Connecticut is a U.S. state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the U.S. state of New York to the west and the south (with which it shares a water boundary in Long Island Sound).
Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, a major U.S. river that approximately bisects the state. Its capital city is Hartford. Much of southern and western Connecticut (along with the majority of the state's population) is part of the New York metropolitan area; three of Connecticut's eight counties are statistically included in the New York City combined statistical area, the same area is widely referred to as the Tri-State area. Connecticut's center of population is in Cheshire, New Haven County, which is also located within the Tri-State area.
Connecticut is the 3rd least extensive, the 29th most populous and 4th most densely populated of the 50 United States. Called the Constitution State, Nutmeg State, and "The Land of Steady Habits", Connecticut was influential in the development of the federal government of the United States.
Connecticut's first European settlers were Dutch and established a small, short-lived settlement in present-day Hartford at the confluence of the Park and Connecticut rivers, called Huys de Goede Hoop. Initially, half of Connecticut was a part of the Dutch colony, New Netherland, which included much of the land between the Connecticut and Delaware rivers.
The first major settlements were established in the 1630s by England. Thomas Hooker led a band of followers overland from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and founded what would become the Connecticut Colony; other settlers from Massachusetts founded the Saybrook Colony and the New Haven Colony. Both the Connecticut and New Haven Colonies established documents of Fundamental Orders, considered the first constitutions in North America. In 1662, the three colonies were merged under a royal charter, making Connecticut a crown colony. This colony was one of the Thirteen Colonies that revolted against British rule in the American Revolution.
The Connecticut River, Thames River, and ports along Long Island Sound have given the state a strong tradition, which continues today. Connecticut's other traditional industry is financial services; for example, insurance companies in Hartford and hedge funds in Fairfield County. As of the 2010 Census, Connecticut features the highest per capita income, Human Development Index (0.962), and median household income in the United States. Although Connecticut is a wealthy state by most measures, the income gap between its urban and suburban areas is striking, with several of Connecticut's cities ranking among the nation's poorest and most dangerous.
The name of the state is an Anglicized version of the Algonquian word "quinatucquet", meaning "upon the long river". The Connecticut region was inhabited by the Mohegan tribe prior to European colonization. The first European explorer in Connecticut was the Dutch explorer Adriaen Block. After he explored this region in 1614, Dutch fur traders sailed up the Connecticut River (then known by the Dutch as Versche Rivier – "Fresh River") and built a fort at Dutch Point in what is present-day Hartford, which they called "House of Hope".
John Winthrop, then of Massachusetts, received permission to create a new colony at Old Saybrook at the mouth of the Connecticut River in 1635. This was the first of three distinct colonies that later would be combined to make up Connecticut. Saybrook Colony was a direct challenge to Dutch claims. The colony was not more than a small outpost and never matured. In 1644, the Saybrook Colony merged itself into the Connecticut Colony.
The first English settlers came in 1633 and settled at Windsor, and then at Wethersfield the following year. However, the main body of settlers came in one large group in 1636. The settlers were Puritans from Massachusetts, led by Thomas Hooker. Hooker had been prominent in England and was a professor of theology at Cambridge. He was also an important political writer and made a significant contribution to Constitutional theory. He broke with the political leadership in Massachusetts, and, just as Roger Williams created a new polity in Rhode Island, Hooker and his cohort did the same and established the Connecticut Colony at Hartford in 1636. This was the second of the three colonies.
The third colony was founded in March 1638. New Haven Colony (originally known as the Quinnipiack Colony) was established by John Davenport, Theophilus Eaton, and others at New Haven. The New Haven Colony had its own constitution, "The Fundamental Agreement of the New Haven Colony", which was signed on June 4, 1639.
Because the Dutch were outnumbered by the flood of English settlers from Massachusetts, they left their fort in 1654.
Neither the establishment of the Connecticut Colony or the Quinnipiack Colony was carried out with the sanction of the English Crown, and they were independent political entities. They naturally were presumptively English, but in a legal sense, they were only secessionist outposts of Massachusetts Bay. In 1662, Winthrop took advantage of this void in political affairs and obtained in England the charter by which the colonies of Connecticut and Quinnipiack were united. Although Winthrop's charter favored the Connecticut colony, New Haven remained a seat of government with Hartford until after the American Revolution.
Winthrop was very politically astute and secured the charter from the newly restored Charles II, who granted the most liberal political terms.
Historically important colonial settlements included:
Its first constitution, the "Fundamental Orders", was adopted on January 14, 1639, while its current constitution, the third for Connecticut, was adopted in 1965. Connecticut is the fifth of the original 13 states. The original constitutions influenced the US Constitution as one of the leading authors was Roger Sherman of New Haven.
The western boundaries of Connecticut have been subject to change over time. According to the Hartford Treaty with the Dutch, signed on September 19, 1650, but never ratified by the British, the western boundary of Connecticut ran north from Greenwich Bay for a distance of 20 miles "provided the said line come not within [16 km] of Hudson River. This agreement was observed by both sides until war erupted between England and The Netherlands in 1652. No other limits were found. Conflict over uncertain colonial limits continued until the Duke of York captured New Netherland in 1664." On the other hand, Connecticut's original Charter in 1662 granted it all the land to the "South Sea", i.e. the Pacific Ocean. Most colonial royal grants were for long east-west strips. Connecticut took its grant seriously, and established a ninth county between the Susquehanna and Delaware Rivers, named Westmoreland County. This resulted in the brief Pennamite Wars with Pennsylvania.
Connecticut's lands also extended across northern Ohio, called the Western Reserve lands. The Western Reserve section was settled largely by people from Connecticut, and they brought Connecticut place names to Ohio. Agreements with Pennsylvania and New York extinguished the land claims by Connecticut within its neighbors, creating the Connecticut Panhandle. The Western Reserve lands were relinquished to the federal government, which brought the state to its present boundaries other than minor adjustments with Massachusetts.
Note: Connecticut was one of the 13 original States. Apart from claims to territory in the West, relinquished by 1800, its boundaries have remained substantially unchanged; small cessions to Massachusetts were made shortly after 1800. Census coverage included all of Connecticut from 1790 on.
Births, Marriages, and Deaths
FamilySearch.org has a variety of collections available for free online: