22 January 2020

Book Review: Finding Early Connecticut Vital Records: The Barbour Index and Beyond

Finding Early Connecticut Vital Records: The Barbour Index and Beyond by Linda MacLachlan is one of the newer additions to my genealogy library. This 2019 release is a welcome addition to my library as I begin in-depth research of my Connecticut ancestors.

The book begins with a six-page table of contents. Three maps follow for the western and eastern half of Connecticut and the Connecticut River Valley, including county lines. These maps help to orientate oneself to the state.

I especially appreciate the introduction pages of the book where MacLachlan describes how to use the book. The author further explains what the Barbour Index is, its completeness, its accuracy, and where to find the index. Anyone with Connecticut ancestry will want to familiarize oneself with this index, its uses, and limitations. This book is meant to be a "complete bibliography of sources for pre-1850 Connecticut vital statistics." (MacLachlan p. 322) This book does a great job of evaluating Barbour as a source. Do not skip these pages, they lay the foundation for the rest of the book. 

The bulk of the book, almost 300 pages, is a finding aid for 149 early Connecticut Towns. Using Kent, Litchfield, Connecticut as an example each town follows a pattern of information.

  • Barbour's own report of his sources for each town is cited and is the beginning of the section.
  • Vital records section includes the actual date range of the records abstracted by Barbour. If your date range isn't included, you will want to look beyond Barbour's transcriptions for the information.
  • Church records provides the records listed in the Family History Library catalog, including date ranges.
  • Cemetery transcription section includes all the cemeteries for the town based on Charles R. Hale's transcriptions. If other print sources are available, they are listed as well. No listing for modern online transcriptions is included and that is fine with me. The Hale Collection is a credible source and one I prefer to use for its accuracy.
  • Other noteworthy sources sections have Barbour's personal compilations of town records found at other repositories. This varies by town. For example, Kent's sources include three additional sources: Kent, Connecticut-Names of Early Residents; Francis Atwater's History of Kent, Connecticut...; and Mable Seymour and Elizabeth Forgeus: Lawyer of Kent: Barzillai Slosson and his account books, 1794-1812. Information on where to find these sources is provided.
You won't find your ancestor's surname in this book, but you will be given the tools necessary to find your ancestor's information. You will want to pay special attention to the Barbour's own report of his sources at the beginning of each town entry. Barbour himself admits there may be errors and omissions in his transcriptions. Understanding the source, in this case, Barbour's Collection, will allow you to feel confident in your research. 

MacLachlan has provided Connecticut researchers with a resource that is easy to use. The information contained within the book will further your Connecticut research understanding and I for one can't wait to use the information she provided.

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