Columbia County Local Histories

Significance and Use of Local Histories

Columbia County local histories can be valuable research tools. They provide historical context that may assist you when utilizing other types of genealogy records in your family research. Columbia County has a number of local histories that may be of use and can be a great source of genealogical information.

However, a little bit of a caution should be taken when reviewing these types of older history publications. Any information you find in these works should be verified through other sources, preferably primary sources. Generally, these publications can vary greatly in terms of substantive information and correctness. Having said that, information they contain may provide a “jumping off point” to assist you in continuing your research.

All of the publications mentioned in this blog are accessible digitally. Content within the books can be either searched directly on the website or can be downloaded to your computer.

Columbia County Histories

The publishers of the county histories referenced below relied on local officials and residents to provide historical content. Both are basically organized the same way, providing the following topics on both a county-wide and town level:

  • Geographical descriptions
  • Early settlers
  • Military rosters and history
  • Religious organizations
  • Town leaders and officials
  • Educational institutions
  • Agricultural and business development
History of Columbia County New York

History of Columbia County, New York With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers” was published in 1878. This work of 600+ pages is available through the Internet Archive.

Columbia County at The End Of The Century

Columbia County at the end of the century : a historical record of its formation and settlement, its resources, its institutions, its industries, and its people” was written about 20 years after “History of Columbia County”. It is comprised of two volumes and is available through FamilySearch. Please note: You will need to sign up with FamilySearch to view these volumes (it’s free to sign up).

Hillsdale Town History

A History of Hillsdale, Columbia County, New York”. This book, published in 1883, is available through the Internet Archive. It was compiled by John Francis Collin who had conducted research on his own ancestors from the area. In chapter one, he mentions the resources he used during his research, which included historical publications and materials he collected personally. This work is an interesting read and he makes mention of many of the early residents of Hillsdale.

History of the City of Hudson

History of the City of Hudson New York

A History of the City of Hudson” is also available through the Internet Archive. Published in 1908, the author, Mrs. Anna R. Bradley, provides information on the resources she used in her research. The book’s introduction includes an in-depth biographical sketch of Henry Hudson. The contents of this book on Hudson’s history describes the development of the city along with the individuals who helped to establish it through the creation of industrial, religious, educational, political and social institutions.

What Will Your Search of  Columbia County’s Local Histories Reveal?

After reviewing these digital publications, did you find anything new or interesting that you can add to your family history research? If so, I’d be interested to learn about it. Feel free to leave a comment below, or better yet if you haven’t done so already, join the Columbia County Genealogy Facebook Group.

Genealogy Research Assistance

Do you have a research question about your Columbia County ancestors? Click the button below to submit your research question. I would like to hear from you about your research and assist you with any projects you are working on!

New York Land Records Indexing Project

FamilySearch and the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society are collaborating on a multi-year project to index New York State’s land records. The records (some dating back to the eighteenth-century), including deeds and mortgages from county courthouses, were microfilmed by the LDS church in the 1960s and 1970s.

New York land record

The microfilm was eventually digitized, but the collection was not electronically indexed. Up until now, it has been necessary to look through a county’s records by browsing, page by page, through a digital version of the original index of surnames. If you find the ancestor you are looking for in the index, you note the volume and page number referencing the original ledger containing the full land record. Next, you look for the digital version of that ledger and browse through to the page number you need. Whew! It definitely takes persistence. Understanding the importance of these records, I have labored through many of these records in my research work.

That is why I am happy to volunteer to assist with this indexing project!

New York land record

Research Value of Land Records

Land records, which document more ancestors than any other type of record, are definitely an under-utilized resource.

Why are land records important in genealogy? They document more ancestors than any other type of record, not only recording purchases of land, but also:

  • The inheritance of land
  • In cases where a married person sold property, both the husband’s and wife’s names generally appear, and the marital relationship will be stated
  • To assure clear title to a new buyer, a seller was required to document any prior land transaction, which could potentially lead back to the original owner (and perhaps more ancestors!)

My Volunteer Experience

I began by viewing an extremely helpful webinar produced by the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. The video presentation provided helpful context to the project and straightforward instructions detailing the indexing process.

The process involves entering information found in the original surname indexes onto an indexing template/form. The template has fields and web tools that help make the process simple and efficient.

I have only been indexing records for a couple of weeks now, but generally, I have found that a batch takes about an hour. I am sure my time will improve as I get more experience under my belt! Factors such as who created the record and when the record was created can determine the ease or complexity of the indexing process.

So far, I have not had any problems interpreting the handwriting in the batches I have indexed. Safeguards have been set up in the system so you can indicate if record entries are illegible.

The batches are divided into different geographic regions. Not all regions are open for indexing all at once. I wish I could work on indexing Columbia County (where I live), but alas I will have to wait until the Capital Region batch opens up. Right now, I am working on records in neighboring counties (Ulster and Orange) in the Hudson region. My plan is to tackle one batch a day for most days of the week, as long a time permits.

I am finding this work a very insightful experience. This improved familiarity with the records can only help to improve my expertise in the genealogy field.

Updates and Progress

As I become more involved in the project and get more acquainted with the New York land records collection, I hope to be able to provide updates on how my efforts are progressing, as well as the achievements of the project as a whole.


Would you like advice or assistance in using New York land records? Do you have general questions about your New York ancestors? Click the link below to send me an e-mail inquiry. I would be happy to help with your family history project!

John and Julia McDonald: From Ireland to America

Most of my maternal ancestors are from various parts of Ireland. I have had the most success researching John and Julia McDonald, my great-great grandparents. Using a combination of online and on-site research, I have been able to get a sense of who they were, which for me, is one of the joys of genealogical research.

County Laois, Ireland

Baptismal Record

John McDonald was born on June 18, 1851 to John McDonald and Winney (Keogh) McDonald in Stradbally, Laois, Ireland.

Julia McDonald was born in Ireland c. 1864 to Lawrence McDonald and Anastasia (Carroll) McDonald. According to information I received from a newly-found relative living in Ireland, John and Julia were distant relatives who lived in the same county.

Coming to America

Immigration - Passenger Ship

John immigrated to the United States when he was twenty-nine, first settling in Albany, New York. Soon after, Julia came to America and the couple were married on April 4, 1883 at St. Joseph’s Church in Albany.

Settling in Hudson, New York

By 1885, John and Julia relocated to Hudson, where John started up his own business on South Front Street. Over the years, his enterprises evolved from first owning a saloon, then a restaurant, and eventually a hotel.

Both John and Julia involved themselves in Hudson’s community activities. John volunteered as an exempt member of the Washington Hose Company and served on the Hudson Council. Julia was a member of the Women’s Catholic Benevolent Legion. The McDonald family attended services at St. Mary’s Church.

1900 U.S. census

John and Julia had a large brood! Here is the McDonald family as counted in the 1900 U.S. census. My great grandmother, Winifred was the eldest child. The other children listed are Daniel, Lawrence, William, John, Annie, James, Julia and Mary.

Family Misfortune

Julia McDonald - Death Notice

Sadly, a family tragedy occurred in 1901, when at 36 years old, Julia died suddenly of Typhoid Fever. When she died, Julia and John’s children were between the ages of 3 and 17 years old.

In what was a considerable sum for the time, the Women’s Catholic Benevolent Legion donated $1,000 to the care of Julia’s children. At today’s value, the amount would be the equivalent of just over $30,000.

It is no surprise that in 1904, John remarried to a woman named Mary Grady. Sometimes when researching ancestors, the “why” of particular events cannot be known. Myself, I would like to believe that John found companionship as well as a mother figure to help raise his children. John ended up marrying a third time after Mary’s death in 1912.

John McDonald’s Passing

John McDonald died in May 1916. He is buried with his first wife Julia and his second wife Mary at Cedar Park Cemetery in Hudson.

After first finding and reading his obituary, I was pleased to know that he was so well liked and respected in the community.

John McDonald obituary

“The demise of another well known and highly esteemed resident of Hudson, John McDonald, Sr. of 42 South Front Street, occurred this morning. Last week Mr. McDonald became quite ill and his condition gradually grew alarming. Friday he was removed to St. Peter’s hospital, Albany for an operation. His condition was so precarious that surgeons deemed it not advisable to operate. He died shortly before 11 o’clock this morning. Mr. McDonald was 62 years old and possessed a large circle of friends, who will be shocked to learn of this death. He possessed an unassuming nature, a kindly disposition and was exceedingly devoted to his home. For many years he conducted a hotel on South Front Street, but of late years was engaged in the restaurant and confectionery business at 42-44 South Front Street. Honest and upright in his business dealings and possessing a jovial disposition he made friends easily and by his sincerity held their confidence. He was an exempt member of the Washington Hose company and while an active member displayed much ability as a fireman. He loved children and had the welfare of the community in which he lived so long at heart. He was a brother of Patrick McDonald, the well known local dry goods merchant. He also has brothers and sisters in Ireland. Besides his wife, whom he married not long ago, he leaves five sons, Daniel, Lawrence, John and James of Hudson, and William of New York City, and four daughters, Mrs. Thomas Keegan of Albany; Mrs. James McArdle of Springfield, Mass., and the Misses Julia and Mary McDonald of Hudson.”

Research Approach

Most of the records I found documenting John and Julia McDonald were found online. Many hours were spent researching Irish birth records, newspaper collections, city directories, and census records.

John McDonald naturalization record
John McDonald’s 1887 naturalization record – Columbia County Clerk’s Office, Hudson.

In order to obtain John’s naturalization record, a trip to the Columbia County Clerk’s office was necessary. Although there are over 5 million records available through online naturalization databases, covering New York alone, I could not find a record for John. Persistence definitely pays off because I was able to find a couple of supplementary ledgers at the Clerk’s office, which may have been overlooked during microfilming. There is where I found John’s naturalization record. Contrary to popular belief, not everything is online!

My next research goal is to obtain a copy of John and Julia’s marriage record. Due to the time period they were married, a civil record does not exist. A distant cousin did some diligent detective work and contacted a parish in Albany that inherited St. Joseph’s church records. John and Julia’s marriage record does exist, although it is apparently in poor condition and is in Latin. I have been told that the parish priest is going to try to transcribe the document for us, so someday we will be able to have our only documentation of their marriage.

Do You Want To Make Discoveries Too?

Would you like to learn more about your ancestors’ lives? If so, send me an e-mail inquiry. I would be happy to discuss your family history with you.

Hillsdale Reformed Dutch Church: Columbia County Genealogy

Learn about Columbia County genealogy records associated with the Dutch Reformed Church and cemetery in Hillsdale, New York.

Also known as the Krum Church, the Hillsdale Reformed Dutch Church was formed in 1776. The name Krum seems to have derived from the association of the Krum family, whose property was in close proximity to the church.

At first, the church building serviced both Lutheran and Reformed congregations, and was known as the Reformed Lutheran Unity Church. Around 1806 or 1808, the church was reorganized as the Reformed Dutch Church of Hillsdale. Due to the formation of other Reformed churches in the neighboring town of Claverack, the membership of the Krum Church dwindled. The church was formally dissolved in 1851.

The church building was lost many years ago, but the cemetery is still in existence today.

Krum Church cemetery, Hillsdale, Columbia County, New York
Krum Church Cemetery

Hillsdale Reformed Dutch Church Genealogy Resources

Birth Record Krum Church
  • Available Krum Church records span from 1776 to 1849 and include transcriptions of
    • Baptisms
    • Marriages
    • Lists of congregants

The gravestones within the Krum Church Cemetery not only document dates of death, but a great deal of them provide ages at death, making calculation of birth years possible.

Krum Church cemetery, Hillsdale, Columbia County, New York

In addition, many of the inscriptions document family relationships, identifying wives, husbands, sons, and daughters.

The image to the left is the gravestone for “Caty, wife of Abraham Rivenburgh died Dec 28, 1837 aged 45 years 4 mos & 16 days

Although most of the gravestones are in poor condition, about 75 of the graves have been documented on the Find A Grave website.

Krum Church cemetery, Hillsdale, Columbia County, New York

Inscriptions and epitaphs were also transcribed in a publication produced about 50 years ago and contain information on just over 110 gravestones that were visible at that time.

To the right: “In memory of Charity Hall daughter of John and Phebe Becker who died Dec 1, 1827

The combination of these church and cemetery resources provide invaluable genealogical information on the early settlers of this part of Columbia County.

Genealogy Research Assistance

Do you have a question about ancestors who may have lived in the town of Hillside, or in other parts of Columbia County? Would you like assistance finding records? I would definitely be interested in learning about your family history research! Click the button below to submit your research question.