Monday, March 5, 2007

Searching for Cornelia's family - Part 1 (Online)

Who were Cornelia Bresee's parents?

I posted recently about learning her maiden name from an email received from a distant cousin that shares my ancestry of James and Cornelia (Bresee) Bell, who resided in Henderson township, Jefferson County, New York in the 1820 to 1840 time frame. My correspondent also said that, based on information from other researchers, that James Bell (born 7 Aug 1777) and Cornelia Bresee (born 5 Dec 1780) were married in Schodack township, Rensselaer County, New York (on the eastern bank of the Hudson river, just south of Albany) before 1797 (their oldest child was born about 1797). The available information stated that James Bell was born in Scotland, the son of Thomas and Margaret (Lecki) Bell. It is likely that James Bell and Cornelia Bresee met and married in the Schodack area.

That provides some clues as to where to find Cornelia's parents. A look at the maps show that Schodack is in the southwest corner of Rensselaer County, and that I will have to consider the neighboring counties on both sides of the Hudson.

With a name like Bresee, it is likely that it was a German or Dutch name and there may be spelling variations. Breese, Briese, Brezee, Brazee, Brissie, Brazie, Brusee, etc. come to mind based on pronunciation and handwriting considerations. I know that the Dutch were in the Albany area before 1700, and that many German Palatines came to this area, east of the Hudson, in the early 1700's.

My five segment wheel of genealogy phases are Survey, Research, Evaluate, Document and Preserve. This wheel of genealogy is not necessarily used in order - evaluation, documentation and preservation occurs throughout the research process.

The "Survey" phase starts the process. I usually start a search like this by trying to find if other researchers have this family, then read and evaluate their information and prove it to my own satisfaction. There is no reason to "re-invent the wheel" here. But I am very conscious that research posted in databases, web pages and books can be erroneous.

My research plan for the "Survey" phase of the project, using online resources, is the following:

1) Search the Ancestral File for member-contributed data.

2) Search the IGI for extracted or submitted data.

3) Search the WorldConnect database for data on Bresee (and variations) families in this New York area before 1800.

4) Search the user-contributed databases (One World Tree, Public databases, but not Ancestry world Tree, since that is in the WorldConnect database).

5) Search the Family Finder database for user-contributed reports.

6) Search the Freepages for user-contributed reports.

7) Search the surname and locality book collection at

8) Search the surname and locality book collection at HeritageQuestOnline (through my Carlsbad library card).

9) Search Google Books for the Bresee/variant surnames, and for County records.

10) Search the USGenWeb archives for the surnames in the localities.

11) Go to the USGenWeb county web sites and review the resources available there, especially the vital records, cemetery transcriptions, Bible records, etc.

12) Search the PERSI (PERiodical Source Index) for Bresee (and variants) and Columbia, Rensselaer, Greene and Albany County records.

13) Search the Ancestry surname and locality message boards for Bresee families in the Albany NY area. Post messages on these boards to try to draw responses from other researchers.

14) Search the surname and locality message boards for Bresee families in the Albany NY area. Post messages on these boards to try to draw responses from other researchers.

15) Search the Bresee surname and locality mailing list archives. Subscribe to some of the mailing lists and post messages there.

16) Search Google Web for occurrences of Bresee/variant surnames with the county names - especially on researcher web pages.

17) Search "Making of America" database for Bresee/variant surnames

18) Search the NEHGS databases (I am a member) - especially the NEHGRegister archives, the Early American Newspapers, and the NY Will Abstracts 1787-1835.

19) Search the Revolutionary War Pension files (on HeritageQuestOnline) for Bresee soldiers.

20) Check the cemetery sites and for Bresee records.

21) Check the database indexes (I'm not a member)

22) Check free online data portals (like,, etc.) for Bresee records.

23) Search the 1790, 1800 and 1810 census on for these surnames in the area around Albany NY.

24) Search the LDS Family History Library Catalog for the surnames and locality to determine if there are published books or manuscripts on microfilm or microfiche. If there are books or manuscripts, order them at the FHC.

I do not have a subscription so I can't search the World Family Tree databases that are on about 200 CDs. I don not have a subscription to other commercial family tree services like OneGreatFamily or to digital resources at services like WorldVital Records, GenealogyBank or Footnote.

My plan here is to post details of this research in hopes that:

1) the search process will be a good example for others to follow,

2) Bresee family researchers will help me out here,

3) readers will make suggestions to help me out.

I am sure that I have missed some searching opportunities in the list above - tell me about them!

UPDATED 6 March: added #17 to 20 to the list, and added some comments to other paragraphs.

UPDATED 11 March: changed the title of the post, added #21 to 23 to the list.

UPDATED 12 March: added #24 to the list, and modified a bit of text.

UPDATED 13 March: reordered the list to make it more "orderly," and modified some text.


Anonymous said...

This on line annimated county map sometimes helps with the "movements" of relatives, showing how the county lines move over time. This is New York's

The complete list of available states is here under rotating maps

Randy Seaver said...


I went to the site and used the maps - they are great. Now I know the time frame for the county formations around Albany NY. Columbia was formed about 1786 and Rensselaer in about 1791 as I recall.

In this case, the church records have most of the information I need and they are cataloged by the present county.

However, probate records and land records before 1786 will be in Albany County. Maybe that's why I found only one abstract in Columbia County for a Bresee!

Thanks -- Randy