Finding Births, Marriages, and Deaths for New York Ancestors: a 2012 Research Challenge and beyond…

New York genealogy research is among the most challenging tasks a professional genealogist has.  Finding vital records–births, marriages, deaths, divorces, adoptions–is especially difficult. 

  1. Cemetery inscriptions, and on occcasion sexton’s entries, are indexed on 4×5 cards available on microfilm through Family History Centers of the LDS Church. 
  2. Church registers, kept by even very early congregations, are episodic.  Some years are well covered, some denominations are more consistent than others.  
  3. Newspaper announcements, where the English tradition of publishing intent to marry as well as descriptions of the actual marriage itself, often are the most accessible. 
  4. Family bibles, best discovered in the typed volumes of the New York Daughters of the American Revolution, can be researched at the New York State Archives.  The grandfather papers, typed into volumes and indexed on 3×5 cards at the New York State Archives, are often overlooked.  And since they are not included in the main Grandfather Papers of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (on microfilm through your nearest Family History Center of the LDS Church), they are easily missed.
  5. Even the census records are difficult–some cities are omitted from the microfilmed schedules.  And although original county schedules exist for parts of the 1850 census in local county archives, the version available on microfilm in most libraries is a copy made for the National Government–which may or may not include all the entries in the originals.  To see the originals you have to visit the local archives or send an agent in your behalf.  The 1855 New York State census gives county of birth if your ancestor was born in the state of New York.  Every once and a while, the clerk includes counties of birth for persons not born in New York!  So not all is dark.
  6. has captured many births, marriages, and deaths for New York City among their databases–one of the first places to search if you have City ancestors. 
  7. And then, some public-minded individuals record deaths of persons around their own area of residence.  These entries can be found in genealogy collections deposited in public and private libraries all across the state.  Best place to find these is in the “classic” version of the Family History Library catalog online or at the Family History Center nearest you.  And recorded in lists published in county and town histories or in genealogical and historical society periodicals.  Their quarterlies and sometimes their newspetters include vital records–some in each volume.

Most of these New York sources are printed, with printed letter; few are in cursive characters.

In 2012, a new threat to genealogy access–

Elementary and junior high schools are phasing out teaching cursive writing to students.  My 7-year-old grandson cannot read cursive; his school district has quit teaching cursive writing and reading.  New technologies are taking over in the classroom–some schools now issue IPAD’s and other digital devices to students as they begin classes.  These tablets are to replace textbooks published with printed letters–cheaper year-by-year and costs are driving education in the same way they seem to be driving medicine.  The need for cursive learning is being questioned by state departments of education.

Brigham Young University-Idaho still requires elementary education students–future teachers–to take handwriting as a special class.  It is required for graduation.  How long can they sustain support for such skills?

What does cursive writing have to do with your genealogy?

Just when we convince libraries and archives, as well as commercial companies who cater to genealogists to supply images of the original documents in which our ancestors are recorded..

Just when we can finely document an ancestor’s life from original records…

Some 43 states have adopted the national standard to begin in the 2013-14 school year, that eliminates cursive writing as a required skill.   Keyboard prowess will be instituted as the national standard.

The generations who follow us will not be able to read these images!

Your favorite New York genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS  Remember when we complained about pedigrees built only on printed sources? A genealogy dilemma

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