Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Tours, Books, DNA, oh my!

Climbing My Family Tree: New York State Library Genealogy and Local History section.
New York State Library Genealogy and Local History section.
Photo: mine.

This past weekend I on a Walking Tour of the New York State Library’s Genealogical and Local History section. One of my friends had seen a write-up of the program in the newspaper and called to tell me about it since it said it was limited to 15 people. I went online to the library’s website. The program notice on the library’s website was enticing, “Join us for a tour highlighting published genealogies, local histories, church records, DAR records, United States and New York State census records, newspapers on microfilm, city directories, and more.” I quickly signed up at their website, and that’s how I came to find myself down at the New York State Museum/Library/Archives on Saturday, a bit before 11 AM.

The shameful thing is that I had never been there before – well, I’ve been to the museum parts of it, but not up to the library or archives – and I only live 7 miles away! I have used their online resources before, particularly in finding out more about the unit history of the New York artillery unit that my second great-grandfather fought in during the Civil War, along with some other things, but I hadn’t been to their physical facilities before.

The Genealogy and Local History department is on the seventh floor of the building that houses the state museum and state library and archives, on Madison Street in downtown Albany. Our guide for this one and a half hour tour was Shawn Purcell, Senior Librarian and subject specialist for genealogy and local history at the library, and the class turned out to be much bigger than 15 people. I think there were about 40 of us.

He showed us the online catalog at a station near the librarian’s desk and taught us some tricks I hadn’t figured out on my own on how to make our catalog searches better. To save time, and their resources – in terms of available computer stations dedicated to the online catalog – I can access the online catalog at home and do my initial search is there, then write down the information I need or print it out before coming to the library. Then I can either go directly to the stacks or fill out one of those green forms to have the item retrieved from archives.

Climbing My Family Tree: Cemetery, Church & Town records - lots of them!
Cemetery, Church & Town records - lots of them!
Photo: Mine

Mr. Purcell showed us their surname and vital record card file which contains information noted by former librarians, which is not contained in Google or in Ancestrydotcom. Then he showed us through the book stacks on the seventh floor pointing out where the genealogy pamphlet/ephemera boxes are kept, the church records, the DAR records, County information, and biographies, folios, and the microform and microfilm areas, including city directories, newspapers, Civil War unit histories, and something called the Gabit Index, which, as I understand it, is an index in which a former librarian wrote down all marriage and death notices in the state (and one county into each bordering state) during the time that he was librarian. The hour and a half tour just flew by. It seemed like only minutes had passed when it ended. I will be back to look up the Henns in Oswego and Onondaga Counties in the late 1800s!

DNA image from

I believe I’ve mentioned recently that I’ve made a DNA connection, or rather my Dad’s DNA has (apparently I didn’t inherit that bit), to a woman who connects at the person I had found in designated a probable third grandfather, Thomas Bennett of Schull, County Cork, Ireland. She descends from one of my second great-grandfather’s probable siblings. I suppose if it’s a DNA connection is more than probable, but I mean to say that I don’t have a documented connection yet. So recently I have been researching the persons she named in her tree as my second great-grandfather’s siblings because in the past I have found that I am able to make connections up and sideways through research done on siblings that I have not been able to make through my direct ancestor. Researching siblings has been very helpful to me. In the course of this I was contacted by another DNA connection to my Dad; she seems to be related through my probable third great-grandmother, the wife of the aforementioned probable third great grandfather. I didn’t have anything she needed and I haven’t heard back but it does seem to confirm that relationship, so I continue to do collateral research. There are quite a few siblings is going to take a while.

In addition, this past week I was contacted by another distant relative, whose father connects in a bit lower on the same line, and I’ve been checking my paper files to see if I have clues that will help her cut through one of her brick walls. So this past week I did not get anything done toward scanning or recording the information I picked up from my parents when I last visited them.

I also received some books in the mail that I had forgotten I’d ordered:

Climbing My Family Tree: Recently Received Books to Help with Genealogy Research
Recently Received Books to Help with Genealogy Research

These will be fun to go through when I have (or make)  the time.

I also made some corrections to my article about Aunt Angie, supplied by her husband after he saw it.

As to the other intentions I mentioned in my New Year’s post, well, this is my first “chatty” post this year that does not involve an ancestor bio. I’ve kept up with my 365 photography project and have tied in with a 365 project on Instagram in which they give you a word for each day of the week and your photo is supposed to represent that word somehow. I was able to use my family history material in the 365 project when the word of the day was “old” and I took and posted a picture of several old family photos of my grandparents, my great-grandparents, and my second great-grandmother on my Wilcox line. (The Instagram account for The Genealogy Roadshow “liked” my picture – oh wow!). I haven’t managed to watch the genealogy webinar yet, but I bought one. I also haven’t watched any of my CLE webinars, or the ones I bought from The Great Courses during their huge sale around New Year’s. I still haven’t taken the camera out of the box. I started a book of short stories but haven’t finished it. I have lost 3 pounds, but have failed miserably at getting more sleep, averaging four hours a night in the past week. I have not yet done anything with the YNAB software other than download it. I’ve realized that I forgot to set aside a day for church work other than Sunday in my planning, and that I’ll be at the church nearly every Tuesday night. I haven’t been getting home from work any earlier, and, while I have limited my time on Facebook, to a degree, that has been more than offset by my discovery of Quora!

So I remind myself that not everything needs to be done at once. I need not even start on all of my intentions at once. There are 11 ½ more months to go. And now...I should go to bed.

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