This is a work in progress as I work to track the Riddner family that my mother-in-law was part of.  [I have written a couple of past posts about Sarah and her family, here and here.]

Sylvia, Sarah, and Tillie, 1922

Sylvia, Sarah, and Tillie, 1922

In 1974 my sister-in-law started researching her mother’s (Sarah Riddner) early life.  She wrote a lot of letters to all the related people she knew about and asked them what they knew about her mother as a young girl or young woman..

In November 1974 one of the Field cousins answered her letter and provided 2 and a half typewritten pages of what she knew about my mother-in-law and the Riddner family.  This cousin was one of the children of Clara Riddner Field, who was the younger sister of Ben Riddner (Sarah’s father).  Ben Riddner and his second family lived in Ft. Wayne Indiana as did the Field family.  Sarah had been born and raised in Milwaukee so the Fields only saw her occasionally, however this cousin had been closer to her in adolescence and spent time with her in Chicago.

Sometime between 2002 and 2011 I had conversations with my sister-in-law about the family history, and she finally found the letters she had gotten and let me read and copy them.  The tidbit I first followed was the Field cousin saying that her mother had cousins in West Hartford, Connecticut names Leah Portner and Helen Seltzer.  So I went looking for census records and – bingo! – found Helen (Ellen) and her husband Isidore Seltzer living in West Hartford in 1920 with Leah and Abraham Portner’s family, and listed as cousins.   I also found the Seltzer family in the 1930 census in Hartford.  This was 2007 and that was about as far as censuses would take me.  In 2011 I did some more internet searching, having connected a family picture tentatively with the Portners, and I continued some searching on the Seltzers as well.  The Connecticut Death Index showed me that Helen Seltzer’s maiden name was Rudner. .At that point I dropped the ball and did not pursue the likelihood that Rudner and Ridner were the same name.  I didn’t make the connection.  In 2013 when the 1940 census became available, I found both the Portners and the Seltzers living in Hartford or West Hartford but again didn’t pursue them further.

Then this summer I started again trying to put the pieces together and discovered some new sources.  Of course there are many more online databases to search and I have found some useful evidence.  The research question I am focusing on now is: how is Helen Ridner related to Benjamin and Clara Riddner?  I have gotten Isidore Seltzer’s naturalization papers and his World War II military service record from the State of Connecticut which both give Helen’s name and a date of birth, with the place of her birth given as “Russia” with no town given.  So far none of the evidence gives a clue about where in Russia she came from or was born.

I have a list of places I need to look for information (and more will likely occur to me as I look).  I need to comb the Steve Morse and Ellis Island sites for Helen’s entry to the U.S.  A passenger list might just give me the name of the town she came from.  I have looked quickly and did not find her, but haven’t yet dug deeper.  I also have the name of her mother who was living with her in 1930 so I can look for her migration.  I think I have to go to the Town Clerk’s office to look at/obtain a copy of her death certificate, which might provide some information.  I will pull her marriage license and certificate from the microfilm in Salt Lake City in September when Judy and I go.  I have made a first attempt to contact the cemetery where she is buried to see what information they might have.

The middle of the fourth week in June, after school let out, my sister and I headed to the northeastern corner of Connecticut on a short vacation and genealogy trip.  I am the genealogist in our family, but my sister is willing to be dragged along, and even listens for awhile to my descriptions of the family line I’m working on and what my questions are.  And because she is a botanist, she is willing to tramp through old cemeteries.

For this trip I was focused on the Snow family line, one of my maternal grandmother’s lines.  Our branch of the Snows is first found, in this country, in Woburn, Massachusetts, by 1639.  As I was researching this family online, reading a copy of a manuscript compiled by my great-uncle, and trying to figure out what sources I have for the information, I got curious about the migration of our family from Woburn to Ashford, Connecticut in about 1724, from there to Becket, Massachusetts, about 1770, and finally to north-central Ohio, about 1809.  Why did they pick up everything and make these moves?  When I looked at a map and saw that Ashford, Connecticut is fairly close to where I live, I decided it would make a perfect “sisters-on-the-road” destination.  And the fact that there is a Snow Cemetery in Ashford sealed the deal.

When we got to Ashford and found the Town Hall, I knew this had been a good idea.  Although I also quickly discovered that I wasn’t as prepared as I had thought.  I had brought paper copies of the necessary family group sheets, but these did not include the sources for my information.  I had also brought a laptop computer and a USB drive with my genealogy program and data; the trouble was that the computer was back in our motel room.  Why I didn’t think I needed the computer at Town Hall is a mystery.  So I may have duplicated some of the sources I already had.

Because we were in Connecticut, the town had been indexed by Barbour, and Town Hall had a copy of this index.  The Barbour Collection of Connecticut Town Vital Records is a wonderful resource for early information (to about 1850, similar to the Massachusetts Vital Records by town).  It is available at the Connecticut State Library in Hartford, and other genealogical collections in libraries often have the books for some of the towns.  It is also now available online in at least one place,  The NEHGS site,,  also has some good databases on Connecticut.  And the original records used for Barbour Collection have been microfilmed and are reportedly available at the Connecticut State Library or from the Family History Library.

What you need to travel to the Town Hall for is the original land records.  I was thrilled to find that a couple of the earliest books (Vol. E 1718-1748 and Vol F 1724-1732) included the records showing my two Snow ancestors purchase of land, the 10th day of March 1723/4, while they still were residents of Woburn.  These books have been well-bound with archival materials to protect the original pages, and are available for study and copying.  They are indexed by grantor and grantee, which I had to learn again, so you can find the one in which you are interested.  From the index you can also see the progression of purchases and sales by date.  Here is one page.  I left this picture bigger so that you can actually see the words and how clear this copy is.  One of these days I will have transcribed the three documents I brought home, I vow!

Because of time constraints ,the hours Town Hall is open and the few days we had to spend there, I didn’t get everything I would have liked to.  There are still deeds to look at and questions to ask.  I may have to return!

I still don’t know why my Snow family bought land and moved to Ashford.  I have a suspicion that the man they purchased the first land from was also from Woburn and therefore probably known to them.  There is a Joshua Kendall shown in Woburn records of about the right time.  I have no idea, yet, why he went to Ashford or why the Snows followed.  This is what keeps me searching, there is always one more fact to discover and one more family question to answer.