Big changes have come to — all content is now read-only, and member subscriptions and the Shop have been discontinued.
Learn more
New? Start Here
Genealogy How-To
 Getting Started
 Getting Organized
 Developing Your Research Skills
 Sharing Your Family's Story
 Reference Guide
 Biography Assistant
Free Genealogy Classes
 Beginning Genealogy
 Internet Genealogy
 Tracing Immigrant Origins

Family Finder
First Name:

Overheard in GenForum: Davis Family in Massachusetts and Connecticut, 1800s?
by Rhonda R. McClure

Each week Rhonda answers a question from the GenForum message boards and gives her expert answer here. We'd love to hear anything you have to add. Go ahead and leave your comments on GenForum with the original message.

April 05, 2001
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Q: Hi, I'm looking for any info on my grandfather, Daniel Smith Davis. It is unknown to me whether Smith was his middle name or if it was hyphenated. He was born in Ashfield, Massachusetts on July 28, 1896. He married Mary Wilhelmina Bailey on July 16, 1922 at the Gales Ferry Parsonage in Gales Ferry, Connecticut. He has/had 2 brothers... one is unknown by name to me and the other is Hiram. I've located 3 Hirams, possible birth dates are as follows: July 11, 1901, October 23, 1903, and June 14, 1900. None of these may turn out to be correct. Their father's name is William Davis. No other information is known about William. My father is Daniel Davis Jr. of Groton, Connecticut AKA Daniel Junior Davis. Anyone reading this with any info please post a MSG or contact me. Thanks. -- Billie

A: Massachusetts and Connecticut, two New England states, offer researchers a variety of useful records, especially vital records. The information you already have will help put you on the correct trail and will also lead you to other records.

The key to your research is to work from the known to the unknown. This means getting records for the dates you already know, and then using the information found in those records to take your research back even further.

Census and vital records will be of help.

Vital Records

You have two firm dates that you already know about Daniel Smith Davis. You know he was born on 28 July 1896 in Ashfield, Massachusetts. You also know that he married Mary Wilhelmina Bailey on 16 July 1922 in Gales Ferry, Connecticut. Both of these events should be confirmed with the original records.

The best way to find the birth record is to contact the town directly. In Massachusetts, the vital records are recorded at the town level. While copies are sent to the state and housed in the State Archives, many of those prior to 1905 are housed elsewhere.

Before you write to the town of Ashfield, Massachusetts, you may first want to order the index to the births for Massachusetts. The index to births is available on microfilm through the Family History Library. The index covers the years 1841 to 1905.

The vital records for Connecticut are also found on the town level. Unfortunately there is no statewide index for the time of Daniel's marriage. You will need to write to the town to request the marriage record.

Census Records

Based on the dates of the birth of Daniel and his marriage, there are some valuable census records you will want to investigate. All of the census records from 1790 through 1920 (the most recently released) are available on microfilm. You may have easy access to these microfilms through your local public library if it has a good genealogy department. You can also gain access to the films through your local Family History Center, found in local chapels of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

You know Daniel's father's name. You know when and where Daniel is born, so the first step should be the 1900 census. If working on microfilm, you will want to order the Soundex film for DAVIS and look in the Williams for a family with a son Daniel with the right age. The Soundex is an index based on sound rather than exact spelling. This index will lead you to the actual page in the census.

Recently began to release digitized images of the 1900 federal census online. These entries are indexed by the head of household. Massachusetts has already been digitized.

The 1920 census is also available on microfilm and has been soundexed for both Massachusetts and Connecticut. It is possible that Daniel is still living at home before his marriage. His siblings may also be still be at home.

The 1910 census should also be checked, but it is not soundexed for all states. Unfortunately Massachusetts and Connecticut were two of the states that were not soundexed. The 1910 census, though, is most likely to verify the siblings of Daniel.

In Conclusion

The vital records and the census records will offer you more information about Daniel and his family. Through the marriage record you will find more information to help in verifying when and where Daniel was born. Through Daniel's birth record you will learn a little more about his parents. The 1900 census will show Daniel in a family unit, possibly with some of his siblings.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

Back to Top of Article

Home | Help | About Us | Terms of Service | PRIVACY
© 2011