Posts Tagged ‘Cornell University’

American Archives, the Manuscript and Book Collection of Peter Force, (1790-1868.)


Peter Force was a 19th-century politician, newspaper editor, archivist, and historian.

Born near the Passaic Falls in New Jersey, to William and Sarah (Ferguson) Force.

His greatest achievement came as a collector and editor of historical documents. He published Tracts and Other Papers, Relating Principally to the Origin, Settlement, and Progress of the Colonies in North America.

His American Archives was a collection of the most important documents of the American Revolution, 1774–1776. 9 volumes were published between 1837 and 1853. Force’s lifelong desire to establish an American national library finally came to fruition in 1867 when Congress purchased his own collection of original documents for $100,000 to found the Library of Congress.

Force died January 23, 1868 at the age of 77. His son, Manning Force, was an officer during the American Civil War.

(source – wikipedia – Peter Force)


To the readers of the Upstate New York Genealogy Blog;

I have a personal story abut this collection that goes back many years in my own genealogy research. My mother’s direct line 4th great grandparents were Seth Chase and Sarah (MILK) CHASE, of Little White Creek (Cambridge District, Albany County, New York.)

Seth CHASE was a Loyalist, a Quaker, and a Tavern Keeper in Little White Creek. His home/tavern was immediately the first farm north of the Battle of Bennington battlefield in the town of Hoosick, Rensselaer County. His house still exists and I have been all through it through the courtesy of the present owners. It is located on Cobble Hill Road south of the hamlet of White Creek adjacent to the town of Hoosick border.

About 25 or so years ago I was at the library in Cornell University and I came across a transcription description of Seth’s arrest in 1776 by the Americans, and being excited did not cite the exact reference. All I remembered when I went back later was that it was in a large book which was part of a multi-volume set. See boys and girls, cite your sources!

Well it turns out that Cornell has since put their set of this collection of transcribed manuscript records in their Kroch Rare Books and Manuscripts Department. Earlier today I was in discussion with another researcher friend, Deanna Smith, and I was reminded of this collection so set about locating it in today’s wonderful digital world.

Found it! Thanks to I found the title “American Archives” by Peter Force, and then wonder of wonders, the whole collection is digitized and online at the University of Northern Illinois.

What follows is just a snippet from the manuscript testimony of the two men that gave evidence against Seth CHASE:

The Deposition of Captain Isaac Peabody, of lawful age, being duly sworn, saith: That on Sunday morning, the 13th instant, he returned to the house of Seth Chase, in Little White Creek. I asked Mr. Chase if he had seen any of our Kinderhook friends the night past. He answered, no. I told him I wanted to see Mr. Hughs, the man we discoursed with last night in the road. He then told me Mr. Hough told him the discourse he had with us, and that Mr. Hough knew no more of the plan than what he had communicated to him. I asked him if he had for certain that Burgoyne with his Army was coming round the lakes? ….

The page further saith, that the people of Arlington had made such preparations for their march, that they could not forego it without being discovered; therefore, would march to-night. Mr. Chase then said, the people of White Creek are secure, they would not march till further order from Colonel Man. He likewise said, that Colonel Man had twelve fat oxen for the purpose of victualling the friends of Government on their march to join the King’s Army. And others had several more cattle for the same purpose. I then asked him to direct me to a plan whereby our Kinderhook friends could get safe to the King’s Army.

He then told me that Colonel Man had given countersigns at two places, and if these countersigns could be conveyed to your friends, they can pass safe, and get all intelligence necessary. He then spoke to his wife to bring him a paper, on which she immediately came to us and takes a paper out of her bosom and gave it to her husband, and he handed it to me, saying, Now I give you my life. I took the paper and read it to be this: “At Landlord Northrop’s the countersign is Tryon; and at Jacob Lansing’s Ferry, the countersign is Burgoyne.” I told him for fear I should make a mistake in these countersigns, I would write them down. Then wrote them down. He then said that upon giving these countersigns out at these two places, we could be secreted, have provisions, or be helped on our way, or any thing we desired to forward.

He further said, that Simon Covill was a good friend to Government, and that I might not be afraid of him; he further said, that his house was a place where Colonel Man’s page came for entertainment, and to bring news to the friends to Government.
Bennington, October 14, 1776.


Seth was arrested and put in jail for 14 days in Albany, then with many other prisoners was marched to Exeter, New Hampshire, to be banished to stay within the gaol limits of the town of Exeter for one year. At the end of the year he was allowed to return to his home and he also was allowed to keep his property.

As I said, I have been in that house where this event happened and I have this image burned in my mind of my fifth great grandmother pulling the secret password code out of her bosom.

Damn, I love history!

I encourage you all to search through these marvelous original documents that are online. There is just a world of exciting finds to be made!

American Archives – Peter Force

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Upstate New York Church Record Books at Cornell University

Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, has been actively engaged in microfilming copies of church record books of churches throughout what was described as “Western New York.”

Some of these microfilms are woefully disappointing to one who expects to find carefully laid out columns of births, baptisms, marriages and deaths.

It would appear as though the records were written for the scribe’s own edification, and the format, style and penmanship is extremely erratic. My feeling is that the recorders of these books would have kept these notes for local consumption, for in the days of quill pens, who would have ever imagined that future hoards of humans with cell phones, GPS gadgets, laptop and handheld computers, scanners and digital cameras, would have ever a reason to want to delve into these records for clues about the local citizenry?

Well that being said, these books are still some of the very best primary sources of data on individuals that were recorded in contemporary documents, and that have a higher than usual degree of reliability. Though nothing is sacred, these records must still be analyzed and used with care, as there will be misteakes in every form of record ever made by mankind.

So what might we hope to find in these church record books? First off they are generally concerned with the business aspect of operating a church. Subscriptions, pew rentals, payment of pastors, fixing the roof, supporting the widow, and items of such ilk, generally are prominent. Hopefully, somewhere scattered in the chaff might be a few kernels of wheat that would indicate a baptism, marriage or burial record, or perhaps receiving of an individual by letter, (which will be extremely helpful in putting people in a place in time and might also indicate from whence they came,) and sometimes just having a listing of the members of a certain church might be very helpful for further study.

Many of these early churches in the wild, wild west, were lineally connected to a not too distant past colonial New England town where the local government was the church. The theocratic government of the New England towns might still be in the veins of the now satellite appendages. So you might also discover some legal news in these church record books. Some of these churches held trials for such things as blasphemy, non payment of debts, adultery or fornication, and things that we today would reserve for civil courts. Our ancestors were snapshots of ourselves. They had trials and tribulations, and some of these records are not for the feint of heart.

We need to discover all of the clues that we can from such primary records, and this fantastic collection at Cornell University in the “Study Center for Religious Life in Western New York,” that is held in the Kroch Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts Department should be studied and transcribed.

The listing of the church records available is at;
Sixteen counties are represented, some more extensively than others. They are Cayuga, Cortland, Erie, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Onondaga, Ontario, Oswego, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tompkins, Wayne, Wyoming, and Yates.

These films may be viewed at the Cornell library and they are also available for longer term study at your local library through Inter-Library-Loan (ILL.)

If you are going to go there I would suggest calling ahead to verify that the film is in. I made the trek to Ithaca a couple of days ago and the film that I needed was out on ILL. The day was not a total loss though. The Kroch Library has a fabulous exhibit of General LaFayette and his association with General Washington.

Just about the sweetest antiquity I have ever seen is a manuscript letter written in almost flawless English, by LaFayette’s six year old daughter to Washington in 1798. She was sad that her Papa was leaving but glad Washington will get to have him for a while.

I was just a couple of nose lengths away from the original document. You can’t do THAT on the Internet!

Dick Hillenbrand
Upstate New York Genealogy

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