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:
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”.
As you scroll through each page of any particular town you will get to the section titled, “II. Marriages”.
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 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:
“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
“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!
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
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
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.
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.
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.
After first finding and reading his obituary, I was pleased to know that he was so well liked and respected in the community.
“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.”
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.
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.
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 RecordCollections
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
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.
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.
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 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 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!)
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.
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!