With more than 11 billion historical records in its online archives, Ancestry.com is often the destination of choice for first-time genealogists seeking to track down information about their family history. It can be a pricey proposition to search out Great-Grandpa, though: Yearlong access to the site ranges from $155 for US records alone, and costs $299 for 12 months of access to records from the rest of the world. And here in America, who doesn’t have ancestors from elsewhere?
There are free options for genealogy searches, however, and the first stop for more information is the local library. In New Paltz, the non-circulating research section of the Elting Memorial Library on Main Street houses the Haviland-Heidgerd Historical Collection, a repository for primary source material and published works relating to the Hudson Valley. Although its genealogical and local history collection has a primary focus on New Paltz, researchers all across the mid-Hudson Valley region will find valuable information within its archives.
Carol A. Johnson is coordinator for the Haviland-Heidgerd Historical Collection. She has been with the Library in New Paltz for more than 25 years, and she has seen the changes in how genealogical research is conducted since the advent of computers and websites like Ancestry.com. When she first heard about the FindaGrave.com website, she had her doubts about its usefulness, but since that time has come to be an ardent supporter of the free resource for genealogical information.
Along with many other volunteers, Johnson has so far uploaded photos and records of some 1,100 of the 6,500 interned in New Paltz Rural Cemetery to FindaGrave.com. “I get quite a few queries having to do with people buried in local cemeteries,” she says, “and in doing my own genealogy and helping people out with theirs, I see how much joy the information in ‘Find a Grave’ brings to people, and how much help it has been in gaining information.”