Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Montgomery County Archives

**This is not actually a new post, it was hiding off on a page of its own from last year when I thought I would make a separate page just about repositories. I'm erasing that page, so moved it over into the posts.

Montgomery County Department of History and Archives
Old Courthouse, 9 Park St
Fonda, NY 12068-1500
(518) 853-8186

The Archives is located in the historic courthouse on Park Street near the downtown area of Fonda. It is a short distance from the NYS thruway exit in Fultonville, just across the Mohawk River from Fonda. I had mentioned to my husband the history of this courthouse, having been built after the county seat of Montgomery was moved from Johnstown to Fonda in 1836. In 1892 a new courthouse was built as this one was found to be too convenient to the railroad and trials had to be paused as trains passed by as people could not be heard. As we approached the repository, he jokingly asked me where the train was. I was hoping for a serendipitous timing of a train traveling east or west across New York, but was not that lucky. Had the timing been right, we would have pulled into the far end of the parking lot while a train was rushing by at the other end. The still active tracks are indeed just a few hundred feet in front of the courthouse itself and while researching you can hear and almost feel the trains going by on their journeys.

Montgomery Archives are open Monday through Friday, closing each day at 4:00. Most of the year they open at 8:30 a.m. with the exception of the summer months of July and August when they open at 9:00 a.m.

You can bring your laptop and camera to the archives as well as any other research material you need. Either pens or pencils may be used. Photocopiers are self-serve, although they’ll be glad to assist you with them if you need to. Copies are currently 25 cents each with larger paper or photo paper being more expensive. There is no fee for researching, but there is a donation jar, which I am sure they greatly appreciate your contributing to!  Remember, they need money to operate and our government is not always over generous with historical enterprises. There are also publications about Montgomery County available that you can purchase.

You may be reading this and saying to yourself: “This all sounds great, but I don’t have any ancestors from Montgomery County, so why would I bother going there?” First you might be mistaken, and second, it might not matter anyway! Let’s first consider what Montgomery County is. This county was originally formed as Tryon County out of Albany County in 1772 and changed its name to Montgomery in 1784. Later a few counties formed off of Montgomery into their own counties as settlers moved across the state- a few being 34. So whether it was one of those western counties that have their early records as part of Montgomery or a settler moving through what was very much a gateway county, many New York State settlers had dealings of some sort with this county. Far more than people initially realize.

With that thought in mind, you shouldn’t be surprised to find out about some of their holdings. They are, of course, strong with their own county. There are also many family genealogies, both published books and vertical files. Some of these families may have called Montgomery home at some point, but others just passed through here. There are over 500 historical and genealogical files, thousands of original county records and countless genealogical treasures housed here. Palatine immigrants, Mohawk Valley Loyalists and county and local histories are all on the shelves waiting for you to explore. There are even church records and such for counties that were never part of Montgomery. For example, I looked at compilations of church records for Columbia and Dutchess counties while researching here. I dare say nearly every county is likely to have at least something in this repository.

While searching through the vertical files, I spotted a folder on one of my family lines: DuColon. Our immigrant ancestor, Dr. Claudius DuColon lived in or near Kinderhook in Columbia County. Some of his descendants were in places such as German Flats, once Montgomery, but now Herkimer County and one branch, mine, traveled on to Oswego County. Inside that folder was a paper written by a gentleman in Ontario about our ancestors looking into their history and Dr. DuColon’s mysterious origins in France. This paper, written almost 30 years ago is probably in very few repositories and serves as a guide to many of the people in this line. That alone made my trip to Montgomery county worthwhile.

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