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  • County Historians for the State of New York

    Marian S. Henry

    Have you got an obscure ancestor who's hiding in the mists of time? Or do you want to know more about your ancestor's life than a few dates? Interested in the local history of a far away township? Perhaps it's time to consider consulting a county historian. The county historian is an expert in local history. This person possesses records that may not be widely available in larger collections.

    New York State has required the appointment of historians as part of local government since 1919. The appointments and the job descriptions are local, varying from one location to another, but in general

    County and municipal historians oversee the historical files of their communities, educate the public and the schools, promote historic preservation, oversee historic sites and run historical commemorations. They work closely with researchers, libraries, historical societies, genealogical societies and every segment of the general public.1

    The county historian will tell you what records are available. For example, the county historian's office in Wyoming, NY has over four file cabinets of genealogical queries and over 70 genealogies. The marriage records of Clinton County are only accessible for the years 1908 to 1936 and are kept in the County Clerk's Office. The documents in a county historian's office might include genealogies, census records, local histories, newspapers, wills, cemetery records, church records, vital records, tax lists, maps, and photographs.

    A county historian's response to genealogical queries varies from one county to the next, but the majority do not do genealogical research. The Wayne County Historian, for example, will search the office records for $20/hour with a $10 minimum charge. Your query must be concise and specific. There is an online form available and there is generally no charge for people who come to the office to do their own searching. On the other hand, " The Sullivan County Historian does not do genealogical research, nor does he have access to the county's genealogical records." Usually, however, the county historian will be able to put you in touch with local historians who will do research and will be able to supply you with information if you know exactly what you want.

    If you request information from a county historian, be sure to include all pertinent facts, but be concise. Supply a surname and dates as best you know them, but your relation to this person is not relevant. Be very clear about what you want. Stick to one item at a time. Include a stamped self-addressed envelope (big enough to hold the anticipated reply). The office may be open only part-time and may be understaffed. Please be patient, kind, and courteous. The office does not have a large budget, so don't expect a return long distance telephone call.

    The following table lists county historians for 51 upstate New York counties. The county seat is generally the location of the county historian's office. The date for the erection of each county is given, as is its parent county or counties. (Records that predate the creation of a county will be found in the parent county.) Those entries prefixed by an asterisk were taken from a 1997 compilation2; other entries were obtained from county websites linked from the New York State siteat rootsweb.com for the USGenWeb project. Where the 1997 directory and the website differ, information from the latter is presented.

    County Historians for the State of New York

    County

    Date Formed

    Parent County

    County Seat

    County Historian (*1997 Directory)

    Telephone

    Albany

    1683

    original county

    Albany

    *John N. Travis, 112 State St., Rm. 820, Albany NY, 12207

    (518) 447-7057

    Allegany

    1806

    Genesee

    Belmont

    Craig Braack, Court St., Belmont, NY 14813

    (716) 268-9293

    Broome

    1806

    Tioga

    Binghamton

    *Gerald R. Smith, Broome County Public Library, 78 Exchange St., Binghamton, NY 13901

    (607) 778-2076

    Cattaraugus

    1808

    Genesee

    Little Valley

    Kenneth Kysor, 302 Court St., Little Valley, NY 14755

    (716) 938-9111 X440

    Cayuga

    1799

    Onondaga

    Auburn

    Thomas Eldred, Historic Old Post Office Bldg., 1st floor, 157 Genesee St., Auburn, NY 13021

    (315) 253-1300

    Chautauqua

    1808

    Genesee

    Mayville

    *Miss Elizabeth Crocker, Gerace Office Building, Box #190, Mayville, NY 14757

    (716) 672-6306

    Chemung

    1798

    Tioga

    Elmira

    *James Arthur Kieffer, 101 Lincoln St., Elmira, NY 14901

    (607) 734-4167

    Chenango

    1798

    Herkimer, Tioga

    Norwich

    Mrs. Mae Smith, The Chenango County Historical Society, 45 Rexford St., Norwich, NY 13815

    (607) 334-9227

    Clinton

    1788

    Washington

    Plattsburgh

    Mrs. Addie Shields, 137 Margaret St., Plattsburgh, NY 12901

    (518) 565-4749

    Columbia

    1786

    Albany

    Hudson

    Mary Howell, 610 State St., Hudson, NY 12543

    (518) 828-2969

    Cortland

    1808

    Onondoga

    Cortland

    *Yvonne J. Delgato, Cortland County Courthouse, P.O. Box 5890, Cortland, NY 13045

    (607) 753-5360

    Delaware

    1797

    Ulster, Otsego

    Delhi

    Clara Stewart, 195 Main St., Delhi, NY 13753

    (607) 746-2544

    Dutchess

    1683

    original county

    Poughkeepsie

    *[office currently vacant], Dutchess County Historical Society, 549 Main St., Poughkeepsie, NY 12601

     

    Erie

    1821

    Niagara

    Buffalo

    *William Siener, Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society, 25 Nottingham Terrace, Buffalo, NY 14216

     

    Essex

    1799

    Clinton

    Elizabethtown

    Reid Larson, Court St., P.O. Box 428, Elizabethtown, NY 12932

    (518) 873-6466

    Franklin

    1808

    Clinton

    Malone

    *Kitty Murtagh, Franklin Co. Historical Soc., 51 Milwaukee St., Malone, NY 12953

     

    Fulton

    1838

    Montgomery

    Johnstown

    *Lewis G. Decker, 187 Bleecker St., Gloversville, NY 12078

    (518) 725-0473

    Genesee

    1802

    Ontario

    Batavia

    Susan L. Concklin, 3 West Main St., Batavia, NY 14020

    (716) 344-2442

    Greene

    1800

    Ulster, Albany

    Catskill

    Dr. Raymond Beecher, R.D.1, Box 10A, Coxsackie, NY 12051

    (518) 731-6822 / 731-1033

    Hamilton

    1816

    Montgomery

    Lake Pleasant

    Paul Wilbur, County White House, Rte. 8, Lake Pleasant, NY 12108

    (518) 548-5526

    Herkimer

    1791

    Montgomery

    Herkimer

    *James M. Greiner, 318 Margaret St., Herkimer, NY 13350

     

    Jefferson

    1805

    Oneida

    Watertown

    Laura Scharer, 659 Bronson St., Watertown, NY 13601

    (315) 785-3144

    Lewis

    1805

    Oneida

    Lowville

    Lisa Becker, Box 277, Lyons Falls, NY 13368

    (315) 348-8089

    Livingston

    1821

    Genesee, Ontario

    Geneseo

    Miss M. Patricia Schaap, 30 Center St., Geneseo, NY 14454

    (716) 243-2311

    Madison

    1806

    Chenango

    Wampsville

    *Miss Isabel Bracy, 616 McDonal St., Chittenango, NY 13037

    (315) 687-9222

    Monroe

    1821

    Genesee, Ontario

    Rochester

    Carolyn Vacco, Rundel Building, 115 South Ave., Rochester, NY 14604

    (716) 428-8352

    Montgomery

    1772

    Albany (Tyron until 1784)

    Fonda

    *Jacqueline Murphy, Old Court House, P.O. Box 1500, Fonda, NY 12068

    (518) 853-8186

    Niagara

    1808

    Genesee

    Lockport

    Donna Barnes, Deputy County Historian, 175 Hawley St., Lockport, NY 14094

     

    Oneida

    1798

    Herkimer

    Utica

    *[office currently vacant]

     

    Onondaga

    1794

    Herkimer

    Syracuse

    Dennis J. Connors, Historical Association, 311 Montgomery St., Syracuse, NY 13202

    (315) 428-1862

    Ontario

    1789

    Montgomery

    Canandaigua

    Dr. Preston Pierce, 3051 County Complex Drive, Canandaigua, NY 14424

    (716) 396-4034

    Orleans

    1824

    Genesee

    Albion

    C.W. Lattin, Central Hall, 34 E. Park St., Albion, NY 14411

    (716) 589-4174

    Oswego

    1816

    Oneida, Onondaga

    Oswego, Pulaski

    *Barbara Dix, 46 E. Bridge St., Oswego, NY 13126

    (315) 349-8385

    Otsego

    1791

    Montgomery

    Cooperstown

    Mrs. Nancy Milavec, RD2 Box 297, Worcester, NY 12197

    (607) 397-9705

    Rensselaer

    1791

    Albany

    Troy

    *[office currently vacant]

     

    St. Lawrence

    1802

    Clinton, Herkimer, Montgomery

    Canton

    Trent Trulock, c/o The St. Lawrence County Historical Association, P.O. Box 8, 3 East Main St., Canton, NY 13617

    (315) 386-8133

    Saratoga

    1791

    Albany

    Ballston Spa

    *Karen Campola, 40 McMaster St., Ballston Spa, NY 12020

    (518) 885-3453

    Schenectady

    1809

    Albany

    Schenectady

    Larry Hart, c/o Daily Gazette, 2345 Maxon Rd., Schenectady, NY 12308

    (518) 399-3466

    Schoharie

    1795

    Albany, Ostego

    Schoharie

    *Wallace C. Van Houten, PO Box 449, Middleburgh, NY 12122

    (518) 827-5747

    Schuyler

    1854

    Tompkins, Steuben, Chemung

    Watkins Glen

    Barbara H. Bell, 3460 County Rte. 28, Watkins Glen, NY 14891

     

    Seneca

    1804

    Cayuga

    Ovid, Waterloo

    Charmoine Dinsmore, County Office Building, 1 DiPronio Drive, Waterloo, NY 13165

    (315) 539-5655 x2068

    Steuben

    1796

    Ontario

    Bath

    Richard Sherer, c/o Marion Springer, 3 Pulteney Square, Bath, NY 14810

     

    Sullivan

    1809

    Ulster

    Monticello

    John Conway Box 185, Barryville, NY 12719

     

    Tioga

    1791

    Montgomery

    Owego

    *Kathy Brumbaugh, Tioga Co. Office Bldg., 56 Main St., Owego, NY 13827

    (607) 687-8226

    Tompkins

    1817

    Cayuga, Seneca

    Ithaca

    *Gretchen Sachse, 401 E. State St., Ithaca, NY 14850

    (607) 273-8284

    Ulster

    1683

    original county

    Kingston

    Bruce Burgher, 32 Lawrenceville St., Kingston, NY 12401

    (914) 331-3265

    Warren

    1813

    Washington

    Lake George

    *Marjorie Swan, Warren County Municipal Ctr., Lake George, NY 12845

    (518) 761-6544

    Washington

    1772

    Albany

    Hudson Falls

    Joseph Cutshall-King, Washington County Municipal Center, 383 Upper Broadway, Fort Edward, NY 12828

    (518) 747-3374

    Wayne

    1823

    Ontario, Seneca

    Lyons

    Debbie Ferrell 9 Pearl St., P.O. Box 131, Lyons, NY 14489

    (315) 946-5470

    Wyoming

    1841

    Genesee

    Warsaw

    Raymond Barber, Wyoming County Historians Office, 26 Linwood Ave., Warsaw, NY 14569

    (716) 786-8818

    Yates

    1823

    Ontario, Steuben

    Penn Yan

    Yates County Historian, 110 Court St., Penn Yan, NY 14527

    (315) 536-5147

    If the records available from the county historian's office do not bear fruit, don't give up. Perhaps the state historian can help: Office of the State Historian, Dr. Joseph Meany, Room 3097, Cultural Education Center, Albany, NY 12230; (518) 485-2038. There is more local history available from town and village historians. Their addresses are available from the county historian's office. For counties with websites, their municipal historians are often listed there. Another possibility is a county or municipal historical society. Some larger public libraries have a librarian who specializes in local history. All of these people will be able to suggest records that may prove useful in your search for your ancestors.

    Footnotes

    1. 1997 Directory of New York State County and Municipal Historians, County Historians Association of New York State.
    2. Ibid.
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