More information concerning the closing of the National Archive (NARA) Northeast Region New York Branch is received from correspondent, Roger D. Joslyn, FASG.
Those of you that have had the pleasure of using the excellent facility and holdings of the New York City branch on Varick Street will want to know about the changes being made.
It appears as though the downsizing will affect the collections as they move the facility over to the Customs House in lower Manhattan.
“I hope those of you who are interested in the future of the National Archives in New York City and access to its research materials will be able to attend one of two meetings this Tuesday at NARA-NYC, 201 Varick Street, 12th floor, Manhattan, at 10:30 AM or 5:30 PM (or come to both sessions!).
In addition to information about the new location in the Customs House, there will be discussion about which textual records, microforms, and books have been identified to go to the new facility, which will be sent to storage, and which will be offered to local libraries/repositories (the latter concerns only microforms and books).
This list of research materials is still in the “development” stage, so your interest in, concern for, and comments about the materials is important.
See you there!
Check out the previous letters from Roger regarding this matter.
Update on the Update of the Update:
Roger added this correction on the meeting place for Tuesday
“Please note (thanks to Steve Siegel’s pointing this out), the two public meetings this coming Tuesday, 4 May, about the NARA move to the Customs House will be held, NOT at NARA, 201 Varick Street, but at the Naval Officers Room, 3d Floor, in the Customs House at One Bowling Green. Again, the times are 10:30 AM and 5:30 PM.”
To many of our long time readers and also to our newest friends we want you to be aware of few things that you might find as being a little different on this website and blog.
We have been publishing totally free information about Upstate New York Genealogy on the internet since the 1980′s and will continue to do so.
Our main website at www.UNYG.com does not change much as it is structured in categories that remain relatively static but that do contain just an enormous amount of free data for you to use.
What you are reading here is published on the adjacent blog website at www.UNYG.com/blog. You can easily go back and forth between the two websites with the buttons at the top.
All of our content is copyrighted of course, as is anything that is published on the web, however we have never not allowed anyone to republish our data by merely asking for permission and giving proper credit. You must have written permission from this website to reuse any of the content for republishing in any format, digital, images or printed matter.
We invite all historical societies and genealogical societies in the Upstate New York area, to send us details on your events, or your press releases, or a review of your society or organization for possible publication on this blog.
To our readers that might have a great story about your research or if you have been successful by using any of the information provided on this website or blog, please send it in for possible inclusion and credit.
To other webmasters, please contact us when you link to this blog or website and we will return the favor in the most beneficial manner. Thanks in advance.
As the whole world is now in a Social Networking frenzy we have added a button to each post called “Tweetmeme” which will easily allow you to click on and send to Twitter that you enjoyed a particular post. Thanks for your help spreading the word.
From time to time you will see some advertising appear on this site. We will always try to keep it relative to the topic and of products that we believe will be helpful or of interest to our readers. When you make a purchase of a product from this website we will receive a small commission from the vendor. This will not cost you a penny more than if you were to have purchased it from say a magazine ad or any other medium. Thank you for your support.
To your success in finding those elusive ancestors that are hiding behind a brick wall.
To readers of the Upstate New York Genealogy website and blog we want you to know about the Troy Irish Genealogy Society (TIGS).
This very active group was founded by some of the Irish descendants from Troy, New York and the surrounding area. If you have ancestors who lived in Troy or the immediate surrounding area at one point in time, you are cordially invited to join the Troy Irish Genealogy Society. This Troy Irish group is dedicated to making available on-line searchable records of Irish ”AND” non-Irish names to genealogy researchers.
Now did you notice that great big word “AND”? These great volunteers index everything that they can find and not just your father’s Irish line.
Here is a list of just some of their projects that are available online:
Alderman/Assistants in Troy, NY Wards During the Period 1816 to 1891
Bank Officers in Troy, NY Banks
During The Period 1801 to 1891
Church Memorials & Family Names
Selected Death Cards from the Rensselaer County Courthouse
History of the Police Department of Troy, NY from 1786 to 1902
Death Records from a Newspaper Collection the files of the Burden Iron Company,Troy, NY
Deceased Troy, NY Area Individuals Identified in the 1902 -1903 Troy City Directory
Marriage Records from a Newspaper Collection at the Burden Iron Works in Troy, NY
Payroll Records from the Burden Iron Company, Troy, NY
Prominent Citizens of Troy & Rensselaer County, NY (Prior to 1925)
Rensselaer County Marriage Index
Representative Young Irish-Americans of Troy, NY, 1889, Names
St. Agnes Cemetery, Menands, NY – Interment Records
Troy Elks Club List of Exalted Leaders
The Rensselaer County online Marriage Record Index is golden. If you had ancestors in Rensselaer County you will absolutely find this website of great benefit, and while you are at it, help them out by becoming a member.
Click this link: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nytigs/
The NGS conference is being held in Salt Lake City this week and FamilySearch President Jay Verkler said 300 million more names will be available online this week through the LDS Church’s family history service.
The church’s Worldwide Indexing project, created mostly by volunteers digitize images of microfilmed records from the Mormon collection of microfilm and transcribe the records so they can be indexed and searched easily online by people at home.
This addition of 300 million names adds to a few hundred million indexed names that are already accessible.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has plans to index all of the approximately 3.5 billion names stored on microfilm. It will take about 10 years to index all of the records, a task previously projected to take more than a century to complete.
The new search site is in beta and may be searched from home now at: http://fsbeta.familysearch.org/
The original search utility may be found at: http://familysearch.org/
These new additions to the name index are primarily from the United States and Europe. I tested a few from some of my known German areas and am finding many new opportunities for further research.
Personally, I like the search index very much, but find the gold is in the library catalog. On any new project I always go to familysearch.org and click on “Library” and then click on the “Library Catalog” tab in the drop down menu, then go to either:
Subject Search, or
Call Number Search.
These choices will tell you what microfilms they have on your topic of choice and then you can order the original records on microfilm to be delivered to your own local Family History Center.
Thank you volunteers!
Monday May 3rd, 7:30pm at the Fabius Commuity Center
On Monday May 3 Linda Meyers will have a panel of women tell us what it has
been like to be the wife on a family farm in Central New York.
Harvey Skeele and his friends told us about the role of men on the farm, now you get to hear the rest of the story.
We meet at 7 pm in the Fabius Community Center. Everyone is invited. The refreshments are great. Come and greet your friends.
You’ve heard it all before, can’t see the forest for the trees. Well that is the situation in this example.
I have an ancestor, Abram HODGSON (1804-1877) who had lived in Fabius, then Lysander in Onondaga county, and finally very near by in Ira, Cayuga County, and is buried In the Ira Union Cemetery.
From his parent’s bible I had much about him, and even had been able to document through land records where he had sold land to his son Mahlon HODGSON and Mahlon HUDSON sold the land later which proved what we knew, that most of the kids changed the name to HUDSON.
I had found Abram on all the possible census excepting the 1840 census, and in my mind I always thought that I had at one time gone through the Ira 1840 census page by page on microfilm, but perhaps not.
Yesterday I was determined to locate him in 1840 and it was fairly easy by using Ancestry.com advanced search and just searched on the spelling of the given name as “Abram” anywhere in New York State, and sure enough, found him.
Abram “HADGSON” in Ira, with the right number of other household members, just exactly where he should have been. All these many years I had searched on HODGSON and HUDSON and given name as Abraham as a possibility, but was never able to find him in any printed census index, nor in any online census index.
So my point here is don’t ever give up. Take a step back and look at alternate possibilities when you are not able to locate your ancestor on the census when you think you should.
In this case it was as simple as searching on given name only. Another method is to record say five or ten families on each side of your family on the census that you are able to locate them on. Then when you come to a year that you think they should be in a certain location but not found, then do a search for the neighbors from the adjacent census and see if you can locate them manually as being neighbors on your target census.
It only took me about 25 or 30 years to locate this 1840 listing when it should have been able to be found way back when. Never give up.
“STICKLEY HISTORY IS YOUR HISTORY”
AT THE STICKLEY MUSEUM
SUNDAY, APRIL 25 AT 3PM
300 Orchard Street
Fayetteville, NY 13066
Do you have a relative who worked for Stickley?
Memories of growing up near the Stickley factories? On Sunday, April 25, at 3pm, The Stickley Museum invites you to bring your Stickley stories, photos, documents and furniture to our first Stickley History is Your History event – celebrating the common roots of Stickley and our community.
We will have historic employee records available to the public for the first time. Learn more about your family connections to Stickley. Admission is free. Call (315) 682-5500 or visit stickleymuseum.com for more details.
Update: I did attend the stickley open house and it is really a very nice museum.
The furniture is without equal in my humble opinion and the interesting thing is that the musuem archivist has gone through the olde employment records from the late 1800′s to the 1970′s and transcribed a file of employees records that you may see.
Contact them at StickleyMuseum.com
Have you heard of the Loomis Gang? This was a family from Madison county, New York that lived slightly more than slightly outside of the law.
Local lore in Upstate New York is often talked about with shock and awe, or chest out proud of, the outrageous acts reported to have been performed by this complete family of thieves.
When you ain’t got nuthin’ you got nuthin’ to lose, comes to mind. It is said by many that the mom of this group of 19th century Robin Hoods was the instigator and trained her boys that if it ain’t tied down, bring it home, mentality.
Oh and if you are about to go on trial and all of the evidence against you is in the court house, well then it would be a good thing if the court house burned down, which actually did occur.
One author, Charles Brutcher, of a very rare book titled; “Joshua, a Man of the Finger Lakes”, Syracuse, 1927, made the claim that the founder of the Rockefeller fortunes got his start with a close association with the Loomis Gang.
In this historical novel the author throughout the book used the name of Big Bill Rockwell as he described his life of thievery and deceit, horse theft, bigamy and his association with the Loomis’s is a wild tale for sure. It is claimed that the author went to the Rockefeller family to attempt to have them purchase his manuscript, can you spell blackmail?, and after being rejected inserted an addendum into the rear of this book that blatantly explained that throughout the book his use of the name Big Bill ‘Rockwell’ should be changed to “Rockefeller” and that the novel was a true story.
Turns out that William Rockefeller, the father of John D. Rockefeller, the founder of the Standard Oil Company, was born in Upstate New York and the genealogy of this family commenced in Moravia, Cayuga county. Brutcher’s claim was that Big Bill Rockefeller, the convicted bigamist, used to steal horses down around Pennsylvania and Corning areas and would trade them with the Loomis Gang. Should make a fun project for some serious historians and genealogists to tackle.
Well you may read some modern discoveries that are going on now by a dedicated historian, Robert Betz, in Madison county that is working on these Loomis stories and his articles are being published in the “Madison County Courier” newspaper which you can read online at: http://bit.ly/9Aqgku
There are several books on the Loomis Gang which you can find by searching on www.worldcat.org, there is even a VHS video available.
You know the drill by now. You find something on your ancestors in an old book and you are on Cloud 9 because now you have something factual to go on, it is in a book!
Well do you ever consider the source of that printed source? Do you ever wonder, “Gee I wonder how he knew that?” Well it would be good to think about the sources that were available to the writer at the time the book or other printed source was written.
I thank my lucky stars every time I find an entry in an old county history because it gives me a little platform to launch a new research project, or might provide clues that will send me off to search in greener pastures.
Most of the men and women that compiled those huge old county history books were nuts just like you and me and they had a story to tell that they thought was interesting enough to share with everyone.
Think about the time period that the author lived in and what was their background and why would they write it. Many of these big old books were published from about the 1850′s through about the start of World War I, with the largest majority coming to print soon after the Centennial of 1876 which I believe created an interest in the founders of this country over the previous 100 years.
I have a picture in my mind of one of these compilers having boxes and scrapbooks of old documents and newspaper clippings and journals and perhaps albums of photos or sketches that related to the early history of their community. Chances are they knew other people in their area that had similar collections and liked to swap yarns so I envision many letters back and forth.
So lets say an author is about 50 or 60 years old when they get bit by the bug that says ‘better leave a trail’. They can remember back 40 to 50 years and they know what their parents told them growing up and they can go and interview the older people still living in the area.
These things were their sources right? They had few books that they could refer to for sources other than natural history books, gazetteers and possibly an earlier publication on the same subject that might have been released a generation or two previous.
They did not have Google, Ancestry.com, Rootsweb or any of the multitude of databases that you have right at your fingertips. They wrote history the old fashioned way, they did historical research in old record collections and they served up countless memories from various sources.
The point here is to not take anything too seriously that is found in print in any of these old publications, but by all means do not discount them or bypass them! By being able to prove, or disprove, any of these printed words using modern research methods or to at least build a strong case for a new hypothesis will afford you countless hours of pleasant research and a much stronger affinity to those that signed their name on the dotted manuscript say a hundred or more years ago.
In the future I plan on bringing you some stories about my favorite historians and why I want them to come back and do it all over again, this time with a computer.
Roger D. Joslyn reports further…
Thank you for the many responses to my letter concerning the possibility of losing our National Archives–Northeast Region as an important research facility. The response was overwhelming and I regret I could not answer all the many e-mails. I understand my letter was circulated pretty far and wide and some persons wrote me from other countries. Many of you conveyed good thoughts about the issue, telling of similar experiences, and several wrote to offer, “What can I do?”
My apologies if I missed sending first my letter to a few people who are receiving this one, and if so, please let me know and I shall send the earlier one if you want to see it.
The main purpose of my first letter was to let you know what I knew and had heard about the planned move of NARA’s New York regional facility. At the time of my first letter, NARA had put nothing out to the pubic about the intended move, about any reduction in space and on-site research materials, and so forth. As I then wrote, some of the plans were told to Stuart Stahl by NARA’s Diane LeBlanc for him to pass the word. So, “officially,” that is the best information there was at the time, but one might also still consider any of those details to be “rumor” at that point.
Since the first letter, NARA has responded, and I have been told or led to believe that a positive result of my letter was that it put things in action sooner than later. I have had telephone conversations with Diane LeBlanc and other NARA personnel about the move of the New York regional facility and I refer you (below) to NARA’s official word about the move and also to some NARA-prepared FAQs. As you will see, some of information is different and/or a little more detailed than what had been said and circulated earlier.
Also since sending my first letter, I have been able to visit what will be NARA-NYC’s new home in the Customs House in lower Manhattan. There is no question the building is a lovely place and, when the space is renovated, will provide pleasing accommodations for researchers, staff, and programs. NARA’s Public Programs Specialists Dorothy Doughty is quite excited about the possibilities for the latter, not only for large and small presentations and workshops, but also because there is room for (for example) genealogical/historical fairs and so forth, using space NARA will share with other agencies in the building. (And without a lockup in the building as there is at 201 Varick Street, the security staff in the Customs House is more welcoming to visitors.)
While there is no question the new location will be a nicer home for NARA-NYC for the above reasons, the amount of storage space for textual records and microfilm will be greatly reduced.
I would like to add from my conversations with Diane LeBlanc some additional points that are of interest and/or concern to us as researchers.
Ms. LeBlanc said that NARA-NYC is “going through a process” in preparation for the move, which will likely take place eighteen to twenty-four months from now. She sees the Customs House as having “enormous potential” for NARA. One example is that being near the Circle Line terminal for Ellis and Liberty Island visits, there is increased possibility to attract tourists to the Customs House and thus to NARA.
According to Ms. LeBlanc, NARA-NYC currently has about 40,000 cubic feet of textual records at Varick Street, but with limited space in the Customs House, only about 5300 cubit feet of records can be housed there. (The 5000 square feet reported earlier as being the total of the new space was a misunderstanding about room for the textual records; NARA will actually have about 20,000 total square feet that includes public and office space, storage room, and so forth.)
Apparently, NARA looked at a number of possible new locations and chose the Customs House as the best of the bunch. The main argument for settling for the much-reduced storage space is that patron usage is down. What cannot fit in the new space will go to a new storage facility in Philadelphia. Ms. LeBlanc says the off-site material will have the “same access” by shuttle to New York City that is now provided for other off-site materials. The frequency of the shuttle service is still under discussion.
Similarly, because of less storage space, NARA will also not be able to take all its current microfilm collection to the Customs House. Ms. LeBlanc says there is room for only about twenty percent of the film. What becomes of the other eighty percent of the microfilm has not been determined, but Ms. LeBlanc said there may be some possibilities for keeping it in New York City, if some other repository can take it. She thought New York Public Library’s microfilm collection nearly duplicated that at NARA-NYC. I told her this is not the case.
In order to determine what textual records and microfilm will likely be moved to the Customs House, NARA staff and volunteers will be “assessing” customer usage—what material, textual and microform, gets the most on-site use. (A large amount of NARA-NYC’s collection, mostly voluminous court records, is already stored off-site in Lee Summit, Missouri.) I reminded Ms. LeBlanc that much of the more-used microfilm is self-serve, that patrons take and replace microfilms themselves. This limits what staff and volunteers may be able to determine about usage. They are more aware of the usage of specific microfilms they must retrieve for patrons from the back “stacks.”
Ms. LeBlanc clarified that certification of copies of records at NARA-NYC will still be possible. Certifications needed from microfilm that will no longer be at NARA-NYC can be requested to be done at NARA-Pittsfield, or the microfilm can be brought in from Pittsfield to be certified at NARA-NYC.
She also said that over time, what textual records are actually kept on-site in the new facility could change, based on patron usage. For example, if there was increased call for ships’ original passenger lists, they might be brought in from off-site storage and less-requested material sent off site.
Two other things need clarification. First, volunteers will continue to be needed and they, in addition to helping patrons, will be involved with projects. There will be designated space for projects in the new facility, with textual records brought in from off-site for such projects as needed.
Second, the expansion at NARA-Waltham mentioned in my first letter is for public programming space. Some of this new space was formerly used to store microfilm, a large amount of which was given to the library in Plano, Texas, because, as Ms. LeBlanc explained, “no one else wanted it.”
I wrote my first letter in reaction to the response a colleague received who suggested to NARA that some of the more frequent patrons might be consulted for input about the upcoming move, records use, and so forth. The person was told that no one was going to tell NARA what to do. NARA staff has told me that, following former Archivist John Carlin’s attempt to move large amounts of material out of the regional facilities, that NARA has became more sensitive to public wants, needs, and so forth. So the response to my colleague was out of line and certainly was not good business. We expect better from an agency that has long been one of our primary repositories for the research we do.
Ms. LeBlanc agreed. In acknowledging that my first letter got NARA’s attention, she stated, “We will do this better than we did in the past.” The move to the Customs House seems set, and while my opinion is that user involvement before that decision would have been helpful and should have been sought, NARA-NYC is holding two public meetings about the move (see the announcement). I hope those of you who are interested in the move and have concerns and questions will attend. It is not clear if whatever is voiced at these meetings will change any of NARA’s plans at this point, but those of us who are concerned should go and speak up.
Here are just two of the many concerns about which some of you have written to me.
“It’s all online.” And many of us doubt it ever will be. But even with all that is available on the Internet, we have all experienced problems that take us back to the original sources, or at least back to the microfilm, for a variety of reasons, including legibility, printing, missed material, even speed. Can we be content with loosing easy access to what we now have so readily available?
Out of sight, out of mind, or never in mind at all. Ms. LeBlanc agreed that this is one area where NARA can use a lot of improvement. Many patrons have no idea what else there is beyond the Federal censuses, passenger lists, and a few other microfilmed records. With less microfilm in the public space for users to actually see some examples of what resources there are, there need to be ways of letting researchers know about the wealth of other records that might help them—microfilm and textual.
If NARA is willing to let its users work with them to do better and not just be informed of what others have decided, is that not a positive thing?
P.S. I realize that most people who learn “what we do” usually react with, “That’s very interesting!” or “My aunt was the family historian,” and so forth. But we also frequently encounter those who cannot fathom such an interest in the past. In these instances, I am always reminded of what is carved on the National Archives building in Washington, D.C., as you all know so well: “The Past is Prologue.”
This was brought home the other night as Leslie and I viewed (from Netflix) Masterpiece Theatre’s Shooting the Past, about a photo archives doomed to the trash and the staff’s struggle to save it. We were deeply moved and saw parallels with what has happened and will likely continue to happen in our field. For those of you who have not seen this wonderful BBC drama, I strongly recommend it. In the meantime, you can read a little bit about it at
and in this New York Times review