Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Have you been bitten

by the genealogy bug?

I've been in and out of town the last week and a half - but that hasn't stopped me from thinking about Bethlehem history. 

One evening, I was in the hotel room ,exhausted, skipping through the TV channels and came upon the TLC program Who Do You Think You Are?  They take a celebrity and do some genealogy research with them. The episode I caught featured Christina Applegate and it sucked me right in with the lure of family ties through the depths of history.  Somehow, knowing where you come from informs our understanding of our selves today and perhaps our future as well. 


the show gave me a lot of giggles as well because it is very unrealistic.  I have no doubts about the accuracy of the research they did, they just made it seem so easy. The kindly archivist just hovering waiting to go search out the right death certificate and of course they find it right away.  The friendly lawyer who comes up with and then explains a series of old court cases.  So neat and easy in their folders on the table. 

The reality check is that those archivists, clerks, librarians and other keepers of the records are busy people.  I have found them all friendly and curious on your behalf, but there are a lot you to help.  Court records or birth certificates or death records don't just magically appear - there are fees involved and then someone has to go physically find them in those boxes in the archival room (one hopes at least that it is an archival room.) Maybe the index is computerized, maybe the documents have been scanned.  You just never know.  It takes time and patience and usually money but sometimes you are well rewarded.  Because when you do find that document with your great grand parents information, you feel an instant connection. 

As Town Historian, I receive many genealogy inquires about people's Bethlehem relatives.  I am happy to look through the town archive database and some of the local history books to see what I can easily find.  The Winne family seems to have a lot of descendants curious about their history.  Pieter Winne came to New Netherland (now Albany) with his family in 1650s and was a tenant in Rensselaerswyck (in what was to become the Town of Bethlehem).  Read more about him at 

Once, I was contacted by three different Winne's in short period of time and was able to intoduce them to each other.  Now they had a connection to their distant cousins.  It was a nice feeling for me to be able to help them out.

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