Using the Congressional Serial Set for Genealogical Research

Using the Congressional Serial Set for Genealogical Research
By Jeffery Hartley


(This article appeared in the Spring 2009 issue of Prologue. It has been excerpted and reprinted here with the permission of the author.

The Historical Documents section in GenealogyBank includes over 243,000 reports from the US Serial Set and the American State Papers).


Click here to search the American State Papers and US Congressional Serial Set in GenealogyBank.com

Genealogists use whatever sources are available to them in pursuit of their family history: diaries, family Bibles, census records, passenger arrival records, and other federal records. One set of materials that is often overlooked, however, is the Congressional Serial Set.

This large multivolume resource contains various congressional reports and documents from the beginning of the federal government, and its coverage is wide and varied. Women, African Americans, Native Americans, students, soldiers and sailors, pensioners, landowners, and inventors are all represented in some fashion. While a beginning genealogist would not use the Serial Set to begin a family history, it nevertheless can serve as a valuable tool and resource for someone helping to flesh out an ancestors life, especially where it coincided with the interests of the U.S. federal government.

Since its inception, the U.S. government has gathered information, held hearings, compiled reports, and published those findings in literally millions of pages, the majority of which have been published by the Government Printing Office (GPO).

These publications include annual reports of the various executive branch agencies, congressional hearings and documents, registers of employees, and telephone directories. Their topics cover a wide range, from the Ku Klux Klan to child labor practices to immigration to western exploration.

In 1817, the Serial Set was begun with the intent of being the official, collective, definitive publication documenting the activities of the federal government. Following the destruction of the Capitol in 1814 by the British, Congress became interested in publishing their records to make them more accessible and less vulnerable to loss.

In the early Federal period, printing of congressional documents had been haphazard, and the Serial Set was an effort designed to rectify that situation. Although initially there were no regulations concerning what should be included, several laws and regulations were promulgated over the years. The contents, therefore, vary depending on the year in question.

In 1831, 14 years after the Serial Set was begun, the printers Gales & Seaton proposed that a compilation of the documents from the first Congresses be printed. The secretary of the Senate and the clerk of the House were to direct the selection of those documents, 6,278 of which were published in 38 volumes between 1832 and 1861. This collection was known as the American State Papers.

Because it was a retrospective effort, these 38 volumes were arranged chronologically within 10 subject areas: Foreign Relations, Indian Affairs, Finance, Commerce & Navigation, Military Affairs, Naval Affairs, Post Office, Public Lands, Claims, and Miscellaneous.

Although not technically a part of the Serial Set, the volumes were certainly related, and therefore the volumes were designated with a leading zero so that these volumes would be shelved properly, i.e. before the volumes of the Serial Set. (1)

The Congressional Serial Set itself includes six distinct series: House and Senate journals (until 1953), House and Senate reports, House and Senate documents, Senate treaty documents, Senate executive reports, and miscellaneous reports. The journals provide information about the daily activities of each chamber. The House and Senate reports relate to public and private legislation under consideration during each session.

Documents generally relate to other investigations or subjects that have come to the attention of Congress. Nominations for office and military promotion appear in the Senate Executive Reports. Miscellaneous reports are just that­widely varied in subject matter and content. With the possible exception of the treaty documents, any of these can have some relevance for genealogists.

The documents and reports in the Serial Set are numbered sequentially within each Congress, no matter what their subject or origin. The documents were then collected into volumes, which were then given a sequential number within the Serial Set. The set currently stands at over 15,000 volumes, accounting for more than 325,000 individual documents and 11 million pages.

The Serial Set amounts to an incredible amount of documentation for the 19th century. Agency annual reports, reports on surveys and military expeditions, statistics and other investigations all appear and thoroughly document the activities of the federal government.

In 1907, however, the Public Printing and Binding Act provided guidelines for what should be included, resulting in many of these types of reports no longer being included as they were also issued separately by the individual agencies. The number of copies was also trimmed. With that stroke, the value of the Serial Set was lessened, but it nevertheless stands as a valuable genealogical resource for the 19th century.

So what is available for genealogists? The following examples are just some of the types of reports and information that are available.

Land Records
The Serial Set contains much information concerning land claims. These claims relate to bounty for service to the government as well as to contested lands once under the jurisdiction of another nation.

In House Report 78 (21-2), there is a report entitled “Archibald Jackson.” This report, from the House Committee on Private Land Claims, in 1831, relates to Jackson’s claim for the land due to James Gammons. Gammons, a soldier in the 11th U.S. Infantry, died on February 19, 1813, “in service of the United States.” The act under which he enlisted provided for an extra three month’s pay and 160 acres of land to those who died while in service to the United States. However, Gammons was a slave, owned by Archibald Jackson, who apparently never overtly consented to the enlistment but allowed it to continue. That Gammons was eligible for the extra pay and bounty land was not in dispute, but the recipient of that bounty was. Jackson had already collected the back pay in 1823 and was petitioning for the land as well. The report provides a decision in favor of Jackson, as he was the legal representative of Gammons, and as such entitled to all of his property. (2)

Land as bounty was one issue, and another was claims for newly annexed land as the country spread west. In 1838, the House of Representatives published a report related to Senate Bill 89 concerning the lands acquired through the treaty with Spain in 1819 that ceded East and West Florida to the United States. Claims to land between the Mississippi and the Perdido Rivers, however, were not a part of that treaty and had been unresolved since the Louisiana Purchase, which had taken the Perdido River as one of its limits. The report provides a background on the claims as well as lists of the claimants, the names of original claimants, the date and nature of the claim, and the amount of the land involved. (3)

Other land claims are represented as well. In 1820, the Senate ordered a report to be printed from the General Land Office containing reports of the land commissioners at Jackson Court House. These lands are located in Louisiana and include information that would help a genealogist locate their ancestor in this area. Included in this report is a table entitled “A List of Actual Settlers, in the District East of Pearl River, in Louisiana, prior to the 3d March, 1819, who have no claims derived from either the French, British, or Spanish, Governments.” The information is varied, but a typical entry reads: No. 14, present claimant George B. Dameson, original claimant Mde. Neait Pacquet, originally settled 1779, located above White’s Point, Pascag. River, for about 6 years. (4)

Annual Reports
Among the reports in the Serial Set for the 19th century are the annual reports to Congress from the various executive branch agencies. Congress had funded the activities of these organizations and required that each provide a report concerning their annual activities. Many of these are printed in the Serial Set, often twice: the same content with both a House and a Senate document number. Annual reports in the 19th century were very different from the public relations pieces that they tend to be today.

Besides providing information about the organization and its activities, many included research reports and other (almost academic) papers. In the annual reports of the Bureau of Ethnology, for instance, one can find dictionaries of Native American languages, reports on artifacts, and in one case, even a genealogy for the descendants of a chief. (5)

These reports can often serendipitously include information of interest to the family historian. For instance, the annual report of the solicitor of the Treasury would not necessarily be a place to expect to find family information. The 1844 report, however, does have some information that could be useful. For instance, pages 36 and 37 of this report contains a “tabular list of suits now pending in the courts of the United States, in which the government is a part and interested.”

Many on the opposite side of the case were individuals. An example is the case of Roswell Lee, late a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, against whom there has been a judgment for over $5,000 in 1838. Lee was sued in a court in Massachusetts and in 1844 still owed over $4,000. In a letter dated May 5, 1840, the district attorney informed the office (6)
that Mr. Lee is not now a resident of the district of Massachusetts, and that whether he ever returns is quite uncertain; that nothing, however, will be lost by his absence, as the United States have now a judgment against him, which probably will forever remain unsatisfied.

Another set of annual reports that appear in the Serial Set are those for the Patent Office. The annual reports of the commissioner of patents often include an index to the patents that were granted that year, arranged by subject and containing the names of the invention and the patentee and the patent number. The report included a further description of the patent, and often a diagram of it as well. Each year’s report also included an index by patentee.

Unfortunately, the numbers of patents granted in later years, as well as their complexity, led to more limited information being included in later reports. The 1910 report, for instance, simply contains an alphabetical list of inventions, with the entries listing the patentee, number, date, and where additional information can be found in the Official Patent Office Gazette. (7)

The Civil War gave rise to a number of medical enhancements and innovations in battlefield medicine, and the annual report for 1865, published in 1867, contains a reminder of that in the patent awarded to G. B. Jewett, of Salem, Massachusetts, for “Legs, artificial.” Patent 51,593 was granted December 19, 1865, and the description of the patent on page 990 provides information on the several improvements that Jewett had developed. The patent diagram on page 760 illustrated the text. (8)

This annual report relates to a report from May 1866, also published in the Serial Set that same session of Congress, entitled “Artificial Limbs Furnished to Soldiers.” This report, dated May 1866, came from the secretary of war in response to a congressional inquiry concerning artificial limbs furnished to soldiers at the government’s expense. Within its 128 pages are a short list of the manufacturers of these limbs, including several owned by members of the Jewett family in Salem, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington, D.C., as well as an alphabetical list of soldiers, detailing their rank, regiment and state, residence, limb, cost, date, and manufacturer. Constantine Elsner, a private in B Company of the 20th Massachusetts living in Boston, received a leg made by G. B. Jewett at a cost of $75 on April 8, 1865. 9 This may have been an older version of the one that Jewett would have patented later in the year, or it may have been an early model of that one. Either way, a researcher would have some idea not only of what Elsner’s military career was like, but also some sense of what elements of life for him would be like after the war.

Congress also was interested in the activities of organizations that were granted congressional charters. Many of the charters included the requirement that an annual report be supplied to Congress, and these were then ordered to be printed in the Serial Set.

One such organization is the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). As one would expect, the DAR annual reports contain a great deal of genealogical and family history information. The 18th annual report is no exception. Among other things, it includes, in appendix A, a list of the graves of almost 3,000 Revolutionary War soldiers. The list includes not just a name and location, but other narrative information as well:
Abston, John. Born Jan. 2, 1757; died 1856. Son of Joshua Abston, captain of Virginia militia; served two years in War of the American Revolution. Enlisted from Pittsylvania County, Va.; was in Capt. John Ellis’ company under Col. Washington. The evening before the battle of Kings Mountain, Col. Washington, who was in command of the starving Americans at this point, sent soldiers out to forage for food. At a late hour a steer was driven into camp, killed, and made into a stew. The almost famished soldiers ate the stew, without bread, and slept the sleep of the just. Much strengthened by their repast and rest, the next morning they made the gallant charge that won the battle of Kings Mountain, one of the decisive battles of the American Revolution. Washington found one of the steer’s horns and gave it to Abston, a personal friend, who carried it as a powder horn the rest of the war. (10)

Another organization whose annual reports appear is the Columbia Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, which later became Gallaudet University. These reports, found in the annual reports of the secretary of the interior, contain much of what one would expect: lists of faculty and students, enrollment statistics, and other narrative. While that information can help to provide information about one’s ancestor’s time there, there are other parts of the narrative that include information one would not expect to find.

For instance, the 10th annual report for 1867 has a section entitled “The Health of the Institution.” It concerns not the fiscal viability of the institution but rather the occurrences of illness and other calamities. One student from Maryland, John A. Unglebower, was seized with gastric fever and died: “He was a boy of exemplary character, whose early death is mourned by all who knew him.” Two other students drowned that year, and the circumstances of their deaths recounted, with the hope that “they were not unprepared to meet the sudden and unexpected summons.” (11) Both the faculty and the student body contributed their memorials to these two students in the report.

Other organizations represented in the Serial Set are the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, Veterans of World War I of the United States, proceedings of the National Encampment, United Spanish War Veterans, the American Historical Association, and the National Convention of Disabled American Veterans.

Lists of Pensioners
The history of pensions provided by the federal government is beyond the scope of this article. However, the Serial Set is a source of information about who was on the rolls at various times. For instance, an 1818 letter from the secretary of war was published containing a list of the persons who had been added to the pension list since May 28, 1813. The list provides information on the likes of Susanna Coyle, certificate of pension no. 9, heiress of deceased soldier William Coyle, alias Coil, a private who received pay of four dollars per month. (12)

Sundry lists of pensions appeared in 1850, related to the regulation of Navy, privateer, and Navy hospital funds. The report included four lists: those placed in the invalid list who were injured while in the line of duty; those drawing pensions from wounds received while serving on private armed vessels; widows drawing pensions from their husbands who were engineers, firemen, and coal-heavers; and orphan children of officers, seamen, and marines pensioned under the act of August 11, 1848. (13)

One of the most widely consulted lists is that for 1883, “List of Pensioners on the Roll, January 1, 1883” (Senate Executive Document 84 [47-2]). This five-volume title, arranged by state and then county of residence, provides a list of each pensioner’s name, his post office, the monthly amount received, the date of the original allowance, the reason for the pension, and the certificate number.

An example is the case of Eli G. Biddle, who served in the 54th Massachusetts. Biddle can be found on page 439 of volume 5 of the “List,” and a researcher can learn several things without even having seen his pension file: his middle name is George, he was living in Boston in 1883, and he was receiving four dollars each month after having suffered a gunshot wound in the right shoulder. His pension certificate number is also provided 99,053­ and with that one could easily order the appropriate records from the National Archives.

Registers
The Serial Set serves as a source of military registers and other lists of government personnel as well. Both Army and Navy registers appear after 1896. The Army registers for 1848–1860 and the Navy registers for 1848–1863 are transcripts of the lists that appeared the preceding January and include pay and allowances, with corrections to that earlier edition for deaths and resignations.

The Official Register, or “Blue Book,” a biannual register of the employees of the federal government, appears for 10 years, from 1883 to 1893. If one’s ancestors were employees at this time, their current location and position, place from which they were appointed, date of appointment, and annual compensation can be gleaned from this source.

The Serial Set often provides unexpected finds, and the area of registers is no exception. There is a great deal of material on the Civil War, from the 130 volumes of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion to other investigations and the aforementioned registers and lists of pensions. There are not, however, large amounts of compiled unit histories.

One exception, however, is the report from the adjutant general of Arkansas. Shortly after the Civil War, the adjutant general offices of the various Union states prepared reports detailing the activities of the men from their states. The same was done in Arkansas, but the state legislature there, “under disloyal control,” declined to publish the report. Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts, chairman of the Senate Committee on Military Affairs, brought it to the committee in 1867, and it was ordered to be printed in the Serial Set so that the loyal activities of these 10,000 men would be recognized. (14) The report includes brief histories of each unit as well as a roster of the unit and rank, enlistment date, and other notes on each soldier.

Accessing Information in the Serial Set
The indexing for the Serial Set has long been troublesome to researchers. Various attempts have been made to provide subject access, with varying degrees of success. Many of the indexes in the volumes themselves are primarily title indexes to the reports from that Congress and session. The Checklist of United States Public Documents, 1789–1909, does provide information about what reports listed therein do appear in the Serial Set, but the researcher has to know the name of the issuing agency in order to access that information. The Document Index provides some subject indexing by Congress, and other efforts such as those by John Ames and Benjamin Poore can also be used, but none index the tables and contents of many of the reports that have been discussed in this article. (15)

The best comprehensive print index is the Congressional Information Service’s (CIS) U.S. Serial Set Index, produced in conjunction with their microfilming of the volumes through 1969 beginning in the mid-1970s. In this index, a two-volume subject index covers groups of Congresses, with a third volume providing an index to individual names for relief actions, as well as a complete numerical list in each report/document category. The index, however, does not index the contents of the documents. For instance, although the title given for the Archibald Jackson land claim includes James Gammons’s name, the latter does not appear in the index to private relief actions. In addition, users must often be creative in the terms applied in order to be sure that they have exhausted all possibilities. In the mid-1990s CIS released these indexes on CD-ROM, which makes them somewhat easier to use, although the contents are essentially the same.

The indexing problems have been rectified by the digitization of the Serial Set. At least two private companies, LexisNexis and Readex, have digitized it and made it full-text searchable.

[The Serial Set and American State Papers are available in GenealogyBank. Click here to search them online]

This article can only hint at some of the genealogical possibilities that can be found in the Congressional Serial Set. It has not touched on the land survey, railroad, western exploration, or lighthouse keeper’s reports or many of the private relief petitions and claims. Nonetheless, the reports and documents in the Serial Set provide a tremendous and varied amount of information for researchers interested in family history.

Author
Jeffery Hartley is chief librarian for the Archives Library Information Center (ALIC). A graduate of Dickinson College and the University of Maryland’s College of Library and Information Services, he joined the National Archives and Records Administration in 1990.

Notes
1 For a more complete description of the American State Papers, and their genealogical relevance, see Chris Naylor, “Those Elusive Early Americans: Public Lands and Claims in the American State Papers, 1789–1837,” Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration 37 (Summer 2005): 54–61.
2 H. Rept. 78 (21-2), 1831, “Archibald Jackson” (Serial 210).
3 H. Rept. 818 (25-2), 1838, “Land Claims between Perdido and Mississippi” Serial 335.
4 S. Doc. 3 (16-2), 1820, “Reports of the Land Commissioners at Jackson Court House” (Serial 42).
5 H. Misc. Doc. 32 (48-2), 1882, “3rd Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology” (Serial 2317).
6 H. Doc. 35 (28-1), 1844, “Annual Report of Solicitor of the Treasury” (Serial 441), p. 37. 7 H. Doc. 1348 (61-3), 1911, “Annual Report of the Commissioner of Patents for the Year 1910″ (Serial 6020).
8 H. Exec. Doc. 62 (39-1), 1867, “Annual Report of the Commissioner of Patents for the Year 1865″ (Serial 1257-1259).
9 H. Exec. Doc. 108 (39-1), 1866, “Artificial Limbs Furnished to Soldiers” (Serial 1263).
10 S. Doc. 392 (64-1), 1916, “Eighteenth Report of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, October 11, 1914, to October 11, 1915″ (Serial 6924), p.155. 11 H. Exec. Doc. 1 (40-2), “Tenth Annual Report of the Columbia Institution for the Deaf and Dumb” (Serial 1326), pp. 429–430.
12 H. Doc. 35 (15-1), 1818 (Serial 6), p. 17.
13 See H. Ex. Doc. 10 (31-2), 1850, “Sundry Lists of Pensioners” (Serial 597).
14 See S. Misc. Doc 53 (39-2), 1867, “Report of the Adjutant General for the State of Arkansas, for the Period of the Late Rebellion, and to November 1, 1866″ (Serial 1278).
15 A good discussion of how some of these indexes work can be found in Mary Lardgaard, “Beginner’s Guide to Indexes to the Nineteenth Century U.S. Serial Set,” Government Publications Review 2 (1975): 303–311.

Obituary Reveals Identity of Homesick Boy from Orphanage – 65 years later

Genealogists want to find and document every member of a family. They don’t want even one child to be forgotten.

Thanks to genealogist Ed Hutchison of Mississippi a 78 year old Syracuse, NY man’s true identity has been uncovered.

Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY) – April 5, 2009
Case, Dick. Death Uncovers Hidden Identity
.


We called him Louie.
He told us his name was Louis Ludbeck.
Mostly, his life seemed to be a blank slate.


It wasn’t until he died March 5, that the mystery that was Louie began to unravel.
Louie died in peace at Francis House. He was 78. A stroke took him.

We know now that Louie was born Gene Rollin Poffahl, Jan.17, 1931. He came into a family of farmers in Albany County. Likely he had five siblings.

We know this because the Onondaga County Medical Examiner’s Office came into the picture after Louie died. He went to Francis House, a hospice run by the Franciscan Order of Nuns, with no past: no government health insurance, no Social Security number, no record of medical treatment or military service. Just a limp, old man ready to die.

The nuns gathered Louie into their embrace, just the way Ann O’Connor and Peter King had, more than 30 years ago. He passed restfully, among friends.

Ann and Peter are two of the founders of Unity Kitchen of the Catholic Worker of Syracuse. They run an elegant soup kitchen, offering full-course, fully served meals twice a week, as well as brunch on Sundays after Mass. The kitchen gets by on alms and the good will of a small, devoted troop of volunteers, who support Ann and Peter with donations and the good will of their help, in-person sometimes twice a week.

They live in a house on Palmer Avenue, devoted to the Catholic Worker community. Years ago, Ann and Peter set their lives aside to serve the city’s poor in a very special way. My wife, Sandy, and I have been volunteers at the kitchen several years.

Louie drifted into Unity Kitchen maybe 30 years ago. No one paid attention to the exact date. Some say it was 1978. He was part of a continuous wave of needy folks who washed across the struggling agency every week. Back then, the kitchen was a literal soup kitchen, and a flophouse, holed up in two floors of an old sash factory tucked next to the DL&W railroad tracks about where Adams and South Clinton streets meet.

Louie settled in; he seemed to have found a home among the homeless. He said little, as became his way of life. Ann and Peter accepted his silence, knowing from experience that it’s not a good idea to poke at the psyche of a homeless person. If he wanted to share a story, he would. Louie didn’t. It was as if his life began when he arrived in Syracuse. The only clue he carried was a piece of paper marked Orwell,” where the affiliated Unity Acres shelter is located.

Peter recalls that Louie settled into a helping routine, taking on small jobs that seemed to give meaning to his life. He’d often stand fire watch in the building. When others refused to do anything but soak up the founders’ charity, Louie joined up, fit in.

“He seemed to have found his place,” Peter explains.

When Ann and Peter closed the old kitchen, and moved to new quarters in Syracuse’s only co-op apartment building on West Onondaga Street, Louie went with them. He was invited to join them in their home, moving into an upstairs bedroom in the house that’s not far from Unity Kitchen.

One time, Ann and Peter tried to bring Louie into the social welfare system. He told the social worker a fantastic story about owning a house at Split Rock and a car. No, he’s not eligible for help, they were told. You’ll have to apply to be his guardian.

Leave him alone, let it be, the couple was advised. Louie is Louie. He doesn’t want to reveal himself; maybe he can’t.

Louie kept to his routine at Unity Kitchen. He worked at menial things — taking out the garbage, dusting and mopping the floor, arranging chairs — and joining the other guests for meals. Louie asked for little and earned the love and respect of the community.

Like others of our readers, Ed Hutchison, a former county legislator who now lives in Mississippi, was intrigued by Louie’s obituary, which was published in The Post-Standard and the Albany Times Union. By then, the FBI fingerprint check had given him a new name and birth date. It also revealed he had been in the Army for seven years, discharged in 1957. Ed’s a genealogist and loves a mystery. He ran an Internet search.

The search revealed a number of folks with the last name of Poffahl, which is of German origin, in the Albany area. Ed also found a newspaper story with an Albany dateline from 1944: “A homesick boy, injured in trying to escape from the Humane Society for Children, fought for his life today. Gene Poffahl, 13, suffered critical back and neck injuries last week, when police said, he lost his grip on an improvised rope strung from a third-story window and fell to the porch steps of the shelter ….”

Gene Poffahl seems to be Louie Ludbeck. His age fits the FBI record. The accident also would explain Louie’s twisted body. “He was a pretty strong little guy,” according to Peter King, “but his motor facilities were compromised. He walked as if he was drunk.”

The mystery of Louie’s life continues to be peeled back. Peter’s been contacted by people who live in the Albany area who may be relatives. He’s being told his parents surrendered Louie and his brothers and sisters to an orphan home run by nuns in Troy; they couldn’t afford to raise the children. The Poffahls were vegetable farmers, supposedly.

His funeral service was held at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Father John Schopfer, shepherd of Syracuse’s needy, presided. He was carried to his grave in St. Mary’s Cemetery by his friends from Unity Kitchen.

Louie obviously was a troubled man, hiding his history or leaving it where it fell. Peter says he sometimes overheard him “arguing with himself” in a loud voice in his room. He didn’t intrude.

I’m not sure we know how hard we should push our inquiry, either.

Dick Case writes Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at dcase@syracuse.com or 470-2254.
Edition: Final

Page: B1
Copyright, 2009, The Herald Company

More about NY Genealogical & Biographical Society’s Library move to NYPL

Saturday we told you that the NY Genealogical & Biographical Society Library was being given to the NY Public Library.

The NYG&B has now issued a public statement giving more about the background and rationale for this decision. Since this news release is not on the G&B website – I am posting it here.

NEWS FROM THE NYG&B SOCIETY – July 21, 2008 – Special edition
The big question on the minds of NYG&B members for the past several months has been, “Where is the collection going and how soon will it be accessible again?” We are now able to share the good news with you. We are very pleased to announce it will be going to the New York Public Library to be incorporated with the wonderful genealogical and manuscripts collections already housed there.

Although the transfer of the collection will take some time—it will take up to two years for the G&B collection to be fully accessible at NYPL—the end result will benefit all genealogists. Our entire collection will be accessible on-line through NYPL’s database. Offering our catalog on-line had been a long-time goal of the G&B, but the resources necessary to carry out this project always seemed beyond reach. Now through our partnership with NYPL, this dream will finally be achieved. Having our catalog available, just a couple clicks away, through the web will be a boon to our out-of-area members who may not have been able to get to our library often, or at all, to discover what resources we had for them.

Additionally, our new offices will be in close proximity to the NYPL. Instead of a ride in a very slow elevator, the collection will now be just a short walk away. Several of our long-time staff members, all of whom have an excellent grasp of the collection and its value, will continue with the G&B, sharing their knowledge and experience with our membership.

We are committed to our extraordinary collection of books, manuscripts, microfilm, microfiche, maps, etc., and will continue to accept pertinent donations, so please remember the NYG&B when you want to make your unique research available to the wider genealogical community.

Our partnership with NYPL does not end with the transfer of our collection from our library to theirs. We are also committed to join forces to provide top-notch educational programming, as the G&B has in the past, but now with the added benefit of the NYPL’s wonderful resources, personnel, and venues. This partnership marks a wonderful, and very exciting beginning for the “new” NYG&B.

Some of you may have seen the article The New York Times published regarding this arrangement on Saturday, July 19, 2008. It contained a factual error in that our Portrait Collection has not been offered to the New-York Historical Society, nor have there been any negotiations with them regarding this collection. Also, although the article did note that the G&B will focus on ” . . . grant-giving, tours, lectures, and other means of encouraging genealogical research . . . ,” it neglected to mention the commitment the G&B has made to providing first rate educational programs with the added support and input of the NYPL staff.

The following press release is being issued jointly today by the NYG&B and the NYPL:

New York Genealogical and Biographical Society Contributes Its 75,000-Volume Collection to the New York Public Library

Step to Create One of the World’s Largest, Most Accessible Genealogical Libraries: A Singular Resource for Researchers of New York Family History

NEW YORK, NY, July 21, 2008-The New York Public Library (NYPL) and the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (the G&B) announced jointly today that the New York Public Library will become the new home of the G&B Society’s library of 75,000 published works, 30,000 manuscripts, 22,000 microforms, 1,300 periodicals and digital computer media. Among the materials are 16th and 17th century land records; transcriptions of New York baptismal and marriage records; personal diaries and letters; and census data from as early as the 18th century. Joining the Library’s rich and heavily used genealogical and manuscript collections, the merged materials of the NYPL and the G&B will create an unparalleled, publicly accessible resource for those conducting genealogical research. The NYPL and the G&B will co-sponsor educational programs, create links to each other’s websites, and collaborate in various ways to make this invaluable resource available to the public.”

Combining the two collections will result in an extraordinary resource for people nationwide seeking to learn about family members who were born in New York, lived in New York, or passed through New York on the way to becoming citizens,” said David Ferriero, the Andrew W. Mellon Director of the New York Public Libraries. “The G&B collection’s great strength lies in its holdings for the 17th to 18th centuries with emphasis on the Dutch and English. The NYPL genealogical collections are strongest for the 19th to 20th centuries and embrace many different ethnic groups.”

“New York is the historic center of U.S. immigration. Together, two venerable New York institutions will create one of the world’s largest and most accessible genealogical libraries. As a result of this contribution, the wealth of genealogical resources in the G&B’s unique collection, integrated with the NYPL’s incomparable holdings, will within two years be fully accessible to anyone conducting research in this area,” said G&B Chairman Waddell W. Stillman.

The G & B’s collections will become part of the Library’s Manuscripts and Archives Division and its Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History, and Genealogy. The Manuscripts and Archives Division holds approximately 29,000 linear feet of archival material, with its greatest strengths in the papers of individuals, families, and organizations, primarily in the New York region, from the 18th through 20th centuries.

The Milstein Division is one of the nation’s largest publicly accessible collections of genealogical materials and includes hundreds of thousands of books, serials, photographs, microforms, and ephemeral materials in addition to offering free access to a wide range of tools for electronic research.Last July, the G&B announced the sale of its East 58th Street building and reported that it would be moving its headquarters and library to new locations.

Simultaneously, the G&B announced preliminary plans for the restructuring and enhancement of its service offerings and its membership program. Its goal is to transform a 19th century members-only genealogical society founded in 1869 into a 21st century resource for education, research and scholarship serving increasingly Internet-reliant users interested in New York.” Once we decided to sell our building and move the library to a new location, ‘stewardship’ and ‘accessibility’ became the most important words in our vocabulary,” Mr. Stillman continued.

“We sought the strongest possible partner – an organization that would value the G&B collection highly because it significantly complements its own and that would make the G&B library broadly available to researchers worldwide. Equally important, it had to have the professional staff and resources to appropriately house, catalogue, and properly conserve the collection.

The NYPL has precisely those resources and a collection that fits extremely well with ours.” The G&B’s library on 58th Street closed June 1st, and its books, manuscripts, and other media are being readied to be moved to the NYPL starting in August.

National Archives, Library of Congress Documents Go Online

The National Archives and the Library of Congress announced today that they have begun loading digital copies of their materials on a new site called the World Digital Library.

Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein and Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced today that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has become a founding partner in the World Digital Library (WDL).

NARA will contribute digital versions of important documents from its collections to the WDL, which will be launched for the international public in early 2009.

These documents include Civil War photographs, naturalization and immigration records of famous Americans, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights, the Emancipation Proclamation, and photographs by Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange and Lewis Hine. Examples of the images that NARA is contributing to the World Digital Library are now available online.

Example of a naturalization document – Declaration of Intent of Maria von Trapp, 01/21/1944 – that was put online by NARA. NARA ARC Identifier 596198.

The WDL will include representative examples from these document categories – not the complete backfiles of these documents.

The complete run of the American State Papers is already available on GenealogyBank. See GenealogyBank’s Historical Documents collection where you will find military records, casualty lists, Revolutionary and Civil War pension requests, widow’s claims, orphan petitions, land grants and much more including the complete American State Papers (1789-1838) and all genealogical content carefully selected from the U.S. Serial Set (1817-1980). More than 146,000 reports, lists and documents. GenealogyBank has the most comprehensive collection of these US Government reports and documents available to genealogists online. GenealogyBank is adding more documents to this collection every month.

Proposed in 2005 by the Library of Congress in cooperation with UNESCO, the WDL will make available on the Internet significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world. The project’s goal is to promote international understanding and to provide a resource for use by students, teachers, and general audiences.

“We are pleased that our fellow Federal cultural institution, the National Archives, is joining the Library of Congress in the early stages of this project,” said Billington.

“NARA’s participation not only will ensure that the World Digital Library contains a full record of the American experience, but it also will encourage archives around the world to join with their counterparts from the library world in this important initiative.”

“The mission of the National Archives is to make U.S. Government records widely accessible,” said Weinstein. “The World Digital Library will be a valuable conduit for us to share some of our nation’s treasures with others around the world. We look forward to working with the Library of Congress on this important project.”

In addition to NARA and the Library of Congress, the WDL project partners include cultural institutions from Brazil, China, Egypt, Israel, Russia, Saudi Arabia and many other countries. Click here for more Information about the WDL.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest Federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Founded in 1800, the Library seeks to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections. The Library seeks to spark the public’s imagination and celebrate human achievement through its programs and exhibits. In doing so, the institution helps foster the informed and involved citizenry upon which American democracy depends. The Library serves the public, scholars, members of Congress and their staffs through its 22 reading rooms on Capitol Hill. Many of the rich resources and treasures of the Library may also be accessed through its
award-winning web site and via interactive exhibitions on a new, personalized web site.
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