The following aricle is excerpted from William Dollarhide’s new book, Connecticut Name Lists, 1600s – 2001, with a selection of National Name Lists, 1600s – Present, an annotated bibliography of published and online name lists.
For genealogical research in Connecticut, the following timeline of events should help any genealogist understand the area with an historical and genealogical point of view:
1524. Italian Giovanni da Verrazzano sailed up the Atlantic coast in sight of present New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine, and wrote of his travels to his sponsor, King Francis I of France. While he encountered very friendly natives near Connecticut and Rhode Island, Maine’s natives were less welcoming. They greeted Verrazzano’s men from the height of a cliff, refused to approach the shore, and would only trade by lowering items on a rope. When they were finished trading, Verrazzano wrote that they “showed their buttocks and laughed immoderately.” For this, Verrazzano named the area, terra onde la mala gente, or “the land of the bad people.”
1558. Elizabeth I became Queen of England. All of the great explorations of North America took place during her 45-year reign, the Elizabethan Era. When Elizabeth I was crowned, England was nearly bankrupt, but during her reign, the British Empire expanded and thrived, and British culture flourished in Literature, Theatre, Music, and Architecture.
1559 Norumbega. Englishman David Ingram was New England’s earliest real estate promoter. He claimed to have traveled the length of the Atlantic seaboard from present Florida to Maine, and on his return to England, he told stories of what he saw on that journey. Ingram said he had visited the wealthy city of Norumbega, somewhere between present Connecticut and Maine, where the streets were “far broader than any street in London,” the men were bedecked with gold and silver bracelets, and the women with gold plates and pearls as big as thumbs. He told of houses with pillars of gold, silver, and crystal, and spoke of how he could grab fist-sized nuggets of gold from the streams. Though Ingram may have exaggerated a bit, he did spark an interest in the New England region, and more fortune seekers followed during the latter half of the 16th Century, searching for Ingram’s mythical land of Norumbega.
1603 England. James I (James VI of Scotland since 1566), became King of England, the first monarch to rule both England and Scotland. He was also the first English King to publicly assert that he was blessed with “the divine right of Kings,” meaning he was the voice of God on earth, at least in England and Scotland. Although James I was most remembered for commissioning a Bible translation, during his reign, the first permanent British colonies of North America were established in Virginia and New England, including Connecticut. James I was in power when England acquired possession of Northern Ireland, and was an advocate for the transportation of thousands of clan people living along the Scottish-English border to Ulster Province. After about 120 years in Northern Ireland, many of these “Scots-Irish” were to migrate to the interior of New England via the Connecticut River.
1614. English Captain John Smith (of the Jamestown Colony) visited the shores of present Connecticut to Maine, then wrote his Description of New England, which encouraged Englishmen to settle there. Smith was credited as the first to call the area New England, which had previously been known as Norumbega or Virginia. Back in England, Christopher Jones was one seafarer who was known to have read Smith’s description of New England, and often remarked that he would like to go there. He got his wish as the master of the Mayflower in 1620.
1614 Connecticut. Dutchman Adriaen Block sailed up the present Connecticut River and claimed the region as part of the New Netherland colony. He named the river “Fresh River,” The Dutch were famous for trading a few beads and baubles for large tracts of land from the natives.
1620 Plymouth Colony. The Mayflower dropped anchor off Cape Cod, and soon after Plymouth Colony was founded by a small group of Pilgrims/Separatists, who had fled England for Holland a year earlier. Unlike the Puritans, the Pilgrims did not want to purify the Church of England, they just wanted to get away from the church’s Prayer Book, and have their own method of worship.
1623. Fort House of Good Hope. The Dutch built a fortified trading post on the present site of Hartford, but the Dutch were asked to leave by the British in a few years.
1625 England. Charles I became King of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Charles believed in the same principles his father, James I had espoused, i.e., that as King, he was the infallible interpreter of God’s will on earth. Soon after taking office, Charles began to note a large number of non-conformists among his subjects. Along with his Archbishop, William Laud, the King began a campaign to purge his church of the largest group of non-conformists, the so-called Puritans, a militant Calvinist religious sect attempting to purify the Church of England. Unfortunately, Charles I took on a job that led to civil war in England as well as the loss of his head. But, his campaign can be credited as the main cause for the founding of English settlements in New England.
1629. The Great Migration to New England began. As a result of the Charles I campaign to purge non-conformists from the Church of England, 1629-1640, large groups of people were disenfranchised. Charles I disbanded Parliament and ruled England alone for eleven years. The Puritans referred to this era as “the eleven years of tyranny.” It was during these eleven years that about 80,000 Puritans felt compelled to leave England. About a fourth of them moved to Holland; another fourth of them to Ireland; a fourth to the West Indies, particularly the islands of Barbados, Nevis, and St. Kitts; and the final group, some 21,000 Puritan immigrants, established the Massachusetts Bay Colony of British North America.
1632. Edward Winslow of the Plymouth Colony visited the Connecticut River, and noted a point on the river as a good place for a settlement.
1633. Plymouth Colony sent William Holmes to found the settlement at Windsor, the first permanent settlement in present Connecticut.
1634. Puritans from the Massachusetts Bay Colony founded Wethersfield in present Connecticut.
1636 Connecticut Colony. The British settlements of Hartford, Wethersfield, and Windsor were formed as the Connecticut Colony. The name was based on Mohegan/Algonquin Indian words for a “long tidal river,” which the French had earlier corrupted into Quinetucket.
1637 – The Pequot War. The Pequot Indians of Connecticut were defeated by the Connecticut colonists in alliance with the Narragansetts and Mohegans.
1638. New Haven Colony was formed as an independent colony, separate from Connecticut Colony.
1641. The Great Migration to New England ended. It was also the beginning of the Civil War in England, and by 1649, Charles I and William Laud were beheaded; Oliver Cromwell, a Puritan, became Lord Protectorate, ruling England for the next decade. The group of Royalists who supported Charles I were now out of power, the Puritans were in control (and there was no need to send any more Puritans to New England, in fact many of the “purged” Puritans return to England). Instead of Puritans to New England, another English migration began, this time to Virginia by the opponents of the Puritans—Loyalists of the king who were known as Cavaliers.
1643 New Haven Colony. The coastal settlements of Branford, Guilford, Milford, Stamford, plus Southold (on Long Island), all joined the New Haven Colony.
1646. The settlement of New London was founded by John Winthrop, Jr.
1660 England. Charles II was restored to the throne as King of England, Scotland, and Ireland. He had lived in exile after the execution of his father, Charles I. In 1649, the Scots had proclaimed Charles the king of Scotland. But the Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell defeated his army in 1651, and Charles fled to France. After Cromwell died in 1658, the English people became increasingly dissatisfied with the government that Cromwell had established. In 1660, Parliament invited Charles to return and declared him king. He ruled until his death in 1685, and during his reign, the British colonials forced out the remaining pockets of Atlantic settlements made earlier by the Dutch, Swedes, Danes and French. Charles II saw the Atlantic colonies as a source of trade and commerce, supported development, and granted several more charters for settlement (including one to William Penn in 1681). All of the British colonies thrived as a result. He was the first monarch to recognize the potential for the North American colonies to become a contiguous, viable commonwealth. He encouraged the development of post roads, and a regular communication between the Governors. Charles II was responsible for setting the tone of self-government, religious tolerance, and individual freedoms in the British colonies that were to become American institutions.
1665 Connecticut Colony. New Haven Colony and Connecticut Colony merged into one chartered colony, retaining the name Connecticut.
1674. The English asked the Dutch to leave New York and Connecticut. Outnumbered, the Dutch complied, not by leaving, but by moving out of their town halls and political offices. The Dutch communities remained, kept their own churches and culture, and continued to be a factor in the development of the Hudson and Connecticut River valleys.
1701. The Collegiate School was authorized by the Connecticut General Assembly.
1717. The Collegiate School was moved to New Haven; became Yale College the following year.
1754. French and Indian War began. France and Britain fought for several years over the territory of Canada, the Great Lakes, and the Mississippi River Valley down to New Orleans. In Europe it was called the Seven Years War. Connecticut was a main supplier of militia to aid the British effort against the French. It was estimated that a forty percent of the adult males of Connecticut were directly involved in the French and Indian War.
1763. The Treaty of Paris was signed by France, Spain, and Britain, ending the French and Indian War. France was the loser, and was divested of virtually all of its North American lands, except the town of New Orleans and some small islands and fishing rights off Newfoundland. The British now held all the territory east of the Mississippi River from Florida to the Great Lakes; the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Rupert’s Land; the Province of Quebec; and all lands of the present Maritime Provinces of Canada. The British claims became known officially as “British North America.” Spain took from France all of Louisiana west of the Mississippi, and added to its previous possession of Mexico, now held all North American lands west of the Mississippi to the Continental Divide. Because a large part of Connecticut’s population was involved in the French and Indian War, there exists today several good-sized name lists of militiamen who participated in various battles of the war.
1775-1781 Revolutionary War. Several thousand Connecticut men rushed to answer the “Lexington Alarm.” Connecticut troops were instrumental in the planning and seizure of Ft. Ticonderoga. British raids in Connecticut included New Haven, Fairfield, and Norwalk, and turncoat Benedict Arnold led British attacks on New London and Groton.
1788. Jan. 9th. Connecticut ratified the U.S. Constitution and became the 5th state of the original 13 colonies.
Find out more about William Dollarhide’s new book, Connecticut Name Lists, 1600s – 2001, with a selection of National Name Lists, 1600s – Present, an annotated bibliography of published and online name lists.