Inside the CHS

About Barbara

Barbara Austen is the Archivist at CHS and is responsible for all of the incoming manuscripts, which means she gets to read people's diaries or mail. She has a master's Degree in Library and Information Science and has been working in the museum and historical society world for 30 years.


Articles by Barbara:

Edward Steele diaries

June 15, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts

It is so exciting to find diaries that actually give details about daily life.  Four volumes we recently received do just that.  The writer, Edward Steele, was a day laborer who lived in Wethersfield.  His spelling indicates he was not too well-educated, but he noted when he and his wife Maggie went to the theater…
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Ancestry now available to patrons

In an effort to better help our patrons find the information they need, visitors to the CHS library now have access to the genealogy database Ancestry from our public computers.  Ancestry.com provides access to federal census records, military records, the social security death index, state indexes and censuses, immigration data, and a host of other…
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Hartford surprises

June 13, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts

In our stacks are numerous black boxes that, like the ones in airplanes, can yield amazing information.  One such box was labeled “Hartford deeds, land and probate records” with everything filed in chronological order.  A volunteer spent several days going through the files and identified some very interesting documents.  One of these is an estate…
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Miss Wheeler’s School

May 25, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts

Earlier this week, we received six scrapbooks containing samples of the work of Mary (Peggy) Parsons while a student at Miss Wheeler’s School in Hartford.  Mary Parsons was born about 1897 and attended first through sixth grade at Miss Wheeler’s School.  The scrapbooks contain photographs of her class and schoolmates and various friends, plus samples…
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Griswold family of Hartford

Every once in awhile I get the chance to go through some collections we have had for years but that have never been processed before. When I do, I always find something intriguing, or at least interesting. So, last week I started going through the Ogden Griswold papers. However, there are more letters between his…
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William Gillette gives instructions for his will

May 8, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts

Yesterday, I was moving items around in the manuscript stacks and came upon an envelope that had printed in large block letters “Sealed unitl 1990.”  Well, since that was 17 years ago, I figured I should take a look.  What I found was correspondence between actor William Gillette and his lawyer at the firm Shipman…
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Sanborn maps of Hartford, up to 1960

April 27, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts

The CHS library has recently acquired a new, complete set (4 vols, 1922-23) of Sanborn  Fire Insurance maps for Hartford with updates through 1960.  The Sanborn fire insurance maps were originally compiled to help insurers assess the value of property, identify risk factors, and underwrite losses.  The company mapped approximately 12,000 cities and towns, beginning…
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Tavernkeeper’s account book

April 18, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts

Sometimes in the archives world I feel as if I am in a time warp.  Yesterday it was the Connecticut’s 9/11 Memorial Board and today, I am back in the 18th century!  A very recent purchase is an account book kept by Ichabod Brewster of Lebanon, Connecticut from 1752-1762.  Yes, another account book, but Brewster…
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Connecticut’s 9/11 Memorial Board

It is often hard to accept the concept that history is as recent as yesterday. That concept was put to the test recently when the CHS library acquired mementos from the 9/11 tragedy. The Connecticut Helps Office of Family Support invited victims families and friends to contribute to a Memorial Board in March 2002. The…
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Mohican Rifle Corps

April 3, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts

Many of our military records revolve around units that served during the Revolution and the Civil War. Like other states, Connecticut maintained a militia between those two conflicts, and the records of the First Mohican Rifle Corps, 1840-1844, provide a picture of the workings of the militia. The Mohican Rifle Corps was part of the…
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Vacation at the Bantam Lake House

March 28, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts

Today, Litchfield County is considered the summer playground of the wealthy. Apparently the area of Bantam Lake served as a resort of sorts in the 1870s. Recently added to the collection is the guest book from the Bantam Lake House, 1875-1878. Many of the visitors were from Litchfield County, some were from New York State,…
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Hartford Orphan Asylum

It never fails to amaze me what materials still show up for sale. This week we purchased an indenture, dated June 7, 1854, for a child from the Hartford Orphan Asylum. George Bartow was “surrendered in writing by the father” to the Asylum and then bound out to Lucian Bidwell of Canton to learn the…
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Little-known gems from the era of the Revolution

March 15, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts

Although we have an “American Revolution Collection”, there are still many important documents found in other collections or by themselves. Here are a few examples. From February 25, 1780, we have an account of the State of Connecticut with Joshua Elderkin, Commissary for cloth sent to the Northern Army and to the Ship O. Cromwell,…
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Getting packages to POWs

February 27, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts

Today we hear about packages going to soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq with relatively few problems. In 1862, Eugenia Monroe wrote to General Wooll asking for his assitance in getting a package of clothing to her brother, Austin G. Monroe. Austin, of Norwich, served with the 2nd Infantry Regiment of Connecticut Volunteers, Rifle Co. B…
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Civil War correspondence

February 22, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts

A 19th century love story is contained in the letters between Frederick Allen Lucas and his “dear friend” Sarah Jane Wadhams, both of Goshen, Connecticut. He was serving with the 2nd Regiment of Heavy Artillery, Connecticut Volunteers and longed for news of home. Tentative at first, the letters gradually reveal more personal information and insights…
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Magician’s diaries

February 6, 2007 · Collections, Manuscripts

We recently (January 2007) purchased at auction ten diaries written by Albert Walker (1836-1902) of Glastonbury, Connecticut. He was a farmer and spoon maker by trade, but also rolled cigars, repaired and cleaned clocks, played the fiddle for dances, and performed magic and ventriloquism. An essay he wrote on ventriloquism and dialog for a Punch…
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Hello world!

Welcome to the Connecticut Historical Society Library’s new blog. We will be reporting new additions to our collections, mostly manuscript but some printed material and media as well. We are constantly adding new manuscripts and rediscovering ones already in the collection. Information about these items/collections will appear here before they show up in our online…
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Please note, CHS will be undergoing renovations from Aug 28 – Sept 6. During this time, we will not be wheelchair accessible. We apologize for the inconvenience.