Saturday, August 16, 2014

More New York Resources: Guernsey Memorial Library, Norwich, NY

If you have the opportunity to visit Norwich in Chenango County, New York, be sure to visit the fantastic Otis A. Thompson Local History Room at the Guernsey Memorial Library.  The library is located on 3 Court Street behind the impressive Chenango County Courthouse. Be sure to check the hours before you go.  There are options for people who can’t visit the library, so be sure to read the rest of this article if that applies to you.

Chenango County Courthouse
Norwich, New York

This is a serious library. When you arrive you will be asked to read and sign a User Agreement and produce government-issued photo identification. Cell phones, of course, need to be turned off.

Here are a few of the gems you will find at the Guernsey:
  • New York county histories
  • Family genealogies
  • Vital records
  • Bible records
  • Census records
  • Cemetery records
  • Norwich city directories
  • Scrapbooks
  • Obituary collection
  • Newspapers
  • Veterans books
  • Photographs
  • Postcards
  • Maps and atlases
  • Periodicals such as Tree Talks, Yesteryears, the Connecticut Nutmegger and more
  • DAR lineage books

Although there were hundreds of history/genealogy books and rolls of microfilm, the best feature in my opinion is the collection of family folders.  You write down the surnames you are researching and the librarian retrieves the files for you.  Each file is composed of a fascinating variety of letters, e-mails, hand written notes, copies of relevant pages from assorted books, pedigree charts, family group sheets and more.  People who cannot visit the library can write to the Guernsey Memorial Library with their research questions, and the librarians will look through the library holdings and send you a response.  A record of this correspondence is then placed in the appropriate surname file.
I am researching numerous surnames in the Central New York area. I requested the files on Spaulding, Crandall, Hiscox, Burdick, Hall, Dewey and Cutler. Well, I was flabbergasted.  The first file I looked at was regarding the Crandall surname.  Many of the researchers were exploring the same lines I am working on. The beauty of these files is the letters and e-mails sent in by researchers contain details that you might never find on the Internet or in books. You have to be careful not to rely on the information without corroborating it, but the information gives you wonderful clues for further research.

After I finished a lengthy session with the family folders, I then started exploring the open shelf books.  A few of my favorite discoveries were:
  • Cemeteries in Sherburne, Chenango County, New York
  • Deaths, Births and Marriages from Newspapers Published in Hamilton, Madison County, New York
  • Deaths from Sherburne Newspapers: 1864-1900, Chenango County, New York
  • Family Bible Records Found and Copied in Northern Chenango County, New York
  • Membership Records of Seventh Day Baptists of Central New York: 1797-1940s
  • Vital Records of Madison County, New York Reported Before 1870
  • Vital Statistics of Sherburne, and the Surrounding Towns

There are also resources for states other than New York. Here are a few I looked at, but there are many more:
  • Directory of Ancestral Heads of New England Families
  • Early Connecticut Marriages as found on Ancient Church Records Prior to 1800
  • A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England
  • Genealogies of Connecticut Families

If you visit the library, be sure to take advantage of the free handouts, such as:
  • "Library Addresses for Genealogy Material"
  • "Mine Your Private Vaults"
  • "Formation of the Counties in New York"
  • "Chenango County Boundary and Town Changes 1798-1975"

If you wish to write to the Otis A. Thompson Local History Room, click here.  You can do your request online or by mail. If you send a request via mail, please remember to send a SASE. 

The day went by very quickly, and I was sad to leave.  I really need to plan another trip to New York.


Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, "Advertising Cuts of the 20s and 30s," 2003.

Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, "1100 Pictorial Symbols," 2007.

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