Highlights From Holly’s Genealogy Research

Read below to learn about Holly’s genealogy research projects. Discover the places and time periods she investigates as well as the records she finds.

Columbia County, New York

Columbia County Genealogy Group

Do you have ancestors from Columbia County, New York? Then you are welcome to join the Columbia County Genealogy Facebook group!

Litchfield County, Connecticut

Litchfield County Connecticut Genealogy

Examination of 19th century church records for the town of Salisbury, in search of an 1830’s marriage record.

Berkshire County, Massachusetts

Berkshire County Massachusetts Genealogy

Analysis of probate records, with a focus on early 19th century wills and guardianship records for the town of Great Barrington.

Revolutionary War Service Record

Revolutionary War Service Records

Research of Revolutionary War service records to verify a soldier’s military service.

These types of records can provide evidence of a soldier’s rank, their enlistment date, length of service and promotions.

Warren County, New York

Warren County New York Genealogy

Reviewed pre-1850 deeds and maps in an attempt to identify any family connections for a man named Abraham Fry and his wife, Eliza.

Rhode Island and Massachusetts

Research of the Chase family of Rhode Island and Massachusetts – Investigating their link to Mayflower passengers.

Albany County, New York

Albany County New York Genealogy

Utilized published county histories to research early settlers in the western part of the county.

New London County, Connecticut

Connecticut Probate Records

Researched 18th century probate records to prove a father/daughter relationship between John Niles and Abigail (Niles) Chapman.

Warren County, New York

New York Newspaper Collections

Investigated newspaper collections to uncover details about an 1890’s murder trial in upstate New York.

Wayne County, Michigan

Researched early 19th century deed and land records in Michigan to find out more about the migration of families from New York State.

Analyzed case files from 19th century probate records to discover heirs and establish family relationships.

Lineage Applications

Hudson New York Genealogy

Conducted research to gather the required generational evidence/proof required for a Daughters of the American Revolution lineage application.

Advertisements from the 1871-72 Gazetteer of Columbia County New York

Reformed Dutch Church of Claverack

The Reformed Dutch Church in Claverack was first organized in 1716. Construction on the current building (photo to the left) began in 1767 on land owned by the Van Rensselaer family. Over the years, additions were added to the church, creating the sanctuary as it stands today.

To learn more about the history of the church, review the “Our History” section on the church’s About Us” webpage.

Online Church Records : 1727 – 1800

Ancestry.com has records of the Reformed Dutch Church of Claverack included in their database titled, “U.S. Dutch Reformed Church Records in Selected States, 1639-1989”.

Dutch Reformed Church of Claverack

The database content includes digitized copies of two handwritten, transcribed volumes of church records that date from 1727 to 1800.

The first volume begins with a list of the church’s founding congregants. The image below is an excerpt from a page listing the church elders and members of the building committee. Early settlers of the area, including the Ten Broek, Van Deursen and Iselstein/Eselstyne families are represented.

Dutch Reformed Church of Claverack

The volume also documents marriages occurring between 1727 and 1789, recording the names of grooms, brides and witnesses. Following the volume’s section on marriages, are records of baptisms from 1727 to 1783. These records include the name of the child, names of parents and witnesses.

The second volume continues with baptisms through 1800. Following the baptismal records is a section of marriage records. This section picks up where the first volume left off, documenting nuptials from 1790 through 1800.

Published Church Records through 1899

Two separate print publications compiled by Arthur Kelly provide documentation of baptisms and marriages performed at the Dutch Reformed Church of Claverack. Each book, one of baptisms and the other of marriages, are transcriptions of original church records and include indexes. These publications provide information on records that extend farther than the online database, containing records that date to 1899. The published transcriptions are available for purchase through Mr. Kelly’s website Kinship NY Genealogy & History Books, or they can be researched at the New York State Library.

Claverack Dutch Reformed Church Cemetery

The cemetery adjoining the Claverack Dutch Reformed Church has over 2,300 digital memorial records at Find A Grave.com and has gravestones dating from the early 18th century. Between 2001 and 2003, the church’s organist Andrea Spiciarich conducted an inventory of the cemetery and used historical sources to create an index of the gravestones. To view the index, click the “Cemetery Burial Research” button on the church’s cemetery webpage.

Genealogy Research Assistance

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

Do you have a question about ancestors who may have lived in the town of Claverack, 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.

Marriages Recorded in the New York State Census

If you have started any sort of family history research, you are most likely already aware of the value of census records. As a supplement to the federal census, New York State census records are a good way to trace your ancestors between federal census years, and they can provide some detail that federal records do not.

There is a particular value in 1865 and 1875 New York State census records, in that they recorded information on marriages that occurred within the 12-month period leading up to each census.

Athough I conduct genealogy projects utilizing New York State resources, as well as United States collections, my home base is Columbia County, New York. So the examples I use focus on Columbia County marriages. Certainly similar research can be done for any county in New York State. Reviewing and analyzing this information could assist in leading you to new avenues of research.

To make information on Columbia County marriages more accessible, researcher Susan Mulvey transcribed the records from the New York State census. The transcribed information is available on her Columbia County USGenNet site:

Susan provides a disclaimer concerning the quality of the digital images, which for some towns is definitely difficult to decipher, but it is a great resource if you have ancestors who may have gotten married in Columbia County in 1864/1865 or 1874/1875.

The transcriptions are categorized alphabetically by town and include the following information about each husband and wife:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Previous Civil Condition (single, widowed, etc…)
  • Month and Day of Marriage
  • City or town where the marriage occurred
  • Whether it was solemnized by a clergyman or civil magistrate

Pay attention to that last bit of information. Sometimes an entry contains an abbreviation for religious affiliation. This can be helpful if you find a marriage record for a particular couple from your family tree, or even a family surname that you can attribute to Columbia County. If the religious affiliation is indicated, this might just provide new insight into searching church collections in the area.

Browsing the Digital Records

If you would like to take a crack at browsing the digital records yourself, it takes a little bit of effort, but if you willing there is a way! Both sets of censuses are available on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. The trick is to browse through the New York State Census database image sets, first selecting the county, then selecting the town.

The first section of the census for each town is titled “I. Population”.

1875 New York State Census
1875 New York State census, section on population for the town of Austerlitz

As you scroll through each page of any particular town you will get to the section titled, “II. Marriages”.

1875 New York State Marriages
1875 New York State census, section on marriages recorded for the town of Austerlitz

There is also a section that recorded deaths in the 12-month period leading up to each census, which Susan has transcribed on her USGenNet site.

Additional sections for each town’s census contain information such as agricultural statistics and lists of houses of worship, as well as other notes and comments made by the census enumerator.

Share Your Story and Learn More

Were you able to discover new information about your family through researching the different sections of these New York State census records? Please share your story by leaving a comment below!

Do you have questions about researching New York State census records? Do you want to learn more about researching your family history? I would be happy to assist you. Just click the button below to send me an e-mail inquiry.

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.

Columbia County New York Genealogy

Columbia County Map

As a resident of Columbia County, this is where the foundation of my genealogy work begins. Here is where I most frequently conduct on-site research and gather information on the most relevant genealogy collections specific to the area. To help you learn more, I have summarized the types of Columbia County genealogy records available, which might assist in your family history research.

Types of Record Collections

Columbia County was formed in 1786, created out of a portion of Albany County. Some of the earliest records available for both counties can assist in your genealogy research. The information below focuses on records created after Columbia County’s formation.

Birth, Marriage and Death

Columbia County Church Records

The recording of Columbia County births, baptisms, marriages, and deaths began in the early to mid-1700s. This information can be researched through sources such as original church registers and published transcriptions of church records.

A complement to church records are collections that document gravestones. In addition to providing information on an ancestor’s year of death, gravestone inscriptions may also show evidence of their age at death, their birth year and family relationships. Websites such as Find A Grave provide valuable photo documentation of gravestones. However, not all internments are recorded through these online sources.

Sketch of gravestone inscription, Krum Church Cemetery

A supplement to these digital gravestone records are early twentieth century publications. These sources contain abstracts and transcriptions of gravestones which may no longer exist or are no longer physically visible, due to vandalism, deterioration or overgrowth.

Census Records

If you have started any sort of family history research, you are most likely already aware of the value of census records. Columbia County is included in available federal censuses, conducted every 10 years between 1790 and 1940. The county’s residents were also represented in New York State censuses conducted in 1855, 1865, 1875, 1905, 1915 and 1925.

  • New York State census records are a good way to trace your ancestors between federal census years. They can also provide some detail that federal records do not, which could lead to new avenues of research:
    • For individuals born in New York, early state census records list the county in which they were born.
    • The 1865 and 1875 censuses recorded information on marriages and deaths that occurred within the 12-month period leading up to each census.

Probate Records

Columbia County Probate Records
22 May 1789 Last Will and Testament – Columbia County Probate Collection

Probate records can be incredibly valuable in establishing family relationships through the naming of heirs. Columbia County probate records originated out of the Surrogate’s office in Hudson. Not only do they include wills, but also letters of administration, bonds, and court minutes dating as far back as the 1780s.

Land Records

Land records are an important, but mostly overlooked type of genealogical resource. Records of deeds for Columbia County date back to the 1780s (for earlier records, you would need to search Albany County).

  • Why are land records important? They document more ancestors than any other type of record, not only documenting 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 transactions, which could potentially lead back to the original owner (and perhaps more ancestors!)


Hudson Daily Star Newspaper

Throughout Columbia County history, newspapers have been published in Hudson, Kinderhook, Chatham, Hillsdale and Philmont. The newspaper collections available date as far back as the late 1700s.

Newspapers can provide surprising bits of information about your ancestors. Finding obituaries is usually the most common goal when searching newspaper collections. You can also discover some interesting anecdotes that might give you a more complete picture of your ancestor and how they lived. Notices and articles on community activities, politics, travel (and sometimes tales of scandal!) can be found through the local press.

Naturalization Records

Columbia County Naturalization Record
1887 Columbia County Court Naturalization Record

If your ancestor came to America and settled in Columbia County, they may have filed their citizenship declaration here. Naturalization records can potentially tell you about an ancestor’s country of origin and their year of arrival. Available records for individuals declaring their citizenship in Columbia County span from the 1830s to the 1930s.

Columbia County 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 enjoy learning more about your research and assisting you with any projects you are working on!

Finding 18th & 19th Century New York Birth Records

If research efforts to find your ancestor’s New York birth record have been unsuccessful, you already know that this can be a difficult task due to the lack of availability of state vital records prior to 1880.

Finding evidence of an ancestor’s birth not only potentially confirms the date and location of the event, but may also identify parents, and lead to further research of prior generations.

It’s important to understand that finding evidence of a birth is not exclusively found through a birth certificate. Your research goal should always be to find documentation that verifies the birth event, not just to find a specific document.

Using New York State Census Records

New York State Genealogy

Searching 19th century New York State census records can be the first step in accomplishing your goal, by identifying the county in which your ancestor was born. Determining an ancestor’s county of birth can lead to a more streamlined research approach. Once you identify your ancestor’s county of birth, you can then concentrate on genealogy resources available for that specific county.

New York State conducted censuses every ten years, starting in 1825. Most importantly, the 1855, 1865 and 1875 censuses requested information about a person’s county of birth, if they were born in New York State.

An example from one of my past projects is a woman named Martha Rebecca Wood. One of the research goals was to identify Martha’s parents. Through prior research, it was discovered that Martha was born c. 1835 in New York, and throughout her life, she resided in both Warren and Saratoga counties with her husband Edward Jesse Wood.

1875 New York State Census

New York State Census
Martha appears in the 1875 New York State census record, where her birthplace is documented as Saratoga County.

By pin pointing Martha’s county of birth through New York State census records, additional research methods including cluster research were used to attempt to identify her parents. Through this more direct, focused research on Saratoga County, Martha’s parents were identified as Lorenzo and Martha Frazier.

New York census record

Additional hint: The 1865 New York State census asked questions about military service. This can be helpful for male ancestors. Knowing if your male ancestor served in the military can potentially lead to finding military pension records, which in some cases can provide information on their birth or the identity of their parents.

Do you have any suggestions or recommendations for searching for evidence of a New York ancestor’s birthplace? If so, feel free to leave a comment below!

If you have any questions about family history research or would like to consult with me about a project, just click the contact button below to send an inquiry.

Using My Genealogy Detective Skills

I am a huge fan of vintage items. I love going to estate and yard sales to find old treasures. I have even created my own business on Etsy to sell the interesting antique and vintage things I come across.

The Find

Antique Photo Album

One time, at a sale, I found an antique photo album in pretty good shape. The person who was holding the yard sale had no idea where the album had come from, but was sure that it did not belong to their family.

I noticed that most of the pages of the album included handwritten notes from the original owner, identifying nearly all of the 50+ people in the album. This brought out the amateur sleuth in me. I was intrigued and had to buy it!

The Investigation

Since there were a number of surnames written in the album, and the photos weren’t necessarily grouped by family, I decided the first step in my detective work would be to organize all of the names in a spreadsheet. Another detail I culled from the album to assist in my history investigation was from the advertisement on the front page, which identified the location of the album’s manufacturer as Philadelphia.

One other lucky clue I got was from the original album owner, who actually wrote their own name and the year “1865” on the inside cover. Although I am sure I could have identified the album’s time period based on the ladies’ fashions or perhaps by identifying the photograph types (tintype, daguerreotype, etc…), this fortunate clue saved me some research time!

Once all of the information I had assembled was organized and I had a research approach, I did an online search of U.S. census collections on Ancestry.com. I used the time period and location information, in combination with the surnames I found written in the album, to refine the search.

Detective skills census record

My genealogy detective skills paid off quickly! It did not take long for me to find some of the people from the album in the 1870 U.S. census living together in the same household.

The Happy Ending

From there I searched Ancestry members’ family trees for a living descendent. I found a member who looked to be an active, frequent user of the site and I sent off a message. I started out by introducing myself and wrote:

Old Photo Album

“We are not related, but I wanted to write to you because I found an old photo album at a yard sale….”

I am happy to state, there was a very excited reply and a sense of amazement that I had found the album. Shortly thereafter, the heirloom was being shipped to a very grateful family member. I had done my good genealogy deed for the day!

Genealogy detective skills

So, now I always keep an eye out for vintage and antique photo albums when I go to yard and estate sales.

I have managed to find additional family albums since this one was found. Unfortunately, not all of them provided as many good clues as this one did. I am currently investigating the best sites and online groups to share and upload my mystery album photos, so if you have any suggestions, just let me know!

Can I help with any of your family history mysteries? If so, I would love to hear from you.