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Overheard in GenForum: Stephen Stratton/Betsey Benedict 1780s
by Rhonda R. McClure

Each week Rhonda answers a question from the GenForum message boards and gives her expert answer here. We'd love to hear anything you have to add. Go ahead and leave your comments on GenForum with the original message.

October 26, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Q: Would anyone have any information on the couple listed above. I am trying to track down the complete information on their large family. Stephen Stratton was from Fairfield and Betsey Benedict Stratton was from Reading. -- Sheila

A: Connecticut research affords genealogists a number of useful resources. Many of these records are available on microfilm, making them available to researchers from all over.

Like the other New England states, many of the records for Connecticut will be found on the town level. This is true of the vital records. The probate records though are located on a probate district.

Connecticut records abound and offer great resources for the researcher.

Vital Records

Connecticut's vital records for most of the early towns go back to the date of creation of the town. For genealogists this is a benefit.

The down side to the vital records is that they are often interspersed among the pages of the town records. The town record volumes are seldom indexed, requiring the researcher to go through the pages one at a time looking first for vital records and then once found, going through each entry to see if a family member is listed.

Fortunately there is an alternative. Researchers in Connecticut can turn to the Barbour Collection as an alternative method for locating vital records.

The Barbour Collection

The Barbour Collection is named after Lucius Barbour. At the time he was Connecticut's Examiner of Public Records, he directed a project designed to abstract the vital records of the towns of Connecticut up through 1850.

This abstracted information has been compiled into two formats. The first is a book for each town. Within the pages, the entries are arranged alphabetically. Of course, this still requires that the researcher know which town the family was in.

The other format is actually akin to a statewide index. The information was abstracted onto small pieces of paper. These slips of paper were then alphabetized together, combining all of the towns.

There is a drawback to the Barbour Collection in that he did not compile all the towns. If he was aware of an already published volume for a given town, then he did not include it in his work. A perfect example of this is the town of Norwich.

These records are available on microfilm through many libraries. The Family History Library has them, as do many public libraries with good genealogy departments.

Probate Records

Probate records are another method of piecing together families. Many of the wills list the children and in some cases grandchildren. However, in Connecticut you will often find more than just a will.

Connecticut's probate records are arranged by probate district. These districts may or may not coincide with the county boundaries. However, most help aids such as Ancestry's Red Book will list the probate district for the particular town in question.

Once you have determined the appropriate probate district, you will then want to see what is available for the surname in question. You may discover the will of Stephen's father. Or you may find other Strattons that you were unaware of. And don't forget to look for Betsey's maiden name of Benedict. If you are lucky, you will find probate for Betsey's father, with Betsey listed with her married surname.

In Conclusion

Connecticut is one of the better states for researching. There are many records that go back to the seventeenth century for most of the early towns. Many of the records have been published and indexed. And best of all, many of them have been microfilmed.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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