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August 9, 2011

Confessions of a Genealogy Hoarder

I've always been keenly interested in New Netherland (present day New York) - its history and settlement and most of all, its 17th century settlers. My interest began when I discovered I was descended from several of those early Dutch and Walloon immigrants - Van Slyke, Vrooman, Bradt, Ryckman, Damen, Van Valkenburg.... to name only a few.

As I began researching my own New Netherland family lines in depth I also became interested in others. Because it was so difficult accessing the early records I needed for my research I began to build my own personal research library. I bought out-of-print books and reprints of previously published books. I sought out (and found) all the original court record books for New Amsterdam (now New York City), Beverwyck and Fort Orange (now Albany).

Crumbling NYGBR
Eventually after acquiring dozens of books of 17th century church records, court records and orphanmasters records, I realized there were no more to be had. But the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record (NYGBR) had published many church records and other primary source records that were not found in other formats. I'd been working on an article (The European Origins of the Boelen Family: Boele Roeloffson and His Wife Bayken Arents in Amsterdam ) for the NYGBR which was later published in that journal in April 2000 so I was familiar with the types of articles they  published and those also held appeal for me.

And so I contacted the NYGBR and explained what I wanted - every single issue of the journal since its first publication.  I think they were shocked. They explained they were missing some of the earlier issues but they would ship what they had. I don't want to tell you what this cost (the journals + shipping + border crossing fees + Ontario taxes = gulp) because I'm afraid putting it in print means I've slipped into the realm of those who spend more than they can afford on something they don't really truly need. Or being a hoarder.

When my boxes of journals arrived months later, whoever packed them had done an inventory by hand of every volume and every number and every year. I was the proud, and I admit overwhelmed, owner of 374 yellow journals dating from January 1870 to January 1999.

374 NYGBR journals spanning 129 years. Some of the earlier ones were crumbling. The covers were crumbling with pieces falling off every time they were handled. I made room on all my bookcases in my office. They filled every space and that meant all my carefully sought out-of-print or reprinted books on New Netherland had to go. But where? I wanted everything at my fingertips not in different rooms.

One of my tubs of NYGBR
I struggled with this for several months. My husband complained about the bits and pieces of crumbling covers. It was difficult to do the research I needed to do for my planned series of books on New Netherland Settlers. I started photocopying the sets of primary records I wanted, and put them in binders so I could use them easily. But that was a horrendous job and it never was completed.

And then the NYGBR came out with the entire set on CD ROM a few years later. So I ordered it too. And I packed up my 374 journals, put them in waterproof tubs and had my husband store them in one of our barns.

And there they lie. It bothers me. I don't like using the CD-ROM versions. I know they will not always be accessible as books/journals are.  I want to be able to access every single set of church or miscellaneous records in those journals. But the photocopying project that entails overwhelms me.

Tubs of NYGBR Journals
So I have a dilemma which I've been mulling over for 11 years - what to do with my 374 NYGBR journals?

* Should I find room for them somewhere in my house? That's not physically possible

* Should I destroy the journals by cutting out the pages I want and putting those pages in binders? That idea makes me shudder, there seems something so inherently wrong about that!

* Should I suck it up and start the photocopying project? That seems the best solution of the three I have thought of but then what do I do with the journals? Donate them? Where? No library near me would want them (I live in Ontario Canada, not much call for 17th century New York records) To ship them somewhere would cost a fortune.

And can I give them up? Maybe that's the true test of whether or not I'm a genealogy hoarder. I don't think I can part with them!

I could really use some input and suggestions!


The Grandmother Here said...

You could ask the Family History Library in Salt Lake City if they want them.

smhb said...

I'm not sure your location, but I would contact the nearest university that has a library science or archival program and see if you could arrange for a mutually beneficial preservation/digitization internship for some students.

Joan Miller (Luxegen) said...

What a treasure and no you mustn't cut them up! Maybe the FHL in SLC as one of your other readers suggested.

Btw, have you come across any AUMACKS in your New Netherland research? Hubby's line. His Aumacks were Dutch settlers on the Danish island of Amager. One of them (Theunis Van Amack) sailed with the Dutch fleet to save New Amsterdam from the English; married and had many children who had many children. NY, NJ area.
The short version:

One NJ based 4th cousin did a lot of research on the line and published a book but very few pictures. I'm looking for more photos and stories to flesh out the names and dates.


Olive Tree Genealogy said...

Interesting ideas guys - thanks! The problem with donating to SLC or anywhere that requires shipping is the cost.

I've calculated it would cost 900.00 to $1000.00 to ship them. I looked at how much it costs me to ship my Van Slyke book (8 1/2 x 11, 194 pages, soft cover). It takes about 8 of the NYGBR to equal one Van Slyke book. So I'd have 45 packets to ship.

One packet (my Van Slyke book) currently costs me $18.00 to ship to the USA. I just can't afford to spend another thousand to donate them, especially given how much they cost me in the first place.

I've been thinking about the Central Library in Toronto though. That's a 2 hour drive for us and if they were interested, that would be feasible. So thanks for spurring me on to more thinking!

The digitization idea from smhb is also intriguing but I'd have to hunt to see if University of Toronto has such a program.

Olive Tree Genealogy said...

Joan I don't know your surname from memory but can have a look in my papers when I'm back on my feet.

Tim Taylor said...

What Damen family are you related to? I have several Damen family members from Ontario, Canada.

Tim Taylor said...

WHat Damens are you related to? I have Damens in my family from Ontario, Canada.

Olive Tree Genealogy said...

Tim - info on my Damen line is found here

It's possible we connect but my line daughtered out very early.

I have a list of articles I suggest for anyone descended from this Dutch line.

# The Nephews of Jan Jansz Damen by Dorothy Koenig and Pim Nieuwenhuis in Volume 4, Number 2 May 1999 pages 36-39 of New Netherland Connections. The two nephews discussed are Jan Cornelisz Buys (aka Damen) who had three wives, 1) Eybe Lubberts, 2) Phebe Sales, and 3) Willemptje Thyssen; and his first cousin, Jan Cornelisz Damen, who married Fytje Martens.

# Jan Corneliszen Damen in the New World by Lorine McGinnis Schulze, published on pages 47-56 of Volume 4, number 2 (May 1999) of New Netherland Connections. It is an account of the 13 children of Jan Corneliszen Damen and Sophia Marten, to the 3rd generation (grandchildren of Jan and Sophia)

# Utrecht Farmers In Netherland From M.S.F. Kemp's Krommerijners in de nieuwe wereld Excerpted and translated by John H. Van Schaick in The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, VOL. 127, January & April 1996

# Jan Cornelis Buys (alias Jan Damen) and His Three Wives Eybe Lubbertse, Phaebea Faelix (alias Phebe or Femmetje Jans) WIllemtie Thyssen; Teunis Nyssen (or Denyse) and his wife Phaebea Faelix (alias Phebea or Femmetje Jans); Roelof Willemszen and his wife Willemtie Thyssen by John Reynolds Totten in New York Genealogical and Biographical Record July 1935, pages 277-291 inclusive.

The Grandmother Here said...

If the Family History Library in SLC really wants the books, they might send someone to pick them up, or at least pay the shipping. Or they may already have copies of them. It never hurts to ask.

Olive Tree Genealogy said...

Joan - your Aumack ancestors were not living in the part of New Netherland I research. I specialize in Albany (Beverwyck, Fort Orange) and New York City (New Amsterdam) in the 17th century. Your guys went off to other locations soon after arrival. I assume you've seen the marriage record on my website? It is at and was recorded in the Reformed Dutch Church of New Amsterdam/New York. You should be able to find the originals on microfilm and that would give you a nice image to add to your family history files.

If you can't translate the entry it says he is an unmarried man from Denmark, she is from Amsterdam, they are living near New Amersfort and it looks like they were in Brooklyn possibly for the banns.

As well Theunis took the Oath of Allegiance in Kings Co. 14 years after his arrival. See

Anonymous said...

What about the Toronto Reference Library

Martin said...

Every institution that would want them, has them. Recycle them. Use the online version. You only think you need the print version.

Tanya said...

Or post them on Ebay or Craigslist and see if there is someone that would love to have them. You could say PICK UP ONLY. Much better than destroying them.

Tanya said...

Put them on Ebay (Pick up Only) or Craigslist.