As with my other genealogy tips articles, I am focusing on searches that can be done online until the COVID-19 virus is under control and traveling to research original documents is again feasible.
If you have spent any amount of time doing genealogy research online, you have probably heard of Cyndi’s List. I have known of it for years – it’s been available for over 20 years. I haven’t taken a good look at the site which currently has over 300,000 links in 223 categories until now. I’ve been happy with my Ancestry.com subscription, and I’ve picked up a few more bits of information from some of the other websites I’ve reviewed, but I still have some “brick walls” in the trees I’ve been working on so I wondered what I could find out through Cyndi’s List links.
I decided to pick one particular problem to research. In working on my husband’s family tree, we’ve been stuck at the point of finding a definite link to his paternal great-grandfather’s father. For a couple of generations, the fathers were 45 years old when the direct-descent son was born, which means his great-grandfather Jacob P. Brate was born in 1835, fifteen years before the U.S. federal census records started including the names of all family members in a household.
Before starting the search on this site, I printed out the “Source Summary for Family Information” record sheet from the free Library version of Ancestry.com. (https://support.ancestry.com/s/article/Free-Charts-and-Forms ) Since there are so many links to try on this site, I wanted to record each one so I would know which ones I tried and which ones were helpful. And because there were so many steps in some of the links to get to the good information, some of my notes took up more than one line of the record sheet.
I did check the 1840 census records for Albany County, New York for BRATE/BRATT/BRADT/BRAT/BRAYT households with a son in either the “5 years and under” or the “5 years to 9 years” columns. I found two likely people: William Brate and Baltus Brate – both residing in Bethlehem, Albany Co., NY where my husband’s great-grandfather and grandfather are known to have lived in 1860 and 1870.
At this point, I decided to look for any online New York State census records. They were taken from 1825 through 1925, every ten years (except a census was taken in 1892 instead of 1885 and 1895.) Unfortunately, some of the census records were destroyed in a huge fire at the NYS Library in 1911. The information about the NYS census on www.newyorkfamilyhistory.org tells me that the records for 1825, 1835 and 1845 (the years that would have been helpful) were completely destroyed, but to check with county repositories for possible copies, so I won’t be able to check for these records until I can locate a county repository and travel to Albany County to examine them.
The other resources I would look for is an obituary for Jacob P. Brate who died in 1912 and wills for the two great-great-grandfather possibilities, William or Baltus Brate. I feel William is the strongest contender since Jacob P. named one of his sons William, and William’s father was possibly a Jacob Brate (more on that later.)
After making my decisions, I was hoping for some “magic” links on Cyndislist.com. On the homepage there is an explanation that the site is organized into 223 categories. Click on the Categories tab to browse through the topics. At this point, I felt like I was in a 10-ring circus, with all the options and all the ads sprinkled throughout the pages. So I will emphasize again, pick one person at a time to search for and use a chart to keep track of which sites/links you have visited.
Finally ready to start my search, I clicked on (step 1) United States in the categories list and chose (2) New York. From the 32 further categories I chose (3) Queries, Message Boards and Surnames List. I tried looking at the (4) Rootsweb Surname List but the link was broken. Next I tried (4) The Olive Tree Genealogy: 17th Century Immigrants to New York Registry . This took me to a page titled (5) New Netherland & New York Genealogy with a further choice of 23 links. Choosing (6) New Netherlands Settlers, I could scroll down to a (7)Family Trees and Surnames section and choose (8) BRADT, BRATT. This led me to interesting information on BRADT/BRATE/BRATT/BRAT/BRAYT families who arrived in New Netherlands in the 1600’s but no documented descent line to our Jacob P. Brate.
Back at the 4th step, there were 22 more topics to choose from –(If this is starting to sound drawn-out, it was. Keeping a records sheet of the links I’ve visited will allow me to search on this site a few hours at a time.)
So, back at the (4)th step, Olive Tree Genealogy, etc I tried (5) Church Records, scrolled down to Albany County and (6) Records of the Reformed Dutch Church in Albany 1683 – 1809 and under (7) Part 8, 1780 – 1809 I found a baptism record for Baltus Brate, born October 19, 1792 and baptized January 6, 1793 (with parents Nicholas Brett and Lucy Britton), but no records for a William Brate who is still my favorite for Jacob P.’s father.
Again, back to step (4), from the chart of links, I chose (5) City Directories but the link was broken to the only Albany County site.
When I tried (5) Census Records I found a lot of the state and federal census records have been digitized. The links for the federal records took me to the Ancestry.com site. Some of the links for the state records are broken. Any Bratts/Bradts/Brates I found listed in the counties surrounding Albany County were not the right age to be Jacob P.’s father.
I struck out with the (5) Cemetery Records in my efforts to find records for a William or a Baltus Brate. There is a photo of Jacob P.’s gravestone posted on www.findagrave.com, but unlike some entries there is no extra family information posted other than his wife’s dates that are included on the gravestone, and one child’s dates.
Next I wanted to look for wills. From (2) New York I chose (3) Wills and Probate. (4) FamilySearch – New York Probate Records 1629 – 1971 took me to the FamilySearch.org website where I had to log in to my free account (see my Genealogy Tips about FamilySearch.org) to access a page with a list of NYS counties. Some counties have their digitized documents indexed, but others I wanted to check did not. In the latter case, I will have to search page by page for Jacob P’s will,
Another choice from the (3) Wills and Probate page is (4) SAMPUBCO .com where I could also choose a (5) county and then a (6) name from an alphabetized list which gives the name of the testator, place of residence and county #, volume# and page #of the record of the will, then I clicked on the link to Familysearch.org at the top of the list. After working with this Sampubco.com site and path, I think the only advantage over going directly to Familysearch.org is there may be index information here that isn’t consistently available in the records for the various counties at Familysearch.org. Copying down the index information from Sampubco may help more quickly find the records in the Familysearch site.
By this method I found the will of a Jacob Brate who died in December of 1832. In the will he named his wife Elizabeth, two sons, Henry and WILLIAM, and four daughters and one of the daughters’ daughter. William is in the right age bracket to be the William, possible father of Jacob P. that I’m looking for, but I still don’t have proof – just good possibilities.
I got a little distracted by all the categories and links and noted that the (3) History and Culture category under (2) New York has 20 links to a variety of webpages about the heritages of the people of New York State. The (3) Miscellaneous Records category has 13 links to various topics, including a comprehensive site (4) Inmates of Willard which includes eleven further sites with information that might help genealogists.
After searching through many of Cyndislist’s links to other sites I realize I have a lot of options to search and can spend a couple of weeks exhausting the possibilities. We have so many digitized records available online now that it takes a good amount of time to fully search the records for the information I’m looking for. Through Cyndislist it is possible to find sources that I may not have come across easily but I have also found that with some of those sources I’ve really had to work at finding the information I want – or exhausting the source so I know that the information I want is not there – and recording that so I don’t spend an hour going through that source again.
To summarize my experience with Cyndi’s List, I did find some possible answers to the question I was researching, but because of the over 300,000 options it took time to follow the trails. I found the will of Jacob Brate (d. Dec 1832) after calculating where the page should be when the digitized books were in groups, but the index sited a specific page in a specific volume, and then sorting through a couple hundred pages of the digitized books.
I feel Cyndi’s List is a good resource to try when I’ve “hit a wall” in searching a line after using some of the bigger genealogy sites. I have also enjoyed just browsing the links but if you are looking for specific information I recommend picking one person to search for, with a chart to fill in as you work your way through each source.
I didn’t find the specific information I was looking for giving Jacob P. Brate a father but I have a list of more Cyndi’s List sources I will be looking at.
Keep searching & keep track!