Monday, December 12, 2016


How can we improve our services?

We are looking for suggestions about how we can make the Genealogy and Local History Unit here at the Silas Bronson Library more responsive to your needs.  Please take a few minutes to do the online survey, or stop by either the downtown or Bunker Hill Library branches to pick up a paper survey.  Thank you for your assistance.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Waterbury's Christmas Tree

Remembering Christmas Trees of Years Past

A patron stopped by yesterday with an interesting question: when did Waterbury first have a community Christmas tree on The Green or elsewhere?  Searching the newspaper archive on microfilm, I found an article that explained how the spruce tree planted on The Green in 1983 died and was removed about a year later.  Yaffe, D. (1985, August 14). City's Christmas tree gone from The Green. Waterbury Republican, p. 1.  This year, the Christmas tree display is much different from past years.  Because of the ongoing renovation of The Green, the Parks Department set up several trees for a holiday light display in Library Park.  What do you think of this year's Tree, or should I say trees?  Can anyone help me out with the patron's question about the first time Waterbury had a Christmas Tree display?  Photographs of this year's holiday display would be very welcome.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Looking for historical photographs?

Check out the New York Public Library's digital collection of historical documents and photographs from all over the world.  You never know what you might find on this easily searchable site, which is updated daily as they add more items.  As of today, there are dozens of images from the Greater Waterbury area, including a photograph of Ansonia, taken in 1865.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Hidden from view . . .
Do you know where Waterbury's potter's field is?  

The phrase "potter's field" comes from the Passion story in the New Testament.  Remember, they didn't know what to do with the money Judas flung back at them?  Every town has a potter's field.  It's where they bury people too poor to own their own cemetery plot.  Did you know that there is a potter's field here in Waterbury?  An inquiry from a patron led me to seek information about what is called "Town Cemetery."  According to, Town Cemetery, which is located at the intersection of Sunnyside Avenue and Draher Street, was where they buried the poor starting in the 1850's.  Only a few gravesites have headstones.  The cemetery has long been inactive.  It was closed in 1911.

You can find lots of interesting information as well as photographs about Waterbury cemeteries on  Many people use this site to post requests for photographs of the gravesite of an ancestor.  In fact, I was recently contacted by a woman in Texas who would like to have a photograph of a particular gravesite in Calvary Cemetery, and I encouraged her to post her request on  If you are interested in volunteering to go to Calvary to take the photograph, please let me know so that I can forward your contact information to this patron, who is unable to travel to Connecticut.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Genealogy Links to Explore

What are your plans for Labor Day?  If you put your genealogy file (whether paper or electronic) away for the summer, maybe you are ready to get back on track researching that long-lost ancestor.  Great, make a list of your questions.  Whether you are an experienced family history detective or just getting into this fascinating hobby, you will find a list of very rich links in this article by Andrea Davis, "History at Home: a guide to genealogy."  A big thank-you to Courtney Phillips and her students for bringing this helpful resource to my attention.  Have a great holiday weekend, everyone!

What can you tell me about this building?

Elizabeth Krodel contacted me recently to find out if we had any information about a building which is now the Enlightenment School, at 30 Church Street, Waterbury, Connecticut, a few steps away from St. John's Episcopal Church.  Researching historic buildings takes a lot of sleuthing because there is no central index to turn to that would allow you to plug in a particular address.  It helps if you know who owned the building.  To find that information, you can search the land records at the Town Clerk's office.  It also helps if you know what the building was used for because you might find articles in our newspaper archive about whatever school, business or organization was located there, along with background information about who was there prior to that.  In this particular case, Elizabeth thought the property was once a convent.  This led me to think the building was somehow part of the larger complex of buildings owned by St. John's.  It turns out that the building was originally built in 1916 as a private residence.  According to a free website called Historic Buildings of Connecticut, this building is known as the John Booth Burrall House.  Thank you, Elizabeth, for bringing this very helpful online resource to my attention.  I would encourage anyone interested in learning more about interesting buildings around the city to spend time browsing this website.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Researching Your Native American Ancestors

The National Archives in Washington, D.C. is probably your ultimate destination if you are trying to locate records about a Native American ancestor who belonged to one of the Southeastern tribes during the early 1800's.  However, before you travel to D.C., you might want to check out a book by Rachal Mills Lennon called "Tracing Ancestors Among the Five Civilized Tribes" (GE 929.1 Len). The book is a helpful supplement to the background information provided by the National Archives about their holdings.