While researching her family’s history online, Ellen Pemrick was amused to discover that a number of her ancestors were tailors in New York City.
“I can barely sew a button,” the West Charlton resident said with a laugh.
Pemrick uncovered all sorts of interesting information about her genealogy on the website Ancestry.com, an online family history resource. This month, in partnership with the New York State Archives and Library, the website gave New York state residents free access to an extensive collection of state history records.
The records include the first available online index for the 1940 U.S. Federal Census for New York, which lists more than 13 million residents’ names and details, including age, birthplace, street address and residence in 1935.
Other records in the free online collection include the 1925, 1915 and 1892 New York State censuses and a dozen other collections. The records date from 1600 through the 1960s and include titles such as World War II Enlisted Men Cards, World War I Veterans Service Data and Town Clerks’ Registers of Men Who Served in the Civil War. Also available for viewing are New York state burial and marriage records.
New York state residents can gain free access to the records by visiting www.ancestry.com/newyork and completing a zip code verification.
Searching the archives is simple, said Pemrick, who used to do genealogy in a more labor-intensive way.
“I would take time off and go to the State Library in Albany, which had a lot of records. This was before a lot of the records were digitized, and you had to find out what roll of microfilm that some census records were on. Oh, it was just awful,” she said.
Viewing the 1940 Census online is much easier than trying to hunt down and decipher the documents on a microfilm reader. When the cursor is held over a hard-to-read section of the census chart, a typewritten transcription of what’s written there appears.
The records contain information about famous New York state residents, including First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, famed gangster Al Capone, baseball great Babe Ruth and former New York City Mayor Ed Koch.
But perhaps more exciting are the discoveries that people can make about their own grandparents and great-grandparents, said Tim Sullivan, president and CEO of the Utah-based Ancestry.com.
Sullivan, who grew up in Loudonville, has uncovered information about his ancestors in the newly released census records. From the 1940 census, he learned that his great-grandfather, Wesley Kniskern, a Schenectady resident, worked 40 hours in the last week of March 1940. In 1939, he worked 52 weeks and made a salary of $3,700. Those facts suggest to Sullivan that the Kniskern family was fairly financially secure during the Great Depression
Sullivan’s grandparents also lived in Schenectady, and he visited here as a child.
“I spent a lot of time in my grandmother’s home on Lakewood Avenue, across from Central Park, and it was very exciting for me to see that address pop up in some of these new collections that we’ve put online,” he said.
Another collection slated to be added to the online New York archives is the burial cards from Albany Rural Cemetery, which span from 1791 until 2011, Sullivan noted.
“We have built what’s a very, very exciting relationship with the New York State Archives and in addition to a lot of collections that we’ve launched with this release, we are definitely identifying further collections that we can partner with the New York State Archives [on] to digitize and put online,” he said.
Ancestry.com offers access to more than 10 billion records, including the complete U.S. Census collection from 1790 to 1930, nearly 200 million U.S. military records and more than a billion historical records from other countries. Records other than the free New York State collection can be accessed free of charge for 14 days. After that, a paid subscription is required.