Sunday, January 08, 2006

NYS Library, Museum and Archives

Have you ever had a great day?

Well I had a GREAT day last Friday!

I had to go to Albany for family reasons and then got to spend a half a day at one my favorite places, the NYS Library and the NYS Archives. I actually got quite a lot accomplished in such a short time. It is good to have your ducks in a row now when you travel to do research, due to the cost of fuel and other expenses. I like to eat.

So I pretty much knew what I wanted to look at when I got there and went right to it. The Library is on the 7th floor of the Cultural Education Center in the Empire State Plaza. This building contains the NYS Library, NYS Museum and the NYS Archives.

First thing, after a snack of course, was to apply for a NYS Library Borrowers Card and a PIN number. I have no intention of borrowing any books from the library because I can guarantee you that they would not be returned on time, but what I was interested in was to see what might be available on-line from home with a borrowers card. Well Holy Smokes! There is a ton of stuff available on-line to every single citizen of New York State, all you have to do is go there in person and apply for a card. You will need a photo ID. I will be writing an in depth report on things that genealogists will benefit from by just having a library card, in a forthcoming article in the UNYG Newsletter.

The information sheet that comes with the card says that you can now borrow materials from the 19 Million(!) item collection. Most of the books that genealogists would want are probably ones that are in the Reference section and not available for loan, but there are many others that you may borrow and use at home.

If you want to see what books are new go to: Check out the History section, many of those are available for loan.

If you just want to search the library catalog go to:

The next thing I did was to look at some of the fabulous books of the New York State Chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Abstracts of Records Collection. These are Bible records, Wills, Cemetery Records, etc., that those lovely ladies throughout New York State have accumulated through many years and they are all available in the hundreds of books in the collection. There is an excellent index that has been published by the late Jean Worden who cataloged all of the various collections. There is also a card file index, (you remember card files right?), that is on the 7th floor library Genealogy/Local History main reference area. The librarians are extremely knowledgeable and helpful.

I did a quick check on some of the surnames that I collect data on and came up with a typed copy of a Bible record of a brother of one of my 2nd great grandfathers. It will be extremely helpful in filling in specific vitals. I also found another Bible record of a family that has the same surname as one of my 3rd great grandmothers and he lived near the same community that I suspect she came from, so I will be looking into this line to see if there is any connection.

The Capital District Genealogy Society has a volunteer research assistant there also and the lady that I talked with was extremely helpful. For one item that I was looking for she was not able to locate immediately and due to the fact that I was on a tight schedule I figured I would leave it for the next rip. Lo and behold, when I got home there was an email from her giving the full citation and location. Now that’s service!

I then went up to the 11th floor to the NYS Archives and filled out an identification card that is good for the whole year and deposited all my junk in the free locker and entered the inner-sanctum. Use pencils only, no pens, no computers, no briefcases, no purses, no file folders, etc. You are allowed to use a digital camera only, but you must ask permission first. The people at the reference desks there really know their collection and will help you zero right in on what you would hope to find.

In my case I knew exactly what I wanted to look at because I had used these specific items about twenty years ago. I am going to write up full details about a collection that I feel is not used enough, and will be doing an index to many thousands of NYS residents that resided throughout the whole state for almost a hundred years. More to come and no clues…

The Archives only pulls items twice a day, at 10 am and 2 pm. So if you know what you want it would be good to call ahead a day or two, or contact them by email and let them know what you want to look at and they will have everything ready for you when you get there.

You can get a fair lunch on the 4th floor at the Subway fast food court, the only one in the tower, but they have a pretty good selection of salads and soups, as well as the Subs. I took a quick wander into the Museum on the main concourse and spent a few moments of reflection in the WTC Ground Zero 9/11 exhibit.

Then in the gift shop I found a book by Philip Lord titled “Mills on the Tsatsawassa: A Guide for Local Historians”. What this little book does is to study the industrial development of the tiny community of Hoags Corners in Rensselaer County. The book is very well illustrated and through a rather scientific approach to the study of construction, tools, land deeds, maps, and archeology, he has been able to show in modern times just what the earliest settlement of the mills and residences might have looked like. The book was only five bucks and is an excellent study just for the ideas that it will give you to provide further research on one of your own projects. Phil likes tough titles, another favorite is “War Over Walloomscoick,” which is about the Battle of Bennington.

All in all it was a very good day.

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