New York State Research
NY Genealogy, suggestions for study
- Feminine Suffix
- Name Changes & Variants
- Middle Initial
- Dutch Naming System
Before 1880, New York had no consistent requirement
for maintaining vital records. Generations of New Yorkers lived, worked
and died without appearing in public records. Thankfully, they were
recorded in the religious records of the state. Early churches were a
focus of the community. Most individuals were involved at least enough to
have important events such as baptisms or marriages recorded in the
ecclesiastic records. The major churches kept the best available records.
Land ownership for large tracts of the land in the state prior
to about 1840 was in a leasehold system. This was a private arrangement
between the large landholders and the leasee or renter. The information
was not recorded in deeds or public land records. The lease often provided
for tenancy for three lives and so the leaseholder would not have had the
need to make a will or probate record. Thus many of the families in the
state do not commonly appear in land records or probate records.
A variety of methods must be employed to search for family
information. Often the type of record which may be the most useful is
dependant upon the time period being studied.
1. Patronymics Patronymic names
were common in the colony until after 1700. The father's name was used
with a suffix to identify his children. Thus, the identifying name changed
in each generation. This is further complicated by the use of various
other means of identifying an individual. One man, Teunis Quick was found
in different records under four different names--his patronymic
(Thomassen), a surname (Quick), his place of origin (van Naarden) and his
trade, (Metselaer), which means butcher. The wife's name may appear more
consistently and be an aide in identifying the husband.
2. Femine Suffix The feminine
ending "in" or "en" was sometimes added to a surname. This should usually
be considered a feminine designation, especially in the time period before
3. Name Changes & Variants
-In early New York State, many name changes and variants occurred. Indexes
prepared by Arthur C.M. Kelly include see also entries to alert uses for
alternate spellings. Indexes are included in all Arthur Kelly's
books published by KINSHIP. The see also entries will indicate many cases
of name changes such as the name, "Goes" changed to become "Hoes".
4. Use of patronymic Middle
Initial -In the 19th century individuals were often
identified by a middle initial which corresponded to the father's given
name. This is especially important since many cousins received the same
given name (see Dutch Naming system described below) The resulting
grandchildren were contemporary so that the identifying initial is a
helpful means to distinguish between them.
5. Dutch Naming System -Until
about 1810, many New York families used the so called "Dutch Naming
System". In this system the first born male and female may be named for
the paternal grandparents and the second born male and female are named
for the maternal grandparents. Subsequent children are named for aunts and
uncles in the family. A study of names used in a family group is often
helpful in identifying individuals.
Since few vital records were recorded by the government before
1880, church records often provide the most complete sources of
information, especially if a family was not wealthy. Refer to the KINSHIP Catalog for a list of published records available for sale and
research. In this time period, most families relied on a local church for
functions of baptism and marriage even if their religion was quite
different. Since there were not many churches and since there was
the desire during this period to solemnize these events it is often
possible to find them recorded in church records.
Use the catalog to identify churches in the area that your family lived
and consult those church records for pertinent entries. CAUTION: The
surname search on our catalog will only list books with many entries for
that surname. Individual book indexes will identify surnames which
are not so plentiful.
Hessian Soldiers in the American Revolution- In the military section of
our catalog, you will find abstracts of information about the Hessians
(HETRINA) many of who defected, especially in German speaking sections of
The most difficult period for research. Many churches were
formed so there are many more records to locate and consult. Family bible
records and church records provided in manuscript volumes prepared by the
DAR may be a useful source. Much of the index is now online http://services.dar.org/Public/DAR_Research/search/?Tab_ID=6
There is also a card file located at the New York State Library in Albany
and portions of the index have been microfilmed by the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) for use in their family history
libraries. Census records of this time period only show heads of
households and age categories of those living in the household.
However, it may be possible to use a later census to fill in statistics
referring to this era. In areas where land was not held in the
leasehold system, deeds and mortgages are a rich source of
information. However, in New York State large areas were maintained
in the ownership of a single individual and leases given to the tenants
were not recorded in public land records. A census may be used to
determine where the individual could have lived and a search for
containing rentbooks and other tenant information may yield a reference to
changes in the lease indicating the death of the leaseholder. Watch for
the widow or a son to be named in place of the leaseholder. Few of these
records have been published so research must be conducted in archives or
on microfilm at LDS family history libraries. The Settlers
& Residents Series for Columbia County NY has published some
of Newspaper Records such as those found in the Newspapers section of the
Kinship Catalog, provide information about deaths and marriages which were
recorded in early newspapers.
Both the New York State
Library, Albany and the New York Public
Library have typescript copies of abstracts of newspaper notices
prepared by early genealogists. The New York Newspaper Microfilming
Project has attempted to preserve newspapers and is an excellent way to
find obituary and news notices. List of microfilmed New York
newspapers, organized by city or county is available
Census records in this time period list both heads of household
and all individuals living within the household. The State Census taken in
1855 and at 10 year intervals is more complete and helpful than the
Federal Census but few of the State Census are indexed. In our catalog you
will find New
York's Detailed Census of 1855, Greene County, by Fred
Q. Bowman. It is the publication of one county in the census.
You may use CD Indexes of Federal Census to locate families and then view
microfilm of State Census for that locality to gain more information such
as where an individual was born or how long he had resided in a particular
A through treatment of "State Censuses of New York 1825-1875" by
David P. Davenport was published in Genealogical Journal of the Utah
Genealogical Association, 14:4:172-197. This includes information which
may be learned from the population schedules as well as others such as the
manufacturing schedule. The article lists the availability of the
various census as well as some indexes which have been prepared.
See the Kinship Catalog for books by Mr. Davenport listed under Albany,
Montgomery & Schenectady & Schoharie Counties.
Information about soldiers serving in the Civil War has recently
become available on-line. You may access the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors to
search for your ancestor.
Vital Records such as Birth, Death and Marriage Records are
available. For events occurring outside of New York City, an index,
prepared annually, may be found at the New York State Archives, Albany.
FREE surname search of books listed on the KINSHIPNY bookstore. Click Here
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