Historical research can be very rewarding, but it is also incredibly challenging. The tiniest piece of information can lead researchers down long paths with lots of branches to explore. You don't need a history degree to research, either. If there's a topic that you're interested in, digging into the search can be lots of fun and extremely gratifying. One just needs to know where to look. There are plentiful sources available in Fulton County to help with research. Whether you're working on family genealogy or trying to learn more about the history of your property, these resources can help you along in your work.
Of course, your county and municipal historians are a great place to start. Here at the county historian's office, you can find scrapbooks, some newspapers on microfilm, photographs, cemetery indexes, various directories for Gloversville and Johnstown, records of proceedings of the Board of Supervisors from 1857 to 2012, various deeds, some obituaries, the Sir William Johnson Papers, articles written by past historians, and a number of secondary sources, including great out-of-print and rare books about the history of Fulton County. If you're looking for something specific, it's always a good idea to contact the office to see if what you're looking for is available. Most, if not all, local historians in the county have ties with their town or city's historical societies as well. They will have knowledge of what resources are available there.
Public libraries are an excellent resource. The Gloversville Public Library has a special collection dedicated to local history, which includes city directories dating back to 1864, cemetery records, high school yearbooks and atlases. Their Historical Reference Room contains information on local and New York state history.
These materials can't be checked out of the library, but they're available for researchers to use. The Johnstown Public Library offers some great online databases for historical and genealogical research, including a subscription to Ancestry Library Edition, HeritageQuest Online and Fulton Montgomery Photo Archives, among others. You can also check out familysearch.org, which does not have to be accessed through the library.
This extensive (and free) database is run mostly by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It contains digitized records, including state and national censuses, photographs, military records, migration and naturalization records, genealogies and more.
Some records are located with branches of town, city and county governments. If you're doing genealogical research and need copies of vital records - birth and death certificates and marriage records - you will need to go through the clerk's office in the town or city where the event took place.
Some clerk's offices charge basic fees for research or record copying, so be sure to check with the office in advance. More information on finding these records can be found on the New York State Department of Health website, which you can access at health.ny.gov. The county clerk's office also has old maps and documents. Depending on what you are looking for, you might consider calling departments to see if they have the items available.
It is also important to keep in mind the fact that Fulton County as we know it didn't exist until 1838. Prior to that, the county was part of Montgomery County. The split occurred after the county seat was moved to Fonda. Local citizens petitioned for a separation from Montgomery and putting the county seat back in Johnstown.
Judge Daniel Cady, father of women's rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, was one of the main orchestrators of this split. The name Fulton was chosen in honor of Robert Fulton, engineer, inventor and cousin of Cady's wife.
Some records, particularly early ones, may be located in Montgomery County. The Montgomery County History and Archives, located in the Old County Courthouse in Fonda, has an amazing number of resources. You can find land records, genealogies, directories, church records, civil records, newspapers, pamphlets and more. They also have researchers on staff and, for a fee, you can have someone on their staff research a surname for you.
Try to keep an open mind and think outside the box as you continue your research. Look in places you might not normally consider. You never know what you're going to find or if that information will push you on to the next level of your project.
If you're having trouble tracking down a necessary document or figuring out the next step in your research, please feel free to contact the county historian's office by phone at 736-5667 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. There are plenty of great resources right in Fulton County.
Samantha Hall-Saladino is the Fulton County historian.