North American Canal Research Mini-Course

April 2nd, 2018 by National Genealogical Society Blog Editor


TITLE Finding Their Routes: Travelers and Boatmen on the North American Canals
SESSION: S442
TIME & DATE: Saturday, 05 May, 2018, 2:30 pm
SPONSOR: New York Genealogical & Biographical Society (NYG&BS)

Explore available online and archival records that cast light on routes of travelers and boatmen on the North American Canals. With a focus on the New York State canal system completed in 1825, the lecturer notes the close connections between people who traveled or migrated from New England or Canada to New York State and the Midwest.

After 1820, when the first section of the Erie Canal opened, travel across the state became much safer and easier. Passengers could refer to gazetteers or guide books that contained well-planned schedules for time and place of departure for canal boats between Albany and Buffalo. Travelers could then make connections via stage coach to steam or lake boats to continue traveling to points west or north. Because of the harsh winters in New York State, the Erie Canal and its network of canals were only open from May until December, depending on the first freeze.

Attendees will see a wide variety of canal related materials from which to extract information on the lives of boatmen and passengers. Materials used to estimate possible routes that ancestors may have taken between 1825 and 1850 include gazetteers, guidebooks, and newspaper advertisements. Boatmen and their families were “transient,” and may not appear in censuses. However, there are additional sources in which their names may appear: diaries, journals, memoirs, captain’s account or day books, on canal engineers’ maps, receipts, and in newspaper sources. Anyone interested in finding out more about how their ancestors traveled on packet boats and where they may have made connections to their final destinations, as well as what the experience was like would benefit from this lecture.

TITLE: Afloat and Ashore: Tracing and Tracking Erie Canal Workers 1817-1918
SESSION: S452
TIME & DATE: Saturday, 05 May, 2018, 4:00 pm
SPONSOR: New York Genealogical & Biographical Society (NYG&BS)

The Erie Canal, as well as its lateral canals, was constructed in “sections,” and understanding where to search is key in finding the records you need. This lecture  covers the “three iterations” of the Erie Canal from 1817-1918. Types of occupations, both “ashore” and “afloat,” will be discussed. Learn how to find archival records in NY State (and other) repositories, as well as discover hidden collections where records might be found. Materials available online, containing names and information on canal workers will be noted. Several case studies on canal workers among various occupations and their family histories will be shown as models for research and construction of narratives.

Anyone who would like to discuss their family history as it pertains to North American canals, contact Pamela on social media or by email at [email protected]

ABOUT: Pamela Vittorio is a University professor, canal historian, and professional genealogist based in Brooklyn, NY. She is an alumna of Boston University’s Genealogical Research Certificate Program.She can be reached at Twitter: @canalgenealogy or Facebook: FindingTheirRoutes—Family History and Genealogy

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