The Godfrey Memorial Library of Genealogy and History in Middletown, Connecticut, was established in 1947.
Family history researchers frequently find information on their ancestors in the library's thousands of online databases in addition to its onsite resources. Although it is a subscription site, numerous public libraries in the United States offer it for free or as a benefit of local library registration (where it can be accessed via users' home computers).
Although in Connecticut, the library is sometimes thought of as a state library or New England library, although its collections cover the Middle Atlantic states and the old Northwest Territory.
Some of the Godfrey's online resources include:
Godfrey Library Online Catalog: While most libraries have online catalogs, the Godfrey offers a special feature. In addition to searching for books by or about a specific family name, it also provides the resources found inside the book, other than ordinary catalog entries. More such references are added daily.
An example given by the library is a search for the name "Tyler," which produces 396 results.Most hits refer to the name inside a book where regular cataloging wouldn't find it. According to the library and researchers, this is a definite advantage and offers many more alternative results than an ordinary search.
American Civil War Research Database: This is an online resource for researching the individuals, regiments and battles of the American Civil War, with indexed, searchable information on 4.3 million soldiers and thousands of battles, together with 16,000 photographs. Researchers can find the military record of a soldier, and learn about a wide range of historical statistics.
Godfrey Library Links: The library has researched, evaluated and posted 3,000 links to other sites with important information for genealogists. All are free, though some require registration and a few are partially paid sites. Some 50 sites are added each month.
Godfrey Collection: The online databases were frequently updated with some 4,000 genealogies, memoirs, biographies and funeral sermons to the Godfrey Scholar program. All materials are from the library's own collections and represent the beginning of a long-term plan to digitize all materials in the public domain.
Godfrey Library Blog: According to the Godfrey's new blog, the American Genealogical Biographical Index (AGBI) will go online in January 2009. The 226-volume AGBI - published by the Godfrey - is an every name index of hundreds of genealogies, includes those only partially indexed or not at all. Also indexed is the genealogical column from the Boston Transcript (1896-1941), the 1790 census, parts of the Pennsylvania Archives and various vital, military and church records.
Other resources - not online - include these collections:
Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War: This collection includes 17 volumes, and 17,071 pages of records from muster rolls, pay rolls, registration returns, descriptive lists, orderly books and account books combined into 620,000 cards, then arranged alphabetically. It also includes records of Rhode Island regiments and the First New York; these are not online however, but can be used in the library or through a Quick Search.
Quick Search is a service for researchers; each costs $10 and takes up to 30 minutes. Staff and volunteers search the American Genealogical Biographical Index, county and local histories, biographies, vital records and pension abstracts for any name submitted. Results are sent to the requester. For more details, go to the library's main site, click on "Search", then on "Quick Search."
City Directories: Historic city directories are the precursors of the familiar telephone book. Reading through a city's chronological directories can give you a sense of your family. Learn where they lived, where they moved, what occupation family members followed, where their business was located, among other details. The Godfrey has an extensive collection of these very useful books. They are not online, but can be used in the library. There are 143 directories for Massachusetts communities alone, from 1825-1920.
Have you utilized any of the Godfrey's resources? I am working on a separate blog posting on city directories which will illustrate how these listings can help track your family.
Look around your living room. What do you see?
You probably have at least one family heirloom, possibly an antique, passed down from your ancestors through the generations.
Here's just one example of a Russian samovar; there are many types and shapes. The samovar was also used in Iran. In our family we have both: a late 19th century Russian samovar from my great-grandmother and a late 19th century Persian samovar (produced in Russia).
Many people will have tangible items of family history on display including precious photographs, portraits, and objects carefully carried during difficult immigrations to new homes around the world. Others may hold collections of papers and documents passed down from ancestors, holiday greeting cards, wedding invitations and more. One researcher even has her Lithuanian grandmother's 1901 wedding trousseau.
One family treasure often seen in the homes of those with Eastern European Jewish roots is a brass or silver candlestick or pair of candlesticks.
PHOTO: An Eastern European candlestick
My own family heirlooms - from Belarus - include a beautiful tablecloth, cross-stitched by my great-grandmother, a Russian samovar she carried to New York in 1904, and a wedding gift of six large silver spoons, each bearing the Cyrillic initial for "T" (Talalay).
From my husband's Persian family, we preserve beautiful handmade pieces of naghde, netting embroidered with gold and silver bullion (very thin strips of the precious metal used as embroidery materials), and a few pieces of termeh, a rich brocade intricately embellished with the same gold and silver embroidery. We have beautiful Persian carpets, as well as silver pieces, and numerous handcrafted copper trays mde in Isfahan. The trays are heavy and come in all sizes, from very large (coffee-table size) to small serving trays, created with all types of designs. Here's one example of what these trays look like:
Imagine if these treasures could speak? We would learn family history, understand and unravel family mysteries and we could even ask them questions!
Family history research is not only names and dates, but learning about real people - our ancestors. Who were they? What did they do? How did they live their lives every day?
Each item, regardless of origin, carries the story of where it came from, how it arrived in the our ancestor's hands, and how we today came to possess it. As we continue to tell these stories, we also keep our family history alive.
There is another side, however, to being the guardians of these precious heirlooms. What will happen to them in the future? Who will inherit them? Who will care for them, love them, and continue to tell their stories with love and respect?
Some say a wise mother or father should make arrangements for the disposition of heirlooms while they are still alive, that they should decide which items should go to which child or other relative.
Others ask what will happen when the younger generations don't want to polish ornate silver or the design doesn't fit in with their taste.
What you can also do to prepare for the future is to learn how to properly preserve artifacts. Talk to experts as different materials require different methods. Do identify each object, photograph it, and keep records. Research each item's history and its relation to your family.
Encourage the younger generations of your family to get involved, by gifting them with books on family history or related books on names or geography relevant to your family. Provide them with copies of genealogy data, photographs, documents and family letters.
Family history didn't stop with our ancestors. What happens today is family history for future generations. Use every opportunity to encourage family members to get involved and to keep this alive.
I look forward to hearing from readers who have their own family heirlooms. What are they? What do they represent? Where are they from? How do you share their stories? And to whom will you give them in the future?
Family History Month is celebrated during October in the United States.
Museums, archives, libraries, genealogy societies, ethnic heritage societies and other organizations plan special events focused on the increasingly popular search for ancestral roots. These include classes, lectures, book festivals, exhibits and family history fairs
A recent Google search for "Family History Month," produced some 11,400 results. Amazing! Readers can further refine this search by adding a geographical location or ethnic term. A search for - "Family History Month" Poland - showed nearly 700 hits, while "Family History Month" New York - showed more than 1,800 results.
Make a good start by beginning your search and enter the information online in MyHeritage's Family Tree Builder. Interview senior family members and record the answers (on paper and video); learn about your family's health health history and genetic conditions; or create a cookbook from traditional family favorites.
Scrapbooking is a popular way to organize family history; there are many free or low-cost kits that can be downloaded for personal use, such as this one from ScrapbookScrapbook.com.
Have you thought about organizing a roots trip to visit the places your family came from? Use this month to complete some of your projects, such as labeling family photographs. Use the new Photo Match feature here at MyHeritage to help locate individuals in your photos, and update your family site with new information.
A few nights ago, in fact, I had a call from a friend who wanted to let a far-off branch of the family see their family's information. How could she make it easy for them to update family information?
I suggested she create a MyHeritage site for that branch and give her contact in that branch access to update information. In a short time, the site was organized and her cousin was in the process of adding details, including recent marriages, births and new photographs. An new exciting new feature is Photo Tagging; take a tour here to learn how this can help your own research.
Did you know that you can create a genealogy site, immediate or extended family site, community or common interest site, among others?
Why not learn a poem or song or simple words or greetings in the native language of an immigrant ancestor?
The month-long celebration is also a good time to get the kids involved in roots pursuit.
Be creative: create a puppet family, make people-shaped cookies, have children draw pictures of a favorite holiday, foods and depict show their family celebrating the holiday. What about drawing the family house, or a grandparents' home?
Here are three good sites for involving children in family history:
- Family Crafts for some excellent ideas for children's activities.
- The New York Historical Association for an article with interesting suggestions and resources.
- Parents' Choice for an excellent article on preserving your family's history, complete with great activities, workbooks and story books (including those for various ethnic origins) for children.
The National Register of Historic Places (under the National Park Service) offers several lesson plans for Teaching with Historic Places. Topics include Abraham Lincoln, African-American life; civilian recollections of the Civil War; life on small islands off Maine's coast; and many others.
For adults, there are many choices, such as the California Genealogical Societ, which has a brochure listing all sorts of classes and events for this special month. Choose from a range of introductory, beginner and advanced classes, and even a book repair workshop.
Check our your local genealogy society and see what programs are offered during October.
What are you doing to celebrate Family History Month? I'm looking forward to reading your comments.