Family Research Info

Genealogy 101 (2008)

Of special interest: Historians-Corner-3-21-2014

When genealogists travel to other areas to do research I encourage visitors to call ahead, get an appointment, and bring all pertinent research materials. Many libraries and historical societies are operated by volunteers and hours may be limited for research.

Genealogy 101: Begin with you, your family and document what you know, such as dates of births, marriage, death and burial information. Four forms will help you keep organized: Family Group Sheets – one for each marriage of husband, wife and children – every marriage is a unit; History Sheets – for stories about each person (childhood, church affiliation, job, hobbies, etc.); Ancestral Charts – for direct line of descent; Interview Sheets – get a list of questions you need answered to continue your search and find out all you can from parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, etc.

What is Primary or Secondary Information? According to the Board for Certification of Genealogists, primary information comes from a person who was at the event, either participating in it or witnessing it. It is also judged on how soon the information was collected and the reliability of the person giving the information. Original records of events and may include: diaries, journals, state or federal census records, courthouse records such as deeds, will probates, birth or death records, baptism or marriage records, ship's passenger lists and military records. Secondary information, on the other hand, is given by someone who has heard about an event from someone else. Published records, including: family histories, indexes or compilations of census or marriage records, any sort of history (county, state, etc.), and collections of cemetery inscriptions, for example. Primary records are, of course, the most reliable sources, but secondary records can provide you with many clues for further research.

It is possible for a single record to have both primary and secondary information. Some examples are: Birth certificates when reported by the mother, father who was present or attending midwife/physician, the date of birth and sex of the baby are primary information. If the age or birthplace of the mother is reported by the father, it is secondary information. Death certificates with the date and place of death, reported by someone present, are primary information. The age, birthplace and parents’ names of the deceased would all be secondary – the only reason the person reporting would know these is by being told earlier.

An original genealogical record or source is one that is just that – original. It was not copied from another record, and is considered the most reliable.

Oral History – Interviews: To fill in gaps on ancestral charts and family group sheets, genealogists interview relatives. Obtaining these oral histories can lead to some fascinating conversations with family members.

To begin conducting an oral history, make a list of relatives or close family friends to speak with either by telephone, in person, or by mail or e-mail. Think about what you want to talk about with each person, then write out a list of questions to guide your conversation. These questions can range from capturing or verifying basic details like dates and places of major life events to recording stories about what relatives were like as children and what it was like to grow up during a particular time in history. Send a list of questions to the person before your appointed interview time to give them an opportunity to get pictures and other items ready to share with you as well as give them time to remember details that may be otherwise left out. Letting people know the types of questions you'll be asking ahead of time can help them recall things better.

Beginning an oral history interview can be as simple as asking a relative to show you old photographs or other family memorabilia. Having people talk about what is happening in the pictures or explain the objects they have collected can also help them remember stories to share.

When interviewing people, record the name of the person being interviewed, as well as the date and location of the interview. Since it's often difficult to write down essential information when someone is speaking, recording personal interviews on audio or video tapes can also be helpful.

Remember that some of the answers obtained through oral histories may be wrong. People can forget names, places and dates, so verify the information you obtain in vital records, a family Bible, or church records.

Vital records, including birth, marriage, and death certificates. These records can be found at the city or town clerks office. New York State records begin around 1880, Vermont state records begin around 1761. A death certificate will give you the person’s date and place of birth and death as well as parents names and birthplace; please note who gave the information.

Probate records, such as wills, adoptions and guardianships can be located at the county court house.

Military records provide key information about ancestors, including the color of their eyes. To request veterans' records for wars fought between 1776 through 1918, contact the National Archives. For veterans' records from subsequent wars, contact the National Military Personnel Records Center. Only the soldier or a member of a deceased soldier's family may obtain records for these more current wars.

Passenger arrival records are available from the National Archives. The Passenger and Immigration Lists Index (Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1981) is a guide to published arrival records of approximately 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Naturalization records are available from the National Archives, one of its regional branches, or the county courthouse where the naturalization took place. Oswego County Records Center has this information.

City directories are helpful when you know the city in which an ancestor lived, but not the address. Published annually, these directories list each inhabitant by name, as well as that person's address and occupation. They also provide a listing of businesses in a community. Libraries and the Oswego County Records Center have these directories.

Land records are documents relating to the buying and selling of land. For example, deeds are the record made of the transfer of property from one person to another. Land Records are housed at the county clerk’s office – In a land conveyance the seller is called the grantor and the buyer is called the grantee. Write down the address where the deed is filed; book and page number from the deed index; location of property (town, county); date of deed; date the deed was recorded; grantor; grantee; price (consideration); description of land; wife’s name; witness. You may also learn the original purchaser of property, early road names, neighbor’s names, age of building, migration information, etc.

Church records include information about baptisms, marriages, burial records.

Burial records: Cemeteries can provide the location of an ancestor’s grave and information contained in tombstone inscriptions. When visiting a cemetery to collect these details first check with the sexton for plot map information, then take pictures or draw sketches of the tombstone and any designs on it. The shape, size and decoration of the stone may have had a special meaning to an ancestor or provide details about his or her life. Local funeral homes can be a good resource also.

Maps: Often used as clues to where ancestral records can be found, maps reveal changing place names and boundaries of political jurisdictions.

Magazines and newspapers provide the news of the day and record details about styles and practices of certain eras. Additionally, they can include birth, death, and marriage announcements; news articles about family members; professional notices and business advertisements; public notices and sales; personal advertisements for lost and found items, places for rent or sale, and help-wanted ads. Libraries have back copies of periodicals or magazines and previous issues of newspapers that may be available on microfilm.

Census records can be found at most libraries, historical societies and historian’s offices. The U.S. took a census every ten years beginning in 1790. The New York State Census was completed for the following years: 1825 (all partial), 1835, 1845, 1855, 1865, 1875, 1892, 1905, 1915, and 1925. The original records for the State's pre-1915 census are kept at the county level. You may contact the county clerk's office to ascertain their availability and location. Original manuscripts of the 1915 and 1925 census records are maintained by the State Archives. The 1865 and 1875 New York State Census also includes mortality schedules in the census which records the marriages and deaths for the year. 1890 New York Federal Census Records were destroyed in a fire with the exception of small fragments of Suffolk and Westchester Counties. The 1890 Veterans and Widows census records schedules for New York did survive and can be helpful as a census substitute.

Most New York State Censuses are not indexed, however there are some online indexes being created. Information that can be gleaned form these records include heads of households, parents, children, ages, occupations, birthplaces, real estate, etc. depending on the year. (1790-1850 only list heads of households, by 1850 other family members were listed) The 1930 Census was released to the public on 1 April 2002 and showed a total population: 123,202,624. For each person listed in the 1930 Census, the entry shows: address; name ("of each person whose place of abode on April 1, 1930, was in this family...Include every person living on April 1, 1930. omit children born since April 1, 1930"); relationship to head of household; home owned or rented; value or monthly rental; radio set; whether on a farm; sex; race (W=White, Neg=Negro, Mex=Mexican, In=Indian, Ch=Chinese, Jp=Japanese; Fil=Filipino, Hin=Hindu, Kor=Korean, "other race, spell out in full"/for Indian: whether of full or mixed blood, and tribal affiliation); age; marital status, age at first marriage; school attendance; literacy; birthplace of person and parents; if foreign born; language spoken in home before coming to the U.S.; year of immigration ; whether naturalized (Na=Naturalized, Pa=First Papers, Al=Alien), and ability to speak English; occupation, industry, and class of worker; whether at work previous day (or last regular working day) - if not, line number on unemployment schedule (these schedules no longer exist); veteran status (WW=World War, Sp=Spanish-America War, Civ=Civil War, Phil=Philippine Insurrection, Box=Boxer Rebellion, Mex=Mexican Expedition); number of farm schedule (these schedules no longer exist).

Additionally, historian’s offices, some libraries and historical societies maintain scrapbooks or indexes of local events or people, vertical files containing information about local individuals and happenings, and local history collections.

Please, always cite and document your research sources and which research facility you found them.

New York State Archives:
The index at the NY state archives covers the entire state outside of New York City and starts in June 1880 (deaths) or 1881 (marriages and births).
Birth indexes are made available after 75 years, marriage and death indexes after 50 years. An index entry states only the name of the person, date and place of event, and State certificate number. The indexes do not include births and deaths in Albany, Buffalo, and Yonkers prior to 1914, or marriages in those cities prior to 1908 . Search fees for a single name in the state archives index is 1-3 years $10 plus; 4-10 years $20 plus; 11-20 years $40 plus. These fees are approximate, the exact amount to be determined upon request. Each certificate copy from the NYS Department of Health is $22. Payment methods: check, money order, PayPal credit. email requests to:

The New York State Library's Newspaper Project: A Project partially funded by a National Endowment for the Humanities grant and administered by the New York State Library. The New York State Newspaper Project, which began in 1987, identifies, describes, and preserves on microfilm New York's community newspapers. The Project has been carried out through nine regional projects based on the state's nine regional Reference and Research Library Resources Systems. Obituaries, birth and marriage notices can often be located and photocopied. The link to the contents of this collection: email requests to:

Ok, I have given readers some insight into what records are available to family historians recording their family history and now I will include what records are available to researchers at the Sandy Creek History Center.

Sandy Creek Census 1830 through 1920; Cemetery recordsand books documenting all cemeteries in Sandy Creek; Scrapbooks; Sketches; Sandy Creek News (microfilm), Yesterdays Album (MKP); Photos (family and local views); Family genealogies; History files; History Books including House Histories by Sanford Wheeler; Pierrepont Papers; Church histories; Hadley Marriage Records; Fire Department Records and History by Helen Potter; Maps of Sandy Creek 1854, 1867, 1889 and Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Lacona and Sandy Creek villages which identify individual buildings on each block and information includes a given building's height and street address and much more and many photographs which have been imaged and scanned for public viewing.

Family researchers needing help can call my office for an appointment.

My office has produced many local history books which are for sale at the History Center and are listed on this web site under Books For Sale.

The internet is a valuable tool but be careful…..the information may be incorrect and must be checked by you before adding it to your family tree. Some DAR records are incorrect as well as family trees.


  • My grandmother (born 1903) is the child of a second marriage but is not listed in genealogies (including Ancestry), although the second wife is listed.
  • My great grandfather is buried with his first wife as was the custom, the newspaper obituary has him buried one place but his death certificate has him buried somewhere else. The newspaper was correct!