New York does provide access to old records including birth, marriage, and death certificates through the NYC Vital Records at the Municipal Archives (within the five boroughs) and the NY Department of Health (for the rest of the state). These records are not free, but the forms and process are well explained, and I look forward to trying this service in the near future.
I just know that a few vital pieces of information are buried away in these archives just waiting for me to find them...
Based on my own family structure I have come to the conclusion that how successful research is depends on a couple of factors.
1. How far back your line goes before you meet up with your immigrant ancestor (in my case, tracing things back to the person who entered North America/United States the earliest).
- If I am the tree trunk and my parents are two branches above me, each side is a vastly different length. As I mentioned previously one side goes back 8, 9, 10 generations to the days before the American Revolution and the other goes back 2 and 3 generations to the time just before the Civil War.
- The Mingus Family Web site provides a wonderful formula to determine how many ancestors you have in each generation. Using the formula 2^10 tells me that if you go back 10 generations you have a possible 1024 ancestors! Along this same line, going back 3 generations (2^3) gives me a possible 8 ancestors.
- I have definitely not been successful in researching each of the 1024 possible people on my 'long branch side', but there are so many possibilities that it feels much more successful than having a total of 8 to start with like I do on the 'short branch side'.
2. How many other people who share your ancestors are doing genealogy.
- Just based on numbers alone it is far more likely that other people on my 'long branch side' will be creating trees and swapping information. I have learned so many things and received so many tips from participating on message boards and emailing 'cousins' to share stories.
- On ancestry's website there is a feature that links you up with other members who are researching the same individuals and invites you to examine their public trees. On my 'short branch side' I have hit a lot of walls. In the 2-3 generations that exist I have been able to find exactly zero other people researching my specific ancestors! I seem to have a monopoly on this section of the tree.
- I was so fortunate that the wife of a distant cousin researched her husband's family tree and complied a very detailed packet of information that made its way into my grandparent's hands. She included names, dates, pictures, addresses, and stories. Her research filled in a huge section of my own tree that I never would have figured out. Sadly I never got to meet her, but her hard work lives on!
A funeral card stored in my grandparents' belongings.