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Ask-the-Pros – Question and Answer – The Proverbial Brick Wall

Question:

I am at the proverbial brick wall with my ancestor Saunders Haines. Saunders could be short for Alexander and Haines was later spelled Haynes.The earliest I can find him is in 1775 in Catskill, Ulster County, NY, where he (under name of Alexander) and Christina Halenbeck were married. I know he was in the Revolutionary War, that he had at least 5 children, and that in the Census of 1790, he was in New Paltz, New York. He moved to Rensselaerville, Albany County, where he died in 1813.How can I locate his place of birth and that of his parents, as well as their names?

Answer:

What this question describes is commonly referred to as a “brick wall,” however, the circumstances described should not fall into that category because there are likely many records from that time period that could be searched for further information. In a sense, using the term “brick wall” is self defeating. The answer to this type of question, is usually to suggest additional places to look for more information.

It is difficult to give specific suggestions in this particular situation without much more information from the researcher, but there are several evident places to look.

The researcher indicates that “I know he was in the Revolutionary War” but we do not have any details as to how that information was known or obtained. The first place for further research that comes immediately to mind are the Revolutionary War Pension Files and Service Records. There are several of these large databases in the FamilySearch Historical Record Collections. Try searching for Revolutionary War Records.

The researcher mentions two different counties. Checking the Newberry Atlas of Historical County Boundaries, I find that both Ulster and Albany counties were created in 1683 from non-county areas. But Ulster County in 1775 was further divided into several other counties but by 1813 both Ulster and Albany counties had their present modern boundaries. But Catskill is presently in Greene County and you would have to determine where the older records were located. The two towns, Catskill and Rensselaerville are only about 30 miles apart. New Platz is in present-day Ulster County. So each of those counties may have records on this ancestor and his family.

I suggest checking the FamilySearch Research Wiki for alternative sources for birth records. See United States Birth Records. I also suggest looking for county histories of the three counties involved and also checking for newspapers. See the Library of Congress Newspapers Project. A check with the Library of Congress for the newspapers published in Albany County shows 385 different newspapers published in that county. Many of those will be out of the time frame of the search, but you should always presume the information is there.

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