Wednesday, September 30, 2009


One of the many projects that I am pushing for is the collection of the names of the men and women who served in various wars. I was wondering how we could do that. Rich Hungerford came up with the idea of searching the Altamont Enterprise archives, which are on line. Another great newspaper archives is Fulton History which has the archives dozens of upstate New York newspapers.

On line newspaper archives are invaluable to librarians, historians and family researchers. They are a wonderful source for researching local history, such as the who served in what wars, the history of a local organization, such as a library, grange, church or fire department.

If someone wants to write a biography of a grandparent or great grandparent, just search on their name. In fact each article mentioning their name came be copied and pasted into a digital scrapbook on a person or event. Then that could be used as a source for writing a biography.

Librarians need to accept the fact that not all sources are in books.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


< Berne Falls; Photo by Charles Sloger

I have started a new series of images to show the beauty of the Hilltowns that I am posting on I only had time to add landscape photos from a few friends and family whose photos are posted on the Internet. I hope others who have photos showing the beauty of the Hilltowns will add them themselves. When we get enough images we will make a separate page for each town. Maybe some day we will have enough to make a coffee table book!

 Fall Foliage; photo by Jeremy Rue 


Albany Hilltowns has history, genealogy, and photos

Friday, September 25, 2009


Knox Cave is located near Knox in Albany County, N. Y. It is one of the largest caverns in New York State with many high passages and other natural beauties. It was used in Dutch Colonial times as a refuge by Indian war parties. It was open commercially from 1933 to 1958. It is now owned by the Northeastern Cave Conservancy and is a permit is required to visit it.

John Elberfeld has done a magnificent job of posting pictures, postcards, and articles about Knox Cave. One of the articles he posted, Knox Cave, 40th Anniversary of death of Mrs. Robinson, brought back fond memories. As a boy I went on the commercial tour a number of times. Me and my siblings skated at the Roller Rink many times. Then in my college years I got into spelunking and made a number of trips beyound the Gunbarrel, a very long, narrow, tight passage. Once I led my brother Ralph and his wife Jan on a tour. If I recall correctly, she was a few months pregnant. Got stuck in there for a while. Whew! Great memories. Thanks, John!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I have spent the last couple of days working on "Then and Now" pictures for Most of the "Then" pictures I have been putting up recently come from the excellent collection of the Berne Historical Society. Most of the "Now" pictures I have taken from Google Earth. What an amazing resource that is.

I have doubled the number of pictures and arranged them by town. I have gone about as far as I can go from Oaxaca, Mexico. If more pictures are to be added, it will take local folks to do it. I hope there is interest in this project, otherwise it will go no further.

Most of the photos I have added are of Berne because that is what I have access to.

There have been a large number of photos of Rensselaerville added by Will Osterhout from the collection of the Rensselaerville Historical Society. Anyone with the knowledge of the town could use Google Earth and produce some "Now" photos to go with what Will has posted. This can be done from your own home anywhere in the world.

I am thinking this would also be a great idea for a book! If you want to see your house or photo in a book, we welcome your submissions.

Monday, September 21, 2009


It has been less than 10 months since I started Albany Hilltowns and I am so pleased with the progress! Especially with the Civil War book project (see main page).  Although there is much remaining to be done on it, I think we can at the same time work on other projects.

Veterans Day will soon be here. With that in mind, I took a look at what we have posted on the site about our Hilltown veterans, and am disappointed that there is so little. We have the names of folks in Berne and Knox in WWII who served in the military, and that is about it.

We need to begin gathering the names of the Hilltown men and women who served in other wars and conflicts. And these lists are just the beginning. For each name we need a biography that tells about their military service and their lives before and after.

I have created pages to gather names of service personnel in WWI and II in each of the Hilltowns, and will add pages for other wars and conflicts. But that is as far as I can go by myself.

Thanks to my sister Marilyn Nardollio and Joanne Lauster we have over 3000 obituaries of people in the Hilltowns Genealogy posted on the Berne Historical Project site at Most obituaries of folks who served in the military make mention of the basic facts of their military career. Volunteers could go through the obituaries, and not only list veterans on the Albany Hilltown site, but also copy the obituary as the first step toward creating biographies.

I can't ask our present volunteers to take on this task, as they are already busy. We need some fresh blood, so to speak. If there is anyone in our group with an interest in preserving the memories of our Hilltown ancestors who were vertrans, and who has the time, please contact me so we can begin this large task.

As with all of our projects, everyone will do what they can at their own pace with no pressure of deadlines. We just plod along until hopefully another project is finished.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Today we welcome our 200th member to the Albany Hilltowns History and Genealogy Facebook Group, Jerry Gilligan, from Austin, Texas. This has been within less than 10 months. I wish we had a prize to give him, but we don't have any money, since we have no source of income. Oh, well, I am sure he will understand.
I spent most of the day posting many "Then and Now" series of images by using old photographs for the "Then" picture, and a Google Earth image for the "Now." The Google Earth images are not very clear, and it is difficult to get them to appear to have been taken from the same spot as the "Then" photo. Still, my motto is, "It is better than nothing."

When we get a few more images I will split this page up so there is a separate page for each town. I am thinking this would also be a great idea for a book! If you want to see your house or photo in a book, we welcome your submissions.

Check it out!

Images above right are "Then and Now" of Northrup's Garage, East Berne.

Friday, September 18, 2009


We have a few very active volunteers adding old photos and articles to I have just done an extensive update of our main page to highlight some of our new projects, one of which in "Then and Now" photos of buildings in the Hilltowns. Thanks to Marty Duel for posting the first set of photos.

We also have completed the inventory of the hundreds of men from the four Hilltowns: Berne, Knox, Westerlo and Rensselaerville, that served in the Union Army during the Civil War. While we have begun biographies for each of them, much remains to be done if we are to meet our deadline of 2011 for a book on the Hilltown men in the CW and their families. Help is needed and appreciated. If any of you have Hilltown ancestors, we would invite you to visit our site and contribute to it.
Three weeks ago on I posted images of Wm. Cockburn's 1787 survey map of the Western Manor of Stephen Van Rensselaer III. Since then I did an extensive rearrangement of the images and updated the key to the images so they were more readable. I also rearranged the order of the images so they are in the same order as the key. And I made separate maps for Knox and Berne. I have started to annotate the map of Berne to make it easier to understand. See images 3, 7 and 11 to see where I am headed. I have also started an index for Berne and Knox. The index was already done for Rensselarville, and hardly anyone lived in Westerlo. (must be the same is true today, at least I am not aware of anyone there who is interested in the history of the town.)

  • 1787 survey map gives and interpretation of the overall 1787 map (needs to be revised).
  • 1787 map of Knox has images of the Knox section of the northern half of the map
  • 1787 map of Berne has images of the Berne section of the northern half of the map
  • 1787 map of Westerlo has images of Westerlo and eastern third of Rensselaerville
  • 1787 map of Rensselaerville has images of the western two thirds of Rensselaerville

From Nancy J Curran:

--32nd Annual Rensselaerswijck Seminar Oct 2 and 3 in Albany New York


Russell Shorto, noted author, will speak on “Oh, Henry: What Has the Hudson Year Wrought?” at the opening reception of the 32nd Annual Rensselaerswijck Seminar, Thursday, Oct. 1, at 5:30 p.m. at the NYS Museum, Albany. Admission is free.

Oct. 2 and 3 the Rensselaerswijck Seminar, “Kiliaen van Rensselaer’s Colonie: The Beginning of European Settlement of the Upper Hudson,” will be in the New York State Museum’s Carole Huxley Theatre. Registration is at 9 a.m. both days.

Genealogy and history will be twin themes in the analysis of the history of the Van Rensselaers, both from the aspect of their place in history and the succeeding generations of the family.

Click here for more information about the seminar.

Early morning mist on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Photos courtesy of my High School classmate Charles Sloger, who still hangs around Berne. Yes, that is Berne, by the dawn's early light. I never get up that early myself, but am glad he did.

Here are more of his photos:


The year 2011 is the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. Several hundred Hilltown men served in the Union Army with a casualty rate of maybe 25% killed or injured. It had an big impact on the Towns and their families. We are writing biographies on each soldier. Information from the biographies will be used to produce a book on the lives and families of Civil War veterans. Publication is targeted for 2011.

The book will be in three parts:
  • The events leading up to the war with emphasis on why the men in upstate NY seemed compelled to join the army of Father Abraham.
  • The history of the units and their battles.
  • Biographies of the Hilltown men. Individual biographies could be authored by family researchers.
Thanks to many people, especially Betty Fink and Pam Molle, a list of Hilltown men in the Civil War is complete, and biographies have been started for each of them. Right now some of the biographies consist of just the basic facts gleaned from Civil War Records.

Help Needed

We need one or more volunteers for each of the towns to flesh out the biographies. If you see something below you think you might be interested in, contact me before beginning so I can coordinate who is doing what and prevent duplication.

  • One of the sources would be the Hilltowns Genealogy posted on the Berne Historical Project web site. This can be done by anyone familiar with how to update biographies in this project. It is not difficult and I can help you learn.
  • If the men lived until the latter part of the 19th C. or longer, I would like on line newspaper archives, such as the Altamont Enterprise, or Albany papers posted on the Fulton History] site, searched for additional information, such as obituaries.
  • We also need someone with access to census data, such as that posted on and other sites, to add census information for the Civil War men.
  • Family researchers are asked to write or contribute information on their ancestors who served. We need copies of photos, letters written home from the soldiers, death notices, pension requests, military papers, medals, pictures of tombstones, family stories, etc.
  • An article needs to be written about each of the units in which Hilltown men served including the history of the unit and the major battles in which the unit fought.
  • A list of Hilltown men by unit is needed for the appendix. It should also have a summary of each one's fate (KIA, wounded, captured, died in prison, died as a result of wounds, life-time disability, unrelated death, unknown). All of the information for this assignment is in the biographies as currently written.
  • We need someone to take photos of the headstones of Civil War veterans to add to their biographies so we will have them available for our book. This should be done by cemetery. Volunteer to do a cemetery and I will try to get you a list of the CW men buried there.
The book editor will be Michael Grant Hait Jr.. Michael lives in the Washington DC area and has access to the National Archives; he is currently writing a book on Civil War soldiers and is experienced with an on-demand publishing.

Go to our Civil War pages to see what information we have collected so far.