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Connecticut Town Documents

Reports and other materials published by municipalities

Using the Connecticut Town Documents collection for genealogy research

 

The Connecticut State Library has an extensive collection of documents published by and for cities, towns, and boroughs within the state, dating back to the mid- to late-19th century. These documents include annual reports, school reports, financial reports, development plans, and other documents. These documents can be a useful source for filling in various pieces of family history.
 
Please be aware that each town publishes different things and that there is a lot of variation between towns. There is also a lot of variation between towns when it comes to what they have sent us. Local libraries, historical societies, and municipal archives may be able to help fill in the gaps.

Municipal Reports

Municipal reports and other materials
     
From about the 1850s on, cities, towns, and boroughs in Connecticut began publishing printed annual reports to send to their residents. The original annual reports were, in most cases, little more than a pamphlet that listed revenues and expenditures, but as time went on, these reports became more complex and included more information. These reports could be called many things, such as a “Municipal Register” or “City Year Book” instead of just “Annual Report.”   
     
Here are some of the ways you can use these reports for genealogical research:
     

  • Tax and expenditures lists: In the late 19th century, many towns published lists of expenditures to individuals, and often named them. A few towns also published their entire tax list, listing every property owner in the town and what they owed. Tax lists are much rarer, but the information can be very useful. These sorts of lists stopped being published in the early decades of the 20th century. You may also find lists of persons who paid various fees, such as for dog licenses.
     
  • Town government: If a person you’re researching sat on a board or commission, they will be listed here. There may be reports for police departments and fire companies as well. There are often photographs, especially for cities and larger towns.
     
  • School visitors’ reports: The school visitors were appointed by the town to visit each school district and report back on how each school was performing. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, towns operated schools on the district system, which established many small schoolhouses all over the town so that every child had a school within walking distance. Teachers’ names also were usually listed here, along with the school where they taught. If a person you’re researching taught school, they might be listed in the school visitors’ reports—often with commentary on their performance!
     
  • Town farm/almshouse reports: The selectmen of each town were charged with the care of the town’s poor. Many towns established an almshouse and/or a town farm to house and provide employment for the poor. Some towns listed the persons who were “inmates” at these institutions. These reports can be part of the annual report or in a separate “board of charity” report for larger towns and cities. These institutions were replaced with other forms of social welfare in the early- to mid-20th century.
     
  • Vital statistics: A very, very small number of towns recorded vital statistics (births, marriages, deaths) in their annual reports. An example: the town of Lyme began printing vital statistics in their annual report in 1919 and continues the practice to this day!

 

 
Other material
     
    There are other types of material included with the collection, such as newsletters, pamphlets, historical retrospectives on various departments (usually fire or police), and more. It is well worth looking through the shelf lists for any town of interest, just in case something useful turns up.

School reports

School reports and other school-related documents

Many schools and districts published their own reports and other materials; here are some of the ways they can be useful for genealogical research.

  • Class lists: Schools sometimes listed their full classes, especially from the 1870s through the 1910s. This was especially true of high schools, which tended to start out very small. 
     
  • Recitations/events: Some towns, especially those with selective high schools, held recitals and recitations for the public. High schools were fairly new institutions during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and wanted to advertise their quality to the town or city at large, often in the hopes of continuing to receive funding. There are some programs in the town documents collection.
     
  • Student publications: Student publications were numerous, especially in the cities and larger towns. We have a selection of these materials; local libraries, historical societies, and archives may have the complete set. Most student publications mentioned or listed many of their classmates.
     
  • Misc.: Other types of school documents, such as catalogues, might list student names. There are also graduation programs, yearbooks, and even report cards for some cities and towns!