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Effective family history research requires some understanding of the historical events that affected your family 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.
1861–1865: More than 35,000 Vermonters served in the Union Army during the Civil War.
After 1850: Agriculture declined and farmers left for the cities or better farms in the Midwest.
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.
1930s: Depression closed many factories and mills.
1960s: Interstate highways led to increased tourism.
The Family History Library has many histories of Vermont including:
Carpenter, W. H. The History of Vermont from Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Lippincott, Grambo, 1853. (FHL film 1065107.) This history discusses Indian wars, settlements, the problems with Canada, and frustrations caused by Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York meddling.
Crockett, Walter H. Vermont, the Green Mountain State. 5 vols. New York, New York: Century History, 1921. (FHL book 974.3 H2c; film 1000619.) 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.
Some of the most valuable sources for family history research are local histories. Published histories of towns, counties, and states usually contain accounts of area families. The “History” section of the United States Research Outline (30972) cites nationwide bibliographies of local histories, which include local histories of Vermont. For a statewide bibliography of local histories, see:
Vermont, a Bibliography of Its History. Bibliographies of New England History, v.4. Boston, Massachusetts: G.K. Hall, 1981. (FHL book 974.3 H23v.) This book includes state, county, and local histories and an index of authors, editors, compilers, subjects, and places.
For a statewide collection of brief local histories, see:
Brown, Elizabeth Crockett. Historical Sketches of Vermont Communities. N.p., 1991. (FHL book 974.3 H2be.) This source contains historical information about each town. There are brief sketches arranged by counties and towns.
Information on additional resources about the history of Vermont and local histories of its towns and counties can be found in the Family History Library Catalog by using a Place Search under:
VERMONT, [COUNTY]- HISTORY
VERMONT, [COUNTY], [TOWN]- HISTORY