The State of Connecticut name is probably derived from a Native American word, Quinnehtukqut, meaning “beside the long tidal river.” The State Nickname is “Constitution State” (adopted in 1959), chosen to commemorate the colony’s adoption in 1639 of the Fundamental Orders, sometimes regarded as the first written constitution. The State Motto is “Qui transtulit sustinet” – He Who Transplanted Still Sustains.
The Housatonic River, The Connecticut River and Long Island Sound were important areas because the first colonists in Connecticut settled along their shores. From 1633 to 1635 the Connecticut Colony experiment, which was heavily influenced by free expression and based on the principles of Reverend Thomas Hooker, took place. Unlike colonies in Massachusetts, the Connecticut Colony did not have authoritarian views and heavy-handed punishments. The theology of the Congregational Church in the Connecticut Colony was much more open to interpretation and so there were fewer social problems created by religious beliefs.
From a political standpoint, Rhode Island and Connecticut were similar at the time. However, they were quite different agriculturally, with Connecticut having better land for agriculture. In the early days of the Connecticut River settlements, the Dutch trading post near present-day Hartford and the Indians of the area all lived in harmony with the colonists.
Soon, settlers began to arrive in the area from Massachusetts. Although the Massachusetts settlers came mainly on foot, the settlers at Saybrook came with John Winthrop Jr. by boat from England. Then, in 1638, New Haven Colony, which was led by John Davenport, started to construct homes similar to those that they left behind in England.
The year 1662 brought about the merging of Connecticut Colony with new Haven Colony. Some settlers then began to travel north along the Connecticut River, founding Newark, New Jersey, as well as towns in the western part of Massachusetts. As settlements began to spread, much of the land suitable for agriculture, which had belonged to the Native Americans, was purchased by the settlers.
When settlers originally came to Connecticut, they existed peacefully with the Native Americans. However, by the mid-eighteenth century, relations were not good at all. In fact, conflicts soon brought about the French and Indian Wars.
The Connecticut system of government was more people and town-oriented, unlike the British system of government. Soon the freedom of expression and focus on small communities began to be replaced by a broader view of trying to revolt against the authority of Britain. The state was divided, with a lot of loyalists going to Canada during the Revolution.
When the Revolution ended, the population in the area grew. It grew so much, in fact, that many people had to move south, north and west. Part of the reason for those migrations is that cheap land could be obtained easily in those new areas. Then, the Industrial Revolution began and it brought Poles, French-Canadians, African Americans and Italians to the area in the 1800s. By the 1900s, many Asians and Puerto Ricans were also living in the state.
Connecticut has 169 towns today and they don’t deal with county government systems. Of all of the New England states, they have the most central genealogical resources. Thanks to the location of their capitol, Hartford, relative to the rest of the state, it is easy to travel there and do research, regardless of which town one is based in.
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Connecticut Ethnic Group Research
From colonial times, African Americans have been a major ethnic group in Connecticut, providing a large number of Revolutionary soldiers.
Connecticut History Databases and other Helpful Links
The websites below will provide state-specific details to those in search of information for Connecticut genealogy work.