Friday, June 10, 2016
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
by Rich Remling, former board member, CNYGS
If you are doing any urban research in the 19th century and early 20th century you’ll want to lay your hands on these books. They are a goldmine of information about city residents and the neighborhoods in which they lived. In my city, Syracuse, you can find them in a number of areas. Besides city hall they are in the Onondaga County Public Library downtown, the law library on the fifth floor of the County Court House and the Syracuse University College of Law Library. There are even a few online at familysearch. To give an idea of the information these books contain I looked through the 1888 volume, Proceedings Of The Common Council And Reports of the City Officers Of The City Of Syracuse, N.Y., For The Fiscal Year 1888. The references below come from this book.
You will find information about lawsuits that were filed against the city. At the Common Council meeting of Jul 2, 1888 the following communication was entered into the Council minutes. “From Mrs. Sarah O. Wright presenting claim for damages in the sum of $1000 for injuries alleged to have been caused by a defective sidewalk near the corner of Montgomery and Taylor streets.” This was forwarded on to the City Attorney for review. Some cases are dismissed, others are settled and some go to trial. Judgments can then be appealed. Cases like Mrs. Wright’s were not uncommon in the 19th century. There were many streets that had wooden plank sidewalks and over time would wear out.
Other claims against the city were found. Take for instance a claim from Richard Reynolds “for damages for alleged injuries sus¬tained by him, by reason of the hook and ladder truck running into his carriage upon the 9th day of June, 1888.” This was also referred to the City Attorney.
There is a ton of information about public works projects. The late 19th century was a time of extraordinary growth as surrounding areas were annexed into the city. Surveys and maps were completed that opened new streets and extended existing ones. The streets eventually were graded, and sewers put in. The sewers were made of cement, brick or tile, and the larger trunk sewers were 60 inches or more in diameter. The roads were either paved with sandstone or cobblestone or were macadamized using small stones that were bound together by a stone dust and water mixture. Contractors were hired to do street sprinkling starting in the spring and ending on October 31st to help keep down the dust. Sidewalk grades were established and plank sidewalks were installed. In order to request a plank sidewalk a certain number of property owners had to sign a petition that was then presented to the Common Council. The city even furnished and attached house numbers on the residences. Numbered houses started appearing in the Syracuse city directories in the 1880s.
Sometimes city residents had to make a request to the city to get a permit to erect something. For instance, Nelson E. Case requested through his alderman permission to “erect and maintain a watering trough in front of his premises No. 231 South Salina street.” This was subsequently referred to the Highway Committee and was favorably passed at the Common Council meeting on Sept 24, 1888.
You can also learn a lot about the city from reading these books. For instance, I knew that cities employed weighers of hay, but I had never heard of vinegar inspectors! Apparently cities paid people to inspect the quality of vinegar. Monthly reports were duly submitted to the Common Council. A big money maker for the city was the issuance of licenses. A total of $36,444.15 was generated from licenses issued to 33 hotels, 46 druggists, 100 storekeepers and 568 ale and beer establishments. Also voter registration and polling occurred in places that might seem foreign to us today. In 1888 depending on what ward and section you resided in, you might have voted in someone’s barn, store, barber shop, office, house or even at the sexton’s office of the Rose Hill Cemetery!
The annual report by the Board of Police Commissioners for 1888 summarized the activities of the police force. A total of 4407 arrests were made; 865 prisoners were taken to the penitentiary; 70 prisoners were arrested on telegrams from other cities; 570 lodgers received shelter; 316 business places were found open during the night time and protection given until the owners could be notified; 374 electric lights were reported as not burning; 129 houses were watched while their owners were enjoying their summer vacations; 94 children were picked up in the streets and brought to their homes; and 42 stray horses were taken to the barn for their protection and care.
The minutes also contained invites accorded to the Mayor and the Common Council to various events. At the Dec 3, 1888 meeting, the Root Relief Corps proffered an invitation to attend their bivouac at the Armory. At the Feb 4, 1889 meeting, the Mayor and Common Council were invited by the School Board to attend graduation exercises at the Wieting Opera House for the first school class of 1889.
You will also find street name changes in these minutes. At the December 17, 1888 meeting, a motion was adopted “That the name of Chestnut Street be and the same is hereby changed to that of Crouse Avenue.” Other name changes over the years were Grape Street to Townsend Street, Foot Street to James Street, Orange Street to McBride Street and Mulberry Street to State Street. Streets were also renumbered as additional side streets were added to the map. Houses were relocated as well. This was especially common in the 1860s and 1870s in Syracuse.
From this cursory look we can see that Common Council proceedings are a must resource for genealogists and house historians!
©2016 Richard Remling
Thursday, April 7, 2016
by Nancy Maliwesky
Clarissa Stallknecht was already a fixture on the Central New York Genealogical Society board when I signed on in 2012. As President and Hospitality Committee Chair, she not only voted for my crazy idea to start a biennial New York State based family history conference in Syracuse, but she volunteered to be on the planning committee. She put together the Conference’s first budget, attended weekly meetings, kept me organized and focused, helped me navigate the event planning with the venue staff and handled all the registration materials and the fine details that often slip through the cracks. She then took on a larger role with the 2015 and 2016 Conferences, coordinating our vendors and exhibitors.
She did this while working full-time, volunteering for the Brewerton Fire Department, acting as treasurer for the New York State Council of Genealogical Organizations, acting as Historian for the Fort Brewerton Historical Society, pursuing her own genealogical research, being a hands-on mom and grandmother and caring for an elderly neighbor.
Clarissa lived her life. She put her money where her mouth was, and supported the many organizations and people that she cared about. She never let anything stop her from doing what she felt needed to be done. She had health issues, but she didn’t talk about them. She just kept on going.
She didn’t seek out accolades; in fact, I think she preferred working out of the spotlight. She gave her friends her time, her advice, her thoughtful concern and her great sense of humor. She would tell me when she thought I was biting off more than I could chew, and she was usually right. I always knew she had my back.
If I have learned anything from knowing Clarissa, it is to live your life. Live your life. Do what you can, do what you think you can’t. Surprise yourself and never settle. Move forward with no regrets. Live your life.
I will miss you, my friend, and I look forward to catching up one day. I know you will have some great stories to tell me. Until then, come down to Dover, it’s warmer here and the birdfeeders are full. I’ll be keeping an eye out for you.
So fly, on your impossible wings
Be true to who you are in everything
Don’t settle for what doesn’t seem right
And raise your fists to this beautiful fight
I see you, big as a bird’s heart
I see you, brave as the day’s start
I see you, true as the North Star
I see you, beautiful as you are
I see you, I see you, I see you.
©2016 Nancy Maliwesky
Nancy Maliwesky, past Central New York Genealogical Society Board Member and Chair of the New York State Family History Conference worked as a professional genealogist with the American Pomeroy Historic Genealogical Association for ten years. Recently retired, and now living with her husband in Dover, Delaware, she continues to pursue her passion for genealogical research and writing. She is also a singer/songwriter (the self proclaimed "Singing Genealogist") and an artist.
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
by Rich Remling, former board member CNYGS
I think my favorite types of grave markers are “tree stump” stones. For one thing they are rather rare. You don’t see a lot of them around. But what really gets me is how striking they are. They really are beautiful pieces of art. These stones were popular from the 1880s to the early 1900s. Here are two examples from Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse. The photo below on the left is of Minnie Beard’s monument. The inscription “Francis & Duffy Syracuse” is found near the bottom of the stone, although it does not show up in this photo. Daniel J. Francis & Hugh A. Duffy were the proprietors of The Syracuse Marble and Granite Works located at 17, 19 and 21 W. Onondaga St. The business was founded in 1865 and as of 1885 it had between 15 and 20 employees. There was no carver’s name inscribed on the second stone to the right, that of Edward Augustus Putnam.
If you drive down Rt 5 in Elbridge heading west you’ll pass the Elbridge Rural Cemetery on your left. Not too far from the entrance to the cemetery is probably the largest example of tree stump artistry that you’ll find in Onondaga County. It commemorates the Millious family. The carver’s name and location, “F. O. Cross, Chicago Ill” can be seen on the bottom of the photo on the right. He was born and raised in the southern tier of NYS and moved to Chicago where he started carving stones. By 1890 he had moved to Indiana.
The above monument was commissioned by Elizabeth Ann Dibble, daughter of William S. and Eliza Millious. Other family members inscribed on front side of the monument include two siblings of Elizabeth Ann (Olive and William Simeon) and their grandmother Prudence Millious, wife of Jacob Millious. I can just imagine the feelings that Elizabeth Ann must have experienced as she waited in the cemetery for the arrival of the limestone marker. It would have been crated and shipped either by rail from Chicago or by water via the Great Lakes and the Erie Canal. Then at some point it was loaded onto a wagon and taken the remaining miles to the cemetery where Elizabeth Ann was waiting. As the workers broke open the crate and hoisted the monument onto its base, what an impressive sight it must have been. That is until Elizabeth Ann started reading the writing on the stone and realized that her grandmother’s death date was wrong! If you look closely at the dates you’ll see Elizabeth Ann’s father William S. was born on Dec 16, 1802, yet his mother Prudence died May 22, 1883 at the age of eighty-five years making her four years old at the time of her son’s birth in 1802. Searching for Prudence in Findagrave reveals a second entry for her. One entry is from Elbridge Rural and the other is from Redman Ground cemetery. The Redman Ground photo for Prudence has her death date of May 22, 1853 aged 85. Since the shape of the numerals “8” and “5” are very similar it is quite possible that the carver misread the handwriting on the order form and carved 1883 instead of 1853. Whether or not Prudence’s remains are in Redman Ground and the marker in Elbridge Rural is a cenotaph, or her remains were taken from Redman and reinterred in Elbridge Rural, I do not know.
The Town of Elbridge should be commended for the work they have undertaken at this cemetery. An impressive roadside marker dedication ceremony was held on Aug 10, 2013 to dedicate the new blue and gold marker for the cemetery. Over twenty-one revolutionary war veterans are buried there. I attended this event with a number of DAR and SAR folks. Elbridge Boy Scout Troop 52 started the ceremony by marching to the cemetery flagpole and lowering the present day fifty star flag and raising a thirteen star flag. After the pledge of allegiance was recited, town historian Jack Horner welcomed everyone and thanked all for coming. Syracuse SAR chapter president Bob Gang gave a speech and read a roll call of the veterans buried there. Representatives from several local DAR chapters also spoke. Town supervisor Ken Bush gave a speech for the dedication of the roadside historical marker. Among the hundred or so spectators a number of them were direct descendants of the veterans. Also present were two American Legion posts whose members fired a salute. The Jordan Historical Society had charge of refreshments.
Over the past few years, efforts have been made to refurbish some of the larger stones in the cemetery. As can be seen by the photo below, these monuments have been lifted, cleaned and new bases installed. Wouldn’t it be nice if all cemeteries were given the attention that this one has received!
©2016 Richard Remling
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Thursday, January 28, 2016
by Rich Remling, former board member CNYGS
- Read genealogy blogs. I’m always amazed at those genealogists who are able to consistently put posts out on the blogosphere that are well thought out, interesting and enjoyable to read. I thought that Dick Hillenbrand’s blog was the best blog source on genealogy in upstate New York. He was always spot on with his posts and I always got a chuckle out of them. I’ll never forget his post about getting lost in the woods. Another blogger, Judy Russell, is really on another planet. If you haven’t checked out the Legal Genealogist’s blog yet, please do so! She posts virtually every day, and she responds to most every comment people leave for her. And she properly cites her sources. She is amazing. I also like Taneya Koonce’s blog. She is a young librarian who got bit by the genealogy bug about a decade ago. Her blog is heavy on software and technology. Her specialty is African American genealogy. Although I personally don’t do any of that ethnic research, I always find myself getting motivated by the energy and enthusiasm she writes with. And I love seeing a young person really into genealogy!
- Learn to be more computer literate. Like most genealogists I did not take computer classes in high school. The first time I ever had exposure to the computer was when as a physics major in my junior year of college I took a course titled “Microcomputer Interfacing in the Physics Laboratory.” Well many of us have a mental block when it comes to computers. Fortunately I married well, and so whenever I find myself in a bind I call out “Nancy, can you help me?” and nine times out of ten she picks me up, dusts me off and gets me back in action. One time I actually brought the laptop upstairs to the bedroom in search of much needed tech support after she had gone to sleep. Fortunately for me she is a fellow genealogist so she understands this obsession we have. CNYGS has a GIG (Genealogy Interest Group) that meets about nine times a year on Monday nights at the Salina Library in Mattydale. Often their meetings focus on computers and technology. Now that I have Monday evenings free due to a change in my schedule I plan to attend as many as I can so my wife can get her much needed rest.
- Visit the local repositories. You know, we have so many repositories in CNY that few people even bother to explore. I think it would be neat to take one repository a month and pick a family from the 1850 census in that locality and try researching that family. That’s probably the best way to “kick the tires” so to speak of a repository we’ve never been to before. Good way to give it a dry run. Some places will allow you free reign to explore their collection. Others run a tight ship and you will not find any open stacks. Many people who staff these places are very knowledgeable. One such person is Joan Leib at the Chenango County Historical Society. She was incredible when we visited this past year. On the other hand sometimes you’ll find a volunteer who may have good intentions of helping but may end up not being all that helpful. And I have been in town historical societies where the records are just thrown together in a closet and have no organization whatsoever. So you’ll find repositories to be a mixed bag, but always interesting!
- Need to lose weight? Become a find-a-grave contributor! There are over 130 million memorials on this well known website . Folks who live far away from their cemetery of interest can submit a photo request for a gravestone. Then you can volunteer to go out to the cemetery, hunt the grave down and take a picture. Upload the image to the website and you’ll usually get a nice thank you email from the person who submitted the photo request. If the cemetery has an office you may be able to get the grave location from them to save you some time. What a great way to perform a genealogy random act of kindness!
- Study genealogy journals. If you are like me, you may subscribe to one or more genealogy journals. What I find is that I don’t read them cover-to-cover. I don’t dissect them. I just kind of browse through them. But if we want to be the best researchers we can be, we are really doing ourselves a disservice if this is the approach we take. I’ve decided that from now on, in each issue I’ll pretend that the journal case studies are dealing with my family. You better believe I would be paying much closer attention if this were the case. You might find a source cited that you didn’t know existed. Tom Jones in the October-December 2015 issue of NGS Magazine (NGS Magazine; Volume 41 Number 4; pg 47; Getting the Most from Case Studies in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly) discusses how to get more out of journals.
- Get organized. OK, I’ve scanned all my genealogy documents and photos and have them in family folders on my computer. This project took about a year. There are several thousand photos and documents that are now on my computer. I copied them into folders on my laptop following some of Lisa Louise Cooke’s organization ideas. But I still need to do a better job with my file naming conventions. If I have a scan of a newspaper clipping, I’d like the file name to have a subject and a source reference. I still have to think about how best to do this.
- Take a genealogy vacation. Need vacation ideas? Well how about taking a vacation each year at a city that is hosting a major conference? Nancy and I have done this since the National Genealogical Society conference held in Raleigh in 2009. We typically take a few extra days for sight seeing and research in addition to attending the conferences. We really like going to the New England Regional Genealogical Conferences. During the last one that was held in Providence, we did some research in Hartford, Connecticut as a side trip. There are a number of conferences and institutes that we have yet to attend including GRIP and the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference. Fort Wayne is another great place to visit that is within a day’s drive of CNY. We drove out there on a Thursday, spent Friday and Saturday researching at the Allen County Public Library and drove back on a Sunday. Other ideas for trips are the genealogy cruises being offered. For those of you wishing to attend a conference closer to home, please consider the 2016 New York State Family History Conference in Syracuse.
- Spend time reading dissertations. Each year universities in our country award thousands of PhD degrees. History dissertations are the product of years of study on a particular topic. Why not take advantage of this scholarship? Bird Library at Syracuse University has dissertations on their shelves. They also have access to dissertations from colleges throughout the country on their computer databases. Suzanne Etherington presented at the CNYGS 50th Anniversary conference in 2011. Her thesis from Syracuse University, Less Hell and More Corn: Agriculture in Jefferson County, New York 1850 – 1910 (1993), would be an excellent read for anyone with an ancestor from Jefferson County. There are many dissertations that would be helpful for genealogists.
- Patronize your local history/genealogy department in the nearest public library. I must admit my attendance has dropped off over the past years. I’ve always enjoyed browsing the stacks in the lh/g department at the Onondaga County Public Library. In it’s future configuration on the 3rd floor much of the collection will be in closed stacks and staff will have to be sent to retrieve your books for you.
- Reinvigorate the CNYGS Blog! The reason I posted this blog was that I felt that the CNYGS blog was a good way for members to interact with each other and share thoughts. I was saddened to see that it has become somewhat dormant. I hope that my post will encourage CNYGS folks to give it a try. As you can see by this post, you don’t have to have a great deal of writing talent to post a blog. So in an effort to solicit more posts, I’m going to take a page out of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I call out Chris Wilcox, CNYGS president, and challenge him to post the next blog. So Chris if you are reading this, I hope you will accept my challenge!
©2016 Richard Remling
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
by Barbara Leiger Granato
I recently received a request to do some research for a man residing in California. He was looking for more information on the Stafford family who had lived in Augusta, Oneida County, New York back in the late 1700s.
After doing a little preliminary research from my home computer, I visited the Oneida County Archives, and found many land records from the early days of Oneida County – which was founded in 1798. That shed a little more information on the family, but what I had learned from basic surfing on the Internet is that John Stafford, “a Revolutionist of 1776,” was buried in the “Stafford Cemetery” in Augusta.
I also learned that the “Stafford Cemetery” was an old, abandoned one. And although I found a notation of the road it was on, there was no street address or directions available to find it.
I decided to take my chances, and hopped in my car in search of the little cemetery. I drove through the small village of Oriskany Falls, until I found a sign pointing me in the direction of Augusta. Soon, I discovered I was on Augusta Road and had no clue where I was, until I saw a road sign, “Scharman Road.” WOW! I had found the road where the cemetery was located.
Now, although this was a 55 mph country road, I slowly crept up the big hill, looking first on one side of the road and then on the other. It was not until I got to the top of this hill that I glanced to my right and saw the most beautiful sign set back a distance from the road – “Stafford Cemetery.” And behind the sign, there was a small American flag posted in the ground.
SUCCESS! I parked my car on the shoulder of the road and bounded across the open landscape to the cemetery. It was nestled between two country homes, set quite far apart from each other. When I reached the cemetery, there were only four stones, and three of them were totally worn and illegible. However, the stone that had the American flag next to it was partially legible, and sure enough – it was the stone of John Stafford, “Revolutionist of 1776!” As I looked around the little cemetery, I could see evidence of small trees and brush that had been cleared from the area. Behind the cemetery there was more brush that had not been cleared, but then a farmer’s field was beyond that. I wondered about the souls who were buried there, and began to imagine what life must have been like when they were living.
After taking several photos of the tombstones and the area where they were located, I drove back to the village of Oriskany Falls where the Limestone Ridge Historical Society is located. The society was closed, but after stopping at the Town Hall, the clerk there gave me the name and telephone number of the President of the Historical Society. Yes, small towns most often are friendly like that – and oftentimes will bend over backwards to be of assistance.
The president met me at the Historical Society and let me in to do some research. Although I was not able to find any additional information on the family, I relayed my story about the cemetery that I had just found.
The president looked at me in amazement. It seems that the Limestone Ridge Historical Society awards a scholarship each year to a graduating high school senior. Last year, the decision was based on the essay of the recipient, rather than grade point average. The boy who received this award was a Boy Scout, and the project he worked on to achieve his Eagle Scout badge was to clear an abandoned cemetery and place signage on it. Not only that, but he identified the tombstone of a Revolutionary War soldier, and planted a flag next to his grave.
Yes – this was indeed the Stafford Cemetery! Had it not been for the patriotic act of this boy scout, this cemetery would have been immersed in overgrown brush and trees, and I would have never found it.
Sometimes – especially when searching for genealogical information – I truly believe that things happen for a reason. Sometimes we are meant to find stories and symbols from the past.
Although I do not believe that this little cemetery had any personal relevance to the boy scout who cleaned it up and marked it, what a positive difference he made by doing so. He helped to memorialize a man who helped to make the United States a country!
©2016 Barbara Leiger Granato
After retiring from her job as a secretary at Mohawk Valley Community College, Barbara Granato had more time to pursue her love of genealogy. She is a member of the Oneida Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution, currently serving as the chapter Registrar and Vice-Chair of NYS Lineage Research for DAR. In addition to teaching Beginning Genealogy classes, she is a Board member of the Central New York Genealogical Society, as well as a Board Member for the Oneida County Historical Society. She also is a member of the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica and serves as a tour docent to the mansions on Rutger Street in Utica, and writes murder mysteries which are performed at one of the historic mansions once a year. She is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists as well as the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society.