1871 New Britain Connecticut Town Report
1871 New Britain Town Report - Patrick Fryher

1873 New Britain Connecticut Town Report
1873 New Britain Town Report - Patrick Fryher

Patrick Fryher was a Civil War Veteran who was discharged due to a disability. Apparently he hit his head during training and was in and out of insane asylums for the better part of his life after the civil war. He moved to New Britain, Connecticut in about 1869. The town reports confirm his insanity and that his family received support from the town out of the poor house.

One additional item I overlooked until I was writing this blog was an entry in the 1871 New Britain Town Report. That entry was “James Glashean, for 2 children of T. Corocran … 110.00″. A great great aunt of mine was married to a James Glashean in New Britain, Connecticut. I would have never had expected him to be listed in the Poor House section of the report.

So look for town reports where your ancestors lived. You’ll never know what hidden genealogy nugget you will discover in them.

Christmas Gift Idea: Buy the genealogist in your a subscription to

Tuesday’s Tip – Heritage Quest From Home

Posted by on Tuesday, 7 August, 2012

Many of you may already be aware of the powerful research website called Heritage Quest. They have census records, revolutionary war pension records and a whole lot more. Heritage Quest is only available through libraries which have a subscription to its website. Like a library subscription to, you can access Heritage Quest when you’re at a library which has a subscription. However many Heritage Quest subscriptions allow patrons of the library website access to Heritage Quest for free from the privacy of their own home. You may have to enter your library card for access but nothing beats having free access from home to census records and images and all the other resources Heritage Quest has.

If you live in Connecticut and have a library card from any library in Connecticut, you can access Heritage Quest for free at

Happy Hunting for your ancestors at Heritage Quest.

Tuesday’s Tip – Keep up with Technology

Posted by on Tuesday, 31 July, 2012

Technology can be a wonderful thing. Scanning and storing digital copies of photos can be very rewarding. You can share these photos with distant cousins in an instant. However scanning photos can be a time consuming process. Perhaps you’d rather spend time tracking down your long lost great uncle.

What about you old 8mm movies? Perhaps you had them copied to a VHS tape, but now VHS tapes are no longer the new technology. Do you

Save old photos. Get them scanned and enhanced. Save months of hassle. From! Offer Ongoing.

You can even display your old photos and genealogy in a family history photo album. One of this website’s affiliate providers (Mixbook) provides an excellent way of creating such an album. Check out their templates by clicking the link below.