Posts Tagged ‘Upstate New York’

New York, State Health Department, Genealogical Research Death Index Starting to Come Online

Early this morning I logged onto to look at something on the 1855 NYS Census, when I noticed that there were now 33 collections, instead of the normal 32, in the New York State collection of actual scans of microfilmed records and data bases.

Glancing down through the list I discovered the newest title, having just become available as of December 19th,
 ”New York, State Health Department, Genealogical Research Death Index, 1957-1963″ -  Yippee!  It has started!

We have been hearing rumors that the NYS Health Department, Vital Records, Death Index was expected to be made available online in the future.  I have written about this in a previous blog post  and you will see three major articles that I have written about the NYS Vital Records at the top right hand side of my blog here at

1963 is the current 50 year limit that we must wait to look at the death record index.  So perhaps this is precursor to wonderful things to come.  Perhaps the 1957 to 1963 chunk is just a trial at LDS or just the first release of all of the remaining death record index listings back to about 1880.  Let’s hope so anyway.

After quickly looking for some immediate ancestors or family members that might have died during this short period of time, I could not find any, so I did a search on my surname HILLENBRAND and came up with one that I knew a little bit about. having worked on this line for some many years.  This is not my immediate family but is a second group that also lived in Syracuse and Onondaga County.

Here is a sample of what you can expect to find:

William L Hillenbrand, “New York, State Health Department, Genealogical Research Death Index, 1957-1963″
Name:     William L Hillenbrand
Event Type:     Death
Event Date:     28 Oct 1962
Event Place:     Syracuse, Onondaga, New York
Gender:     Male
Age:     85
Birth Year (Estimated):     1877
Death Year:     1962
File Number:     75441


NYS Death Index Sample


Note that you will find a date and place of death, age and an estimated year of birth.  More importantly you will find the all important “File Number”.  This is what you will need when you apply for a copy of the actual death certificate from the Dept. of Health in Albany.  If you apply to a local jurisdiction, city or town clerk’s office, the File Number might not be of any help because I am told that it was assigned in Albany, but it will speed things up for you at state level.

As stated previously the NYS Vital Records Division of the NYS Health Department started a collection of official notifications of Births, Deaths and Marriages commencing in 1880.  As also reported, many of these are lacking in the early years for what ever reason, but generally speaking from about World War I onward there is a good chance that you will find a record on your Upstate New York Genealogy research in this huge microfiche collection.

You may look at the full collection on microfiche at several libraries and locations throughout the state.  See previous posts for a listing.  The above referenced digital collection is the very first time that I know of that any part of this massive VR Index has been put online and I give major kudos to all parties involved that made this happen.

Here is how you can search this online collection.
Go to click on: [Search].
Scroll down to the bottome of the screen and click on: [United States]
Scroll down on the left to: [New York].
Then scroll down to third up from the bottom,
New York, State Health Department, Genealogical Research Death Index, 1957-1963

Note that this is a compiled data base taken from the microfiche and not copies of the actual fiche.

This fabulous news comes on the same day that sad news comes from my friend, F. Richard Barr who  just forwarded a blog post written by The Legal Genealogist, about the Closing of the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) until three years after the person’s demise.  This act was passed by Congress in the current Budget Bill and is expected to be signed into law by President O’Bama.  You can bet that there are people attempting to have this law extended to ALL of the SSDI at some time in the future.  Stay vigilant fellow genealogists.  We can not allow this to happen!

Enjoy the new online Vital Records Death Index.
Dick Hillenbrand
Upstate New York Genealogy

Join the HILLENBRAND Family Group With Your Y-DNA Test at FTDNA

Well I took the plunge and started a DNA Family Group at Family Tree DNA, and I welcome all of you HILLENBRANDs out there to join us.

Last weekend I read on that FTDNA is having a summer SALE and it is on until the end of the week, so I clicked on an order button on the DNA Testing Kits website and placed my order for a 67 marker Y-DNA test.

Then as no one had yet started a group with my surname I volunteered to become the administrator of the new group.

If you are a male HILLENBRAND anywhere you can also join the group for no additional cost other than the cost of your test kit, which is a bargain at the regular price and now a real good deal at the sale price.

If you are a female HILLENBRAND you will need to have a brother, father, uncle, cousin or nephew with the HILLENBRAND surname submit the DNA cheek swab sample at FTDNA.  I will report here on the Upstate New York Genealogy Blog from time to time as we have further developments.

This should be a lot of fun because in the past few years I have had contacts from other HILLENBRANDs all over the U.S. And though we have not found any direct connections, it seems most of them come generally from Southern Germany.  Perhaps now through DNA testing we will be able to discover if we have a genetic connection and approximately how far back we might have a common ancestor.

The process is very easy.  Just order your Y-DNA test kit and then do let me know when you join.  When it comes to Y-DNA  testing, a male can find out his father’s paternal line of the family. This is because only men have the Y-chromosome. The testing on this short chromosome is the Y STR test. This is helpful in discovering the past since this is passed down from father to son.

The STR is a segment of the DNA in the Y chromosome in the region that is considered Junk. The letters STR stand for short tandem repeats. The number of times a segment repeats itself is called the allele. This number is distinctive within a population which leads to surname lineage.

There are over 100 different markers in the Y-DNA chromosome, but the typical one tested is the 10-67 STR marker. This identifies the haplotype that the sample belongs to.

Here is the link again to order the DNA kit at the sale price:  DNA Testing Kits

The Loomis Gang Rides Again

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:

There are several books on the Loomis Gang which you can find by searching on, there is even a VHS video available.

WALDRON Family History Research Turns Into Historical Novels

Gloria Waldron Huckle was bitten by the genealogy bug many years ago and while digging into her early Dutch Colonial Roots on the WALDRON Family she became so interested in their history that her passion for history sparked her career as a novelist.

From a recent article in the Glens Falls Post Star newspaper she tells her story to a staff reporter and it is a fun story to follow.

She brings her ancestors and their lives to life with her fictional novels, three of them so far, starting in the 17th century up to more modern times you will see how the families progressed through the generations.

(From the Post Star article:)
“Manhattan: Seeds of the Big Apple” is the story of lower Manhattan in 1653 and the Dutch who lived there, including Resolved Waldron. “The Diary of a Northern Moon” follows a 26-year-old advertising executive in 1976 as she journeys through the Adirondacks looking for clues to her family’s past. “Threads: An American Tapestry” tells the story of Margaret Vandenberg and the struggles she faces in the early 18th century because of her gender and mixed ancestry.

By going back in time through her family history research she was able to discover exact locations where they had resided and she would go to those spots and try to envision what it was like in the much earlier times.

Essentially her books follow quite a similar pattern of the history of New York from the earliest to modern times. Many of our own ancestors followed quite the same migration patterns as hers did, up and down the Hudson River towns and then branching out to other parts of Upstate New York.

You will want to read the complete article in the Post Star.

Congratulations Gloria on your achievement and thank you for writing these books.
Dick Hillenbrand
Upstate New York Genealogy

Genealogy and DNA Hand in Hand

There is an enormous amount of discussion on the internet about using DNA testing to “prove” one’s genealogy.  Well certainly genealogy and DNA go hand in hand however there are certain limits as to what may be proven.

DNA Hand-in-Hand

DNA Hand-in-Hand

DNA absolutely may be used to authenticate the parents of an individual.  We all inherit absolutely unique codes of information from our parents.  50% of the code in our genomic makeup comes from our father and is known Y-DNA, and 50% comes from our mother which is called Mitochondrial DNA.  As long as you are able to collect a sufficient number of cells from all three individuals, you will have absolute proof that the two parents are indeed the ones that created the child.

There are various ways to collect the sufficient number of cells, such as through blood test comparisons, hair follicle strands, saliva, cigarette butts, a soda pop can and all of the various methods you will see on your favorite mystery or crime television program.  Most of those tests are indeed the figment of a TV writer’s imagination.  They might be able to be done but they very difficult to test and could be very costly.

One thing that is absolutely provable is that a blood spatter at a crime scene compared to a blood sample from a suspect unconditionally can prove or disprove that the blood came from the same individual.  The DNA sample can not lie.  Only certain people can lie in court and get away with it.  OJ did it.

For genealogy and DNA testing there is an easier way.  There are now many companies that offer DNA kits to gather the samples with.  This is a pain free, no blood method that is actually kind of fun to use.  A typical DNA collection kit will contain some sterile envelopes and perhaps some solution to swish around in your mouth for a specified period of time and then spit out into a container.

Another method is to use a simple little scraper which kind of works like a tongue depressor only it is shaped somewhat like a stumpy tooth brush with no bristles.  All you do is scrape it up and down inside the cheek of your mouth for a specified period and then this device is sealed and mailed in to the DNA testing center of your choice.

For my own Y-DNA testing I will be looking for my father’s and paternal grandfather’s bloodline male ancestors.  Well all of these males are deceased, so what to do?  Now we enter into sibling and male cousin relative comparisons to be able to show markers that will compare to the first common ancestor.  This should be fairly easy to affirm, as my brother and I will compare to our dad, and then we have three male first cousins that though all three are deceased, they each had male issue and those first cousins once removed will no doubt all compare to my paternal grandfather.

Now after that it will become a little more problematic.  My grandfather Jacob HILLENBRAND (1862-1941) was the only son of an only son.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Grandfather Jacob came to America in 1885 and settled in Upstate New York in Syracuse.  I have been contacted many times through my years of genealogy publishing on the internet by other people with the HILLENBRAND (or variant spelling) surname to see if we could be related.  My answer at first is a simple “No”.  However I mean it in the aspect of related as in modern times.  It just can not be so.

We would have to go back in time through three generations to find any of the males that had sons.  Gramp’s father died fairly young (1825-1866) and his father also died fairly young (1798-1826).  Neither of these two early ancestors had any other male issue, than my direct line.

The earliest ancestor of this surname that I have been able to locate is Caspar HILLENBRAND who was born circa 1760 somewhere in what is now Germany and is first located in church records in Markelsheim, Wurttemberg in the late 1700’s as the father of three sons of which the only one I know anything about is my own direct line ancestor.

So that does leave two possible males that ‘might’ have produced male issue but it would take me a lot of time and money to attempt to track this possibility down to modern times.

However there is a possibility that we ‘might’ be able to perform Genealogy DNA tests on other males anywhere with this surname and if we were able to show that we indeed did have a common ancestor then it might help us to shortcut the amount of genealogical research that we would have to do to show the connection.

I think it will be fun to do and will firm up the many thousands of hours that I have invested this past 40 or so years of intense genealogical research in, and I will write about this later as we gather more information.

If you have your own genealogy and DNA story to tell please leave a comment here on the Upstate New York Genealogy Blog.

Upstate New York Genealogy Blog – – Announces New Website Review Program


Announcing New Upstate New York Website Review Program.

This is July 8, 2008. Remember this date 070808. We are starting a new service that we encourage all readers to participate in.

The Internet is full of instructional, informative and interesting websites related to Genealogy. The Blogroll and bookmarks that I personally visit almost every day, certainly once a week, runs in very high numbers. Just can’t get enough.

This particular website/Blog that you are reading now is blessed with thousands of regular readers and a great number of new readers every month. So here is what we want to do. If you own a Genealogy website or Blog, or if you really like a particular website or Blog, that is heavily based on Upstate New York Genealogy, then we want to help you get some attention.

Starting with the comments on this Blog entry, please submit your favorite website name, and the url for that specific website or Blog, and a simple one sentence description.

That’s all you have to do. These comments come directly to me before they are seen by the public. I will check the link out and if it is valid and not spammy, then I will approve the comment link and our several thousand readers will see it. That link will remain on this site until such time that I might deem to remove it. Remember this is a family site, keep the links appropriate.

Then once a month, I will write a free, unbiased, or biased if need be \grin/, review of a website that I believe to be very instructional, very informative and very interesting.

The reviews will happen near the closing date of each month. A reminder of this 070808 Blog post will be sent out quite often. We encourage ALL of you to participate!

So here’s your chance to shine. Here’s your chance to gain new readers. It is free and non-fattening.

Remember it MUST relate to either, Families of Upstate New York, or How To instruction for Upstate New York, or about a specific Upstate New York Location.

Oh, and as we have jokingly reported to this question many times before, as to where is Upstate New York? I always say look at our logo on our main website at and see the map of the state? Upstate New York is anywhere above Yonkers, as far as I am concerned.

*** Another announcement to watch for will be regarding our forthcoming Upstate New York Genealogy Newsletter. Subscribers to this Blog will automatically be included, so subscribe now. Free gifts, special features, major discounts on products you all use, and information that will not be published on this Blog. Stay tuned for more information. Subscribe Now. Oh, by the way, the UNYG Newsletter will be FREE!

Some of our previous popular posts:
New York State Vital Records -
Revolutionary War Patriot or Loyalist -
Palatine DNA Project -
Visit our main website at

Add to Technorati Favorites


*** LOOK *** – Right here under this line is the place for “comments.”

Where is Upstate New York?

Many people ask “Where is Upstate New York, and why is it called that?”

The answer is pretty simple. It is generally considered to be all of New York State other than the major metropolitan New York City areas.

For the purposes of this Blog and our main website of Upstate New York Genealogy at we emphasize Genealogy and Family History Research throughout the whole state starting with Westchester County, north and west.

Our neighbors to the east are; Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont. On the north we enjoy an International border with some of the nicest people in the world, our Canadian friends of Ottawa and Ontario. So as you head up the Hudson River Valley at a little north of Albany it becomes known as the Champlain Valley Region on up to the St. Lawrence River. West of Albany and running to about mid-way in the state the region is called the Mohawk Valley Region. Our north western border and several counties border on the south shore of Lake Ontario.

In the southern part of the state is the historical Catskill Mountain Region and in the north are the majestic Adirondack Mountains. Starting in the central part of the state and running further westward is called the Finger Lakes Region. Our southern border is shared first with New Jersey and then for the greater width of the state we share a border with our friends in Pennsylvania. We end up out on the western edge of the state at the Niagara Falls Region and Lake Erie.

We do not have anything against the southern metro areas not covered, it is just that the research methods and record centers are quite different than for the rest of the state. We recommend an excellent book compiled by: Estelle M. Guzik, “Genealogical Resources in New York”. If you need to hire a professional for the New York City areas, we suggest you check with the Association of Professional Genealogists at

Please bookmark this website and subscribe by email. We Love having you be part of our research community at Upstate New York Genealogy Blog.

We are here to help you find your roots in Upstate New York. Ask any question and post any comment that is relevant, and someone will give you a helping hand or a willing ear. Use the “comments” tab just below this Blog.

Visit our main website at


New Feature of Upstate New York Genealogy Blog

Regular readers will note the new addition to this Blog.

You may now subscribe to the unyg Blog by just inserting your email address in the box at the left.

Then every time a new Blog is added you will receive a copy of it in your email folder. As with all types of broadcast emails, you may have to go into your security settings and allow them to get past your spam filter.

Every system is different and I am not able to advise you on how to do this on your particular machine. If it is important to you I am sure you will figure out how to do it.

For those of you who have written to say that your RSS reader was not able to accept this feed then this is an alternative.


Subscribe via RSS
Follow Me On Twitter
Donations Greatly Appreciated:
Pay on WePay
MyHeritage Top 100 Websites
Top genealogy site awards