Monday, March 16, 2015

We Must be Famous!

by Barbara Leiger Granato

From the time I was a young child, I was always curious about my ancestors. I knew my parents and my grandparents, but who were their parents, and who were the parents of those parents?

When I was in my mid-twenties, I discovered that there had been a book written about my mother’s father’s family. As a matter of fact, at that time it was in my uncle’s attic. Nobody in the family was interested in it, and it was just gathering dust. When I asked if I could have it, it was more than willingly given to me. At last – my dreams would be answered; I was about to discover more about who begot who begot who.

The book was published in 1931. This was a good sign, since my mother was born in 1924. But – when I looked for my mother’s name, it was not in the book! So, then I looked for her father’s name, but his name was not in the book. Well, I just so happened to know the name of his father, but – you guessed it – his name was not in the book either.

My mother suggested that I may find the answer by contacting one of my great aunts who was still living. And sure enough, Aunt Mary had the answer I needed. And that is when I found out that my 2nd great grandfather’s name was Sylvester. That was the missing link I needed to discover my direct link to the ancestors from whom I descended.

When I shared this information with the rest of the family who had not been interested in the book, all of a sudden there was great interest. It seems as though when I learned the name of this ancestor, memories were jogged by the rest of the family. And the memories were thrilling! The family story had been passed down that Sylvester had been a body guard to President Lincoln!

“Really?” I wondered. Well, he must not have been a very good one! Still, I wanted to learn more about our family “hero.” What a fascinating story this was!

Sylvester had lived in a small community northwest of Philadelphia, so my husband and I and our two children made the trip from Whitesboro, New York to Trappe, Pennsylvania where we found our hero’s grave. From there, we went to the Historical Society of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania in Norristown to learn more about him.

I walked into the Historical Society with so much pride. After all, our family was important! This is where I would uncover the truth about Sylvester. And oh, my – was I ever surprised by my discovery!

To be continued...

Lessons learned -

  • Look for family genealogies
  • Ask family members questions
  • If possible, travel to the place where your ancestor lived

©2015, 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.

Monday, March 2, 2015

CNYGS Surname Files – A Member Benefit Worth Revisiting!

by Nancy Maliwesky

It’s cold out there, and unless you’re a hearty skier, hiker or you’re on a cruise to some sunny clime, you’ve probably been spending a lot of time at home, in front of your computer or iPad. At least I have! This is the time of year when many of us with the genealogy bug go back to our files and trees and start chipping away at some of the many nagging questions that we all have regarding our ancestry. When you’re not hunting your own ancestors, you may be watching Public Television and enjoying this season’s Genealogy Road Show or the Antiques Roadshow. Both of these shows certainly get me thinking about research ideas and the value of things often overlooked.

This got me thinking about the Surname files available to our members (and the world!) on the Central New York Genealogical Society’s website. You may remember submitting your surnames and areas of interest when you joined the CNYGS, but have you looked at them since then? Have you had anyone contact you who is also researching your surnames? Maybe it’s time to revisit this often overlooked resource.

The first thing I would suggest is to look at the surnames you submitted. Are the place names up to date, or have you found additional place information since you first submitted your surnames. Perhaps it’s time for an update? The more information, the more likely you will find a meaningful match. You are welcome to update your surnames when you pay your yearly dues, or at anytime. Just send an e-mail to or write to us. When updating place names, it is also helpful to put the place names in order, chronologically, from your earliest records to your most recent records. So, for instance, if your ancestors came from England, then settled in Dorchester, MA, then moved to Windsor CT, then to Northampton and later Westhampton and later Westfield, MA, then settled in Pompey, NY, before moving to Huron Co., OH, put your place names in that specific order as this migration pattern may be helpful to other researchers.

The next thing to check is other surnames that match yours. Were any of these people in the same place as yours? Well, you won’t know unless you contact the other member, and that’s pretty easy, just contact CNYGS and we will contact the member for you (we don’t post members contact information for privacy reasons). Who knows, your long lost cousin may have been sitting a few rows behind you at the last meeting you attended!

Another way to use the Surname file requires a bit more effort and some thinking outside the box, but isn’t that what we genealogists do best? Just because you don’t see any surnames on the list that match yours, doesn’t mean that none of our members can help you. Try looking at the place list to see where other members have been researching. If you don’t want to take the time to browse through the whole list, try a search on a place you’re researching. You may be surprised to find that many of our members are researching the same places that you are. Even if they have not listed your surnames, they may have come across those people in their research. At the very least, they may know where to look for further information in that area. It couldn’t hurt to reach out to them. Perhaps you will find a new research buddy!

So, next time you’re on your computer and you need a quick break from that brick wall that has been driving you crazy, take a look at the CNYGS Surname files. The answer may be there!

©2015, Nancy Maliwesky

Nancy Maliwesky, 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 Society for ten years. Recently retired, 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.

What's On Your Mind?

By Nancy Maliwesky

Have you ever thought your research might make a good story, or thought you would like to share something you learned, but weren’t ready to submit an article to a journal or magazine? If so, a blog article might be the perfect way to dip your big toe in the publishing pool. As a member, you are encouraged to submit one to two page articles for publication on the blog. Our blog editing staff will proofread your article and reserves the right to make corrections to spelling and grammar. If the article you submit is quite lengthy, we might suggest breaking it up into more than one blog article. Please remember that, as a volunteer organization, we cannot pay you for your articles. You will, however, retain copyright of your material and are free to submit it for publication elsewhere. Authors are also welcome to include photographs in their article, but please make sure that you have the right to reproduce the image, as we cannot be held responsible for any copyright infringement.

So, while you’re stuck in your house, braving this ridiculous winter, cozy up to the blog, have a quick read, and get thinking about your next blog article!

To submit and article for publication, please e-mail Nancy Maliwesky.