New: Rensselaer County (NY) Surrogate Court Index

The volunteers of the Troy (N.Y.) Irish Genealogy Society (TIGS) have added another link to an impressive chain of database projects: a Surrogate Court Index for Rensselaer County, N.Y. covering 1786-1917. A nice gift just in time for the holidays.

Here are the details from the society:

A. An index of 31,325 Rensselaer County Surrogate Court Records from 1786 to 1917 has now been added to the Troy Irish Genealogy (TIGS) website. These records, especially those prior to 1880 will be of great interest to genealogy researchers. The information in this data base was copied from a file in the Rensselaer County Historical Society, 57 Second Street, Troy, New York.
B. To view these records go to the Troy Irish Genealogy website at: and click on  PROJECTS and then click on RENSSELAER COUNTY SURROGATE COURT INDEX. It should be noted that these records, like most of the TIGS data series, cover the general population in the area and are NOT restricted to Irish surnames.

C.  For each name in the on-line index there is a Surrogate Court Record folder that may contain various original source documents such as Wills, Letters of Administration, Guardianship Papers, Invoice of Property, Depositions Concerning a Person’s Death, etc.  The on-line index shows the following information for each record which may help you identify those records that will be of interest to you:

1.  NAME – Last, first, middle name or initials if any, and titles like Dr., Rev., etc.
2.  FILE NUMBER – Used to locate the files at the Rensselaer County Historical Society.
3.  LOCATION – Gives name of city, town or state of residence.
4.  DATE – May be year of death or year of legal issue.
5.  INV. – Indicates when there is an inventory of household goods in the record.
An invoice may be in the records EVEN if this column is not checked.
6. COMMENTS – This column will have an interesting comment for each name.
Some comments may show marital status (bachelor, spinster, widow, widower),
while other comments may show maiden names, occupations, name of
street residence, relationships (wife, husband, mother, father, son daughter,
etc.) and number of children.

D.  Copies of any original source documents that are contained in the file folder for each name can be requested from the Rensselaer County Historical Society.  The TIGS website has a PRINTABLE FORM that can be used when requesting copies from RCHS. For each request there is a $5.00 fee which will cover RCHS’s cost of locating and pulling a singular file folder from the archives.  After the file folder is located, RCHS will contact the requester about the contents of the file to see which documents they want copied at a cost of .25 cents per page plus postage for mailing.

E.  Hopefully this new on-line index, along with the many other TIGS projects will be useful to Troy area genealogy researchers.


Bill McGrath
TIGS Project Coordinator
Clifton Park, NY


Advent Calendar: The Beauty of Britten

For the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: December 21 – Christmas Music.


Choirs and choral music have been a fact of my Christmas life since I was … oh, I don’t know, thirteen?

It was inevitable. I sang my way through the junior high and high school choirs. I sang in church choirs.  I sang in regional and state choirs and of course I sing in the shower when all else fails.

The magic of human voices blending and soaring has never lost its mesmerizing effect for me, and never more so than in the depths of December. Every year for the past decade, my church choir and an ensemble of musicians have participated in a candlelight carol sing, and the moment when the audience and the singers hold lit tapers and join together for our final song has a way of stopping anger, anxiety and cynicism in its tracks, if only for two or three precious minutes.

We’ve sung a lot of Christmas pieces over the years, but one in particular is special to my heart.

British choirs and composers work their own particular spell with Christmas. And hands-down my favorite Christmas choral work is by Benjamin Britten — A Hymn to the Virgin, composed in 1930, when Britten was all of 16. Using a starkly simple medieval text, it is a dialogue between two groups of singers, usually a full choir and a quartet of soloists.

It is simply, hauntingly lovely. Singing it transports you for a few minutes to a cleaner, calmer, brighter place.

Apparently, Britten retained a deep affection for Hymn to the Virgin throughout his life, and it was one of only two of his own works performed at his funeral on Dec. 7, 1976. Here it is, performed by the British professional mixed choir Polyphony.

I also love Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols — another beautifully crafted tribute to the season.