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Preserving our memories is something many family researchers do. However, it can occasionally seem time-consuming and expensive. Years ago, as part of a Christmas present, an Irish friend sent me a recording on cassette tape. It includes some of my favorite songs, chit-chat and a segment from Big L Radio, the local radio station of the Irish city (Limerick) I once lived in. Later, this tape had even greater significance because the friend who sent it to me died a couple of years later at the age of 20 of cancer. His tape preserved the memory of his lilting Cork accent and our college days. I haven’t listened to the tape in many years, mainly because I no longer own a tape recorder. However, when our library purchased VHS and cassette tape converters for our circulating collection, I checked out the cassette tape converter and transferred my friend’s recording to my computer as an MP3 file. Now I can listen to the Christmas greeting my friend sent to me thirty years ago. It cost me nothing other than the flash drive I saved it on. If you are a Connetquot Public Library cardholder, you too can convert VHS and cassette tapes and preserve your memories. Making copies of family movies or recordings could also be the perfect gift for a relative.
Our library recently received a donation of LaSalle Military Academy yearbooks for the years 1930-1933. For those who might be unfamiliar with the LaSalle Academy, it was a Catholic military boarding school in Oakdale, New York, which closed in 2001. The yearbooks we received were those in the possession of Ernest Gordon Hackney who graduated in 1933.
This recent donation reminded me of the importance of yearbooks for both family research and local history purposes. Of course, the information in yearbooks varies. If your ancestor was very social and involved in school activities, there might be plenty of information and photographs of him or her. An example of this is Ernest Gordon Hackney. The La Salle yearbooks shed much light on his life at the school as a young man, including that he was a leader (President of “B” and “C” Class of 1933), and he participated in a number of team sports. The yearbooks also provide further information detailing his personality, interests, and the school environment.
If you would like to locate a yearbook that could include an ancestor, you might want to contact a library or historical society in the town or city in which the school was located. There are also some online sources that could be helpful. A few include Ancestry.com (U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2013), the Yearbooks & Commemoratives database of the German Genealogy Group, located on their website (www.germangenealogygroup.com), and the OCLC WorldCat https://www.worldcat.org, which is a catalog to the collections of more than 10,000 libraries worldwide.
As an interesting side note I would also add that Ernest Gordon Hackney, whose yearbooks we received, was killed while serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. He is buried in Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium. We are very grateful to his son, Gordon Hackney, for donating his father’s La Salle Military yearbooks to our local history collection.
Back in June, I posted that FamilySearch.org was discontinuing its microfilm distribution services. Because significant progress was made in their digitization work, FamilySearch.org decided it was unnecessary to continue the microfilm program. There was some concern by researchers that this decision might eliminate access to the New York City vital records which had been available on microfilm. About a month ago, I was told by a few genealogists that the New York City vital records were accessible online at family history centers. Although I was eager to announce this exciting news, I waited until I could try it out for myself. Last week I visited the Family History Center in Plainview, New York. I brought my laptop computer and logged into the center’s internet using the password the volunteer gave me. I was successful in both viewing and downloading two New York City death certificates. Before making a trip to a family history center, I would recommend you call ahead to find out the center’s hours and if their internet access is working. You will find a listing of the New York family history centers at https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Category:New_York_Family_History_Centers
At our last genealogy program, Rick Fogarty showed us the International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki comparison charts, which can be very helpful in selecting DNA tests. If you did not take notes or were unable to attend, here are the links:
Autosomal DNA testing comparison chart
Y-DNA STR testing comparison chart
MtDNA testing comparison chart
Attending the lecture were some members of the recently established DNA Genealogy Group of Long Island. They informed me that they are have been having monthly meetings on the topic of using DNA for genealogical research. They alternate the venue of their programs between Suffolk County and Nassau County locations. You can find out more about the organization and their links to recommended websites through the following page:
Because a number of people have expressed confusion over search results for New York City marriages in the Ancestry.com database, “Birth, Marriage & Death,” I thought that topic would be worthy of an article. The confusion occurs when, depending on the year of the marriage, researchers might receive two results for the same couple, but with different certificate numbers and slightly different dates. The main questions I’ve been asked are the following: why is this happening, and which of the two records should I order a copy of? To answer the first question, I will delve into some of the historical background of New York City marriage records.
Figure 1: Example of a search using Birth, Marriage & Death Database in Ancestry.com for a 1925 New York City Marriage. For privacy reasons, I have blacked out the bride and groom’s names on all searches and certificates shown.
In 1853 New York City began recording marriages (as well as births) in register form, but in 1866, the Health Department of New York City began requiring a certificate for each marriage. The City of Brooklyn also began creating certificates in the same year of 1866. After the unification of the cities of New York and Brooklyn in 1898, and the simultaneous expansion of the city into the five boroughs of New York as we know them today, the city’s Health Department created and held on file marriage certificates for all the boroughs.
In 1908 New York State enacted a law that required brides and grooms to fill out an “Affidavit for License to Marry.” Produced along with that affidavit was an actual license, upon the back of which was a marriage certificate, to be filled out and returned by the person performing the marriage. In the borough of Manhattan, the New York City Clerk was responsible for these records. However, up until 1937 the New York City Department of Health continued requiring the creation of their own marriage certificates. Because of that situation, couples who were married in New York City between 1908 and 1937 should normally have two separate marriage certificates held by the city: one filed with the City Clerk and associated with the affidavit and license, the other filed with the New York City Health Department. This duplication can be helpful to genealogists, because there were two separate entities producing records, so there is a greater chance of finding a marriage record. Another helpful result of the 1908 law was that it required the couple to submit information in the affidavit and license to the city clerk before their marriage, while previously it was the responsibility of the person officiating at the wedding to collect and submit the information after the wedding. Unfortunately, too often this did not happen, so that frequently there may not be a civil marriage record for a pre-1908 New York City marriage. Years ago, the Italian Genealogy Group (http://italiangen.org/records-search) and the German Genealogy Group (http://germangenealogygroup.com) created an online index to the New York City Health Department marriage records. It is accessible on their websites, and on Ancestry.com (Index to New York City Marriages, 1866-1937) and Familysearch.org (https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/2143225).
The indexes to the New York City Clerk marriage records were only made available online fairly recently. Reclaim the Records, a non-profit organization, got the records released, and they made them available on https://archive.org/details/nycmarriageindex. Last May, Ancestry.com added them to their collection (New York City, Marriage Indexes, 1907-1995). Now indexes to both the New York City Health Department certificates (Index to New York City Marriages, 1866-1937) and the New York City Clerk marriage records (New York City, Marriage Indexes, 1907-1995) are contained and searchable in the Ancestry.com general “Birth, Marriage & Death” collection. The bottom line is that if you search for a marriage that occurred in Manhattan between 1908 and 1937 in it, you should get two results: one from the Department of Health records, and the other from the New York City Clerk. If you want to order one or both, be careful to include the correct information (certificate number and date) for each request. You will find order information and forms on the New York Municipal Archives website: http://www1.nyc.gov/site/records/historical-records/genealogy.page
There is also an index to New York City marriages that occurred between 1950 and 1995 at http://www.nycmarriageindex.com/. To order a marriage record for those years (there is a 50 year requirement), you need to contact the City Clerk.
The second question as to which record is better to order is a little more difficult to answer. It’s possible that the City Clerk Records could contain slightly more information or be slightly more accurate than the Health Department records, but not necessarily. If the cost doesn’t matter, you might want to consider getting both. Below is an example of Ancestry search results for one marriage and the documents themselves, obtained from the New York City Municipal Archives . The first record is the New York City Clerk record. It consists of three pages: affidavit, license, and certificate.
Figure 2: City Clerk’s record includes three pages: Affidavit for License to Marry, Marriage License, and Marriage Certificate.
Below is the New York City Health Department search result and certificate for the same marriage.
Figure 3New York City Department of Health Certificate and Record of Marriage consists of two pages
Hopefully this explanation gives you a better understanding of the complexities of New York City marriage records. Most importantly, if you are searching for a New York City marriage that occurred between 1908 and 1937, you should know that there are usually two records available, which will have different certificate numbers and possibly slightly different dates. If you have any genealogy questions, please feel free to email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ancestry.com has added to their collection a New York City death index covering the years 1949 – 1965. Unlike Ancestry’s New York, New York, Death Index, 1862-1948, this one also includes the NYC Health Department index images. If you do not have a subscription to Ancestry.com, keep in mind that you can access the database free of charge on any of our library’s computers.