About Local History Research at Brooks Memorial
Local History Room and Materials
The Local History room is located on the mezzanine and is available to all researchers during regular business hours. It contains approximately 5000 book volumes and clipping files on the history of Brattleboro and neighboring towns, plus town directories, cemetery records, military rosters, and more. This collection is separate from the collection of the Brattleboro Historical Society, whose offices are next door to the library in the Brattleboro Municipal Center. Many researchers consult both collections for a comprehensive search.
All local history materials, including clipping files, are searchable in the the library’s online catalog. To access the actual contents of the books and files, researchers should visit the library. We are able to provide some limited assistance to researchers outside the Brattleboro area, such as retrieving specific pieces of information from books and files, but we cannot undertake complex research projects. If you need remote research assistance, please fill out the AskLibrarian form or call the Reference Desk at (802) 254-5290 x109.
Though the room contains some resources of interest to genealogists, most of the library's genealogy resources are online; see links below. For a physical collection of New England genealogy materials in the Brattleboro area, we recommend the Historical Society of Cheshire County in Keene, NH. For professional help with genealogy, you might try the New England Historic Genealogical Society.
Access to Newspapers
The library's historical local newspapers are available on microfilm, and some are digitized and accessible through the Chronicling America website at the Library of Congress in cooperation with the Vermont Digital Newspaper Project. See notes on Library's Newspaper holdings (below) for details on that digital archive. The Brattleboro Reformer has not been digitized, but the Library has a full run of the Reformer from its beginnings in the 19th century to the current day.
Researchers in the Brattleboro area are welcome to use the microfilm reader/printers in the library, including the Scan Pro digital reader, which is introduced in the video clips on this page. The Scan Pro makes it possible to save articles and images as digital files for storing on a flash drive, attaching to an email, or printing. Researchers outside the Brattleboro area: please see the section above for information on remote research.
The Library's Newspaper Holdings
Brattleboro Reformer, 1876-current
The library has a full run of Brattleboro's major newspaper on microfilm from its beginnings in the 19th century to the current day. The Reformer has not yet been digitized, so there is no online access to early issues; however, many Local History files contain clippings from the Reformer, so it's worth searching your subject by keyword in our catalog. A reference librarian will be happy to help with your subject search.
The library also subscribes to an online archive of recent Reformer articles (2003-current); see our News and Current Events section for more information.
Vermont Phoenix, 1835-1955
Many years of the Vermont Phoenix (1836-1922) have been digitized through the Vermont Digital Newspaper Project and are included with other Vermont newspapers in the Chronicling America website at the Library of Congress.The library also has a full run of the Phoenix (through 1955) on microfilm.
Other early newspapers
Several issues of the Windham County Democrat, edited by the influential feminist author Clarina Howard Nichols, are digitized and accessible through the Chronicling America website. Scattered issues from other early papers, such as the Vermont Record and Farmer andthe Semi-Weekly Eagle, are available on microfilm.
Geographical newspaper coverage
As a major town in southeast Vermont, Brattleboro's newspapers often include news from surrounding towns, including Guilford, Dummerston, Newfane, Vernon, Putney, Bellows Falls, and others. These communities also have their own libraries and historical societies, so check with them as well for a comprehensive search.
See our News and Current Events section for information on current newspapers in Brattleboro, throughout the U.S., and abroad.
Those seeking obituaries from the Brattleboro Reformer or Vermont Phoenix will increase their chances for success if they obtain exact death dates for their subjects. Brattleboro’s vital records are maintained by the Town Clerk, whose offices are next door to the Library in the Brattleboro Municipal Building. The records are open to the public. For help with vital records from other towns, try the directory of Vermont Town Clerks.
The library maintains binders of obituaries of prominent citizens in its Local History Room and also has a full run of the Brattleboro newspapers on microfilm (see section above). Researchers outside the Brattleboro area who are seeking obituaries: we can provide them if they are included in our binders, but we are unable to undertake newspaper searches for obituaries at this time.
From the Collection
The Civil War Diary of Corporal Nelson Wandell, transcribed here, is one of the gems of the Local History collection.
The Porter C. Thayer photographs collection at the Center for Digital Initiatives (CDI), University of Vermont, contains 1300 photographs made by Porter C. Thayer, scanned from silver gelatin prints, held in the collection of the Brooks Memorial Library. "Thayer perfectly fits the archetype of the town photographer. He traveled the narrow dirt roads in his buggy, eventually visiting all towns within a 25 mile radius of his home in Newfane." The prints were made in 1980 from the 5x7 glass plates negatives created by Porter Thayer. Time Period Covered: 1906 - 1920 (notes courtesy of the CDI)
Some Local History/Genealogy Tools
= Library Card Required
= Free Website
= Free by Publisher Donation
= In-Library Use Only
= In-Library by Publisher Donation