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Effective family history research requires some understanding of the historical events that affected families and the records about them. Learning about wars, governments, laws, migrations, and religious trends can help you understand political boundaries, family movements, and settlement patterns.
State, county, and town histories often contain biographical sketches of local citizens, including important genealogical information. This may be one of the best sources of information for some families.
The following important events in the history of Vermont affected political boundaries, record keeping, and family movements:
- 1724: The first permanent English settlement was made at Fort Dummer, near the site of present-day Brattleboro. Permanent settlement began in most of Vermont after 1760, when the English drove the French from the area.
- 1749–1764: New Hampshire granted land for 129 towns in Vermont.
- 1764–1776: New York claimed jurisdiction and tried to establish county governments in the area. Albany, Cumberland, Gloucester, and Charlotte counties of New York included what is now Vermont. When New York land grants conflicted with the earlier grants, New Hampshire pioneers formed the Green Mountain Boys to drive first the “Yorkers” and then the British from the area.
- 1777–1791: Vermont was an independent republic until it joined the Union in 1791.
- 1800–1816: Many people went to new lands in upstate New York to escape the War of 1812, cold seasons, floods, and epidemics. In one epidemic more than 6,000 persons died.
- 1820–1860: The Champlain Canal opened in 1823, connecting Vermont to New York City. The Erie Canal opened in 1825, carrying Vermont settlers to Ohio and other western areas. Irish laborers came to work on Vermont railroads, the first of which opened in 1848.
- After 1850: Agriculture declined and farmers left for the cities or better farms in the Midwest.
- 1861–1865: More than 35,000 Vermonters served in the Union Army during the Civil War.
- Late 1800s: French Canadians and Europeans settled mostly in cities to work in factories. Burlington grew rapidly because of lumber. The granite industry boomed in Barre. The textile industry declined, and many mills were moved to the South.
- 1898: Over 280,500 U.S. men were involved in the Spanish-American War which was fought mainly in Cuba and the Philippines.
- 1917–1918: More than 26 million men from the United States ages 18 through 45 registered with the Selective Service. Over 4.7 million American men and women served during World War I.
- 1930's: The Great Depression closed many factories and mills. Many small farms were abandoned, and many families moved to cities.
- 1940–1945: Over 50.6 million men ages 18 to 65 registered with the Selective Service. Over 16.3 million American men and women served in the armed forces during World War II.
- 1950–1953: Over 5.7 million American men and women served in the Korean War.
- 1950's–1960's The building of interstate highways made it easier for people to move long distances. Interstate highways led to increased tourism.
- 1964–1972: Over 8.7 million American men and women served in the Vietnam War.
Histories are great sources of genealogical information. Many contain biographical information about individuals who lived in the area, including:
Some of the most valuable sources for family history research are local histories. Published histories of towns, counties, and states usually contain accounts of families. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. You can also find lists of pioneers, soldiers, and civil officials. Even if your ancestor is not listed, information on other relatives may be included that will provide important clues for locating your ancestor. A local history may also suggest other records to search. Local histories are extensively collected by the Family History Library, public and university libraries, and state and local historical societies. The United States Research "History" page cites nationwide bibliographies of local histories which include histories of Vermont.
- Brown, Elizabeth Crockett. Historical Sketches of Vermont Communities. N.p., 1991. This source contains historical information about each town. There are brief sketches arranged by counties and towns. Family History Library book 974.3 H2be.
- Vermont, a Bibliography of Its History. Bibliographies of New England History, v.4. Boston, Massachusetts: G.K. Hall, 1981. This book includes state, county, and local histories and an index of authors, editors, compilers, subjects, and places. Family History Library book 974.3 H23v.
- Filby, P. William. A Bibliography of American County Histories. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1985. FHL book 973 H23bi. Other libraries with book (Worldcat).
- Kaminkow, Marion J. United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress. 5 vols. Baltimore: Magna Charta Book, 1975-76. FHL book 973 A3ka. Other libraries with book (Worldcat)
State Histories Useful to Genealogists
Good genealogists strive to understand the life and times of their ancestors. In this sense, any valid history is useful. But certain kinds of state, county, and local histories, especially older histories published between 1845 and 1945, often include biographical sketches of prominent individuals. The sketches usually tend toward the laudatory, but may include some genealogical details. If these histories are indexed or alphabetical, check for an ancestor's name. Some examples for the State of Vermont are:
- Carpenter, W. H. The History of Vermont from Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Lippincott, Grambo, 1853. This history discusses Indian wars, settlements, the problems with Canada, and frustrations caused by Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York meddling. Family History Library film 1065107.
- Crockett, Walter H. Vermont, the Green Mountain State. 5 vols. New York, New York: Century History, 1921. This is an all-encompassing history including the Indians, French and English settlements, the New Hampshire grants, and the resistance to New York. It includes indexes. Family History Library book 974.3 H2c; film 1000619.
United States History
The following are only a few of the many history sources that are available:
- Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M. The Almanac of American History. Greenwich, Conn.: Bison Books, 1983. This provides brief historical essays and chronological descriptions of thousands of key events in United States history. FHL book 973 H2alm. Other libraries with book (Worldcat).
- Dictionary of American History, Revised ed., 8 vols. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976. This includes historical sketches on various topics in U.S. history, such as wars, people, laws, and organizations. FHL book 973 H2ad. Other libraries with book (Worldcat). A snippet view is available at Google books.
- Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium. Springfield, Mass.: G and C Merriam, 1971. This includes a history, some maps, tables, and other historical information. FHL book 973 H2v. Other libraries with book (Worldcat). Limited view at Google Books.
- American Historical Association. Writings on American History. Washington, District of Columbia : American Historical Association, 1906-1960. Google Books. FHL book 973 H23w. Other libraries with book (Worldcat).
To find more books and articles about Vermont 's history use the Internet Google search for phases like "Vermont history." Family History Library Catalog Surname Search lists many more histories under topics like:
- VERMONT - HISTORY
- VERMONT, [COUNTY] - HISTORY
- VERMONT, [COUNTY], [TOWN] - HISTORY
- VERMONT, BIBLIOGRAPHY
- Vermont Historical Society. Vermont History Journal. Has many articles online from the past issues of the magazine.