Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tuesday's Tip: Genealogy, Free or Fee, Part 5: Ask the Historian

A lot of genealogical treasures are not online. But local historians may be able to help you solve a mystery or two, at little or no cost (often, just the cost of copies and postage).

Case in point: My husband's Bentley ancestors lived in upstate NY. I need to connect his 3d great-grandfather, William Tyler Bentley (1795-1873), with a specific town and then trace further back.

I believe I have him in the 1830 census in Sandy Creek, Oswego county, NY. But is this the right guy? I searched for Sandy Creek and the website above popped up. Take a look at what the wonderful local historian, Charlene Cole, has at her fingertips:
I called her, she checked her records, and then she emailed me some documents from her surname files, contributed by a long-time researcher who was also tracking down the same Bentley family. By getting in touch with this other Bentley researcher, we were able to put more pieces of the puzzle together.

So Tuesday's Tip is: Try a web search for the town or county where an ancestor lived, and you may be lucky enough to locate the local historian who knows where the treasures are buried. Even if you don't locate the actual information you need, you will likely get a clue on how to proceed or the name of others who are in search of the same surname.

For more "Genealogy, Free or Fee" posts, please click here.


  1. Ooh - I like this idea, especially for those upstate New York towns where many of my lines traveled through in the 19th century!

  2. Great tip! Oswego is a very cold area of our state. My brother went to college there. He has many tales of the cold & snow.

  3. Thanks, ladies, for reading and commenting. Years ago, I had a friend in college at Oswego and she mentioned grabbing handrails around campus stay put the wind kicked up!

  4. Historical centers and societies are a greatly under-used resource. Your discovery makes me wish I had family in Oswego. It looks like they have a wonderful collection.

  5. People these days think the Internet us the fount of knowledge, but Archive Centres hold vast offline resources that can add so much background information to researching ancestors. Mine in the Scottish Borders hold Poor Law records, school revirds, militia records, burgs and countynrecirds, records of societies etc etc. - fascinating stuff there.

  6. Linda and Sue, thanks for reading and commenting. I completely agree that archives, historical centers, and similar institutions are under-used yet often have unique records!