Navigating New England Colonial Genealogical Records

Apr 21

Does your family lore suggest that your ancestors came over on the Mayflower or were part of the group of people that settled and founded the original colonies? Digging into your earliest American roots through genealogy can provide a fascinating view into your relationship to the people that helped build this nation. But navigating your way through Colonial genealogical records can be a challenge. If you’re interested in investigating your colonial roots, here’s a closer look at some of our favorite archives, organizations, and search strategies.

The General Context of New England Genealogy

Mayflower 2nd

It’s been famously said that if you’re going to have American ancestors from anywhere, New England is a great place to do it. New England has also been described as the birthplace of American genealogy. While that’s up for debate (Utah certainly has played an important role in advancing the discipline!), it’s true that New England’s collections of genealogical materials are extensive. Families from Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut are well-represented in genealogical resources and literature.

Tips and Resources Every Colonial Genealogist Should Know About

Study the history: The Colonial period was a fascinating time in American history, with multiple nations working to stake a claim on the region. Many Native American tribes were active during this period as well. Border disputes, conflicts, and changing loyalties were major trends of the period. The better you understand the forces that were governing life during this period, the better prepared you’ll be to interpret the information you find.

Read established genealogies with a grain of salt: A significant amount of research has been done and published on families in New England. However, it’s safe to assume that not all published information is 100% correct. It’s important to take an evaluative stance on what you read. How well documented is the information provided? Do you have concerns about the author’s research design, or are you finding intuitive leaps that are based on less data than makes you feel comfortable? Always consult multiple sources and when in doubt do your own primary and secondary research to confirm what you find.

Contact the right organizations: There are a number of organizations that specialize in the genealogy of these six New England States. Beginning your research there can help you identify resources and collections with information that’s germane to your research. These groups include:

-        Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants

-        The New England Historic Genealogical Society

- A list of links to city specific resources within Massachusetts.

-        The Connecticut Society of Genealogists

-        The Connecticut State Library Genealogical Collections

-        The Vermont Historical Society Library

-        The Rhode Island Genealogical Society

-        New Hampshire Genealogical Society

-        National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution

-        Daughters of the American Revolution Library

Connecting with your most distant American ancestors can sound like an insurmountable challenge. But if your family’s story in America began in New England, you’re well positioned to find excellent resources and documentations to help you in your work.

If you’re interested in learning more about your roots in New England or need help navigating any of the other colonial genealogical records, contact us today. Price & Associates’ team includes colonial specialists who can help you get started or complete entire projects on your behalf.