Genealogy in Albany

The reason for this trip was the New York State Family History Conference. The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society organizes this conference every two years. For me it was the first real introduction to this association, and to Upstate New York. All I can say is, that it was a great experience!

New York City

To get to Albany I had to take a plane from Amsterdam to New York City. Since I was in town anyway, I decided to spend a weekend there. As said, I already had some memories of ‘the big apple’, but that was a long time ago. In addition, I was then bound to a tightly planned program and now I could draw my own plan. There were three locations I absolutely wanted to go to: Ellis Island, the 9/11 Memorial, and Central Park. The latter park has no extra meaning for me, but I remembered that I had taken a pleasant walk there last time. Again, this time the immense park did not disappoint me: the weather was still beautiful (sometimes too warm) and I had a great time watching the other visitors.

I had no recollection of the other two locations, but there was a good reason to visit Ellis Island and the 9/11 Memorial. For those who are somewhat aware of the (immigration) history of the United States, know that Ellis Island was the location where millions of immigrants had to report if they wanted to settle in the US. The location is now a museum. With a ferry you first visit the Statue of Liberty and then Ellis Island. A lovely boat trip, full of history.

When I visited New York City in 1995, I stood atop one of the Twin Towers looking out over the city. It was therefore an extra shock for me to see how these skyscrapers collapsed a few years later. Going back to that place, which now houses a memorial, felt like a kind of pilgrimage.


After two very nice days in the city, I took the train to Albany on Monday September 5th. It is a train journey of about 2.5 hours where you drive along the Hudson River almost the entire time. A beautiful view! Unfortunately the weather had turned, the days in Albany were getting cold and wet. After a long hot summer, the rain was back.

The wet weather didn’t stop me from taking some nice walks around Albany. On one of these trips I was accompanied by three members of the Dutch Settlers Society of Albany. The city’s origins date back to 1624, when Dutch settlers founded Fort Oranje here and later the neighboring settlement of Beverwijck. Many families in Albany have ancestors who once made the crossing from the Netherlands to New Netherland.


That historic bond between New York and Albany was also the reason to participate in the congress. Not only was it a great opportunity to see some of my American colleague genealogists again after 2.5 years, I also had the opportunity to speak about Genealogy in the Netherlands.

The organization had invited me to give three presentations. One of them would also be streamed live so that the virtual participants in the event could also hear what I had to say about Dutch sources.

What I spoke about during this conference:

  • Dutch Reformed Church records
  • Records on 17th century Dutch ancestors
  • Dutch passenger lists and other emigration records

The days I spent in Albany I talked to so many people who are somehow connected to that small but oh-so important piece of American history: the founding of that Dutch colony (New Netherland) and the later influential cities New York and Albany.

Books and publications

If you want to know more about the Dutch relationship with New York (city and state), I recommend reading Russell Shorto’s book, The Island at the Center of the World, for example. Or to take a look at the websites of the New Netherland Institute or the New York State Archives. Here you will not only find references to publications, but also original sources that can help you find ancestors who once left the Netherlands and settled on the east coast of the US. And of course, if you have such ancestors… don’t hesitate to ask me for help. Who knows, I may find them on ‘this side’ of the ocean.

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