Finding Those Elusive Ancestors In St. Lawrence County, New York

by Sarah More | Feb 9, 2012

Sarah More

If you have been doing genealogical research for awhile then you know there are several standard sources worth searching that can prove the relationship between generations. Generally, these include:

1. Vital records (birth, marriage, and death certificates)
2. Wills
3. Census records
4. Newspapers
5. Land records
6. Military records
7. Immigration & Naturalization records

Many people have difficulty tracing their ancestors in early St. Lawrence County due to the lack of the above-mentioned resources. So, where does one find alternative sources? To answer this question, it is necessary to explain the various waves of St. Lawrence County immigration.

History of St. Lawrence County Immigration

Rivers like the St. Lawrence were the major highways of the day transporting troops, goods, and immigrants from Quebec City and Montreal to Upstate New York. St. Lawrence County, originally being part of New France, was home to Fort La Pr�sentation, a French mission station to the First Nations people during the French and Indian War.

During the American War of Independence, thousands of Loyalists (people who remained loyal to the Crown and were mainly of British and German extraction) left the United States and were relocated by the British Government on the Canadian side of the St. Lawrence River mainly in Ontario and Quebec.

The Mohawk First Nations tribe was another War of Independence ally of the British and a member of the powerful Iroquois Confederacy. The Confederacy's control, extending into Ontario, Quebec, and New York State, played a decisive role in the War of 1812. The untimely death of the dynamic Chief, Tecumseh, who was killed during the War of 1812, contributed to the break-up of the Confederacy's traditional ties in Ontario, Quebec, and New York State.

The end of the War of 1812 meant that the border between Canada and the United States was established by the Treaty of Ghent. This act encouraged influential American families, like the Ogdens, to actively recruit immigrants from Montreal and New York City to settle in St. Lawrence County. Some Revolutionary War and War of 1812 veterans also settled in St. Lawrence County prior to the Patriot War of 1837-1838.

Helpful Resources In Finding Those Elusive St. Lawrence County Ancestors

Local libraries, historical societies, and websites can provide alternative sources of genealogical records.

1. French Records

1-1. BMS2000 (Free Index)

A convenient compilation of baptisms, marriages, and burials of mainly Quebec parishes.

1-2. La population des forts fran�ais d'Am�rique (XVIIIe si�cle): R�pertoire des bapt�mes, mariages et s�pultures c�l�br�s dans les forts et les �tablissements fran�ais en Am�rique du Nord au XVIIIe si�cle, Marthe Faribault-Beauregard, Tome 1, �ditions BERGERON, Montr�al, c1982 A fascinating book, written in French, that records the eighteenth-century births, marriages, and deaths of the soldiers, their wives and children, First Nations inhabitants, slaves, and captives residing in the forts and establishments of Saint-Jean, Saint-Fr�d�ric, de la Pr�sentation (de la Galette), Frontenac, de la Presqu'Isle du Lac Eri�, Duquesne (Assomption de la B.-V.-M.) Michilimakinac, de la Rivi�re Saint Joseph des Illinois (Miamis), and Cahokia (Sainte-Famille). North Country Library System.

The Ogdensburg [New York] Public Library has a microfilmed copy of the above-mentioned Fort La Pr�sentation records titled "Records of Fort De La Pr�sentation: Presented to the Public Library in memory of Mrs. Marion Brickey by Wadhams Hall on Sept. 6, 1968 Ogdensburg's Centennial Year."

2. Loyalist Records

2-1. United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada

2-2. Library and Archives Canada

3. German Palatine Records

During the French and Indian War (Seven Years War), Revolutionary War (American War of Independence), and War of 1812 (one arena of the Napoleonic Wars), Britain was led by a British king of German extraction. As a result, many German soldiers served under British command in North America. Palatine families (which refers to a region in Germany) were often headed by these German soldiers who settled in the Mohawk Valley of New York (near Albany.) During the Revolutionary War, some of these soldiers and their families moved to Canada. The men usually continued serving as Loyalist soldiers and were granted land and supplies by the Crown.

3-1. "The Palatine Families of New York: A Study of the German Immigrants Who Arrived in Colonial New York in 1710." Two volumes. Henry Z. Jones, Jr., Universal City, California, 1985.

3-2. "More Palatine Families: some Immigrants to the middle colonies 1717-1776 and their European origins, plus new discoveries on German families who arrived in colonial New York in 1710." Henry Z. Jones, Jr., H.Z. Jones Pub., 1991.

3-3. "Even More Palatine Families: 18th Century Immigrants to the American Colonies and Their German, Swiss, and Austrian Origins." 3 vol. Henry Z. Jones, Jr. and Lewis Bunker Rohrbach, Picton Press, 2002. (Covers from 1709-1750s)

4. Revolutionary War Patriot Records

The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (N.S.D.A.R.), "founded in 1890, is a volunteer women's service organization dedicated to promoting patriotism, preserving American history, and securing America's future through better education for children."

Their "Ancestor Database contains the names of Revolutionary War Patriots whose service and identity have been established by the N.S.D.A.R. Included is information on the dates and places of birth and death, names of spouses, residence during the Revolution, rank and type of service, and the state where the patriot served."

5. First Nations Records

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada's archival holdings are found at Library and Archives Canada.

6. War of 1812 Records

6-1. The National Society United States Daughters of 1812 (N.S.U.S.D.1812), "founded in 1892, is a volunteer women's service organization dedicated to promoting patriotism, preserving and increasing knowledge of the history of the American people by the preservation of documents and relics, marking of historic spots, recording of family histories and traditions, celebration of patriotic anniversaries, teaching and emphasizing the heroic deeds of the civil, military, and naval life of those who molded this Government between the close of the American Revolution and the close of the War of 1812, to urge Congress to compile and publish authentic records of men in civil, military, and naval service from 1784 to 1815 inclusive, and to maintain at National Headquarters in Washington D.C., a museum and library of memorabilia of the 1784-1815 period."

Their Ancestor Database contains the names of War of 1812 Patriots whose service and identity have been established by the N.S.U.S.D.1812. Included is information on the dates and places of birth and death, names of spouses, rank, and the state where the patriot served.

The Onondaga County [New York] Public Library holds several indexes relating to War of 1812 pensions and records.

6-2. Index to War of 1812 pension files, 2 vol., Virgil D. White, Waynesboro, Tenn., 1992.

6-3. Index to War of 1812 pension application files [microform]

6-4. Military records War of 1812 muster rolls, Orem, UT, c2000. "More than 580,000 Americans."

Other War of 1812 databases include:

6-5. State of New York Society United States Daughters of 1812 (American soldiers)

6-6. War of 1812 Casualty Database (British soldiers)

7. Patriot War Soldiers, 1837-38

The Patriot War of 1837-38 was a series of battles between the Patriots and the British troops for the purpose of freeing Canada from British rule. On November 13, 1838, an armed group of American Patriots sailed from Sackett's Harbor, New York and occupied a stone windmill near Prescott, Ontario (across the St. Lawrence River from Ogdensburg, New York). For three days, the Patriots fought believing that reinforcements would soon arrive. This was not to be as the American government did not look favorably on an invasion of Canada during a time when the two countries were not officially at war.

7-1. Participants in the Patriot War of 1837: The Patriots

7-2. The Ogdensburg [New York] Public Library has a microfilm titled "Index to compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers who served from the State of New York during the Patriot War, 1838."

8. St. Lawrence, New York County Records

8-1. Index of Wills

8-2. Index of A. Cady's Online Genealogy Transcription Data

8-3. The St. Lawrence County Historical Association has an indexed copy of the diary of Mrs. Gouverneur Ogden of Ellerslie (Waddington, New York) which mentions the births, marriages, and deaths of several members of the Ogden family and important local citizens.


From its earliest times, St. Lawrence County, New York history has been marked by several waves of immigration. Prior to the Civil War, most immigrants fell into one of the following categories.

1. First Nations
2. French
3. Loyalist
4. German Palatine
5. Revolutionary War veterans
6. War of 1812 veterans
7. Patriot War veterans

Because New York State did not officially begin keeping vital records until 1880, finding sources to prove relationships between generations in New York prior to 1880 can be difficult. Libraries and historical societies, town historians and county clerks are important resources that should not be overlooked.

Some of my favorite resources are the Ogdensburg Public Library, the St. Lawrence County Historical Association, St. Lawrence County Clerk's Office, Onondaga County Public Library, Library and Archives Canada, National Society United States Daughters of the American Revolution, and the National Society United States Daughters of 1812 in addition to a number of websites.

Additional Resources

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