Monday, June 27, 2011

The Development of Rosendale Estates

Newspaper advertisement for lots in the Rosendale Estates development.
From the Godfrey Collection.
Fernwood Drive, circa 1950.
Photograph from the Godfrey Collection
Clark Godfrey, father of Dorothea Godfrey and one of the co-creators of the Godfrey Collection, was instrumental in the development of the Rosendale Estates suburban development in Niskayuna. Godfrey developed and subdivided the land around his family's farmhouse on Rosendale Road.

The collection includes photographs, correspondence, deeds, blueprints, and other records pertaining to Godfrey's role in the development of Rosendale Estates from the mid-1940s through the 1950s.

Clark Henry Godfrey was born December 9, 1891 in Lincoln, Nebraska. He first moved to Schenectady in 1906 and began studying engineering and drafting at ALCO in 1914. He was later associated with the engineering departments of the American Arch. Co., Alco Super Heater Company, and Franklin Railway Supply Company, all of New York City. After serving overseas in World War I, he married Marguerite Furman on October 23, 1920. The Godfreys and their daughter lived in Cleveland, Ohio, until 1927, when Godfrey was appointed as engineer of sales for the Franklin Railway Supply Company in Schenectady. Godfrey continued to work for the company until his retirement in 1948. He also served as manager for the Furman Estate from 1948 until his death. Godfrey also served as president of the Ingersoll Memorial Home and developed the Rosendale Estates, both in Niskayuna. Godfrey was a member of the Corlaer Lodge No. 932 of the Free and Accepted Masons, director of the Schenectady Rotary Club, and vice-president of the Vale Cemetery Association. He was also a member of the Community Chest Budget Committee, Campaign Control Council, Mohawk Club, and the board of the Girls’ Club of Schenectady. He was a member of the First Reformed Church in Schenectady and served as a church elder from 1958-1961. Godfrey died October 12, 1968 in Schenectady. He is buried in Vale Cemetery.
Godfrey Lane, circa 1950.
Photograph from the Godfrey Collection.

In addition to the papers and blueprints related to Rosendale Estates, the Godfrey Collection also includes the personal photographs and scrapbooks of Dorothea Godfrey, photographs and genealogical information about the Godfrey, Furman, Dillenback, Van Guysling, Visscher, De Groot, and Beck families, and papers and blueprints related to the Godfrey family home in Niskayuna and the Furman Building at 207 State Street in Schenectady.

A finding aid for the Godfrey Collection can be found here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

At sea with Edward E. Oliver

Edward Oliver, Supply Officer on board the U.S.S. Lauderdale from 1944-1945, writes home to his friends stateside, "the bridge is an interesting place to be, especially when we are at sea, what with all the modern gadgets that all ships have now, gadgets that tell you everything except what Lana Turner -- had for dinner, of course." The Edward E. Oliver Collection includes copies of several of Oliver's letters home to family and friends, which include descriptions of the ship's locations, life onboard the ship, and anecdotes about Oliver's relations with the officers. The collection also includes memorabilia and several photographs of Oliver and his fellow officers onboard the U.S.S. Lauderdale.

Edward Oliver in his office on board the U.S.S. Lauderdale.
A photograph of Oliver's wife, Janet, is visible on his desk.
Photograph from the Edward E. Oliver Collection.
Edward Elliot “Ned” Oliver was born in 1911 in Syracuse, New York, to Francis and Lillian (Hempstead) Oliver. He graduated from Shaw High School in Cleveland, Ohio in 1930 and graduated from Syracuse University in 1934 with a degree in finance. After finishing his schooling, he began working for General Electric’s district office in New York City. In 1943, he resigned from his position as a general manager to enlist in the U.S. Navy. He served in the Navy’s supply department; from December 1944 until his discharge in December 1945, he served as Supply Officer for the U.S.S. Lauderdale. Oliver rejoined General Electric in 1946, working in sales promotion and advertising in Schenectady until his retirement in 1974. Oliver was also actively involved in YMCA youth programs for over 30 years, including service as Camp Chingachgook committee chair from 1959-1975 and Schenectady YMCA President from 1976-1986. Oliver died in 1997 and was survived by his wife of over 50 years, Janet.

In addition to wartime photographs, letters, and memorabilia, the Edward E. Oliver collection includes photographs of members of the Oliver and Hempstead families. The collection includes photographs of Lillian Hempstead Oliver (1878-1967), mother of Edward Oliver; Edward Wright Hempstead (1855-1923) and Elthea Canfield Hempstead (1848-1923), maternal grandparents of Edward Oliver; Francis E Oliver (1867-1955), father of Edward Oliver; George Oliver and Amanda Hubbell Oliver, paternal grandparents of Edward Oliver.

A finding aid for the Edward E. Oliver Collection can be found here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Female aviators in the Godfrey Collection

In the process of arranging and describing the Godfrey Collection, I came across information about two female aviators connected to Dorothea Godfrey, creator and collector of many of the collection's materials. 

Betty May Furman, mid-1930s.
Photograph from Godfrey Collection.

 The first of the aviators came to may attention when I came across her photograph among the Furman family photographs. Later, in a scrapbook, I found an undated (circa mid-1930s) feature article from the Schenectady Gazette profiling the woman and including the same photograph. Betty May Furman was the second wife of Robert Van Guysling Furman, Dorothea Godfrey's uncle. Furman was a native of California and moved to Schenectady following her marriage. At the time the article was written, she had been flying for nine years. She learned to fly at the Curtis-Wright Technical Institute and for three years was the only woman enrolled in an engine assembly class. While living in Los Angeles, she became a member of the 99 Club, an organization of licensed female pilots, and served as the president of the Southwest chapter. In the article, Furman says "women, I believe, are able to handle a plane almost as well as men, and in some cases better . . . many women feel that they would like to fly and do nothing about it." Betty May and Robert V.G. Furman lived at 1405 Union Street in Schenectady with Robert's daughter, Barbara. They left the city by 1945, and likely moved to Los Angeles, where Robert V.G. Furman died in 1946.

Marian D. Francis, ca. 1944.
Photograph from Godfrey Collection.
 The second female aviator featured in the Godfrey Collection is Marian D. Francis, a close friend of Dorothea Godfrey. Francis was born August 11, 1921 in Cooperstown, New York. She graduated from Utica Free Academy. She entered into active service as an Aerographer’s Mate Third Class with the WAVES in the U.S. Navy in December 1944. She was discharged in 1946. After the war, Francis went on to the Cornell University School of Mechanical Engineering, where she graduated in 1950. She received a Master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Union College in 1965. She worked for the Knolls Atomic Power Lab in Niskayuna for 26 years, until her retirement in 1985. Francis was a life member of the Schenectady County Historical Society, a charter member of the Soroptimist Club of Schenectady, and a member of the First Reformed Church and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. She died in 1995 after a long illness. Francis' honorable discharge record, military service record, Naval training course certificate, and pilot training log book are included in the collection.

The Godfrey Collection is comprised of the personal papers of Dorothea Godfrey and her father, Clark H. Godfrey. The collection includes photographs, genealogical information about the Godfrey, Furman, Dillenback, Van Guysling, Visscher, De Groot, and Beck families, and papers and blueprints related to Clark Godfrey's role in the development of Rosendale Estates in Niskayuna.

Reduction of Thursday evening hours

Grems-Doolittle Library be open on Thursday evenings through 8:00 p.m. through next Thursday, June 23; from June 30 through the month of August, the Library will close at 5:00 p.m. Thursday evening hours will resume in September. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause to researchers.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Who was Ots Toch?

In conducting genealogical research using secondary sources, it can sometimes be difficult to sort out fact from myth. One such case is the parentage of the Mohawk woman Ots Toch, wife of Cornelius Antonissen Van Slyck (Van Slyke).

The dominant traditional story that was published for many years in Van Slyck and Bradt genealogies is that a French trader named Hartell or Hertel came to the Mohawk valley around 1620, where he married a Mohawk woman who under the law of the Five Nations owned Hog Island in the Mohawk River. Hertel is said to have had two children with this woman. Nelson Greene, writing in History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West, 1614-1625, describes the two daughters, Ots Toch and Kenutje, who would later go on to marry Cornelius Van Slyck and "a Bradt," respectively: "Ots Toch was wild and savage like her mother while Kenutje was small and handsome and very white like her father, Hartell."
Another theory was published by Giles Yates in 1857 in his column in the Schenectady Reflector, where he compiled, in his own words, "segregated fragments and broken facts of unwritten traditionary history." Yates advanced the idea that the last native owner of Van Slyck's Island was an Oron [Huron] chief named Shononsise who married the daughter of a trader named Jacques Hartel and had two daughters, "Otstock" and "Kanudesha."
Cynthia Brott Biasca, in an article in the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, promotes the theory that Van Slyck's wife was a full-blooded Mohawk and was not the daughter of a French trader. Biasca also discredits Yates' story based on the discrepancy in dates and in the absence of any recording of Shononsise or the Huron in the published Jesuit Relations. Biasca attempted to find the earliest recording of the Hertel/Ots Toch story, tracing back to the Paige Diaries and a footnote in Jonathan Pearson's History of the Schenectady Patent. Biasca also points to the Journal of Jasper Danckaerts, 1679-1680, which includes a passage where Danckaerts speaks with Hilletie, daughter of Van Slyck. Danckaerts describes her as a "half breed," the daughter of a Dutch father and an Indian mother.
Barbara Sivertsen, in Turtles, Wolves and Bears: A Mohawk Family History, acknowledges the identification of Hilletie's mother as a full-blooded Mohawk in Danckaert's journal, but writes that Hertel's Mohawk daughters Ots Toch and Kenutje "may have been adopted by their mother's parents, a practice not uncommon in the Iroquois; thus the tradition of their being daughters of a chief would coincide with their fathering by a Frenchman. This would probably account for their being thought of as full-blooded Mohawks. The fact that Ots Toch and Kanetis [Kenutje] married (at least in the Indian sense) white suggests however that they were half-breeds." Sivertsen notes that a trader Jacques Hertel is recorded in the early records of New France and she hypothesizes that he could have had contact with the Mohawks near Schenectady around the time of Ots Toch's conception. Further, she claims that the French name of Van Slyck's first son, Jacques, around 1840 in a Dutch family suggests that the Hertel legend is accurate.
Given the paucity of original records in this case, researchers are left with questions and controversy, but little documentation -- and must draw their own conclusions.
For additional information about the Ots Toch question, see the following materials, all in the holdings of the Grems-Doolittle Library: New York Genealogical and Biographical Record; Turtles, Wolves and Bears: A Mohawk Family History; Journal of Jasper Danckaerts, 1679-1680; Forts and Firesides of the Mohawk Country; History of the Schenectady Patent; Van Slyck family file; Paige Diaries.
Thank you to Grems-Doolittle Library volunteer Dianne Gade, who researched and compiled the sources outlined.