January 1994

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Genealogy 401


Elwyn R. Van Etten

101, 201, 301, 401, 501, 601 , Genealogical Terms

You started on your roots in your own living room and then moved on to the local library for additional help. You followed this up with a visit to the County Clerk's office and Surrogate Court-and perhaps back to the library. All that data is now assimilated and many bare spots are still on your family tree. Is uys all there is? Can't we add some leaves to the bare branches? Let's try.

The County Historical Society: At least in the Twin Tier area, all the counties have a historical society-most with museums as an integral part. It is fun to look at old artifacts and collections but somewhere in the building is the genealogical library. This area is blessed with outstanding genealogical collections in all our historical society museums. Cemetery listings will save many a cold, windswept trek to search for an elusive gravestone. (Save the trip until a balmy June day.) "People" files gleaned from censuses, newpapers, family bibles, church records, etc. are loaded with information on local residents both past and present. Vital statistics (birth, death and marriage) are available at some societies keeping you from having to bother an over-burdened Town or County Clerk with a foot-long list of questions. Many genealogists give their books, files and data sheets to historical societies for preservation, so family histories abound. Photographs, history books, maps, obituary files, city directories and much, much more is on hand at your county historical society.

The Town Historical Society: Generally, not as large as the county society but still a source not to be overlooked. Some elusive records are held by town societies—poll lists, for example, which will help prove the location of your ancestor at a particular time. Family histories and local "twice told tales" can furnish information not available anywhere else.

Town And County Historians: History and genealogy are inseparable. Historians and genealogy are not necessarily inseparable. A historian may have little or no interest in genealogy which is not in itself bad. But most historians who are unable to help directly can usually point you in the direction of someone in the locality who can help. Don't bypass the historians—they are most helpful.

Genealogical Societies: Genealogy is one of the fastest growing hobbies world-wide. With that growth came the birth and re-birth of genealogical organizations throughout the world. The people belonging to these groups have but one thing in mind—GENEALOGY!!! Their love of roots digging make them prime candidates for assistance with your problems. They usually have been through a long learning process so they know the pitfalls and where to direct you when they can't help directly. Most groups publish a quarterly journal which is loaded with helpful data, so it might be worthwhile to join at least one such society. Membership fees run from nominal to expensive but can pay large dividends to your searching.

Cemeteries: This is a fair-weather activity but richly rewarding. As previously noted, most cemeteries have been "read" so lists of burials are available somewhere. But, there is a great deal of satisfaction in finding a relative's gravestone—perhaps even photographing it for a permanent record or making a rubbing of the face of the stone. Large cemeteries with an office for the Sexton are most helpful in locating the actual burial site of your relative. At smaller cemeteries where you really have to search, a word of caution—Murphy's Law states "You always start your search at the wrong end of the cemetery," so be prepared.

Periodicals: The Genealogical Helper is the oldest and best known of the genealogical magazines, having been published for over forty years. It contains "how to" articles, inquiries, advertisements, book reviews, lists of researches, societies and family publications. Most libraries are subscribers in addition to having collections of the publications of genealogical groups from throughout the United States. This can be a gold mine of information.

Family Associations: The great upsurge in researching family roots has resulted in many newly-found cousins banding together in associations. They hold reunions, some annually, some less often. Rotating to various parts of the country, they become accessible to most family members. Almost all have a family historian with voluminous files on the family. Locally, the Stiles Family Association Historian is Leon Stiles of Penn Yan. At last count, his computer contained over 40,000 Stiles and related names. In addition he maintains a large library of books, files, etc. on the family.

These suggestions on sources for your continuing search should keep you busy for awhile, anyhow. Perseverance is a virtue in genealogy, so keep digging—the answers are out there somewhere.

101, 201, 301, 401, 501, 601, Genealogical Terms
© 1994, Elwyn R. Van Etten
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