The Bennington Museum's research library has an excellent collection of historical material on Vermont and genealogical and biographical data on Vermont and New England families.
The library has earned a wide reputation as an important focal point for finding one's ancestors. There's a little history involved here because of Bennington's dominant role in early Vermont -- last by far of the six New England states to be settled -- and because of early American patterns of migration. When Vermont was first open to settlement, after the French & Indian wars had ended, it was as if a floodgate had opened. From a population of virtually zero in 1760, the first census of Vermont, taken at statehood in 1791, counted 85,000 people. That number tripled by 1820. For a decade (1812-22), Vermont had six Congressional districts, an indication of its brief status relative to other states that had yet to be populated.
Then the tables turned. So many of the original settlers discovered that life was rugged in Vermont: long winters, short growing seasons, rocky soils, steep elevations, distant hauls to markets, plagues of flood, famine, fire, and disease. Many of those pioneers or their offspring left in substantial numbers, especially when the Erie Canal opened in 1825 and later by railroad. Those Congressional districts soon dwindled in number toward today's at-large status.
Therefore the museum's library hears from descendants everywhere who are researching their Vermont ancestors. Over the years we have answered thousands of genealogical queries by e-mail and snail mail, and have actively assisted many more thousands of patrons with their research on site. Twenty-four file drawers of genealogical data have resulted, supplementing town and county histories from all the New England states and from nearby New York.
Among our primary resources are a complete collection of microfilmed Vermont vital records - every recorded birth, death and marriage from the beginnings of the state through 1941. Also on microfilm are local newspapers, starting with Anthony Haswell's Vermont Gazette in 1783, and the Henry Clay Day collection of indexed discerning newspaper clippings. The Harwood Diaries, written locally between 1805 and 1837, contain rich details of early 19th-century agricultural life.
Besides having one of the best collections of family histories in New England, the library also has the industrial archaeology collection of Victor R. Rolando's books and research.
Our library, a non-circulating facility, is available to our members and to patrons who pay the daily museum admission fee.