By Valerie LaRobardier
We are quite fortunate in the Highlands to have so many great local libraries for genealogists researching Dutchess and Putnam County families.
Before you visit, you should do research to maximize your chances for success. The Dutchess, published by the Dutchess County Genealogical Society (DCGS), The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record and Settlers of the Beekman Patent are excellent starting points.
The tables of contents to The Dutchess, which began in 1973, can be found through 2008 at dcgs-gen.org. We hope to have a name index posted soon through 2012 for society members ($25 annually).
The DCGS Library is located in the Family History Center at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints at 204 Spackenkill Road in Poughkeepsie. There you will find a large collection of local genealogy materials and free access to internet services. Staffed by church and society volunteers, it is open Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. You can download a partial list of holdings by subject at dcgs-gen.org.
On our members-only page we also offer a summary of what is available in the local history sections of the public libraries in Dutchess, Putnam and other nearby counties, compiled by Beverly Kane. This listing is valuable because not every item in these collections is indexed online. Besides the DCGS/Family History Center, the largest collections are at the Poughkeepsie and New Paltz public libraries.
For The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, you can search a name index at newyorkfamilyhistory.org. If you have a NYG&B Society membership ($70 annually) you can instantly retrieve the page. If not, make a note for your library look-up list.
You can check for families found in Settlers of the Beekman Patent at beekmansettlers.com and order chapters in PDF format or visit the Family History Library. This is an invaluable series compiled by Frank Doherty that documents the rents paid on the land grant (patent) given to Col. Henry Beekman in 1697 by the English Crown in present-day Dutchess County. They date back to 1710. The information is not limited to the patent — much of the story before a family arrived and after it moved on is told, as well.
This work is particularly valuable because all the records for surnames whose place in families cannot be identified are included at the end of each chapter, in an “Other and Unplaced” listing. I have often found just what I needed to make a connection.
Doherty has completed 13 volumes so far, through the surname Swift. The Blodgett Memorial Library in Fishkill has 12 volumes and the Howland Library in Beacon has the first two.
Kinship Books has published a large collection of church, cemetery, tax, journal and probate record transcriptions. Particularly valuable is the matching up of unusual alternate surname spellings used by Dutch and German clerics. The publisher’s site at kinshipny.com has a handy search tool. Plug in any surname and it returns all the books that contain records for that surname.
From there you can either buy the book (if it contains numerous instances of your names) or find it in a local library (if only a few instances). There is no guarantee the surname belongs to your ancestor, but it is a place to start. Once you find the name of the book, look for it in the DCGS card catalog PDF or the Mid-Hudson Library catalog at search.midhudsonlibraries.org.
For browsing Dutchess County church records by location, see Dutchess County, NY Churches & Their Records, An Historical Directory, by Linda Koehler. Every current and past town, hamlet and church is listed, with its date of organization and available records. Many of these records appear in The Dutchess or the NYGBR. Although the book was published in 1994, I use my copy nearly every day and have found few listings in need of updating, and few churches that are not included.
Occasionally you will find a reference to a book that is not available locally, but if it covers local families it can likely be accessed at the Milstein Division of the New York Public Library in Manhattan, the New York State Library in Albany or the Connecticut State Library in Hartford. Research at these repositories will be covered in future columns.
LaRobardier is a professional genealogist and president of the Dutchess County Genealogical Society. Every other month, she will discuss strategy and resources for research in Dutchess and Putnam counties and answer queries from readers. She can be reached at email@example.com. Click here for more of her columns.