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.
Keying 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!