Royden Woodward Vosburgh's religious record transcriptions

Friday, September 9, 2016 - 12:15pm

One of the most useful record sets available in our eLibrary is our New York State Religious record transcriptions, done in the early 20th century by NYG&B Society's Historian and Archivist, Royden Woodward Vosburgh.

Vosburgh visited over 100 churches throughout New York State, leaving no stone unturned and capturing the information in the records with meticulous and professional clarity and care.

These transcriptions contain vital records from 120 churches in 22 different New York counties. Read on to see what you can find, and learn about the unique quality of this set.

Because New York State vital records are so hard to find, religious records are one of our most often recommended vital record substitutes


A most carefully crafted collection

Vosburgh worked on this project from 1913 to about 1920 and left behind a set of transcriptions that are among the most accurate you can hope to find.

The aim of the project was to reproduce, with photographic accuracy, each page of the original and (at the time) uncopied New York State church records.

The typewritten records have a distinct advantage over the originals - you won't have to stress over interpreting century-old handwriting!

Of course, the savvy genealogist knows that transcribers themselves are also prone to misinterpreting handwriting and can be justifiably skeptical for this reason.

However, in this case, we're not dealing with an ordinary transcriber - Vosburgh was the official Historian and Archivist of the NYG&B and it's clear from his own writing that he took meticulous care in creating these documents.

In fact, he went so far as to acquire legal certification that his transcriptions were accurate, including notarized statements from him and any others who worked on the project at the beginning of each volume.

Vosburgh wrote that "the typewritten copies are certified, in order that they may be used as evidence, if necessary, in a court of record." - we can't exactly attest to how they might stand up in a court of law, but the certification at least lends some credence to the accuracy of the records from a genealogical perspective.

Here's an example:

If only all transcribers made such sworn statements!

Vosburgh's work exhibits the great amount of care he took to preserve all aspects of these volumes in his transcription - he had a true appreciation for the actual physical objects as pieces of history worth capturing as well.

He also describes, in detail, other aspects of the original volumes, right down to the number of blank pages, a description of the cover, and commentary on the quality of the records, which is sometimes quite humorous:

"On page 29, Rev. Mr. Pilmore commenced his regular records with a complaint concerning the deficiencies of the Clerks;
in my opinion the entries that he himself wrote down, are no better than the records kept by the Clerks"

What can I find in these records?

These records include images of the transcriptions of the original baptism, marriage, and death registers kept by various New York churches. Depending on the type of record you are looking at, you can discover the following information:

  • Full names
  • Dates of baptisms, marriages or deaths
  • Parents' and witnesses' names
  • Church name and denomination
  • Lists of church members

Usually, all writing in the original record, in Dutch, German or Latin, has been reproduced in the copy. In these cases, the words have then been translated by "competent authorities" in the notes at the bottom of each page.

Vosburgh notes that the original language is left intact "in case the more learned should not wish to accept these translations."

Most of the typewritten copies are prefixed, with an introduction - this is where Vosburgh reviews the original book and notes any inconsistencies in record collection that he discovered.

Some volumes are followed by a complete history of the church from its establishment to modern times. Others even contain the history of the settlements traced from the first land grants.

Our eLibrary collection page for this record set has a table that contains

  • The name and location of every congregation included in the collection
  • The dates the transcriptions cover
  • The county of the congregation
  • The denomination of the congregation
  • Whether that congregation is searchable, or browse-only

Click here to learn more about the collection in our eLibrary. 

Overall, 120 congregations captured include churches from the following 22 counties:

  • Albany
  • Cayuga
  • Columbia
  • Delaware
  • Dutchess
  • Fulton
  • Greene
  • Herkimer
  • Montgomery
  • New York County
  • Oneida
  • Otsego
  • Oswego
  • Queens
  • Rensselaer
  • Richmond
  • Rockland
  • Saratoga
  • Schoharie
  • Washington
  • Westchester

To search or browse the collection in the eLibrary, click here. Access to these records is just one of the many benefits of NYG&B membership - join us today!


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