Close to Home: Guilford, Connecticut

For the first few years of my genealogical research, I was pretty sure that my New England ancestors were only in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  Then in 2013, I discovered my connection to John Scranton in Guilford, Connecticut.  I finally had an ancestor in the state where I lived!

After a few years of researching the Scrantons, I decided to do a genealogy road trip to Guilford in the summer of 2016.  Though I took lots of pictures and posted them on Facebook, I never wrote about the trip.  What better time than for this week’s #52Ancestors theme?

Since I was going with my husband, I was going to make sure it was an efficient trip with some couple time thrown in.  So we hopped on I-95 during one of the hottest days of the year and drove across the state to Guilford.

Some pre-research at the Guilford Library’s website turned up an early map of the town, including who lived where.  I wanted to stand on the land where John Scranton lived!  Fortunately, there was a Wal-Mart just off the exit and down the street from that land, so that’s where we parked before walking over.

John Scranton’s land, with a more modern house on it. Author’s collection.

Old colonial house across the street from John Scranton. Author’s collection.

Of course, John Scranton’s house is no longer there, but there was an old house across the street.  Its plaque said 1694, but some research shows it may have been built in 1645.  John would have seen it every day!

We soon found that Guilford was chock-full of beautiful old houses, so we looked at a few in the area that we were walking.  (Later on, I’d bought a book about the old houses around Guilford Green, not too far away.  I guess we’ll have to go back to really look at those!)

Our next stop was the Henry Whitfield House.  As I wrote here, Rev. Henry Whitfield led many of the first settlers of Guilford in 1639.  They soon built the stone house to start the settlement off.  Over the centuries, the house has been remodeled many times, so there is barely any of the original left.  However, the house is now a museum that reflects on Guilford’s history.  They also have a research room, but according to the worker there, it’s best to try the library first, as it has more extensive historical materials.

Statue of Henry Whitfield. Author’s collection.

Author’s collection.

Front of Whitfield house. Author’s collection.

Rear of Whitfield House. Author’s collection.

Some colonial kitchen gear at Whitfield house. Author’s collection.

At the rear of this fireplace is some of the original mortar of the house. Author’s collection.

After a lunch break at the nearby Lobster Pound, we made our last stop at West Cemetery, where my library research showed me that John Scranton’s grandson Samuel was buried.  As we combed the cemetery, we couldn’t find the gravestone.  What we did see was many older gravestones leaning up against small fences and other gravestones.  Although the cemetery opened in 1815, these stones were dated earlier than that.  I found out later that Guilford’s first cemetery was actually on its town green, and that many of the graves later were re-interred at surrounding cemeteries, including West.  Another reason for a re-visit; perhaps we could find Samuel’s headstone among these strays.

Samuel Scranton the 3rd, a descendant of my Samuel Scranton. Author’s collection.

One last reason for another visit:  near the Whitfield house is a traffic island that has a granite slab with the 1639 Guilford Covenant inscribed on it.  During our visit, I saw the 2014-dated slab but didn’t take a picture, since John Scranton’s name wasn’t on it.  Meanwhile, I’ve discovered two other ancestors who are on there:  John Bishop and Thomas Norton.  Now I want to photograph it and touch their names!

I loved this sign, that summed up this trip! Author’s collection.

Long Line: The Old Connecticut Path

I decided to do a slightly different take for this week’s #52Ancestors theme “Long Line” — I decided on a literal line! Well, kind of a meandering line: The Old Connecticut Path.

Milestone marker in Wayland, MA along the Old Connecticut Path. Courtesy Library of Congress.

As I studied my ancestors who passed through Windsor, Hartford County, CT, I wondered how they arrived there. These ancestors were:

  • Robert Bartlett
  • Thomas Ford
  • William Holton
  • Ephraim Huit
  • Eltweed Pomeroy
  • John Strong

At some point, the Old Connecticut Path came up in my research. Apparently it originally was a route that the natives traveled between the Boston area and what is now the Hartford area along the Connecticut River. Massachusetts colonists in the early-mid 1630s (such as Roger Ludlow, John Oldham and Rev. Thomas Hooker) soon began trekking along the path and founded the settlements of Windsor (first known as Dorchester), Wethersfield (first known as Watertown) and Hartford (first known as Newtown).

I could try to re-hash the history and route of the Old Connecticut Path, but Jason Newton has already done comprehensive work on his dedicated website, YouTube channel and Facebook page. I have only just begun to explore those resources myself! So click on these links and start exploring the Old Connecticut Path to see what your ancestors ma have seen and learn about their experiences!

Favorite Photo: Mistaken Identity

Week 2 of #52Ancestors focuses on “Favorite Photo”. My first problem is I don’t have a lot of family photos, and my second is that some may not be shareable for privacy reasons. Plus, how can I pick a favorite? What I can do is pick a photo with a little story behind it.

There is one photo I’ve shared on this blog before but have not given much of an explanation of:

Previously thought to be a picture of Bertha, the identified time points to it being Jennie. Courtesy Deb Thompson Colomy.

My third cousin sent me this picture not long after I began my genealogical journey. Among his mother’s genealogical things, he identified this as being a picture of Bertha Elizabeth Colomy. At the time, I though I could see a little of my grandfather (her son) in the eyebrows. Also, one of Edwin’s youngest grandsons had identified the picture as Bertha. The only mystery at the time was: when was the picture taken?

Eventually I heard of Maureen Taylor, aka The Photo Detective, who was an expert at determining when photos were taken based on hairstyle, clothing, etc. She was going to be at the first Genealogy Event in New York City in October 2012–here was my big chance to find out the date of the picture!

So I made my appointment and got my answer pretty quickly: Maureen said that the picture was taken around 1885. The only problem was: Bertha was only nine years old then; this could not have been her! I wondered if, maybe, this could be Bertha’s mother Jennie, born in 1856. Maureen thought that it was a possibility.

So that’s been my conclusion about this photo. After all, it’s possible that Bertha looked very much like her mother, and I saw that the grand-nephew that had identified her was born after Bertha had died; he would not have known what she looked like firsthand.

Fresh Start: Colonial Ancestors

This year, to make myself a bit more active on this blog, I plan to take part in Amy Johnson Crow’s #52Ancestors.  I don’t plan on holding myself to it strictly, since other things may come up, but I thought it might freshen my perspective somewhat.

So the first week’s prompt is “Fresh Start”, which stumped me at first.  After all, there are all sorts of ways to have a fresh start.  But during the past few months of my research, I’ve been drawn to my 1600s ancestors here in America, and I figured they are the epitome of the story of a fresh start.

With some of my ancestors, it’s easy to tell how and why they got a fresh start.  Nicholas Wallington was just a boy servant along for the ride when his master Stephen Kent immigrated to Massachusetts; his start was automatic.  Roger Williams, however, was a classic example of immigration for religious freedom, even though life in Boston and Salem weren’t free enough for him.  He made a great fresh start with the founding of Rhode Island.

With my other ancestors, however, their reasons to immigrate here are either lost to time or (hopefully) hidden away in some archive.  But history has taught us some of the common reasons to start over: economic opportunity, plenty of land available (let’s hear it for all those old Massachusetts land records!), as well as following their religious and personal convictions.  Not only did my ancestors find all this, but they began new towns, new churches and new families.  Some, like John Scranton, discovered new ways to clear land and farm.  Most probably discovered new foods to try and new ways to prepare the food.  Sadly, my ancestors living around in 1675 found a new enemy in the natives during King Philip’s War and following.

Though life in America provided my 1600s ancestors with a fresh start in their lives, that start laid the foundation for the generations that were to follow.  I am proud to count that as part of my heritage!

Puritans. Courtesy of US Library of Congress.

Here is a list of many of my other “Fresh Start” ancestors not mentioned above, with links for those I’ve written about: