Sometimes you just have to break the rules: why surname searches may be helpful in Connecticut genealogy

Eunice (Crocker) Way has long been a brick wall to researchers studying the family of Lt. Elisha Way of Lyme. There’s no doubt of her marriage or of her date of death. Eunice’s 1782 marriage to Elisha is documented in the Barbour Collectionwhile her dated tombstone is listed in the Hale. But everything before that was a mystery.

Who were Eunice (Crocker) Way’s parents? The Barbour Collection gave one hint. The town clerk, from whose material the Crocker-Way marriage was extracted, did not list a residence for either Elisha or Eunice. In most Connecticut towns, that’s a good indication that the bride and groom were both from that town. Eunice’s parents, therefore, most likely resided in Lyme.

That’s where we get stuck. There is no birth record or church record for Eunice Crocker, born Lyme about 1764. There are two birth records for Eunice Crockers born in other towns, but they can be demonstrated to have later married other men. The logical conclusion is that Eunice’s birth, for some reason, was not recorded.

However, it’s still possible to find Eunice’s parents. It just requires breaking a cardinal rule of genealogy: don’t assume people of the same surname are related.

If we break that rule, we start by assuming that Eunice Crocker’s father was probably a Crocker. The next step would be to locate any male Crockers living in Lyme at the time of her birth. The Hale Collection entry for Riverbend Cemetery in East Lyme indicates two male Crockers living in town around the 1760s. Mary Crocker, wife of Daniel, died in 1789. While the Hale Collection says she was 33, Find A Grave indicates she was 53 – and Daniel could very well be of the right age. There’s also Constant Crocker. The Hale Collection indicates that his daughter Mirus died in 1778 at age 8.  There are, therefore, two good options for Eunice’s father: Daniel Crocker and Constant Crocker. Since wills often list the children of the deceased, the next step was to check out probate records. And that’s where we hit the jackpot: Constant Crocker’s probate file names one of his heirs as the “heirs of Eunice Way” (who was deceased by that time). Eunice’s father, therefore, was likely Constant Crocker.

By rethinking the “don’t assume the same surname is related” rule, we’ve made a connection between Eunice and her likely father – and more importantly, learned an important research technique for small Connecticut towns. Use the common surname to find locals who might be related. Just don’t forget to test the theory!




How to find #Connecticut birth, deaths and marriages handout

Are you stuck trying to locate and purchase a copy of a Connecticut birth, death or marriage?

Not finding what you need in a web search?

 I’ve put all my “how to” hints together in one handout that details how to access records from Connecticut’s founding to the present, both when you know the town and when you don’t.

Purchase a copy for yourself or to use in your genealogy classroom on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Interested in #Connecticut #history and #genealogy? New resource available

There’s a new listserv available for people interested in Connecticut history and genealogy. Thanks to the Office of the State Historian, CTHISTORY-L has been launched through UCONN… It’s designed to be a place to ask questions about history, share about upcoming events and more. I’m excited to see what events and historical facts are shared.

For information on how to subscribe, go to

Want to take a class dedicated to #Connecticut #genealogy?

There’s one running next week!

I’m teaching a two session overview of Connecticut genealogy at Middletown Adult Education October 10th and 17th. We’ll identify the resources you want to use when building your family tree and how to access them. The class will give you plenty of time for hands on practice and questions.

Too far to travel? Please let me know if you might be interested in an online version, and I’ll see if I can make it happen!

Additional Resource for #Connecticut Revolutionary War Service

Are you looking to demonstrate that your Connecticut ancestor supported the Revolutionary cause for a DAR/SAR application or supplemental?

Be sure to check out the Patriot Record Project Index .  Created by the Daughters of the American Revolution, the index searches an online database of Revolutionary War related documents by name. It can allow you to discover, for example, if your ancestor loaned money to the Continental Army.


Click on the document image will bring up an image of the document, while clicking on the question mark next to the document type will tell you more about where the document came from and where to go to order a copy. In the case of the document cited above, the original needs to be pulled from a National Archives microfilm.

Currently, the collection includes records from Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island.  It is scheduled to expand.

If you’re stuck on a service source, this is a great additional place to look.

How do I find #Connecticut land records online to use in #genealogy research?

For years, the only way to access Connecticut land records from a distance has been the FamilySearch microfilm program… and it’s due to end shortly.  What’s a genealogist to do?

  1. Want free access?
    • A few Connecticut libraries have microfilm copies of the land records that you can review onsite. Check out the Connecticut State Library’s collection for the greatest number of films.
    • FamilySearch is slowly planning to digitize the film. If there’s a camera image next to the film information in the catalog, you can access it for free – provided you’re in a Family History Center.
  2. Willing to pay?
    • Go to the town clerk’s website. Many towns have digitized all of their land records – and even better, they’re searchable by name. Be prepared to pay a daily access fee (less than $10)  and then a per document fee ($1 a page).  If you’re a ways from the closest family history center, this can be a fantastic option!
    • For those towns that haven’t digitized their records, consider hiring a local genealogist. You’ll pay the hourly rate, plus the per document fee… and you’ll get your records fast! Personally, I can scan copies and have records to you by that evening!

A new Connecticut resource: American Baptist Churches of Connecticut Archive


A client’s research project has added a new archive to my must-check list!  Can you guess where it is?


Yes, inside the church.

The American Baptist Churches of Connecticut Archive occupies part of the third floor of Central Baptist Church in Hartford (pretty impressive in its own right!).  It’s only open by appointment (usually on the days when the Historical Council is meeting), so be sure to call the church office before visiting.

Occupying two rooms, the archives contains books on the history of the Baptist Church, histories of specific Connecticut churches, scrapbooks, clipping files, and more. As of right now, it does not have membership records from individual churches…

But don’t write it off as a resource! My favorite among their holdings is a book that identified and gave a history for each Baptist church in a Connecticut community. It warned me that a town I was researching had actually had a Baptist church – although it had disbanded in 1871. If you’re looking for an ancestor who might have had an influential role in a specific church or to identify and trace the history of a Baptist church your ancestor might have attended, the ABCONN archive is the place to go…

And even better, their goal is to see more researchers on a regular basis. If you have a friend who would benefit from their collection, be sure to spread the word!