U.S Research Resources – Focus on Connecticut

Vital Records

Civil birth, marriage and death records can be obtained in the offices in which they are archived, with restrictions for privacy, rules varying by state. www.Familysearch.org and www.Ancestry.com  include indexes to such records (or records themselves), some quite recent, from many jurisdictions.

For Connecticut, Ancestry.com has marriage and death indexes from 1959 and 1949 respectively, to 2012. The Connecticut state library has free online indexes of marriages and deaths from 1897 to 1968 (https://libguides.ctstatelibrary.org/az.php)  (with web links from Ancestry.com). Actual certificate copies may be obtained from the Connecticut Dept. of Public Health (https://portal.ct.gov/DPH/Vital-Records/State-Vital-Records-Office--Home), as well as from town clerks. Birth records within 100 years are restricted. Commercial services such as vitalrec.com/ facilitate access from any state for a fee.

Familysearch.org has free, browsable images of the microfilmed pages of original vital registers (over 100 years old) of most CT towns, many not indexed and some not yet digitized. These can be accessed by place from the website’s Catalog tab. Those which are indexed are also searchable by name from the website’s Records tab.

Early Connecticut vital records to about 1850 were compiled in the Barbour Index, by town. Ancestry.com has searchable images of these pages, but a few towns, such as New Haven and Norwich are not included as their records were previously published.

Sacramental baptism and marriage records have been archived by the Catholic dioceses. Their policies to access these records vary. Contact diocesan offices or individual parishes.


Headstones in Connecticut cemeteries were surveyed in 1934 and compiled by town. Ancestry.com has imaged and indexed these, under the Hale Collection of Connecticut Headstones. (www.ancestry.com/search/collections/2900/). Only names and dates were copied, but even this may help locate an ancestor. Potentially useful facts such as place of birth in Ireland and relationships were not included. More recent compilations include www.Findagrave.com a free, online listing including photographs of headstones submitted by volunteers, a work still in progress. Ancestry.com and Familysearch.org also link name searches to this site. Libraries and historical societies may have additional cemetery inscriptions copied at various times.              


U.S. decennial censuses from 1790 through 1940 are indexed and browsable on Ancestry.com, and via individual searches at Familysearch.org. Finding an immigrant family in censuses can place them in the context of their neighbors, and in successive censuses, helping lead one to other useful records, such as city directory listings. Some destruction (1890), difficult handwriting and poor filming can make it difficult in some cases to locate a family. Browsing pages in a given locality may be successful and can reveal unexpected information. Mortality schedules for 1850-1880 censuses list those who died in the year ending with the official census day. Some states such as New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts took their own censuses at 5-year intervals. Surviving ones are online.

City Directories

City directories are useful in small and large cities from the 1840s through the mid-20th century to help track the residence of ancestors, especially immigrants. Early years are bare lists of employed men and widows, but they become more informative in later editions, adding “removals” and dates of death in the mid-1920s through the 1980s. On Ancestry.com one can search directories by name or browse by state and town. Look for missing years or pages in collections of original or microfilmed volumes at local libraries.


Newspapers began to include obituaries and marriages of the Irish in the late 19th century. Online subscription sites such as www.Newspapers.com  are useful though CT coverage is partial. Ancestry.com now offers access to this collection for an additional fee. A few towns, such as Norwich, have a range of free years in http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov.  Norwalk and Stamford dailies are available online via their public libraries. Other papers are on microfilm at local libraries.

Immigration and Naturalization

Immigration passenger lists from 1820 have been microfilmed, digitized and indexed, available on Ancestry.com. Most Irish to Connecticut arrived at New York. All of the individual lists such as Famine Immigrants, Castle Garden and Ellis Island have been incorporated into the 1820-1957 database (www.ancestry.com/search/collections/7488/). Using these can be frustrating in that minimal information and poor handwriting, as well as a proliferation of common names may hinder identification of your ancestor. Finding names is also dependent on the accuracy of the transcription of the data into the search engine. Also, early Irish immigrants could not always afford to emigrate as a family unit. Passenger lists to other U.S. ports can be searched as well.

Ship manifests were written at the port of departure so name changes (if any) were not imposed upon arrival. Some Irish landed in Canada before entering the U.S. so were not recorded (before 1895). For immigrants who survived the century, censuses of 1900, 1910 and 1920 asked year of arrival and (for males) whether naturalized. Memories can fade, so complete accuracy is unlikely. Even so, these dates can provide a clue to later marriage, births and death. 

Naturalization indexes and some records are online at Ancestry.com. Before 1906, state and local courts handled the process, their records varying in format and completeness. For Connecticut, only brief card file entries survive, giving name, age, court location and date. After 1906, the U.S. Archives holds all documents, requiring application and fees to obtain.


Indexes of Civil War service are available on Ancestry.com. Locally, obituaries and cemetery headstones may indicate the regiment and unit in which a soldier served. Many CT Irish served in regiments of other states, motivated perhaps by kinship, bounties offered or where their work took them early in the conflict. Although most participants were volunteers, a draft begun in 1863 created lists of registered men. For Connecticut, lists have survived for all but Fairfield and Litchfield counties. Search or browse at www.ancestry.com/search/collections/1666/.

World War I required registration of men born between 1874 and 1900. Draft cards and enlistment information are offered on both Ancestry.com and Familysearch.org. World War II draft cards are now also available. The brief physical descriptions and names of “contact persons” can be useful for further searching. Connecticut conducted a unique survey before the expected draft – a 1917 military census in which men were asked their experience with skills that might be useful in the armed forces www.ancestry.com/search/collections/2278/.  

Many military records, especially for Civil War participants, have been imaged on www.fold3.com, a subscription site. Branch libraries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) offer free onsite access to this and other premium websites. Military service records in later wars may also be available (a work in progress). All military records (for deceased veterans) can be accessed at the U.S. National Archives, by application and payment of fees.

Missing Persons (Immigrants)

The original volumes of The Search for Missing Friends, 1831-1921, have are now scanned and searchable online at www.ancestry.com/search/collections/5060/ and the New York Public Library - www.nypl.org/collections/articles-databases/search-missing-friends.

Probate and Wills

Scanned Connecticut Wills and Probate Records, 1609-1999 can be found in the collection by that name at www.ancestry.com/search/collections/9049/. As with many other large record sets, this is a work in progress. Few immigrant Irish used these legal procedures, but it may be useful to search for those of the first and second generations who began to have property to leave to their heirs. The documents may reveal names of relatives, even some back in Ireland.

Fraternal Organizations

Men of the immigrant generation often belonged to fraternal organizations which provided fellowship and assistance, whether with a religious affiliation or not. While records for these may be difficult to find or may not have survived, even city directory listings of their officers, and newspaper accounts of meetings and events can illuminate the life of an ancestor and his associates. Some groups also organized women’s auxiliaries, also often noted in print. 

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