North American sources for Brokets
You can find bibliographies of North American history from most good universities and there’s no intention to compete with them here:Read more
For source material on New England: Jacobus’ 1930 Genealogy as pastime and profession.3
And three online primary sources we’ve used are:
For early New Haven specifically: Hoadly’s Records of the colony and plantation of New-Haven,5 and Dexter’s New Haven town records.6
However, the object of this page is to focus on sources that we have found useful for researching Brokets specifically. Please tell us about ones you’ve found useful. This page is very much work in progress.
Contents of this page:
Land transactions, tax lists, Wills, disputes and military records
1980: Mills Brown
Land transactions, tax lists, Wills, disputes and military records are usually primary sources—the legal and military establishments needed to keep records—so they can be excellent genealogical evidence, especially when supported by reliable records of births, marriages and deaths. For 17th and 18th C New England, where settlers established more stable societies and recorded the important events of that society,7 such records of births etc can be reliable—if you pursue the earliest copies—as we shall see below. But society in the southeast areas in the 17th and 18th C was different and surviving records there of births, marriages and deaths are few. So, for the southeast we have to rely almost entirely on land deals, tax lists, legal disputes, Wills and war service records, and these often didn’t mention relationships. Nearly all early White settlers who established themselves owned land, however, so if a Broket was one of those we are likely to find a record of them, sooner or later. Sometimes though they consist of a single isolated record and who they were has to remain speculation.
If you’re looking for evidence about a Broket and their family the censuses are a first port of call. The US Census Bureau provides an overview decade by decade with links to many detailed studies.8 Don Brockett has done a lot of work searching out Brokets in the censuses, and has written an insightful analysis of the statistics of US Brocketts.
More and more State records are available online, primary and secondary. The following information is proving useful to Brocket research so far:
Vaught H B & Wallace D E (1950-80?) Marriages from White County, Illinois, Illinois? 4 vols: vol 1, marriages, 1816-1880 (copied by Vaught 1950?); vol 2, marriages, 1881-1900, also, probate index, 1976- 1979 (copied by Wallace); vol 3, marriages, 1901-1915 (copied by Vaught); vol 4, marriages, 1916-1930 (copied by Wallace).9 Comments to follow.
Vaught H B, Gates J R, Williams G P, Wells K, Stanley R S, & Holderby M J (1970?) Cemeteries of White County, Illinois, Illinois? 2 vols: Vol 2, Townships of Enfield, Carmi, Hawthorne, Phillips.10 Comments to follow.
That families recorded their births, marriages and deaths in Family Bibles demonstrates the intimate connection between identity and religion in pre-21st C Western culture, a phenomenon thoroughly analysed with respect to North American genealogy by Weil.11 The Bibles would have normally been kept in a prominent place in the home and brought out for many occasions, both ordinary and special. For modern-day descendants who own them they are precious heirlooms, and touching them can be an almost mystical experience—sacred objects formerly handled with reverence by their ancestors, and used by them to record for posterity what they held most dear—their family.
And for evidence-based genealogy also they are primary sources—original documents more or less contemporary to the events recorded, containing individuals’ actual handwriting. But they aren’t infallible proof, and shouldn’t be taken as gospel, so to speak. Members of families could choose what events to record and how to do so. Each one should be evaluated on its own merits. Subjecting them to critical scrutiny isn’t to everyone’s taste—especially that of the owners of the heirlooms—but they should be weighed up against independent records where they exist, like church or state baptismal, marriage and death records. Even in the absence of other records family Bibles should only be treated as strong possibilities. With the easy means nowadays to make images widely available, any Bible records cited as evidence should be made publicly available. Their value can then be fairly assessed.
“Some people swear by old Bible records. My experience with them,—and I have had plenty of experience,—is that as far as dates are concerned they are much less reliable than town or church records. Very often the entries were made after the entire family of children had been born, … Comparison with church records of baptisms for the same family proves how often such mistakes occurred.”
Fortunately some N American Brockett family Bibles have survived, or pages from them, and some are now online like Benjamin Franklin Brockett’s and Capt William’s.13 Independent records tally well with the former. The dates of children’s births in the latter are not recorded so exactly elsewhere and were apparently written up by William at the same time i.e. after the last one. The official inspecting them for a pension application at the time is recorded asking who had written the records, to which son Benjamin said he didn’t know.
Perrin W H (ed) (1883) History of Effingham County, Illinois, Chicago: O L Baskin & Co.
Atwater E E (1902) History of the Colony of New Haven, New Haven. 2nd edition of 1881 original. For a discussion of one aspect of this book, see the separate page on the Hector passenger list.
Calder I M (1934) The New Haven Colony, Yale University Press. For a discussion of one aspect of this book, see the separate page on the Hector passenger list.
Dexter F B (ed) (1917) Vol 1 New Haven town records, 1649-1662, New Haven (Conn.) Online version at goo.gl/mEohd2 (accessed 6 May 2018).
Hoadly C J. (1857) Records of the colony and plantation of New-Haven, from 1638 to 1649. Transcribed and edited in accordance with a resolution of the General Assembly of Connecticut. With occasional notes and an appendix. Hartford, Printed by Case, Tiffany and Company.
The History of White County Illinois (1883)14 is a useful secondary source for the first few generations of settlers there. Illinois—especially White County—was home to many Brocketts from the 1820s onwards.
1883 was a couple of generations after the earliest settlers arrived, so the agents would have edited their family biographies from selected recollections about deceased grandparents. For the early days therefore, this History is very much a secondary source, dependent on late 19th C people’s memories, veracity, and propensity to embellish bygone events, and also on the accuracy of agents’ field notes both at the time and when printed later—for instance it’s sometimes unclear which Benjamin or Milton Brockett was being referred to. In some cases, of course, like recollections about military service, official records can substantiate the main details.
The book is currently (Jan 2019) only partially available online as an e-book, but a useful index is available at goo.gl/HYJSwZ.16 Links to other resources for White County can be found at goo.gl/YV4MWy.17
The 352 small-typeface pages of Munsell’s 1900 Index to American genealogies “prepared with a view to facilitate the study of family history” bears witness to the enormous quantity of 19th C US genealogical research. “Most of the references are to town histories …”, said the Explanation on p 2, however the increasing number and size of published genealogies can readily be seen in the Index itself, for instance: A 1851 Atwater Genealogy of 30 pages was followed in 1873 by a new edition of 64 pages;18 a 1873 Tuttle Family of New Haven of 22 pages was followed in 1883 by one of 814 pages;19 and a 1893 Doolittle Genealogy of 38 pages,20 had grown to several volumes by 1901.
What were the causes of the boom in these published genealogies during the late 19th early 20th C N America? What drove the compilers to carry out such monumental labors? Was there a similar movement in the UK or Europe? Answers to these questions may help us deal with their data.
None of these genealogists cited their sources systematically and some hardly at all. Tuttle’s ‘Explanations’, for instance, included abbreviations, arrangement and numbering—but nothing apparently about referencing.21 To be fair, citation was not the style of the time, even among scientists like Charles Darwin, and until Jacobus in the 1920s oral tradition held sway in genealogy. These N American genealogies appear to have secured most of their information from relatives, either by word of mouth or letter, and that was considered evidence enough without the need to even mention who the source was. The genealogies are therefore secondary—and even tertiary—compilations and without evidence from elsewhere to back them up should always be cited with a caveat.
Atwater’s disclaimer may well be typical: “Every member has had a standing invitation to send as much of family lore and statistics as he or she desired. What has been sent in I have carefully edited, but very seldom curtailed. So, if the families are not properly represented in the histories, they have only themselves to blame.”22 And EJ Brockett acknowledged: “The work is not as complete as I desired to make it. The families are widely scattered and it is to be regretted that many have failed to reply to the urgent requests for information.”23
Tuttle G F (1883) The descendants of William and Elizabeth Tuttle, who came from old to New England in 1635, and settled in New Haven in 1639, with numerous biographical notes and sketches : also, some account of the descendants of John Tuttle of Dover, N.H., Richard Tuttle, of Boston, John Tuttle of Ipswich, and Henry Tuthill of Hingham, Mass. : to which are appended genealogical notes of several allied families, Rutland, Vermont.24 In the Index of surnames in vol 2 p 732, Brockett appears some 43 times, with extended references to pp 25-30, 540-46 and 641-5. Brackett is indexed for pp 285 [probably 235], 287 [probably 237], 238, xxvii, xxviii.
Tuttle’s motivation in writing and publishing the book will be discussed [to follow]. As far as Brocketts are concerned, it only tangentially mentioned them, being primarily focussed on Tuttles. But apart from being one of the earliest N American genealogies, it has some particular relevance to our research, e.g. to Christopher Brockett/Bracket, and in its relationship to and influence on the Brockett Genealogy, as follows:
Tuttle’s entry for John Brockett of New Haven included the first mention in print of the myth—or oral tradition—of his being the son of an English knight:25
Here is a copy of a 7-page letter from Linus to an unrelated Brockett in Virginia, written the year following the publication of Tuttle’s Genealogy:27
- he was the eldest son of a knight;
- he fell in love with a Puritan maiden;
- he relinquished his birthright and title.
206 Quincey St
Sept 16th 1884
F.L. Brockett, Esq.
Auditor of City of Alexandria, Va.
My dear Sir,
…In relation to our family name, I have had occasion to make considerable investigation. The results are briefly these. The Brocketts are one of the oldest families of Norman blood in England, though almost extinct there now. Our earliest ancestors whom I have been able to trace came over to England from Normandy with William the Norman in 1066. He was of Baronial rank. His son was the first baron knighted by William Rufus in 1095, I think. He was knighted on the field of battle. The family kept up their intimacy with royalty for several centuries, but finally settled down upon their family estate, in Herts, Hertfordshire. At the time of Charles I Sir John Brockett was a Cavalier and took up on the side of the King; was a Commander in his Army. His Eldest Son John Brockett, had fallen in love with a Puritan maiden, and though he had not formerly united with the Puritan church, gave up his birthright and title, and receiving his share of the personal property, emigrated with his Puritan wife to America in 1640, and joined with Davenport, & his company in founding the Colony at New Haven, Connecticut.
…You will find something of the history of the New Haven County Brocketts in the Tuttle Genealogy published last year. …
Linus Pierrepont Brockett
Linus Pierrepont Brockett is the earliest known link in the chain of transmission of the oral tradition—or myth—of John of New Haven’s parentage. Who he got it from he didn’t say. As Jacobus’ observed, many of these genealogies simply claimed descent from the most prominent English house whose surname was the same or similar to their own.28 Referring to Tuttle and Linus, Mills Brown considered the traditions to have come from Brooklyn, New York, in the 1880s.29 New York of course was a main gateway for immigrants to flock into the States. Be that as it may, in the manner of oral tradition, the myth had been modified by the time of the next transmitter: Linus’ younger brother Edward Judson Brockett, when he published his book 21 years later in 1905, as follows.
The Descendants of John Brockett: One of the Original Founders of the New Haven Colony, East Orange, NJ, by Edward Judson Brockett (EJB), 1833-1919,30 a descendant of John Brockett of New Haven.31 He was born in Essex CT and his first employment was in a publishing house in Hartford. In 1856, aged 23, he removed to New York, and then in 1869 to New Jersey, where he spent the rest of his life.
You should exercise caution with this book! It is extremely useful as a starting point for further investigation, and is particularly valuable for the period after 1790-1800—Jacobus’ limit—up to 1850 when whole households began to be named in census returns. But it has a major drawback: its lack of source references. EJB was written at a time when many amateur would-be genealogists from old settler heritage were compiling similar Genealogies, and few of them cited sources. They gathered much of their information from contemporary living relatives, and mostly didn’t record who told them what. But before you accept what EJB says, do check it against other sources. Nowadays, with the ever-increasing availability of online primary sources it is often possible to check EJB’s information. Official records from New Haven Co are now more readily available, so for instance, for records of the earliest ancestors of Cornelius Orville Brockett (d 1956) in New Haven, we need not rely on EJB. But once someone removed from New Haven, as his grandfather Chauncey Bracket did, records are not always so readily available, and for lack of other sources we become reliant on the details provided by EJB. Relatives’ reminiscences and letters can be invaluable sources of insider information hard to find elsewhere, nevertheless family stories can also be unreliable and data extracted from them require documentary verification, wherever possible, like census returns, as in Chauncey’s case. But wherever it can’t, EJB’s information has to be treated with caution and healthy scepticism—there are many reasons why a family might conceal facts or improve their own ancestry.
Acknowledgements. Very occasionally EJB mentioned sources. For instance, in his Preface he singled out his special debt to various relatives, and to two historians—Sheldon B Thorpe of North Haven and A C Bates of the Connecticut Historical Society at Hartford, and also showed an awareness of the methods of the New England Historic-Genealogical Society and the 1883 published Tuttle Genealogy.32 EJB also quoted at some length from Davis’ History of Wallingford, and acknowledged him.33
A New Haven historian34 gave EJB’s book a damning assessment:
This criticism was no doubt largely aimed at the book’s sections on alleged links to a gentry family in Elizabethan England, and it must be acknowledged that EJB’s book has a number of defects in this respect—and indeed others—let’s call them problems. If you want to see some examplesRead more
EJB’s version of the theory went:John Brockett of New Haven was the disinherited son of an English knight and his father had his name removed from all the family records, so that it should never appear in any published lists of the family, or the connection with himself ever be traced.”36
It’s an example of the breathtaking misrepresentation just referred to. It scarcely needs serious attention, but for the fact that the myth has taken hold in people’s minds and hearts and there are folk who still believe it. EJB’s book is also readily available nowadays on the internet. Of course if you attempt to disprove a conspiracy theory it can strengthen the false belief—you are suspected of being in on it and evidence against the theory gets recycled as evidence supporting it. But not to worry, analysing EJB’s supporting argument can also serve a more useful purpose in highlighting some basic principles of genealogical research. His argument can be seen to fall short of all 5 elements of The Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS), as analysed below under GPS 1, GPS 2, etc.
GPS 1: Reasonably exhaustive research has been conducted
EJB’s argument falls seriously short of this principle in 2 main ways: Insufficient research into the simple chronology of the alleged events on the one hand, and into the nature of contemporary English land ownership on the other.
1. A modicum more research would have revealed that there is a major problem of timing with this conclusion. It’s anachronistic. Which Sir John Brockett might have been the father? You may say it’s easy to criticise from our vantage point of ease of access to abundant records and relevant publications but if not in New Jersey in 1905, then with the help of his brother in New York and ceratainly of his cousin in London, it should have been possible to access printed sources that showed there were three Sir John Brocketts in the 16th and 17th, and all flourished too early to have fathered a son between 1605-20. The last one’s last known child was baptized in 1585. This was John of Caswell Esq, who on the very 1860 Gateshead Pedigree that EJB reproduced in his book, was recorded living in 1643 with names of his 2 wives and 4 children. That aside, one piece of EJB’s evidence—which he quoted but gave no traceable source for—places the Sir John in the time of Charles I.37 The last Sir John Brockett died 1613, and Charles I came to the throne in 1625. EJB’s entire theory of John’s parentage is discredited by this simple error of faulty chronology.
2. It was all but impossible for a 17th C English Knight, or even Esquire, to disinherit a son. You can hardly find an example. The inheritance would principally have been land, and knights and esquires held their land under various agreements. Knights held many different properties—some were freehold, others copyhold, some were through the Will of a father or other relative, some by tail through several generations, and some were by right of his wife. Oftentimes their land was held jointly with others. An attempt to remove an heir from any, let alone all, of these arrangements would have involved a series of court appearances by the various interested parties and the resulting parchment trail, because they concerned land, would have survived in court records. Besides, for an heir simply to acquiesce to disinheritance without any legal challenge would have been abnormal. It was a litigious culture.
Furthermore, it was simply not possible to remove a name from such records without trace. Documents concerning a 17th C knight’s eldest son come of age would undoubtedly have survived. Records of the property deals of the gentry survive in remarkable abundance, and indentures were usually made in triplicate: one copy for the buyer, one for the seller and one for the court. Tampering with official records was a serious offence. Documents survive mentioning sons of all three Sir John Brocketts—I, II and III. So EJB’sclaim [from an unnnamed source] that “his father had his name removed from all the family records” was completely unrealistic and demonstrated insufficient research into the nature of contemporary English land ownership.
EJB did insufficient research and it led him to wrong conclusions. It makes one wonder where else in his book the same applies to.
GPS 2: Complete and accurate source citations
EJB’s book as a whole suffers from the lack of source citations and you are left wondering all the time how he knew this or that apparent fact. Similarly, his argument for this conspiracy theory is unsupported by citation of verifiable sources. Lack of citation was partly the style of the time, although only a generation later Jacobus cited his sources at almost every turn. For the conspiracy theory EJB cited 2 written sources:
- A letter from the Hertford Parish Clerk in 1899 saying “I am told that the first son of Sir John was outlawed, is it not possible that this first son is the one who emigrated to America and settled there between 1630 and 1639?”
- A Connecticut religious paper of 1868, which he quoted as saying, “John Brockett, the eldest son of Sir John Brockett, of the county of Herts, Eng., who was a well known loyalist of the time of Charles I …, relinquished his birthright …”
The first item, the letter from the unnamed Hertford Parish Clerk is unverifiable. In conversation, with Henry Gray, recently retired Parish Clerk of St Etheldreda’s Hatfield, Henry confirmed that he himself would not have written a letter saying what the Hertford Parish Clerk is said to have said in 1899. But this of course is also unverifiable unless you write to Henry yourself. The second item—the 1868 Connecticut religious paper—appears to have been a publication of some kind, however neither the paper nor the source have been traced. It also is unverifiable.
Other than these two unverifiable items, EJB’s sources for the theory were either oral or unnamed, as follows.
GPS 3: Thorough analysis and correlation
The point we make here is that over-reliance on oral tradition to support a theory is essentially a lack of analysis and correlation. Oral tradition is notoriously fluid and unreliable, and the children’s game of ‘Chinese Whispers’, or ‘Telephone’ as it is called in N America, is an amusing but striking illustration of it. How can you thoroughly analyse or correlate something that has no fixed form? As in the game, you can compare a beginning and an end, if you have them, and if we compare his brother Linus’ account in his letter of 1883 with EJB’s version 21 years later, even in that short time its 3 main strands had been considerably modified and expanded upon. EJB added 2 major new elements:38
- On account of John’s Puritannical ideas his Royalist father disinherited him.
- Furthermore, his father “had his name removed from all the family records, so that it should never appear in any published lists of the family, or the connection with himself ever be traced.”
But EJB neither analysed these significant new differences nor correlated them with the 2 unverifiable written sources mentioned above. How did being disinherited correlate with relinquishing his birthright? Is it not the opposite? How did being an outlaw correlate with removing his name from records? Outlawry was a legal category, and the stages leading up to it had to be documented in court records. In any case, being an outlaw would need correlation with his alleged religious convictions. Imprisonment for his religious beliefs might have been possible, but why outlawry? Rather than analysing any of these obvious questions EJB instead cited further oral tradition:
- “The tradition has existed for two hundred years in New Haven.”
- It had not been denied by any United States descendants.
But it hardly needs said that 200 years of oral tradition without names of any transmitters is no evidence to support a theory, and absence of denial is another example of bad negative proof, see next. These two points were unverifiable hearsay.
So, in no way whatsoever could any of these oral evidences be valid support for his brazen final conclusion: “Where there is so much of corroborative evidence there can be little doubt that he was the son of Sir John Brockett.”
GPS 4: Any contradictory evidence has been resolved
In an Appendix of 10 pages entitled ‘The English Brocketts’ EJB stated “while the exact relationship of this John Brockett to Sir John Brockett, of Brockett Hall, Hertfordshire, England, is yet undetermined, the editor has been requested to publish some of the information in regard to the English Brocketts which has already been obtained”.39 The following 10 pages comprise a number of references to documents, apparently gathered by Chas A Brockett of Kansas City, who according to EJB traveled to England to research the topic. This section of the book has value, although the references should still be traced to their source; some have not been found. But the point here is the unreconciled inconsistency between EJB’s definite conclusion in his sketch of John at the beginning of the book that John was the son of Sir John Brockett and this much more cautious opinion in the Appendix. Chas A B presumably came back from England with information such as mentioned above re faulty chronology, but EJB left his definite conclusion at the beginning of the book standing without any reference to the different view in the Appendix. The contradictory evidence was not resolved. This probably the most serious of breach of the of The Genealogical Proof Standard.
GPS 5: Soundly written conclusion based on the strongest evidence
EJB’s conspiracy theory is based on the absence of evidence, or negative proof. When used well and accompanied by soundly reasoned circumstantial evidence, negative proof can lead to a good proof statement, but EJB’s was a bad use of it and he produced a bad proof statement. A good use consists of a soundly reasoned linkage between two otherwise unlinked events based on strong circumstantial evidence. For example, a record of a baptism in one parish of a John Brockett and a record of a marriage in the neighbouring parish of a John Brockett 27 years later, with well-researched circumstantial evidence that there were no other suitable John Brocketts in the vicinity that the groom could have been, would provide a good proof statement that the baptiam and marriage were of the same person. That there were no other suitable Johns is the negative proof joining two otherwise unlinked actual events. With the negative proof used by EJB for the parentage of John Brockett of New Haven, however, we have the linkage of two non-events with poorly-researched and weak circumstantial evidence. The two non-events were the lack of a baptismal record, either of John of New Haven in England or of the son of Sir John Brockett in Hertfordshire. The weak circumstantial evidence consists principally of poorly researched lack of evidence, as discussed above, that John was disinherited and his name was removed from all records. An inheritance would be excellent evidence of his being the son of a knight, but this conspiracy theory not only removed that evidence by the absurd notion of his disinheritance, but then buried it further in the realms of non-events by the equally absurd notion that all the records were destroyed. All in all, it is a very good example of very bad negative proof.
You can find details on this separate page.
You can find details on this separate page.
The book’s Appendix entitled ‘The English Brocketts’ has some value—again if used with caution. It contains a number of references to documents found by a relative who traveled to England to research the topic,40 and it’s useful to follow these up to check what they say—if you can. But you will search in vain, as one example, for the marble and brass memorial [in Latin] to ‘Robert Broket Gentleman who died 10 Jun 1569 aged 49’ in St Margaret’s Church.41 This is a misquotation, without acknowledgement, from Chauncy,42 where you will see that the memorial was to Robert Brickett—with an ‘i’—of Barley.
Brackett H I (1907) Brackett genealogy: descendants of Anthony Brackett of Portsmouth and Captain Richard Brackett of Braintree. With biographies of the immigrant fathers, their sons, and others of their posterity, Washington, D.C. Online version at goo.gl/3nJpzb (accessed 6 May 2018).
More to follow.
Take a look at this snip from the book Vital Records of New Haven 1649-1850 part 1, published 1917, and you’ll immediately realise its value:43
The book was an early production of a committee led by Barbour, and we often refer to it as ‘Adams, Barbour et al 1917 pt 1′, see our list of Publications. The snip above is from the section of the book which reproduced vol 1 of the original handwritten New Haven records: ‘Births, Marriages & Deaths, 1649-1750’. The section is clearly a painstakingly-precise type-set transcription of that original. You can see the typical style and orthography of the 17th and early 18th C in the random small and capital letters, e.g. pardee and Each; the ‘u’ for ‘v’ in hauen and Reud; the symbol representing the Latin ‘per’ (‘by’); and the typical superscript abbreviations followed by a colon, like Samu: for Samuel.
The book’s Preface explained:
What we have here therefore is only a single generation of copying:
2. 1917 typed transcript (now available on the internet as a scan rather than a further transcript)
and the exactitude of copying is evident.
However, if you look the Index at the back of part 2 of this book you’ll see that it groups all entries—Brockets, Brackets, etc–under the one heading ‘Brockett’. This would make looking for surname variants hopeless:45
But when you look up individual items on their pages you do in fact find variant surnames, as with the one for Abigail Brockitt in the snip above, and this one below for Samuell, son of John Bracket.46 John was the eldest son of the immigrant John of New Haven, who had died only one year before in 1690:
This must be how they appear in the original handwritten volume and the exactitude of transcription is confirmed despite the Index. The issue of the Broket/Braket variation is discussed elsewhere, but what these snips show is that although this Vital Records of New Haven 1649-1850 part 1 is a secondary source—a transcription—it is an extremely good one, faithful to the primary source and therefore to be trusted. But be aware that in some internet databases this volume appears to have been transcribed name by name, and those next-generation entries are not to be trusted in the same way.
Lucius Barnes Barbour lived 1878-1934 and was CT State Examiner of Public Records from 1911-1934 and the Collection named after him contains the results of his and his team’s labor during that time. At root it’s a card catalog with more than a million card entries, now housed at the Connecticut State Library. Some entries must refer to whole books such as the 1917 Adams, Barbour et al just discussed. Much of the Collection has apparently been published in some form. A separate book, for instance, for each of the 137 CT towns was published. The series is referred to as the Barbour collection of Connecticut town vital records, General editor: Lorraine Cook White. Vol 48, for instance, is for the town of Wallingford, which we discuss below. The volume we have been discussing above—Adams, Barbour et al 1917 pt 1—was one of the earliest book versions of the Collection. The Preface said:
The first two had been for the towns of Norwich in 1913 and Woodstock in 1915.
The relationship of the various subsequent publications to the card catalog and the original handwritten books, first in hardback book form, then microfilm, then paperback and more recently in transcriptions and/or scans in online databases can be confusing. Jacobus’ explanation is clear and useful:47
Two recent helpful online explanations are:
2. ‘Life of a Record from the Barbour Collection’.49
The first describes the history and scope of the collection, and the second graphically shows the degradation of an original record with each generation of copying. Although we have seen that Adams, Barbour et al 1917 pt 1 was only a single generation from the original, and a faithful transcription of it, the Wallingford case is quite different. The final advice “Always pursue the earliest copy” is good. Treat online database compilations with special caution.
The publication of the Vital Records of Wallingford—abbreviated by Jacobus to WV—has a different history to that of the New Haven Vital Records, discussed above. Both are available on the internet, but where the latter is only a single generation from the original handwritten records, the currently available online version of the Vital Records of Wallingford—by Coralynn Brown—is a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of the original handwritten records (i.e. a 5th generation copy):
2. 1914: Copy by Ethel Scofield of New Haven (handwritten?)
3. Copy of Scofield on to a set of cards (handwritten?)
4. 1924: Typescript copy by the CT State Library of the set of cards on to an alphabetical List of names entitled Wallingford Births – Marriages – Deaths 1670-1850 (photographed on to microfilm).
5. 2002: Copy of the 1924 List into the published book entitled The Barbour Collection of Connecticut Town Vital Records: Wallingford 1670-1850, compiled by the Greater Omaha Genealogical Society (not available on the internet).
6. Internet typed-up copy by Coralyn Brown. (Although Brown mentions no source, it looks like it was the 2002 edition.)
Ethel Scofield apparently had made her transcription independently of Barbour’s committee, and rather than reinventing the wheel, Barbour and his colleagues based their 1924 publication on her work. Somewhat surprisingly in their Introduction they said, “The Scofield Copy … has not been compared with the original and doubtless errors exist.” Scofield had already had a transcript of baptisms of the Societies of Whitehaven and Fairhaven published in 1911.50
The 1924 Typescript is an alphabetical index, first by surname and within that by first name. It homogenized the variant surname spellings, for example entries for BROCKETT, BRACKETT, BRACKIT, BROCKET, BROCKIT, BROCKITF, BROKET, BROKIT were all lumped together and then the individual entries within that were indexed alphabetically by first name. This of course removed any surname variation that may have attached to individuals in the original records—which Barbour’s New Haven publication, at least, didn’t do. On the other hand, forenames look like faithful transcriptions of an original, e.g. Abegal and Abigail in the snip below.
Here is a composite snip from Coralyn Brown’s internet copy of the 1924 Typescript showing its homogenization of the variant surname spellings:51
FamilySearch have scanned the original Wallingford records, but they are currently only accessible online from certain Family History Centers.52 However, some initial comparisons between selected entries and Coralynn Brown’s online transcriptions show encouraging close correspondence. Similarly, no mismatch has yet been noticed between her transcription and Jacobus’ references to WV in his section on the Brockett family, see next.
The level of difference between the original records and Brown’s internet copy of the 1924 Typescript can be seen in the following example. The original Wallingford record of the death of John Brockett of New Haven (d 1690), with the two entries either side can be seen in this—slightly faded—snip from the FamilySearch scan:53
Solomon Monson son of Samll & Martha Monson born Febrary the – 18 – 1689
Mr John Brockett deseaced march the 12th 1689 inthe Eigteth year of his age – 0 – 0000
Elizabeth Royse daughter of Nathaniell and Sarah borne desember – 28 -1689
Note: As is often the case with English parish records, it appears that the Wallingford clerk wrote up entries in chunks rather than day by day. Thus the 1689 and 1690 and other entries aren’t always in calendar order. Two Curtis family entries a few lines later, for instance, were from 1685 and 1689, and in the case of the Elizabeth Royse entry here it followed the February Monson and March Brockett entries, which under a strict calendar order would have followed it. The 0 – 0000 at the end of John’s entry are fill-ins since the date had already been mentioned.
Coralynn Brown’s online transcription:54
Solomon, son Samuell & Martha, b. Feb. 18, 1689
John, d. Mar. 12, 1689/90, age 80
Elizabeth, dau. Nathaniell, b. Dec. 28, 1689
As you can see, Brown’s dates are correct and the other information is mostly too, although in the case of Elizabeth her mother is omitted, which in this or other cases could be important. But on the whole, and leaving aside her homogenized variant surname spellings, all this engenders a general level of trust in Coralynn Brown’s transcription, and until FamilySearch make the actual Vital Records of Wallingford readily available online, this copy by Coralynn Brown is our best source for checking who was recorded and when.
As regards the spelling of a name, you might say concern is pedantic and unnecessary. It probably is for forenames and the difference between Abegal and Abigail or Christopher and Cristefer has little relevance in genealogy, however with surnames differences of a letter can have significance. And it so happens that Bracket rather than Brocket in the N American context is often neither a mistake nor just a spelling variation. Brockett and Brockitt as above was a simple spelling variation but Brocket and Bracket wasn’t and this variation is what is obscured from Coralynn Brown’s online transcription of the Vital Records of Wallingford. And it’s this variation which is of importance with reference to Christopher born in Wallingford in 1749, see the separate page.
Donald Lines Jacobus was a professional genealogist who lived and worked in New Haven Co, Connecticut, 1887-1970. He was one of the pioneers of a rigorous method of using and citing primary sources in genealogical research, to quote him:55
“While there have always been a few capable genealogists at any given period during the past hundred years, the last quarter of a century has seen the rise of a modern school of genealogists who demand a higher standard of accuracy than has been customary, and who insist on the application of scientific and scholarly methods of research. Despite much improvement, the old haphazard methods are still prevalent, largely because the genealogical public is to a large extent uninformed as to proper methods of research.”
With respect to Broket research, we are particularly fortunate that in 1923-4 he published his Families of Ancient New Haven, covering a region where a high proportion of the Brokets of 17-18th C North America lived. The section on the Brockett family is on pp 323-35.56
Coverage. In his opening ‘SCOPE OF THE WORK’, Jacobus explained:57
“The following compilation includes the families of the ancient town of New Haven, covering the present towns of New Haven, East Haven, North Haven, Hamden, Bethany, Woodbridge and West Haven. These families are brought down to the heads of families in the First Census (1790), and include the generation born about 1790 to 1800. Descendants in the male line who removed from this region are also given, if obtainable, to about 1800, unless they have been adequately set forth in published genealogies.
It is intended to give every record of birth or baptism to 1800, every record of marriage to 1810, and every record of death of individuals born prior to 1800 in the above towns. … The vital records of six towns, the registers of seven churches, and the inscriptions in twenty-seven graveyards have been copied. The probate, land and court records have been searched, as far as they relate to families that settled in this region prior to 1750. Much material has also been gathered from probate and town records of districts and towns outside of this region.”
His 1923-4 Families of Ancient New Haven thus comprehensively covered births and deaths up to 1800 and marriages to 1810 in the area of ‘the town of Ancient New Haven’, which in 20th C terms comprised the towns of New Haven, East Haven, North Haven, Hamden, Bethany, Woodbridge and West Haven. He referred 4 times to this as the ‘region’. He also claimed to cover available records of previously undocumented descendants in the male line who removed from this region, up to c 1800 – such as the 1790 census and probate and records of other towns. For a rare example of a mistaken identification of an out-of-region 1790 census entry for Benjamin Bracket of Ashfield MA as a New Haven born Broket, see the separate page.
Dates and places of these New Haven vital events have also been recorded by the Barbour Collection’s publications of the original records, and where these aren’t readily available Jacobus’ work is a useful—and on the whole trustworthy—secondary source for these. Because of his familiarity with the New Haven and other records preceding the emergence of other primary records like censuses, it’s rare to find errors in Jacobus’ transcriptions. But the principal value of his work is its synthesis of the early records into families and thereby into whole community reconstruction. A recent assessment stated “Jacobus’ Families of Ancient New Haven is the definitive statement on the ancestry and relationships of 35,000 residents of 18th-century New Haven, Connecticut, and it is the only publication that succeeds in treating every family of an entire New England region.”58
Surnames. Jacobus concisely explained his approach to the variant spelling of surnames under NOMENCLATURE:59
“The spelling of surnames did not become standardized until a comparatively recent date. Some spellings prior to 1800 are due merely to the ignorance of the clerks or notaries who wrote the names. Others are variations which the possessors of the name themselves adopted, and which became fixed in certain branches of the family. Thus, Ailing and Allen, Cole and Cowles, Humphreville and Umberfield, are variants of the same name. Since few of these variations became permanently fixed prior to 1800, the method of the present compilation is to disregard them and to use throughout the spelling which prevailed in the early generations.”
For him surname variations weren’t important and he grouped them under one spelling; in our case: Brockett. So for one of our particular interests—the spelling of the surname in early New Haven—his book isn’t useful.
Sources used by Jacobus to support data presented in this website are:60
Census: The 1790 census.
CV: ‘Vital Statistics, Cheshire’.
F: ‘Family, Bible or private records’.
HC1: ‘First Congregational Society, Mount Carmel (in Hamden)’.
NHV: ‘Vital Statistics, New Haven’.
NHC1: ‘First Congregational Society, New Haven’.
NoHC: ‘Congregational Society, North Haven’.
Probate and land records
Published family histories
T: This letter denoted a gravestone inscription, with a preceding letter denoting the town and a figure following designating a particular graveyard. Thus HT3 stands for the ‘Old graveyard, Mount Carmel (in Hamden)’, and NoHT2 for the ‘Old graveyard, Montowese, North Haven’. Many of these are now verifiable via actual images on Findagrave.
WV: ‘Vital Statistics, Wallingford’.
Comments on these sources:
1. ‘Congregational Societies’ records, like HC1, NHC1 and NoHC: It appears that original records of these may only be available at the CT State Library itself, and not yet online.61 In the 1950s the CT State Library compiled and printed alphabetized editions—in our case under the head name Brockett—and some of these are online. For instance, Jacobus’ NoHC—‘Congregational Society, North Haven’—was published by the CT State Library in 1955 as Connecticut Church Records State Library Index, North Haven First Cong. 1716-1910. The Preface of this Index states that it is an alphabetically arranged list extracted from photocopies of the privately held original 3 volumes of the records of the North Haven First Congregational Church, loaned in 1938.62 For an example of reference to NoHC, see Chauncey Bracket’s baptism. So, as with Jacobus, this one is only one generation removed from the original, and you would hope that only the occasional error in copying occurred, and not with both at the same point. Jacobus probably worked with these societies individually to obtain their individual church information, unpublished at the time.63
2. F. See above for Jacobus’ opinion on the limited value of Bible records.
3. NHV: ‘Vital Statistics, New Haven’, corresponds with Adams, Barber, pts 1 and 2 above. With little doubt Jacobus used it, and wherever NHV appears as his source with those Brokets we have cross-checked you will find the full entry here in this Vital Records of New Haven 1649-1850. Jacobus only mentioned that NHV stood for ‘Vital Statistics’,64 but since the book had been published in 1917, 6 years before he published his, he wouldn’t have been ignorant of it. And if he used it in conjunction with the original manuscript of the New Haven records vol 1 (BMD 1649-1750) it only goes to confirm the accuracy of Adams, Barbour et al 1917 pt 1, since only one divergence between the two sources has been noticed among the Broket entries and that was clearly Jacobus’ error—1740 for 1746 in the entry for the elder daughter of Samuel (b 1691 above) mehitiball Bracket:65
4. The 1790 census. His comment on the census: “The first federal census (1790) of heads of families is one of the most useful source materials to be found in print, as it definitely locates each male head of a household in a definite town, and shows the general distribution of surnames. The work of preparing these records for publication was very carefully done, yet many errors in reading names appear. It is of course impossible to read thousands of names which were written in many handwritings by census takers of 1790, not all of whom were notable for education or even literacy, without error. The wonder is that these printed census records are so generally reliable.”66
5. Published family histories. In his introduction there is a section ‘FAMILY HISTORIES: ACKNOWLEDGMENTS’ beginning, “Wherever it has been possible to consult family histories or magazine articles treating of families included herein, that fact is signified by placing the symbol * before the family name in the former case, or the symbol † in the latter. This not merely is an acknowledgment of indebtedness, but refers the reader to the book or article for the later generations of the family. … Some genealogical works have not been found invariably accurate, and where any record given herein differs from what has previously appeared in print, it is because the compiler believes the previous account to be in error.”67
Thus for example, he placed an asterisk before the family names of Alling and Atwater and began the accounts with their English ancestry.68 He asterisked the Bartholomew and Curtis families, and also regarding specific individuals referred the reader to their family histories calling them in inverted commas the “Bartholomew Genealogy” or “Curtis Genealogy”.69 In the case of the Brockett family, he placed an asterisk in front of the family name—but did not inlude anything about EJB’s English ancestry claims—and only referred to it specifically at the end of his book, under ADDITIONS AND CORRECTIONS, where he explained an error as coming from the Brockett Genealogy,70 see the separate page. However, it is probable that when Jacobus didn’t give a source for a particular Brockett item, EJB may have been it. By the way, Jacobus doesn’t appear to have consulted the 1907 Brackett Genealogy, or else he might have corrected an error he made regarding Benjamin of Ashfield, MA.
6. Jacobus’ attitude to references to volume and page of original documentation—somewhat heretical he admitted—was that they were not of much important, and only of use “if your client or the reader of your book should wish to verify your statement for himself” and emphasized the risk of the material being rearranged subsequently.71 This was perhaps reasonable advice in the days before widespread availability of original documents on the internet.
‘John Brockett of New Haven: the Man and the Myth’, Journal of the New Haven Colony Historical Society, vol 27 (2) Winter 1980, by Elizabeth Mills Brown. This is a ‘must-read’ for anyone seriously interested in John Brockett of New Haven.
The descendants of William E. Brockett Sr. 1748-1821, Alphagraphics, Glendale, Arizona. 2 vols, by Vi Poland. This large work follows on from the approach taken by EJ Brockett above, amplifying it to include descendants of daughters—the author being one—and adding images and some references. An online version contains selected extracts from both volumes—numbered differently—and interspersed with new material not in the published edition.72 Poland’s 2 volumes—the fruit of 12 years of sustained research—contain a huge amount of information on the descendants of Capt William, the majority of whom have surnames other than Brockett. Poland’s aim was completeness—a full record of William’s descendants through all lines, female as well as male, up to the present day. She humbly acknowledged that this wasn’t fully achievable, but she got a long way towards doing so.
Poland explained in her Introduction that she collated her information from many sources, including oral and written information from informants, “Census, Marriages, Birth, Death, Obituaries, Wills, War Records, and Land transactions”. She highlighted half a dozen major informants. One unnamed source—sometimes apparently called ‘Family records’—was EJ Brockett’s 1905 genealogy (EJB), discussed above. And for Capt William’s descendants Poland is an improvement on EJB.
One improvement is due to it being 90 years further on. Like EJB, Poland was in touch with many contemporary descendants, and the information she passed on from them about their families and immediately preceding generations can be hard to find elsewhere, so is especially useful for 20th C descendants. But as said for EJB, relatives’ reminiscences and letters can be invaluable sources of insider information hard to find elsewhere, nevertheless can also be unreliable and data extracted from them require documentary verification.
Another improvement over EJB is that for earlier generations—although she was often dependent on it—Poland did attempt to provide evidence, mostly absent from EJB. In her Introduction she said it would require a 3rd or 4th volume to document the sources for each item of data. This is a pity, but the evidence she did provide can at least be assessed.
Poland’s method was to present the vital facts on individuals with their children in brief sketches or paragraphs often followed by a separate section of ‘Notes’. It is clear that the ‘Notes’ are actually references. Sometimes they contain some discussion and critical analysis as well as straightforward names of sources, but they are nonetheless equivalent to endnotes or combined footnotes. They aren’t just extra notes unconnected to the content of the sketches. The principal function of references is to enable others to follow up and check your evidence, and unfortunately the way Poland presented hers can make it difficult for the reader to do this.
Her method is similar to the style in academic writing in which only one footnote is provided at the end of each paragraph. It lists all the references to the points made in the order they came in the paragraph. This may be an acceptable method for certain discursive styles of writing, but it’s not so useful for terse presentation of lengthy sequences of individual items of information, which is often the case with genealogy. If the writer is careful to ensure that the references match both the number and order of the points in the paragraph, this is acceptable, if difficult for the reader—the footnotes would all be long lists of references, and when is a point not a point? But if it becomes clear that the references in the footnotes neither match the number nor order of the points in the paragraph, then rather than being an aid to following up references it can become an obstruction.
An example is Poland’s sketch about Milton Ives Brockett. What evidence in the Notes attaches to which data in the sketch isn’t always clear. As in this example, Poland’s evidence is usually usefully grouped under categories like ‘Birth’ or ‘Death’, but within that the order of the evidence can be confusing. For instance, which of the 4 ‘Death’ items for Milton provided the evidence for the 5 Oct 1939 date in the sketch? And more generally which items were evidenced by Mabel Wallace?
Although some may think that footnoting hinders reading, if they are discreetly-sized they need not do so. They are certainly much better for genealogy than the Harvard method used in many scientific writings, by which references are placed inside brackets within the text. Genealogy requires so many references that the text would immediately become illegible. Footnoting, on the other hand, not only helps the reader with an exact reference to follow up for a specific point, but also exerts a discipline on the writer to maintain an evidence-based approach
In conclusion, although Poland’s book is a most useful secondary source for the descendants of Capt William Brockett (d 1821), the evidence is often lacking and the sketches on individual’s lives, especially in the early generations need further research before being accepted. Her Notes are a good starting point for further investigation.
Other research, shorter family histories and recollections have been painstakingly produced, either in typescript or online and are referred to in different places on this website, for instance by Richard Nash, Kathryn Chapman Fry and Don Brockett.
Page Last Updated: August 15, 2020