New England Native Americans–Some New Resources

1. I am a member of the Windsor Historical Society. The current issue of the newsletter, Windsor Historical Society Chronicles has a thought-provoking article, “Listening to the Silence: A Close Reading of Encounters with Windsor’s Native People,” by Anne C. Wheeler, PhD. And a map of the area that became the town of Ancient Windsor through the purchase of  Indian lands. Hinted at in the article were the relationships among the Windsor Indian tribes, which Wheeler refers to as the River Indians, and the powerful Pequots. Also under consideration is the virulent epidemic of smallpox that swept through the Connecticut River valley in the Winter and Spring of 1633-34.

The River Indians went to Plymouth to entice English settlers to come to Connecticut as support against the Pequots. Using land deeds, personal journals of early settlers, town and county histories, and court depositions, Wheeler describes how Englishmen filled the vacant and silent lands with permanent structures and life. (Footnotes and authorities for this interesting article are posted on the website: 

2. Dr. Jerome D. Segel and R. Andrew Pierce. The Wampanoag: Genealogical History of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2003. pp. 677. Extensive and detailed bibliography of sources–printed volumes, manuscript histories, and written accounts dating from the early 1700’s. This volume includes descent charts and various name lists, pp.441-596 printed from Wampanoag Databases, with a preview of volumes 2 and 3, and a detailed timeline from 1492 to 1990.

This is a model genealogy account from which you can identify potential sources and resources to identify and trace Native Americans who appear to be hidden from view.

3. Robert H. Russell. Wilton Connecticut: Three Centuries of People, Places, and Progress. Wilton CT: Wilton Historical Society, 2004. This volume I encountered during a Christmas Tour at the Family History Library and knew that I had to have my own copy.

Why? This area is part of western Connecticut decimated by the British and their Indian allies during the American Revolutionary War. Every house, every church, and much of the usual records preserved at the local level were burned and destroyed. The people ran for their lives into northern Connecticut and into New York. Dealing with record loss is something I am used to. But this area was swept clean!

“As a professional historian studying Connecticut history for more than forty years, I thought I knew all the sources. Bob Russell has found some more. He has ferreted out more previously unknown materials than any other researcher of the topic–amateur or professional–has even dreamed about. It will be a long, long time–probably never–before any one approaches the thoroughness and precision of Russell’s history of Wilton Connecticut.” (Christopher Collier, Connecticut State Historian, Foreword)

The Indian population is briefly described, along with their relationship with the early settlers. In a few short sections, considerable information is conveyed. I wanted more.

The difference between the church and the Ecclesiastical Society is defined: they were separate and distinct bodies. The church handled  spiritual matters of the people, recorded baptisms, membership, marriages, and deaths. The Ecclesiastical Society dealt with schools, salaries of church ministers and clerks, and the building and maintenance of church buildings.

Early settlers are named, mapped, and their origins in old England are identified. Footnotes, bibliography of sources, a timeline of history, summaries of military  and school history, lists of officials, and maps are included. This substantial volume is also a model–one that illustrates how to deal with record and evidence loss. Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS A good, reliable history includes footnotes and a detailed bibliography of sources used. If the histories you have been reading do not have these scholarly elements, choose another history. Or, depend for your core information on historical articles written in the myriad of genealogy and historical periodicals left for you to use.

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