New York Naturalizations: Beyond the Immigrants

A couple of weeks ago a keyer, Durry York, left this comment on my New York birthday blog post:


My interest in NY Nat originals goes beyond the immigrants. My great-grandfather, Bernard J York, was the clerk in the court of sessions of Kings County.  His brother, Thomas H York, was the deputy clerk (1869-1897). They spent many hours swearing in and documenting new citizens.


This got me thinking.  Sometimes in our focused pursuit of our ancestors we become very single-minded looking for birth, marriage and death data to fill in the vital events fields of our genealogy software.  We sometimes forget that these people were a part of families, neighborhoods and communities.  They had careers and relationships.  They had friends and acquaintances.  They worked and played and worshiped and worried about their futures and that of their children.  And, they rarely (if ever) did these things in complete isolation.


Learning more about the communities of our ancestors helps us understand them and their daily lives much better than simple vital statistics.  Learning more about the world they lived in gives us a feel for the lives they led.


I applaud Durry for getting involved in keying the New York Naturalization Originals.  She hopes to come across her great-grandfather’s name but in the process, I imagine, she is getting a feeling for the mass of humanity that passed through the Kings County Court of Sessions every work day for the twenty-five years Bernard J York held the position of clerk.  And maybe she’s also getting a bit of insight into the community he later served as President of the Board of Police Commissioners for the City of New York.


Bernard J YorkKeying records from a time and place where your ancestor lived could provide you with the same insight into the community they lived in.


Until next time – Happy Keying!

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I would love to have records before the 1800s. My ancestor William Marshall married in New York in the late 1700s and then returned to the UK (probably loyal to the British Crown). I have no idea where he came from. Was he born in America or was he an immigrant? Are there any records that might help?

I’m in total agreement with Crista. Putting the meat on the bones is, for me, one of the real pleasures of family research. You can read so much between the lines, that is, if you care to look!
Kate, your query about William Marshall. You would probably get some help if you asked on a relevant message board either on Ancestry or another one. I’m no authority on American matters but going on what you said it looks as if his origins might be in the UK. I would suggest that you start with the information from his marriage document. Marshall is a fairly common name in the UK so not an easy task,


Wow – I was really surprized to see my comment lead the next entry and a photo of BJ to boot. He was active in Democratic politics and I have many many reprints from the newspapers of the day. But in connection with the naturalization process, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle used to report on the numbers that were sworn in – just in time to get registered to vote. Sometimes 700 a day and that the court reopened in the evenings in Oct foro 7-9PM. Have you noticed so many dates are in October!

Thanks Crista I appreciate you looked up my BJ

It is so exciting when you find records that support theories about your family! I have discovered (through the newspaper archives) that my gggrandfather sat on the jury of an infamous trial. And through the county maps combined with the census reports, I have gotten an idea of who the families were and can see a pattern of courtship emerging as they marry neighbors. Keying the information just makes it come alive for me. I enjoy it just as much if not more than some other avenues of research.

There is an entire decade of census records missing from 1890-1899. Anything that could fill in the blanks for this secade and the 19th century would be more than welcomed!