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  • The Vosburgh Collection of Congregational Church Records

    Marian S. Henry

    Published Date : September 12, 2003

    New York State did not begin to collect vital records data until 1880, leaving genealogists seeking earlier records with incomplete, unpublished, and scattered substitutes.  For this reason any reliable collection of early vital records is especially valuable.  The Vosburgh Collection, containing over 100 volumes of transcriptions of Protestant church records, is such a resource.  The collection was commissioned by the Library of Congress and other institutions, and compiled between 1913 and 1928.  Royden Vosburgh, archivist and historian of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, transcribed many of the volumes and edited nearly all of them. In spite of its size, the Vosburgh Collection cannot be considered a statewide database.  The emphasis is on early congregations, rather than early records.  The churches included are located almost exclusively in the valleys surrounding the Hudson and Mohawk rivers, where the earliest settlements in the state were located.  However, many of the transcriptions extend into the twentieth century.  The collection has been microfilmed and is available in the NEHGS library, the library of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (NYG&BS), the New York State library, and in some public libraries.  Films are available at the Family History Library (and local Family History Centers).

    Royden Woodward Vosburgh became archivist and historian of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society in 1913.  The following biographical information was extracted from an obituary published in the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record in 1932.[i]

    Royden Woodward Vosburgh, a Life Member of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, died … on May 18, 1931.  … Mr. Vosburgh was born Feb. 5, 1875, at Buffalo, New York, the son of William Henry Vosburgh and his wife Caroline Estelle Woodward. … He was educated at the Brown and Nichols School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and at Harvard University, 1893-1896. … In 1913 Mr. Vosburgh became the archivist of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, and devoted much of his time to make carefully prepared copies of the church records of the State of New York.  His services enriched the Society with the records of 92 churches, occupying 101 volumes. …  In the Records for Jan. 1918 (Vol. 49, pp. 11-16) and April, 1921 (Vol. 52, pp. 152-157) are listed the church records copied by Mr. Vosburgh. … Mr. Vosburgh was connected with the Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences, and edited for that Society nine volumes of Staten Island church and gravestone records.

    The NEHGS library holds a copy of the thirteen-reel NYG&BS filming of the collection. Its call number is F118/V67/1913.  While there is no index to the collection, the NEHGS library has a copy of A guide to Vosburgh church records on microfilm, by Robert M. Murphy (Microtext REF F118/M86/1999). The majority of the records begin in the mid to late eighteenth century.  Some records cover a relatively short time span, such as Round Top Lutheran Church of Pine Plains in Dutchess County (1760-1788).  Other records extend into the twentieth century, such as First Lutheran Church of Albany (1774-1901) or First Reformed Church of West Coxsackie in Greene County (1738-1918).

    The catalogue entries at the Connecticut State Library for this filming are particularly complete.  For example, the entry for the Reformed Dutch Church of Stone Arabia, in the town of Palatine, Montgomery County, contains the following description of the contents:[ii]

    Contents  v. 1 : Baptisms and births, Oct. 14, 1739-Jan. 31, 1796. Marriages, Oct. 16, 1739-1795. Register of members, Jan. 13, 1739-1795. Elders and deacons, 1788-1796. Copy of the charter, 1791. Death register, 1787-1795. Seat owners, 1790. Seat regulations and transfer. -- v. 2 : Births and baptisms, 1796-1824. Marriages, 1796-1821. Register of members, 1796-1830. Death register, 1796-1823. Miscellanea, dismissals, etc. Abstracts from the minutes of the consistory, 1789-1850. List of the church officers, 1743, 1788-1849. Subscription lists, 1821. -- v. 3 : Births and baptisms, 1824-1911. Death register, 1851-1856. Marriages, 1844-1895. Register of members, 1826-1912. List of families, 1851. Deaths, 1872-1880. Minutes of consistory. The history of the Reformed Dutch Church of Stone Arabia, Gravestone inscriptions. Stone Arabia Reformed Burying Ground. Catalogue of books and documents

    While it is true that the records of some of the churches in this collection were published elsewhere (with indexes), researchers are urged to consult the Vosburgh collection as well.  Most of the published sources transcribe only the vital records; as the description above suggests, Vosburgh includes much additional information.  He carefully describes his sources and includes many notes, such as the following: “Note. three blank pages follow in the original record, after which comes the page inscribed: “RECORD OF BAPTISMS CONTINUED by Jno. J. Wack.”[iii]   The following extract from the introduction to his “Abstracts from the minutes of the consistory” gives some idea of how extensive this additional material can be.

    Taken as a whole, this abstract with the notes, gives every fact worthy of note, concerning the history of this church for three score years.  It contains all the documentary data relating to the building of, and the repairs made, to the present church edifice; the consecration of the church, its admission to the Classis[iv] of Albany; and presents authoritatively for the first time, the facts concerning the suspension and deposition of the Rev. John J. Wack. [Rev. Wack was accused of repeated drunkenness and profanity.]  This latter phase of the church history is in itself a most interesting study, and it shows that the members of the Classis of Montgomery, by whose acts the Stone Arabia Church became independent for about ten years, were the same band of malcontents who finally organized the True Reformed Dutch Church.  In short, what follows presents the primary sources of information from which the history of the church must be written.[v]  

    The version available at the Family History Library presents the same information in sixty-one reels instead of thirteen.  The Family History Library does not have a copy of Murphy’s guide, but does have an Index to the Vosburgh collection of the early church records of the state of New York (#1697744, item 27).  The FHL catalog entries list the names of the churches included in each of the sixty-one reels. 

    The following table lists the relevant congregations, collected by county, together with the dates for which records were transcribed.  From this a researcher should be able to evaluate the relevance of this collection to his work.

    Table I: Churches Forming the Vosburgh Collection[vi]

     

    County

    Location

    Congregation

    Dates

    Albany

    Albany

    First Lutheran

    1784-1900


    Albany

    First Presbyterian

    1785-1870


    Berne

    Reformed Dutch Church of the Beaver Dam

    1763-1877


    Berne

    St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran

    1790-1875


    New Scotland

    Presbyterian

    1787-1893

    Cayuga

    Fleming

    Reformed Protestant Dutch Church at the Owasco Outlet

    1807-1886


    Owasco

    Reformed Dutch

    1799-1834

    Columbia

    Canaan

    Congregational Church and Society of New Canaan

    1740-1884


    Canaan

    First Presbyterian

    1830-1854


    Chatham

    Congregational Church of New Concord

    1781-1854


    Claverack

    St. Thomas Evangelical Lutheran

    1760-1905


    Germantown

    Christ’s Evangelical Lutheran

    1746-1859


    Ghent

    Christ’s Evangelical Lutheran

    1801-1901


    Ghent

    Reformed Dutch (known as Christ Church)

    1775-1919


    Hillsdale

    Reformed Dutch

    1776-1849


    Kinderhook

    Reformed Dutch

    1716-1864


    Manorton (Livingston)

    St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran

    1764-1848


    West Copake

    Reformed Church of West Copake (formerly Reformed Church of Taghkanick)

    1783-1856

    Delaware

    Harpersfield

    Presbyterian Congregation

    1787-1837


    Moresville (Roxbury)

    Reformed Dutch

    1836-1889


    Stamford

    First Presbyterian

    1834-1882


    Stamford

    St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Hobart

    1794-1907

    Dutchess

    Pine Plains

    Round Top Lutheran

    1760-1788

    Fulton

    Broadalbin

    First Presbyterian

    1799-1895


    Johnstown

    Presbyterian

    1785-1867


    Johnstown

    St. John’s Episcopal

    1815-1862


    Mayfield

    Reformed Dutch

    1792-1821


    Perth

    First Presbyterian Church of West Galway (formerly First Presbyterian Church in Galloway)

    1793-1912


    Perth

    United Presbyterian Church of Broadalbin

    1821-1918

    Greene

    Catskill

    Reformed Dutch

    1732-1833


    Durham

    First Presbyterian

    1792-1857


    Durham

    Reformed Dutch Church in Oak Hill

    1794-1832


    Durham

    Second Presbyterian

    1816-1872


    Prattsville

    Reformed Dutch

    1798-1896


    West Coxsackie

    First Reformed

    1738-1918

    Herkimer

    German Flats

    Reformed Protestant Dutch

    1763-1848


    Herkimer

    Reformed Protestant Dutch Church

    1801-1848

    Montgomery

    Florida

    United Presbyterian

    1743-1861


    Florida

    Reformed Protestant Dutch

    1808-1918


    Fonda

    Reformed (formerly Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of Caughnawaga)

    1758-1858


    Glen

    First Reformed Protestant Dutch (formerly First R.P.D. Church at Charleston)

    1805-1882


    Minden

    St. Paul’s Lutheran (otherwise known as the Geisenberg Church, formerly at Hallsville)

    1792-1836


    Minden

    Reformed Dutch Church at Fort Plain (formerly Reformed Calvinist Church at Canajoharie)

    1788-1850


    Palatine

    Lutheran Trinity Church of Stone Arabia

    1751-1866


    Palatine

    Reformed Dutch

    1739-1912


    St. Johnsville

    St. John’s Dutch Reformed

    1788-1878

    New York


    Christ Protestant Episcopal

    1793-1848



    Reformed Dutch Church at Greenwich [Greenwich Village]

    1804-1859



    Madison Avenue Reformed (formerly Reformed Dutch Church in Sugar Loaf Street, and North West Reformed Dutch Church in Franklin Street)

    1808-1850



    South Reformed Dutch Church ("in Garden Street" to 1835, "in Murray Street" 1837-48)

    1812-1853

    Oneida

    Clinton

    Congregational Church (also known as the Society of Clinton)

    1788-1846


    New Hartford

    Presbyterian Church (formerly the First Religious Society in Whitestown)

    1791-1887


    Paris

    Congregational Church (also known as Paris Religious Society)

    1795-1855


    Utica

    First Presbyterian

    1797-1852


    Whitestown

    First Presbyterian Church of Whitesboro

    1795-1898

    Oswego

    Oswego

    First Presbyterian

    1832-1870

    Otsego

    Cherry Valley

    First Presbyterian

    1799-1849


    Cooperstown

    Presbyterian

    1800-1869


    Springfield

    First Baptist

    1787-1852

    Rensselaer

    Brunswick

    Gilead Evangelical

    1777-1859


    East Greenbush

    Reformed Protestant Dutch

    1787-1910


    Hoosick

    Reformed Dutch Church of Taishokeat Buskirk (formerly Buskirk’s Bridge, or Tiossick)

    1792-1873


    Lansingburgh

    First Presbyterian

    1804-1827

    1833-1858


    Nassau

    Reformed Dutch

    1804-1878


    North Greenbush

    Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of Wynantskill

    1794-1889


    Schodack

    Reformed Dutch Church of Schodackat Muitzeskill

    1770-1832


    Troy

    First Presbyterian

    1793-1864


    Troy

    Second Street Presbyterian

    1834-1911


    West Sandlake

    First Evangelical Lutheran Church (formerly the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rensselaerwyck and Greenbush)

    1785-1868

    Richmond

    (Staten Island)

    New Springville (in former Town of Northfield)

    Asbury Methodist Episcopal (formerly M.E. Church in Town of Northfield)

    1802-1809

    1856-1881


    Port Richmond (Northfield)

    Reformed Protestant Dutch Church on Staten Island

    1790-1871


    Richmond (Northfield)

    St. Andrew’s Protestant Episcopal

    1808-1875


    Rossville (Westfield)

    St. Luke’s Protestant Episcopal

    1844-1877


    Tompkinsville (Castleton)

    Reformed Protestant Dutch (in 1922 the Reformed Church of Brighton Heights)

    1823-1871


    Tompkinsville (Castleton)

    St. Paul’s Protestant Episcopal

    1833-1876


    West New Brighton (Castleton)

    St. Mary’s [Protestant Episcopal]

    1849-1875


    Woodrow (Westfield)

    Woodrow Methodist Episcopal

    1798-1876

    Rockland

    Kakiat

    Reformed Dutch

    1774-1864

    Saratoga

    Ballston

    First Presbyterian

    1783-1865


    Charlton

    Freehold Presbyterian

    1800-1861


    Charlton

    United Presbyterian Church at West Charlton

    1794-1858


    Clifton Park

    Reformed Dutch Church of Amity

    1802-1856


    Schuylerville

    Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of Saratoga

    1789-1857


    Stillwater

    First Congregational

    1752-1849


    Stillwater

    First Presbyterian

    1791-1904

    Schenectady

    Duanesburgh

    Reformed Protestant Dutch

    1798-1804


    Niskayuna

    Protestant Reformed Dutch

    1783-1861

    Schoharie

    Blenheim

    Reformed Dutch

    1797-1831


    Cobleskill

    Union Reformed Dutch

    1827-1848


    Cobleskill

    Zion’s Evangelical Lutheran

    1795-1871


    Gilboa

    Reformed (formerly the Reformed Dutch Church in Dyse’s Manor in Broome)

    1801-1885


    Middleburgh

    Reformed Dutch

    1786-1865


    New Rhinebeck

    German Reformed (later the Reformed Church of Lawyersville in Cobleskill)

    1788-1882


    Schoharie

    Reformed (formerly the High and Low Dutch Reformed Congregation)

    1730-1892


    Schoharie

    St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran

    1728-1882

    Washington

    Cambridge

    First United Presbyterian Congregation

    1794-1869


    Cambridge

    Protestant Presbyterian Congregation

    1791-1886


    Easton

    Reformed Protestant Dutch

    1803-1909


    Greenwich

    Reformed Dutch (formerly Reformed Dutch Church of Union Village)

    1809-1879

    Bennington

    (Vermont)

    Sandgate

    Congregational

    1782-1835

    1860, 1867

    Warren

    (New Jersey)

    Johnsonburg

    Hardwick Friends Meeting

    1803-1822



    [i] New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol. 76 (1932), pp. 185-6.

    [ii] http://csulib.ctstateu.edu/search/a?SEARCH=Vosburgh,+Royden

    [iii] Vosburgh Collection, reel 12, item #1, p. 141.

    [iv] Classis: “In certain Presbyterian churches; an inferior judicatory consisting of the elders or pastors of the parishes or church of a district; a presbytery.  Used in England under the Commonwealth; and subsequently in certain Reformed churches of the continent, and America.  A district formed by the parishes so united.”  Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, prepared by J.A. Simpson and E.S.C. Weiner, Clarendon Press, Oxford.

    [v] Vosburgh Collection, reel 12, item #1, p. 153.

    [vi] http://www.nygbs.org/info/articles/vosburgh.htm

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