Tag Archives: Genealogy

Green-Wood Launches Genealogy Research Service


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Green-Wood Cemetery (Shannon Houlihan Photo)You may be able to add a few more branches to your family tree thanks to “Green-ealogy” – a new genealogical research program launched by the Green-Wood Historic Fund and historic Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

Staffed by five trained researchers, “Green-ealogy” provides unprecedented access to Green-Wood’s institutional records and historical collections of documents and photographs dating back to 1840. Launched on a trial basis almost a year ago, the initiative helps family members, genealogists, and others discover documents and images that have not seen the light of day for generations. Continue reading

Ancestry, NYC Launch New York Records Partnership


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Ancestry new York State City RecordsAncestry.com, the world’s largest online family history resource, has announced the availability of an index to more than 10 million New York City birth, marriage and death records, spanning 1866-1948, for free online at Ancestry.com/NewYork.

The new index, made possible through a relationship with the New York City Department Of Records/Municipal Archives, enables people exploring their family history to discover and learn more about their possible New York roots. Continue reading

Ulster County: The Life of Sarah (Hasbrouck) Osterhoudt


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The Osterhoudt houseIf Sarah (Hasbrouck) Osterhoudt was transported from the 18th century to her home today, she would recognize her actual stone dwelling and little else. Once the nucleus of a large and prosperous farm which remained in the Osterhoudt family for centuries, today the home sits on less than an acre and is crowded later development.

The Osterhoudt house, located on a dead-end street in Lake Katrine, NY, is one of the oldest in Ulster County. It’s about five miles from the Stockade District of Kingston where Sarah’s eldest brother Abraham Hasbrouck lived. A considerable amount of information is known about the home Osterhoudt, but little is known about the lives of the occupants themselves, most notably Sarah. Continue reading

The Trials and Tribulations of Abraham Hasbrouck


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Rachel WeepingI’ve been researching the Hasbrouck Family for close to twenty years. During that time, I’ve spent most of my time exploring and writing about Colonel Jonathan Hasbrouck. His home, located in Newburgh, is famous for being the headquarters of General George Washington from 1782-1783 and today it’s a state historic site.

An often overlooked member of this family is Jonathan’s oldest brother, Abraham. During his long life, Abraham kept a diary and because of this journal, we know a lot about Jonathan and his family, as well as the events (and even notable weather) of his time. Continue reading

New Online Collections Related to New York History


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heathHere’s a quick look at some of the latest New York history resources to hit the web:

The University of Rochester has posted an online archive of over 6,000 AIDS information/activism posters. “The posters provide a visual history of the first three decades of the HIV/AIDS crisis from 1981 to the present. Depending on their audience, creators of the posters used stereotypes, scare tactics, provocative language, imagery, and even humor to educate the public about the disease.” The project was launched in 2011 and includes posters from 124 countries in 68 languages and dialects. It’s available online at http://aep.lib.rochester.edu/. Continue reading

John Donovan: Buried Twice in a Month


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John Donovan gravestoneIn a tragic story compounded further by a shocking turn of events, a North Country woman once buried her husband twice in less than thirty days. Admittedly, that seems impossible without some sort of extramarital shenanigans going on, but that wasn’t the case.  In fact, there were actually three burials in the story within that short span of time, capping a series of highly unlikely occurrences. To complicate matters even further, the woman actually had only one husband.

Before reading further, if you like solving puzzles, read that paragraph again and try playing detective. How could all that be true? At this point, everyone should be sufficiently confused and anxious for an explanation. And here it is. Continue reading

‘Genealogy Roadshow’ Coming to PBS


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6a00d8341c767353ef01901ee6f600970b-800wiFrom Presidential progeny to felonious forebears, family secrets are uncovered this fall across the U.S. in PBS’ surprise-filled new series Genealogy Roadshow.

Part detective story, part emotional journey, the show uncovers fascinating stories of diverse Americans in Austin, San Francisco, Nashville and Detroit. Each individual’s past links to a larger community history, revealing the rich cultural tapestry of America. Continue reading

New York State Library Offering Family History Programs


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NYS Cultural Education CenterThe New York State Library on Madison Avenue in Albany is a treasure trove of genealogy resources. This month, library staff will present two public programs for those tracing their family histories.

“Genealogy Online with HeritageQuest and Ancestry Library” will be held this Saturday, August 10, 2013 from 10:30am to noon at 7th floor computer classroom. Senior Librarian Stephanie Barrett will demonstrate the HeritageQuest and Ancestry online databases, both of which are accessible at the New York State Library. Participants will learn how to access census records, genealogy and history book, maps and other resources included in these databases. Seating is limited and registration is required. Continue reading

New Online Resources For New York History


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Apple ComputerHere’s a quick look at some of the latest New York History resources to hit the web:

  • The Syracuse University Archives has completed the processing of the George Fisk Comfort Family Collection, dating from 1822 to 1956, which contains a significant amount of material from George Fisk Comfort (1833-1910), the first dean of the (now defunct) College of Fine Arts at Syracuse University, and was involved in the establishment the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as what is now the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse. The collection also includes material associated with Silas Comfort, a Methodist minister and Anna Manning Comfort. Various items, such as letters and family photographs, were digitized and are available in the online finding aid. Continue reading

Plattsburgh’s Mary Johnson in Civil War


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Mary Hill Johnson 01The same “prove or disprove” mission I undertook to investigate Mary Johnson’s claims (to have passed as a man and fought in the Civil War) was attempted by Eleanor Vashon after interviewing Mary Johnson in 1924. Several parties were involved: a pension attorney; the Massachusetts adjutant general;  the Daughters of Veterans; the Convent of St. Rock, Quebec; the Canadian Red Cross; the Tewksbury Hospital; and acquaintances of Mary with whom she had shared the unusual story of her life.

The Red Cross managed to confirm that Thomas Hill indeed served in the Massachusetts 53rd, but found no record of a Saul Hill in the same outfit. They did find a Joseph Saul, and considering Mary’s age and her earlier jumbling of General Nelson Miles as Mills Nelson, the similarity was noted as a possible link. Continue reading

New York Genealogy Statewide Conference Planned


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logo1The Central New York Genealogical Society and the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society are cosponsoring what they are calling “the first-ever statewide genealogical conference in New York.”

New York State poses numerous challenges for even the most experienced family history researcher.  The New York State Family History Conference is hoped to help break down research barriers and provide a forum that brings people together to share their research knowledge and problem-solving experiences and to collaborate on key research issues. Future conferences are expected to be scheduled at regular intervals. Continue reading

Washington County’s Mysterious Black Migration


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9781479771912_p0_v1_s260x420New York author L. Lloyd Stewart has recently published an extensively researched and documented book on African American history in New York State titled, The Mysterious Black Migration 1800-1820: The Van Vrankens and Other Families of African Descent in Washington County, New York.

The author will be at the Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS) during May’s Troy Night Out, on May 31, 2013. Stewart will give a presentation at 6:30 pm and will be available to sign copies of his book afterward. Continue reading

Eliakim Briggs: Horse Power Inventor


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Briggs' 1834 horse treadmill BRIn the 1830s, hundreds of inventors around the world focused on attempts at automating farm equipment. Reducing the drudgery, difficulty, and danger of farm jobs were the primary goals, accompanied by the potential of providing great wealth for the successful inventor. Among the North Country men tinkering with technology was Eliakim Briggs of Fort Covington in northern Franklin County.

Functional, power-driven machinery was the desired result of his work, but while some tried to harness steam, Briggs turned right to the source for providing horsepower: the horse. Continue reading

Community Narratives: The Importance of Story-Telling


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Cheers historic Bar ShotWe are a story-telling species. Storytellers need an audience. Storytellers and the audience need a place to meet. The venue may vary, the technology may change, the message evolves, but somehow, in some way, we will tell stories. They define who we are as individuals and as members of something larger than ourselves, a family, a community, a county, a state, a country, or a religion.

How exactly would we celebrate Easter or Passover without a story to tell? Would we even celebrate them if there were no story?  With these thoughts in mind, I would like to turn to some examples of the importance of storytelling and community which I have noticed. Continue reading

Statewide Genealogical Conference Planned for Syracuse


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Central NY GeneaologyThe Central New York Genealogical Society and the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society have organized and are jointly producing the first ever statewide genealogical conference in New York State.

Attendees will have an opportunity to advance their skills in researching New York State families and to build general skills. The two-day conference — scheduled for Friday and Saturday, September 20-21, 2013 – includes twenty lectures in two parallel tracks; a Thursday evening reception; two luncheons and a dinner banquet, speakers, and exhibits by vendors and societies. The conference takes place in the Holiday Inn and Conference Center, Liverpool, New York, just outside Syracuse. Continue reading

Schenectady County Historical Hosts Genealogy Day


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Who are we? Where do we come from? These are questions that genealogists, new and experienced alike, love to reflect upon and research. By collecting family stories and photographs, following the paper trails left behind across generations, and learning about the history of communities and nations, you can discover your lineage, develop awareness about the lives of your ancestors, and better understand your place in history and in your family.

On Saturday, October 27, participants in Genealogy Day at the Schenectady County Historical Society will explore many possible ways to uncover your family history.

Genealogy Day will feature four speakers. Joan Parslow, Director of the Albany Family History Center, will discuss the genealogy resources available at the Family History Center and talk about recent changes in the www.familysearch.org website. Attorney John Gearing will examine legal records as a resource for genealogy researchers. Michael Aikey, Director of the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center in Saratoga Springs, will focus on the genealogy resources available at the NYS Military Museum and the museum’s website, with an emphasis on researching New York State Civil War ancestors. Brian Kasler, Division Chairperson for the American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Service and a member of the Capital District Funeral Directors Association, will speak about funeral homes as a resource for genealogists.

Genealogy Day also offers participants the opportunity to explore the resources available at the Grems-Doolittle Library. The Librarian and library volunteers will be on hand to field questions, assist researchers, help participants get started in their genealogy research, or brainstorm strategies to overcome “brick wall” genealogical research problems that appear too difficult to solve.

Pre-registration for Genealogy Day is suggested, due to limited seating. The cost of admission for the day is $5.00; admission is free for members of the Schenectady County Historical Society. There will be a break for lunch for attendees to eat off-site; a list of nearby restaurants will be provided. For a detailed schedule for Genealogy Day, or to pre-register, contact Melissa Tacke, Librarian/Archivist at the Schenectady County Historical Society, by phone at 518-374-0263, option “3”, or by email at librarian@schist.org. The Schenectady County Historical Society is wheelchair accessible, with off-street parking behind the building and overflow parking next door at the YWCA.

NYC National Archives Opens in New Location


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The National Archives and Records Administration has announced a fall 2012 opening of the new location for the National Archives at New York City—the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House at One Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan.

“This exciting new venture will bring the records of American history to life through exhibitions, educational and research opportunities, an expanded research room, and public programs for hundreds of thousands of new visitors each year. We are thrilled to bring the National Archives to New York City – a location close to my heart” said Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero, who formerly served as Director of the New York Public Libraries.

The National Archives’ New York research facility was on Varick Street in Greenwich Village for 20 years. The new location at the Alexander Hamilton U.S.Custom House will provide greater visibility and accessibility to the important Federal records originating in New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It will allow the Archives to expand its research functions in New York and create a new educational destination in a building that already welcomes museum visitors through the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. The new educational spaces and exhibitions are made possible by a public-private partnership between the National Archives and the Foundation for the National Archives.

Components of the National Archives at New York City, all free and open to the public, will include:
A Welcome Center to introduce visitors to the National Archives and the depth and diversity of Federal records. The Center will feature a small exhibition gallery with a changing selection of original documents from the National Archives, in addition to an opening exhibition in the grand rotunda of the Alexander Hamilton U.S.Custom House.

A Research Center for scholars, genealogists, and the general public to conduct their own research using original records and microfilm holdings with the assistance of professional archivists. Researchers will have free access to resources including online subscription services such as Ancestry, Fold3, Heritage Quest, and ProQuest.

A Learning Center to welcome school groups and families and to encourage them to explore National Archives records through workshops, school programs, online access, “Archival Adventures,” and more.
Exhibitions in the Alexander Hamilton U.S.Custom House Rotunda featuring holdings from the Archives. The opening exhibition, “The World’s Port: Through Documents of the National Archives,” opens September 21, 2012, and runs through November 25, 2012.

Public Programs in the Welcome, Research and Learning Centers and in the Alexander Hamilton U.S.Custom House’s 300-seat theater and lecture halls to highlight the nation’s history and New York’s special role in shaping the nation. Outreach programs will increase awareness of National Archives resources in New York and nationwide.

The National Archives and Records Administration is an independent Federal agency that serves American democracy by safeguarding and preserving the records of our Government, ensuring that the people can discover, use, and learn from this documentary heritage. The National Archives ensures continuing access to the essential documentation of the rights of American citizens and the actions of their government. From the Declaration of Independence to accounts of ordinary Americans, the holdings of the National Archives directly touch the lives of millions of people. The agency supports democracy, promote civic education, and facilitate historical understanding of our national experience. The National Archives carries out its mission through a nationwide network of archives, records centers, and Presidential Libraries, and on the Internet at www.archives.gov.

The Foundation for the National Archives is an independent nonprofit that serves as the National Archives’ private-sector partner in the creation of and ongoing support of the National Archives Experience, which includes permanent exhibits, educational programs, traveling exhibits, special events and film screenings, and historical/records-related products, publications, and media. The Foundation helps the public understand the importance of the holdings of the National Archives by presenting the depth and diversity of the records through award-winning, interactive educational exhibits and programs. It generates financial and creative support for the National Archives Experience from individuals, foundations, and corporations who share a belief in the importance of innovative civics education. In addition, the Foundation has taken the Archives nationwide through online initiatives such as the Digital Vaults online exhibit and DocsTeach, a web-based educational resource. These components make the rich resources of the National Archives accessible to Americans nationwide.

The Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, completed by architect Cass Gilbert in 1907, is a magnificent Beaux-Arts style building located at the junction of the Wall Street Financial District and the Battery Park tourism district. Its exterior and interior are decorated with carvings, murals and sculpture, including work by Daniel Chester French, Louis Tiffany, and Louis St. Gaudens. The site itself is historically significant, from its origins as the location of Fort Amsterdam, the nucleus of what would become New York City. The National Archives at New York City will occupy space on the 3rd and 4th floor of the Custom House. The rotunda, auditorium and lecture halls are shared spaces.

2012 Peterboro Emancipation Day August 4th


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This is a family event to celebrate the history of freedom seekers who came to Peterboro with the aid of abolitionist Gerrit Smith. The morning program begins with a reception and refreshments, tent meeting, annual group photo, procession to Peterboro Cemetery, wreath ceremony to honor Gerrit Smith and a memorial dedication of a stone for a freedom seeker who is buried in the Peterboro Cemetery. 
The afternoon program will include a tour of the estate, games and contests for children, and a talk by guest speaker Hugh Humphreys at the Smithfield Community Center on Pleasant Valley Road in Peterboro at 2:00 PM.
Humphreys’ presentation titled “Dr. King and the Mighty Stream of Righteousness; a Journey from Peterboro to Montgomery.” will explore the history and influences of early reform on the Civil Rights movement. The 2012 celebration marks the 3rd year the event has been revived in Peterboro from its early beginnings in the 19th century. A $5 donation at admission is suggested and the event is open to the public. For more information: 315-280-8828 and info@gerritsmith.org
Morning registration will take place at the Gerrit Smith Estate at 5304 Oxbow Road in Peterboro, NY at 10:00 AM. Parking is free.  No lunch will be served, but there will be a break for families to picnic. 

The Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark (GSENHL) is on the state and national Underground Railroad trails. The GSENHL is open in 2012 on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 – 5 pm from May 19 to September 23, by appointment, and for special events. Admission is $3 for adults and free for students. For more information: 315-280-8828 or www.gerritsmith.org.

Photo: Jim Corpin, one of the organizers of the 21st C. Peterboro Emancipation Days examines a family genealogy chart brought to the 2011 Peterboro Emancipation Day. Photo provided.

Event Commemorating Ithaca African American Families Set


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On the Fifth of July, there will be a ceremony in the Ithaca City Cemetery to remember and rededicate the grave sites of two African American families. The Tompkins County Civil War Commission and the Sons of Union Veterans collaborated to clean the grave of Daniel Jackson, who was called “Faithful.”

Jackson was slave in Maryland before fleeing to Ithaca, where he joined others he had known from the South. He was a reliable worker in E. S. Esty’s tannery and at the end of the Civil War he returned to his birthplace to bring his elderly mother North to live with him. The two died in 1889 five days apart: he was 75 and she was thought to be 103. A stone has been placed to mark her resting place and the plot has been landscaped. Continue reading

Documenting the Birthplace of Mathew Brady


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What follows is a guest essay by Glenn L. Pearsall who recently confirmed the birthplace of Civil War photographer Mathew Brady in Warren County, NY. The essay originally appeared in the Warren County Historical Society newsletter.

On November 10, 2011 the Town of Johnsburg Historical Society commemorated the birthplace of famed Civil War photographer Mathew Brady. They had a cast iron historic marker made and placed at the entrance of the C. Ernest Noxon Community Center in Wevertown, Warren County, NY. Brady was born in Johnsburg Township about 4 miles south of Wevertown in 1822 or 1823. A story of that dedication ceremony was featured in the Glens Falls Post Star and then picked up by the Associated Press. From there the story was distributed nationally and online versions of the story appeared across the country including the Wall Street Journal, New York Daily News and the New York Times.

The research into documenting Brady birthplace in Johnsburg began in 2006 and reads like a detective story or an episode of the PBS show “History Detectives”.

Mathew (only one “t”) Brady was an internationally known figure and much of what we know of the Civil War and famous leaders of the 19th Century comes from his photographs. Mathew Brady’s photographs of the dead at the battle of Antietam, featured in his New York City Gallery on October 1862, brought home to America for the first time the true horror of the Civil War. His corps of photographers documented that war with tens of thousands of photographs. His February 9, 1864 picture of Abraham Lincoln was featured on the U.S. $5 bill since 1928 and when that bill was re-designed in March of 2008 a new picture of Lincoln was used, taken by Brady that same day in 1864. Although most famous for his Civil War work, Brady’s Gallery of Illustrious Americans featured luminaries from Andrew Jackson to Andrew Carnegie. Brady’s work helped record and preserve American history, and yet, until just recently, the birthplace of this famous American remained a mystery.

Mathew Brady’s personal letters indicate that he was born north of Lake George, NY of “poor Irish immigrant parents”. Most Brady biographies are silent as to his exact place of birth. Others list his birthplace as Lake George, or just Warren County, New York. Local folklore here in the southeastern Adirondacks has said for years that he was born in Johnsburg, NY, but there was no documentation to substantiate that claim.

In 2006 I began research for my first book Echoes in These Mountains: Historic Sites and Stories Disappearing in Johnsburg, An Adirondack Community (Pyramid Press, 2008, recipient of a “Letter of Commendation” from the 35 county Upstate History Alliance in 2009). In writing that book I took on the challenge to try to actually document the place of Brady’s birth.

The Federal Census in the early 1800s does not include the names of children. I began, therefore, with Mathew Brady’s father. It is commonly acknowledged that Mathew Brady died in New York City January 15, 1896. With his name and date and place of death it was easy to obtain a certified copy of Mathew Brady’s death certificate from the New York City Dept of Health (New York City Death Certificate #1746). That certificate lists his father as Andrew and mother as Julia. The death certificate notes his place of birth only as “U.S.”.

An inspection of the 1830 Federal Census of towns north of Lake George indicated that the only Andrew Brady listed was in the Census for the Town of Johnsburgh (then spelled with a “h”). That census lists Andrew Brady with 5 children; three boys and two girls. Two of those boys are listed in that 1830 census between the ages 5 to 10. Most sources list Mathew Brady as being born in 1822 or 1823 so he would have been 7 or 8 in 1830. The only reference to an exact date of birth is on www.NNDB.com which lists his date of birth as January 15, 1823, but there is no documentation listed for this and the exact date of January 15th may be confused with his date of death on January 15, 1896, 72 years later).

The next challenge was to determine exactly where he might have been born. In the early 1980s I had visited regularly with Lewis Waddell, then Town of Johnsburg Historian (now long since deceased). Lewis had told me about where the old foundation site was, but we never got around to visiting it together so I was not sure of its exact location. In the Johnsburg Historical Society files, however, I found a sketch that Lewis Waddell had made as to the location of the foundation. It was not to scale, however, so it took some exploring. Bushwhacking around the base of Gage Mountain my wife Carol and son Adam and I located the old road that went from the Glen to Wevertown (the road was later straightened and is now NYS RT 28). Referencing the other foundations along that old road that Waddell had sketched in, we located what I believe to be the foundation of the house where Mathew Brady was born in 1822 or 1823.

The actual site of Brady’s birthplace lies 4.1 miles south of Wevertown off of NYS Rt 28. The house foundation lies about 275 yards off the west side of the road (GPS N 63 degrees 36’00.6”x W 73 degrees 52’44.4”) on private property.

It has been written that Brady left the area at age 16 (in 1838 or 1839). Some sources indicate that his first stop was Saratoga Springs, N.Y. where he met famed portrait painter William Page. Brady became Page’s student and in 1839 the two of them travelled to Albany, N.Y. In 1844 they continued south to New York City where Brady’s instructions were supplemented under the tutelage of Samuel F. B. Morse (portrait painter and inventor of the single wire telegraph system). Morse was enthusiastic about the new art of capturing images through daguerreotype having met Louis Jacques Daguerre in Paris in 1839. Soon Brady was also excited about the new process and established his first photographic studio at the corner of Broadway and Fulton Street. In 1849 he established a studio in Washington D.C. so that he could photograph the famous men of his time there.

In 1896, depressed by the death of his wife Juliet (“Julia” Handy) 9 years earlier and suffering from alcoholism and loneliness, Mathew Brady died in the charity ward of the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. Penniless at the time of his death, his funeral was paid for by veterans of the famous 7th New York Volunteer Infantry. He is buried in Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

Photos: Above, Glenn Pearsall at the re-discovered Mathew Brady foundation in Johnsburg; middle, a hand drawn map by former Town of Johnsburg Historian Lewis Waddell showing the possible location of the Brady homestead (not to scale); below, the newly installed historic marker in nearby Wevertown, NY. (Photos courtesy Glenn Pearsall).