GRIP 2015: Researching New York State

Really bad cell photo of our cool present

My third time at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) began yesterday afternoon after arriving at La Roche College in Pittsburgh.  I attended the first year, 2012, and last year, 2014, and it is something I look forward to all year.

Every year we get a little present and this years was a USB drive attached to a name tag, which will be very useful to bring on research trips to keep that plus my ID and credit card together.

This year I am in the "Researching New York State" track coordinated by Karen Mauer Jones.  As soon as I saw that being offered, I knew I had to take it.  All of my and my husband's lines end in New York State and while I can tell anyone how to research in Buffalo, but once I get into rural Central and Northern NY, records are much harder to come by.

Our days are broken into 4 classes plus an optional nightly lecture that is open to the public.  My classes today were Researching New York: Introduction and Historical Overview with Karen, The New York Gateway: Immigration and Migration by Jane E. Wilcox, Justice in the Empire State: Legal Records in New York, part 1, by Judy G. Russell, and New York's Military Records once again with Karen.

The biggest lesson learned today is that New York is a black pit of confusing and oddly named records and places.  I have friends who moved to Syracuse from Maine for school and over the past few years I remember them being tremendously confused by the idea of a town in NY and my husband explaining it while I zoned out.  Today I learned that what is known as a town in NY is comparable to a township in other places, a fact that confuses researches not from the state.  I had always known to check both town and county records (vital records are almost always cheaper at the town level), but apparently one wouldn't do that in other states.

One of the speakers I had most looked forward to hearing was Judy Russell, and she did not disappoint.  I do not even know where to begin with all of the wonderful things she told us except to say that if you have NY ancestors, you need to look at Duly & Constantly Kept for a primer in legal records.

Lastly, I highly recommend the New York Family History Research Guide and Gazetteer: First Edition put out earlier this year by the NYG&B.  I bought a copy shortly after it came and out and have been amazed by the information in it.  It is well worth every cent.

Following dinner Jane E. Wilcox spoke on "Finding American Women's Voices through the Centuries: Letters, Journals, Newspapers, and Court Records."  I found it interesting that she recommended Presidential Libraries as possible sources for letters, which is not something I had heard of previously.

Tomorrow is another full day of classes including part 2 of legal records, state vital records and alternatives, and a case study about a man from upstate NY.  If you're in the area, Judy Russell will be giving the evening lecture entitled "How Old Did He Have to Be?" which is sure to be fantastic.

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