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02 September 2008

Tuesday Tales From the Road - Suffield, Connecticut

Mary is continuing her amazing genealogy research trek across the country. She's reached New England. This is her sixth report:

“Are you Mary?” asked the man in the Boy Scout Scoutmaster uniform. How fitting this uniform is for my Suffield, Connecticut hero, Art Sikes, who is the Vice President of the Suffield Historical Society (SHS). One day last year, I “googled” the last of my 2nd great-grandmothers to be researched. A few keystrokes later I arrived on the Suffield Historical Society Web site. I then clicked on “Families.” To my total amazement, Art had built the genealogy of the major founding families! The family trees and his sources are on the Web site! I hope some of you reading this blog have Suffield ancestors and can use this amazing site. By the time I finished, I had thirty surnames across as many as six generations. Although Art works full time and donates his time to many organizations, he always answered my e-mail questions. How many months, if not years, of research did he save me? I was delighted to take him and his wonderful wife, Bev, to dinner. I told them that I wish I could take them every night for a year. If there were a Boy Scout badge for genealogy, Art would be the first recipient.

Obviously, thirty surnames represent an impossible task for one week. Just imagine how many gravestones exist? Suffield kept continuous records from its founding in 1669, and almost all have survived with only a few lost to fire. Birth, marriage and death records are on microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. I copied Barbour’s Suffield listings for my surnames to expedite the microfilm search. The big jackpot is the existence of the minutes of the town meetings from 1669 through 1745. I copied most of them, as some ancestor appears in nearly all of the pages. Reviewing them will take a long time. I’m praying for a rainy San Francisco winter to do this.

Art also opened “the dungeon” in the basement of the Kent Memorial Library where SHS keeps the private archives. These include family farm ledgers, letters and many original documents, pictures, etc. I would need a month to make a dent. So, I am already planning my next trip to Suffield.

Oh, yes, one last item. Sometimes, luck plays a significant part in genealogy! I was reading H. S. Sheldon's book with the town meeting minutes and some comments that he added. He was talking about Joseph Sheldon, who was a leader of the town and a Connecticut representative to the Colonial Legislature in Boston. We have some Sheldons in our line in Suffield but not Joseph, or so I thought. Bingo, the list of his children included Benjamin Sheldon (born 1705), who was tied into another line not in Suffield. We had not researched his parents! After some more digging, I was thrilled to find that Joseph and Mary (Whiting) Sheldon were indeed Benjamin's parents. Then, came the real jackpot! Mary Whiting was the granddaughter of John Pynchon, who created the towns of Suffield, Brookfield, Deerfield and others! What a grand discovery!

Next stop – assorted Vermont towns.

Your genealogist on the road,

Mary Mettler

Read the entire series:
Part One: Salt Lake City
Part Two: Indiana
Part Three: Pennsylvania
Part Four: More From Pennsylvania
Part Five: Washington D.C.
Part Six: Suffield, Connecticut
Part Seven: Vermont
Part Eight: Dorset, Vermont
Part Nine: West Point and Back to Pennsylvania
Part Ten: Some Final Thoughts From Home