Initial Thoughts on FamilySearch’s “New York Land Records 1630-1975”

FamilySearch recently released “United States, New York Land Records, 1630-1975” on their website. While I appreciate greatly the free nature of this database, there are some frustrations with it.

The two main groups of individuals on land records are the grantors and the grantees. It would have been preferable if the database could be searched in this matter. I do realize that FamilySearch wanted to make this database searchable with the same interface as the other databases it has on the site. The workaround is to search as shown in the illustration, using the “Deceased Ancestor’s Information” last name box and the last name box for the “other person.”

Wildcards and “exact matches” only options can be used. As with any database, keep track of how searches are conducted to reduce the chance the same search is performed needlessly.

One needs to watch the “Event Type” for these entries as well. They are not necessarily accurate. As with any record, the index entry is meant to be a means to the actual image of the record itself, not a replacement for it.

The entry for Sarah A. G. Derlett indicated that it was a “Land Assessment”as the type of record as shown below.

It’s not. It’s a reference to her name in the grantor/grantee index for Kings County, New York as shown in the image that is linked to the index entry for the “Land Assessment.”

The search results are occasionally vague, only indicating that the entry was from New York State.

Clicking on a specific entry does not even necessarily indicate the county of the record either as shown in the entry for F. C. Droletz. Because the index entry does not include the county it would likely be difficult to perform any sort of geographic search at a level smaller than the state in order to locate this record.

Again, one must view the actual image to see the county where the record was located.

It also appears that this “index” is to the grantor/grantee indexes created by the original recorder of these county records. The index entries I located all took me to the index entry. They did not take me to the actual entry in the deed book. The image that this index links to is not the end of the record–there is still the actual deed image that needs to be located.

Searching by location can be done–keep in mind these are county level records. The appropriate location needs to be put in the “Any Place” life event box. I had the best success with entering the county in the following format:

countyname, New York, United States

Not all counties are included in this index.

This database is a help, but be aware of the limitations:

  • not all counties are included
  • some items are tagged as the wrong “event”
  • the index indexes county-created indexes to these records–you will still have to search for the actual deed. Do not stop when you have the image

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Never Assume Those American Records Are Right–Even If Sometimes They Are

When I saw the index entry in Ancestry.com‘s “Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1519-1969” for Johann Friederich Janssen [Ufkes] in Holtrop, Ostfriesland, Germany, I was concerned–at least initially. Every record on Johann in the United States indicated his birthdate was in 1838. It was in his obituary,the family history, and it was on his tombstone. I had known the year for so long because of my research that I had it memorized.

Of course all those references to his date of birth in American records (even though they are consistent) mean little when compared to an actual record of his birth. The American sources, all created at least thirty years after his birth and all with either Johann or one of his children as the informant, provide secondary information about his precise date of birth. Their consistency just means that they were consistent.

Fortunately the index entry on Ancestry.com for Johann has the wrong date of birth. There is no need to have his tombstone corrected. The index entry also has an incorrect name for his mother as well.

Ancestry.com links to the correct image for Johann’s birth. His entry is the 6th entry in the births for Holtrop and actually indicates his parents were Hinrich Janssen and Trientje Eilts Post. Even though Trientje and Hinrich were married she did not use the last name of Janssen and it was not the name with which she was born.

Viewing the previous image indicated that the entries were actually for 1838 and not 1837.

These records are actually from the copy of the church book which was created for archival purposes–that’s why the word “Duplicat” appears. The town of Holtrop is actually referred to as “Holtdorf,” an older version of Holtrop’s name. It’s easy to see in the illustration that the “title page” for the 1838 entries is the image directly that immediately precedes the one for Johann’s birth.

It is always important to view the actual record and remember that the index entry is a finding aid.

It’s also important to remember that just because the American sources were right for the actual birth date of this person that they are not always right–even when they agree.

The fact that Johann used the last name of Ufkes is another story entirely–which we will address in a future post.

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Everywhere an Ekke

The 1892 homestead application of Ekke Behrens of Weyerts, Nebraska, makes several good genealogical research points as it contains information other than the number of acres Ekke was farming, what he was growing, and the size of his livestock herd.

There is a naturalization record for Ekke Behrens in the homestead application of Ekke Behrens and on the surface I thought it was the naturalization for Ekke the homestead applicant. Upon closer reading of this affidavit, it became clear that the naturalization was for Ekke’s father Ekke and not for Ekke the applicant. 

It always pays to read the entire file of any record and not to make assumptions. In looking at the naturalization record contained in the file, I thought that the naturalization year of 1867 seemed a little “off” to have been for Ekke the homestead applicant. I made a note about the seeming inconsistency in the date of naturalization given Ekke the homesteader’s age but thought that the 1867 date was probably a transcription error on the part of the clerk since the naturalization record in the homestead file was not the original record. 

But…

This notation on Ekke’s final application for the homestead explained the age discrepancy. 

It would be easier if parents did not name children after themselves. 


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Starting on My Pictures

I am fortunate enough to have a significant collection of pictures from my parents, grandparents, one great-grandmother, and one of my grandfather’s sisters. Some are in albums with paper mounts, some are in the nefarious
“sticky” albums, some are in albums with deteriorating plastic sheets, some are in the original folders, and some are in frames. I have boxes of these materials.

Organization, storage, identification, and preservation are my goals. The photographs are somewhat organized by family based on how I obtained them and how they were stored by the individual who had them before me. Some are identified, some are not. Some of the unidentified ones are of individuals who were known to me.

I’ve decided to prioritize. My first goal is to make digital images of the ones without identification so that they can be shared with relatives who may know who is shown in the photograph. I have decided to upload these images in the cloud where some individuals should be able to access them and make annotations. For other relatives I will find other ways to share the images with them based on their access to technology and general health, etc. Identification is paramount and my highest priority. My organization of these images will parallel the organization of the photographs currently as I plan to store them in essentially the same organization I obtained them in–this is largely because there is context to the way in which they came to me. I want to preserve that context.

I’ve decide to “de-frame” at some point in the near future those relatively recent photographs that are in rather inexpensive frames of the dime-store variety. There is only so much room and efficient storage is a necessity. I also plan on returning to family members who are interested duplicate copies I have of some photographs. Because of how I obtained these pictures I have duplicate and triplicate copies of some high school graduation pictures, wedding pictures, etc. There’s no reason to keep duplicates of these and giving them to others helps to preserve them by “spreading them around.”

We will continue to post about the pictures as my progress continues.

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Point and Click Oversights

The details have been stripped since some individuals involved are still living.

Working on a twentieth century family where there are multiple marriages and divorces can be confusing–names change and obituaries may not state relationships as precisely as one would like. The problem is compounded when the family never seems to stay in one place for more than a few years.

I had gathered a series of records on the family and developed an outline chronology to help keep the research on track. The only difficulty was one birth certificate that did not fit the rest of the chronology and implied that one family member had fathered a child with his third wife while he was still married to his second. While the seemingly inconsistent piece of data was frustrating the stated father would not have been the first man to father a child with his third wife while he was still married to his second. His occupation as a travelling salesman made the scenario a reasonable one.

And then I went back to the birth certificate from the World War II era, the one that was confusing. I looked at it again and it seemed straightforward. The certificate had been located using an online index that took me straight to the record. At the time of originally discovering it, I was “hot on the trail” of discoveries and neglected to look at other certificates filed before and after it.

Then I noticed something I did not before. The certificate of interest was typed. That was not unusual in the early 1940s. But something was.

The ten certificates filed before the certificate of interest were viewed. The ten certificates filed after the certificate of interest were viewed. They were for the same geographic location for births that were chronologically in order with the certificate of interest. All twenty were on the same form and handwritten by the same person (based upon the handwriting). The certificate of interest was a different form and it was typed.

Then I realized what the likely problem was.

I was not looking at the original birth certificate. The child in question was not born to the father and his third wife while he was still married to his second. The child was adopted by the father stated on the certificate sometime after he married the child’s mother as his third wife. The original certificate had likely been pulled when the child was adopted. That scenario made all the inconsistent details fit. It also explained why the certificate was different in appearance to the others.

Had I viewed the certificates onsite in their original form it may have been even easier to realize the certificate was different. The paper may have been a slightly different size. The color may have been different. The form would likely have stuck out.

That was impossible to determine when only looking at the image that was dished up to me after searching the index. An item should never be looked at out of context. There may be clues lurking in differences in the records.

And sometimes the biggest clues are the ones that are revealed to us in appearance only.

That’s not something if the only image we look at is the one that the database pointer takes us to.

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That New Cousin

To call him a new cousin is incorrect because I know exactly who he is or as much as one can know someone from a few newspaper references and a locked down Facebook profile.

I could stand six feet from him in an essential establishment during this pandemic and not recognize him–wearing a mask or not. His name is only familiar to me because it appeared in the obituary of his father, a third cousin of my own mother. He used his real name on his AncestryDNA results and it took me all of two minutes to confirm his genealogical relationship to me.

He knows his relatives back to his great-grandfather about whom he knows very little. The additional details he has are essentially incorrect–except for one nugget of truth that had been wrapped in some “fluffy facts” over the intervening years. I gently pointed out the correction without ever saying that he was incorrect. Sometimes that goes over better than a response that begins with “You are SO wrong about the details of MY family, where on earth did you get this nonsense.” On second thought a soft approach always goes over better than that–although it is not always successful.

I always debate how much to tell a person I know about them in a preliminary communication with them. Being from a small town, I don’t find it odd when someone says to me “I know who you are, who your parents are, where your family has lived, etc. etc. and it’s nice to meet you.” Usually if someone knows that much about my past, chances are I know their name–usually. This relative had no idea of who I was as when I mentioned my grandparent (through whom we share a connection), she had never heard of them. I may just continue our conversation by referring to her grandparents as her grandparents by name and leaving it at that.

I’m always concerned of putting a DNA match off by offering too much detail too quickly and overwhelming them initially. I find it goes a little better if I let them indicate how strong their interest is.

Of course it can be frustrating for the match to act totally uninterested in our shared history and then to see they’ve posted error after error about our common ancestors online in trees at Ancestry.com or the online tree at FamilySearch, but that’s another story.

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How Were the Records Made?

Research is not just trolling for images of records and information. That’s gathering or harvesting.

Winnie trusts her humans to only give her food safe for consumption. Genealogists will have to analyze what they find before they consume it. There’s no one to guarantee its “safety” for them.

Research is sort of like cooking after the items have been gathered. Vegetables may be peeled, bad spots may be cut off, rotten items may be tossed, etc. Not everything ends up being used and things need to simmer, cook, and sometimes “set” before they are actually ready for consumption.

It probably is not the best metaphor and may just be a mediocre metaphor, but it reminds us that research is more than simply gathering.

A reader recently remarked that he had the signature of his ancestor and was understandably excited that he had located it. I asked where the signature had been obtained. He told me that he had a deed signed by his ancestor.

At that point, I had a good hunch what he actually had, but I asked him where he obtained the signature. At the courthouse was his response. At that point I knew what he had.

He had a copy of the deed record book’s copy of the deed from the early 1830s. He did not have an image of his ancestor’s signature, he had a reproduction of the clerk’s handwritten transcription of his ancestor’s signature. That’s not his ancestor’s signature.

When we understand the records we are using we are better able to interpret them and draw reasonable conclusions from them. I’ve know about record copies of deeds for some time and I gently pointed this out to my correspondent.

But I remember them every time I encounter a record that is new to me as a way to remind myself that I need to learn about every record I encounter so that I understand what I am looking at as best as I can.

Just like I should know what I am eating before I eat it.

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That’s Not a Matchmaker

The question is the occupation of two daughters of Christian Troutfetter in the 1880 census for Alexandria, Clark County, Missouri. I knew it wasn’t a matchmaker and had a long blog post written up about what it was. Then I decided to just google what it looked like–“mantuamaker.” Sure enough it found it and now it looks like I actually have the occupation for these two daughters. Basically they were dressmakers. Readers who want to learn more can perform their own google search.

The two daughters with these occupations were 23 and 21 years old.

Learn something new every day.


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When that DNA Match Tree is Incomplete

This post is not about how to complete a family tree to determine how you and a DNA match are genealogically related. This post is about documenting that process in your research notes.

Take a picture of that tree you’ve sketched out and include that image as well.

Researchers often look at a specific DNA match to their DNA test because they have an idea of how that person is related to them–even if it is a broad idea of the connection. That connection is usually what caused them to look at the person’s tree in the first place.

That should be in your notes on that match:

This match is probably related to me on great-grandpa Trautvetter because we share some of those people.

It should also be made clear who great-grandpa Trautvetter is–in my case that’s George Trautvetter (1869-1934).

Because chances are if I suspect that the person is related to me through that great-grandfather I am going to look at their tree and research their tree with that in mind. There may be parts of the tree that I ignore for one reason for another–and those reasons may be very valid.

Did not look at ancestry of great-grandmother Heloise Fromenglandham since she was born in County Suffolk, England.

Did not look at ancestry of great-grandfather Sean O’Imirish since he was from County Cork, Ireland.

For matches to my ethnic German great-grandfather Trautvetter these exclusions make sense based upon what I now know about his ancestry. It is not possible to research every tree back as far as possible. But if we look to certain parts of the tree first or look away from certain parts of the tree we should indicate in our notes that we have done that. It does not take long to write up these reasons.

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