WEST HARTFORD — The public is invited to a lecture at the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society on Feb. 12 at 6 p.m., said a release from the organization. An in-depth look at demographic change in West Hartford from 1920-1941 when the population of West Hartford nearly quadrupled from 9,000 to 34,000 residents, will be presented. Jeff Murray, long-time museum researcher and volunteer will share his detailed work with voter registration records during this period of extreme population growth and some of the interesting tales he learned along the way. In addition to exploring demographic trends and individual stories, Jeff Murray will address how a researcher goes about organizing vast amounts of data to create a useful learning tool.
In 2015, the Town of West Hartford entrusted the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society with a file cabinet of voter registration cards containing detailed information on 29,000 voters living in West Hartford between WWI and WWII. Gender, occupation, place of birth, and other information contained on each “Application to be Made a Voter in West Hartford” give us vital clues about the domestic and international movement of people and shifts in the West Hartford economy as it evolved from a farming suburb to the largest town in New England. The information provides vast amounts of detail about who people were and how they might have contributed to the town, ranging from domestic servants employed in West Hartford’s mansions, to countless masons and tradesmen, and female entrepreneurs, and executives in the insurance industry.
The voter registration cards’ extensive data presented a unique problem for the museum. How could it be compiled in a format that was usable? The museum turned to volunteer researcher, Jeff Murray, with this “little project.” Jeff willingly stepped in and created a database to record and analyze the information and spent the past two years inputting data. The result of Jeff’s research gives insight into both the broader economic and cultural changes in West Hartford and also individual stories of interest. Jeff uncovered people born at sea or hiding their true identities and even cases where the F.B.I. got involved.
Jeff Murray was born and raised in West Hartford and has been involved with the museum since 2011 when he was a high school student and won the Meyer Prize for his essay on local history. Jeff routinely volunteers as museum researcher uncovering information for numerous programs such as the West Hartford House Tour and West Hartford Hauntings. In recognition of his contributions, Jeff was named the museum Volunteer of the Year in 2018. Jeff works as a data analyst at Pratt & Whitney.
The lecture will take place at 227 S. Main St., West Hartford and is open to the public. The lecture is free for members and a $5 donation is suggested for all others. Space is limited, please register online at www.noahwebster.yapsody.com.
The Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society is open daily 1 to 4 p.m. For information on the museum’s extensive school and public programs, please visit www.noahwebsterhouse.org or call (860) 521-5362.