As we approach the three-year anniversary of the Gleanings column, the Town of Niskayuna Historical Committee would like to reflect and thank the readership for your support and engagement.
Over the last three years, we’ve covered a number of topics across Niskayuna’s history, from the personal to the political, and historic buildings to those that never came to be. Each article has received some level of response, not just from those locally, but also expatriates in the Sun Belt and beyond. We are very appreciative.
There is plenty more we plan to share, but this month we’re taking a step back to reveal some of the tools of our trade. Perhaps you will find some of them useful in exploring your own history, and if there is something of interest, why not share it with the rest of us? You’ll find it isn’t as hard as it seems. After all, our committee is made up of local residents from a range of backgrounds.
Conversations with current and former residents form an important piece of our work. You would be amazed what people are able to remember. After developing a relationship, they may remember some documents or other artifacts that have just been lying around the house waiting to tell a story. Talk to a relative or a neighbor who has lived in town. Ask them about a favorite memory they have here or something shocking they remember, and see where it leads.
We are so lucky to have such a vibrant historical community in our area. Aside from an informative museum and farm site, the Schenectady County Historical Society maintains a rich library of historical records going back to the settlement of the area. You’ll want to have an idea of what you are looking for before heading over, but their knowledgeable librarians can help you find it. We’ve found copies of the old Grand Boulevard/Niskayuna Bulletin helpful. The library is open by appointment.
The Schenectady County Clerk’s Office and other county offices store a wealth of information that can help guide your search. Just read your deed and see the interesting historical tidbits that can be gleaned. Perhaps your yard is defined by a tree or a road that is no longer there, or there is information on former residents. The county GIS system, made available by the Planning Department, is not just a tool for government planners and local businesses. Accessible at no cost to the public, it maintains a record of several historical aerial surveys. Take a look and something no longer
there may standout and merit further exploration.
So much historical information has been digitized over the years that they are accessible through a simple online search. Google Books and the Library of Congress both provide a useful search capability with access to a number of documents. There are also several family genealogical websites with historical documents or summaries, as well as websites designed by local individuals to share historical information.
FultonHistory.com is a rich index of millions of historic newspapers that has been useful for our team in the past. Just put in what you are looking for, set a time period, and start digging. It won’t be easy at first, and there will be a lot of false positives, but often you will find something more interesting that you weren’t even looking for.
Gino’s Railpage/Blog is a great resource for those interested in the myriad rail lines that criss-cross the region, but sometimes also dives into rail-adjacent history of various locales and businesses.
Schenectady History – Photos and Discussions is a great Facebook group for sharing your finds. Have an image or an article that you’re not sure of? Post it there and someone will likely have an answer for its origin.
There are so many tools at your disposal for understanding the history of our town. Consider a few more in our Historical Toolkit. We encourage you to take a look for yourself. Ask a neighbor, search a newspaper archive, look at a map. Find something of interest to you and dig.
If you find something worth sharing, let us know. You are welcome to write your own Gleanings article or a committee member can take the information and draft one on your behalf. While we conduct the business of the committee, history is truly a community effort, and we welcome you
to share your stories. We sure have many more to share.
To submit information to the Niskayuna Historical Committee, email Niskayuna Town Historian Denis Brennan at [email protected].