Museum sets day to find roots

It’s a common sight many people today might take for granted — the emotionless face of Gen. George W

It’s a common sight many people today might take for granted — the emotionless face of Gen. George Washington from the portrait that adorns the dollar bill.

“It’s an image that everyone knows,” said Andrew E. Albertson, curator of education and public programs at the Arkell Museum at Canajoharie.

The portrait, an oil-on-canvas work by Gilbert Stuart that is part of the museum’s permanent collection, is one of several portraits in the museum’s “Famous and Fabulous” exhibit on display until July 20.

On Sunday, the museum is inviting history buffs to learn how to go beyond just viewing history.

Several historians will be on hand for “Explore Your Roots Family Day,” an event geared to those interested in viewing local history and learning more about how to find their own history.

For the program, Albertson gathered Montgomery County Historian Kelly Farquhar and other historians in hopes of sparking some interest in learning about history.

“A lot of people know that they want to research their family, but they don’t know where to start,” Albertson said.

People from all over the country and beyond find their way to Montgomery County’s Old Courthouse in Fonda, hoping to find a piece of their history hidden in church records, family files and other materials stored there.

“They are excited when they find their ancestor, or even if it’s a tidbit about them, what they did,” said Earlene F. Melious, an assistant at the county History and Archives Department.

The variety of holdings available at the historic courthouse in Fonda will be a topic of discussion as part of the “Explore Your Roots Family Day.”

In some cases, people will find family histories are already compiled, Melious said — researchers often donate their genealogy when they’re completed.

“Thanks to the generosity of those people, we’ve been able to build the files to what they are today,” Melious said.

The event will have an artistic flair in two ways:

Visitors can view the several portraits on display depicting those who played major roles in the area’s early development.

Also, Sandy Nellis Lane will lead a stenciling class for those interested in learning how people decorated their walls in the early 1800s.

Lane is secretary of the Palatine Settlement Society, which serves as caretaker of the historic 1747 Nellis Tavern on Route 5 east of St. Johnsville. The walls of the tavern are adorned with stenciling, a practice that gave way to wallpaper-type decorations.

The event will also let guests view a variety of artifacts from the Nellis family.

Local historian and Arkell Museum trustee Skip Barshied will be on hand to display the artifacts and his new book detailing the life of a local farm boy during the Revolution.

The event, sponsored by the New York State Council on the Arts, takes place from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Arkell Museum at Canajoharie, 2 Erie Blvd.

Categories: Schenectady County

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