When it comes to Vermont records, it all begins in the Town. For a California suburbanite, this is a difficult concept. We have towns in Southern California, but we call them cities. Their borders blend one into another until it’s hard to know where Burbank becomes Glendale becomes La Crescenta. Sometimes you can tell by the state of the roads – one city has more money for fixing potholes than another. Sometimes you can tell by the insignia on the police cars. A city is a city is a city. All these cities are part of a larger county. There are really only three jurisdictions – state, county, city.
New England towns seem to be large areas laid out and labeled on a map. Within these boundaries, a town may contain several cities, villages, or hamlets. This is a tough concept – the city, village, or hamlet really isn’t the location for official records sought by most genealogists. Those records are found in the Town. So really, in New England there are FOUR jurisdictions – state, county, town, and city/village/hamlet. But, it all goes back to the Town.
My ancestors seem to have moved around a lot in the Granite State and I am having a heck of a time finding out where most of them were born. Great Aunt Mercy thought our g-g-g-g-grandmother was known as The Rose of Sharon, as in Sharon, Vermont.
Sharon is a village in the Town of Sharon, and fortunately the only key needed to enter the Sharon Town Clerk’s vault is payment of a modest hourly fee for use of the room’s large work surface and $1.00 per page for photocopies.
A few years ago I was in the same room, but the office closed before I could finish searching. That was the year I spied the town name on a highway sign and we veered off madly for “a quick look.” It wasn’t an Official Research Trip, but my husband is a good sport. I vowed then to return to Sharon.
We were well equipped on this trip with digital camera, notebooks, notes, and Research Assistant (aka Good Sport Mr. Curator). We arrived before 10am, anticipating the office would be closed for lunch, but learned that the office was now open through lunch and closed on Friday. Yet another reason to Call Ahead.
Since my last visit, the earliest Town Record Volumes have been carefully restored and protected in archival sleeves. Each page has been removed from the original book, encapsulated, and placed in a post-bound binder. Working under the watchful eye of the Town Clerk, we perused the early volumes for birth, marriage, death, and burial records.
My working hypothesis for the maiden name of g-g-g-g-g-mother was turned upside down by a surprising discovery by Mr. Curator. We thought this woman was a young widow when she married my ancestor, but now have to consider other possibilities.
The Town Clerk’s Vault holds a treasure trove of materials. While we were immersed in 18th century ear markings and road committee minutes, the everyday business of the day was going on in the outer office. Dog licenses. Permits. All the stuff of community life.
Our discoveries both confirmed some information and upended other theories. It was a wonderful day with a few surprises of the best kind – the ones that lead on to new adventures.
Family Curator says
Vermonters are special folk. I can't wait to go back again… Maybe for the fall colors!
Barbara Poole says
What an enjoyable post, esp. since I take the New England towns for granted. Looks like you had a nice time, but there is never enough time to do it all. I still want to get my Vermont ancestor list to you…soon.
Greta Koehl says
Glad to read of your positive experience. I have one line that goes back to Vermont and hope to do research there someday.