2018 June – Researching New York State

Researching New York: Resources and Strategies

Course Coordinator: Karen Mauer Jones, CG, FGBS

Additional Course Instructors: Judy Russell, JD, CG, CGL and Jane E. Wilcox

Held June 24-29, 2018, at La Roche College, Pittsburgh, PA. Registration Information.

Researching New York State ancestors is difficult, especially pre-1850. This course presents the resources and strategies that prove most successful in breaking down brick walls in New York. We will discuss highlights of the state’s history to understand what records were created, why they were created, and where to find them today. Emphasis is placed on records that go beyond the standard census and vital records, many of which are now available online, but seldom used. While a beginner will certainly learn a lot from this course, the intermediate to advanced researcher who has done basic New York research without finding answers. This course will provide them with more avenues to pursue.


8:30-9:45 Researching New York: Introduction and Historical Overview (Karen Mauer Jones)
In this session we will discuss some of the basic concepts essential to successful research in New York. An overview of New York’s history is necessary to understand what records were created and how to access them.

10:15-11:30 Up the North River: An Overview of Pre-1800 Hudson Valley Ethnic Groups and Religions (Jane E. Wilcox)
The Hudson (North) River valley was ethnically and religiously diverse long before the nineteenth-century immigrant influx. Find out who was there before then.

1:00-2:15 Justice in the Empire State: Legal Records in New York, Part 1 (Judy G. Russell)
Part I: Introduction and court structure. This session will cover what courts existed, how they fit into New York history, and where the records may be found today.

2:45-4:00 Looking for Your New York Tenant Farmer: Little-Used Sources (Jane E. Wilcox)
Documents for New York manors and their tenants have survived. This session will cover how and where to look for your tenant ancestors in these and other related records. Examples will be given of using the records to solve research problems.


8:30-9:45 Research in New York’s Urban Centers: Tips for Success (Karen Mauer Jones)

Attention will be focused on the records, resources, and repositories most important for successful research in New York’s cities. We will discuss tips for researching Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, and Albany people, but will spend the most time on New York City because of its complexity and its unusual record groups.

10:15-11:30 New York Land: Patents, Deeds, Land Companies, and the Military Tract (Karen Mauer Jones)
This lecture will discuss land ownership and the records associated with land ownership in New York. We’ll touch briefly on patroons and manors, then talk about patents, military bounty land, land companies, etc. We’ll cover where the records are located and what you will find in them.

1:00-2:15 Justice in the Empire State: Legal Records in New York, Part 2 (Judy G. Russell)
Part II: The Records of New York’s State and Federal Courts. This session will look more specifically at the records and how they can be used to solve genealogical questions.

2:45-4:00 New York Probate Part 1: Colonial Dutch and English (Jane E. Wilcox)

New York has a notoriously complicated court system that affects all records, including probate records which are of particular interest to genealogists. That New York’s probate system is difficult to navigate is an understatement. Part 1 of New York Probate will help demystify the first 160 years of estate records in New York by taking a journey to learn how and where to find wills and administrations in the Dutch and English provinces from 1624 to 1777. We’ll explore Dutch notarial and provincial records, town records, and various English colonial court records including Mayor’s, Prerogative, Chancery, Common Pleas, and Probate, as well as key concepts in Dutch and English colonial probate law. We’ll learn where to find colonial probate records, including the New York State Archives, county offices, online and more. Essential resources and finding aids important for successful searching and examples using colonial probate records will be featured.


8:30-9:45 New York Probate Part 2: During and After the Revolutionary War (Jane E. Wilcox)

In Part 2 of New York Probate we’ll continue to explore estate records in New York State during and after the American Revolution starting in 1777.  In addition to the current New York probate court called the Surrogate’s Court (established in 1787), courts featured for early statehood include Chancery, Common Pleas, Probate, and Supreme Court of Judicature, as well as key concepts concerning New York inheritance law.  We’ll learn where to find all these court records for wills, administrations, guardianships, inventories, dower records and others, including at the New York State Archives, county offices, online and more. Essential resources and finding aids important for successful searching and examples using 19th and 20th century New York probate records will be featured.

10:15-11:30 “Dutch” New York: A Lesson in Flexibility (Karen Mauer Jones)
Even those with no known “Dutch” ancestry will benefit from listening to this lecture. Dutch New York should be viewed as a multi-cultural ethnic group that influenced the culture, religion, language, place names, and recordkeeping for centuries. Understanding this historical groundwork is a must. In addition, the examples given in this lecture are extreme illustrations of the challenges of ethnic research. Understanding this group helps keep the researcher’s thinking flexible.

1:00-2:15 Turnpikes, Canals, & Railroads (Karen Mauer Jones)
This session covers the impact of these transportation systems on New York history. Millions of records were created while building and maintaining the turnpikes, canals, and railroads. We’ll discuss what is available and how they can help your research.

2:45-4:00 New York’s Military Records (Karen Mauer Jones)
This session will discuss what’s available on New York’s soldiers beyond the typical federal records. We will cover militia records, committees of safety, bounty land, quit rent exemptions, Loyalist records, Civil War draft records, War of 1812 state pensions, and much more. Some of these records are relevant for non-soldiers as well, as citizens were affected by these conflicts and claimed compensation afterwards.


8:30-9:45 Newspapers, Directories, and Censuses (Karen Mauer Jones)
This session will discuss what is different about these sources in New York. We will learn how to access the records and what information we can pull from them.

10:15-11:30 A Tour of Upstate New York Genealogical Research Repositories: Some Gems (Jane E. Wilcox)

Explore unique research resources and collections held by public libraries, county archives, town historians, historical and genealogical societies, universities, ethnic societies, museums, military repositories, and online holdings in New York State (not including Long Island, NYC and Albany). Among those featured are the Folklife Center at the Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls, Warren County; the Genesee County History Department in Batavia; the Rhinebeck Town Historian at the Starr Library in Rhinebeck, Dutchess County; the Western New York Genealogical Society at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library in Buffalo; the Onondaga County Public Library Local History and Genealogy Department in Syracuse; Cornell University’s Division of Rare and Special Collections in Ithaca, Tompkins County; the Seneca-Iroquois National Museum in Salamanca, Cattaraugus County; the Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse, Onondaga County; the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park, Dutchess County; the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center in Saratoga Springs, Saratoga County and the online New York Historical Documents Inventory. Apply what you learn to any repository in New York or elsewhere.

1:00-2:15 Joseph Johnson Chase: An Upstate New York Case Study (Karen Mauer Jones)
The case of Joseph Johnson Chase presents a typical brick wall problem in New York’s “black hole,” the period from 1790 to 1850. Post-1850 reconstruction of his family was simple, but who was his father and where was he before he appeared in upstate New York? Brick wall problems in New York can be solved. This case study stumped researchers for years, but was cracked using tried and true methodology.

2:45-4:00 The Records of Institutions and Local Governments (Karen Mauer Jones)
Your ancestors’ records can be found at several jurisdictional levels in New York. Records at the local or institutional levels are harder to locate, but can be a goldmine. This lecture explores some of those records and how to locate them.


8:30-9:45 New York City and State Governmental Vital Records and Alternatives (Jane E. Wilcox)
It is notoriously challenging to find births, deaths, and marriages in New York. This session will cover how to navigate New York City and New York State governmental vital records and alternatives.

10:15-11:30 The Article Isn’t About Your Family? You Should Read It Anyway! (Karen Mauer Jones)
Using a collection of mini-case studies from the pages of The Record, we’ll see what you can learn from reading this scholarly journal, even if the article has nothing to do with your family.


11:30-noon Certificates and Wrap-Up