After a long absence, we revisit the Hudson Valley and feature one of New York State's earliest settled counties - Rensselaer. As Rensselaer County is located at the point where the Hudson River and the Mohawk River meet, researchers in surrounding counties can often trace their ancestry back to early Dutch settlers who settled around what is now the city of Troy. The greater part of the county was included in the 1630 patent of Killian Van Rensselaer.
Rensselaer County GenWeb is a plain gray site with a table of options. In maintaining the site, coordinator Debby Masterson wanted to stay close to the original NYGenWeb design format, choosing to follow a principle that is seen less frequently on the web. She "keeps it simple" - simple to navigate, simple to load in, and simple to find answers. This is appreciated by researchers using older machines or browsers, who have to dial in long distance, or who prefer to research with images turned off.
Rensselaer County GenWeb is packed with information, providing an example of every type of resource researchers hope to find:
- lists of town clerks, historical societies, historians, and libraries
- profiles of each town, with lists of early settlers
- selected vital records ranging from 1847 through 1865
- listings of Civil war soldiers from each town
- the largest selection of wills of any NYGenWeb site
- biographies, including photos
- bible records
- GenConnect board, archived queries board, non-surnames queries
- county mailing list
Debby's most ambitious project is the indexing of the 1855 New York State census of Rensselaer. Several towns are complete, including links to obituaries when available. Currently on line are large images of typescripts of the census. Plans for 1999 involve typing these out and adding more towns.
Other site highlights include the 1835 pensioners list of surviving Revolutionary War soldiers and widows, and the 1885 pensioners of the War of 1812 and the Civil War. Recently Debby added the minutes of the Schodack Baptist Church, which reveal personalities, mores, and secular and religious concerns of members. As some of the events described would be moving, or scandalous, in any day, the records are fascinating beyond their genealogical value. At the upper right-hand corner of the table is a "must-click". If you've ever been denied access to ancestral records anywhere in New York State, don't miss the article about the Freedom of Information Act. Save it for future reference.
Debby has covered all the basics; everything the Rensselaer County researcher needs to get going and rolling is here. Contributions of your own local family information, obits, pension records, early historical articles, and more that will enhance her sections would be appreciated.