Knocking Down Brick Walls
by Rachel V. Duffalo

During the period of from about 1750 to 1850, people were moving around a lot in New England. These dates can be narrowed down even further for this discussion to 1790-1810, but this situation is not really limited by any dates.   I only mention them because it is in this time period that many people have been "lost."

In the outposts where the pioneers settled, records were kept sometimes and sometimes not.  Eventually all towns began to keep records and most of them have survived. There were some that were burned and others that have been lost.  When they began actual official record keeping in Vermont in the early 1800's, it was in a "catch up" manner.  The town clerks would speak with each family and "list" the records for that family.  Sometimes the births had actually occurred in other locations and had been recorded there as well.   In this case, if you look at the Vermont record, you would think that the person had been born there, but this is not always so.   You may also be looking up records for someone for whom you have the information that they were born in Vermont and you can't find any record of it. Many times their record can be found in neighboring states.

Unfortunately, for as many records that were kept, there were many that were simply never recorded.  In those cases, one can only hope to get an idea of where the birth might have occurred from the pattern of movement of the family or obtain some form of family record which gives more specific information.  Remember that today's town clerks can only give you information from the records that were actually recorded in their town and town histories; neither of these sources covers everyone that ever lived in the town.

When seeking Vermont ancestors, the first place I look now is a book called Soldiers, Sailors, and Patriots of the Revolutionary War Vermont compiled by Carleton E. Fisher and Sue G. Fisher (Camden ME: Picton Press, 1992). It is an excellent compilation of EVERY (pretty near) man recorded in a Vermont source relative to Revolutionary War Service and Patriotism. There are short summaries given for each person which may include any or all of the following as it is available. Name, service, place and year of enlistment, company; birth place, year of birth; death place, year of death; burial place; wife (first name only); places of residence and years of residence; references to all sources including pension numbers.

The Fishers' book is excellent for locating ancestors who were or might have been in Vermont during the Revolutionary War period.. Of course if they were confirmed Tories, you will not find them here. Do not discount, however, the valiant men who were leaning toward the Tories, but became staunch Patriots, as the country went to battle.

If found, you can usually go from there to the DAR Patriot Index where you could find the complete birth and death dates (when they have them) and the wife's full name.

Another excellent source for data is the set of volumes, Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files by Virgil D. White. This work gives abstracts of pension applications that, though short, contain an accurate account of names,relationships, dates, and places of residence named in the records for pensioners.

Copies of actual military and pension records can be obtained through the National Archives in Washington DC. These can include the soldiers pension, widows pension and bounty land grant records, as well as actual muster rolls and pay accounts.

The next place you should look is the IGI or "International Genealogical Index" of the LDS Church. This can be found online or on CD-Rom and microfiche at your local Family History Center. This is not a primary source of data, but it is an excellent index which quite often will provide the information you need to locate your ancestors during this time period. What you should be looking for is a birthdate in a New England state other than Vermont (most often Connecticut or Massachusetts and sometimes Rhode Island) that matches with the date that you have recorded. What this usually means is that the record was recorded in two places, and at the very least that the persons named lived in both towns. You should also search the marriage, as you will probably find that the marriage occurred before removing to Vermont. Quite often, the first few children were also born in that town as well and you can confirm this by doing a search for the children using the parents names.

You should also remember that the date you have may not be exact and you should also search surrounding years. The IGI will let you do this in 2, 5, 10, and 20 year spans, if you need to narrow down the search. Also, remember that Vermont was at various times part of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York.

Don't forget to use the town histories, they can be invaluable sources for information that can't be found elsewhere. Some of the earlier histories, including the town histories found in the Vermont Historical Gazetteer, were compiled with the knowledge of people who had actually known the families. They can be quite useful.

I have found that most Windham County people can be tracked down with a little innovative searching (this is not true in some of the other areas of the state).

Good luck to you in your search!