NYS Library: A new family find in Gloversville city directories

Sepia Saturday 504. Fourth in a series based on recent research discoveries at the NYS Archives & Library: More on my maternal immigrant ancestors of Fulton County, N.Y.

On a recent trip to the New York State Archives and Library, I spent time perusing the library’s large collection of city directories for Gloversville, N.Y., where my maternal immigrant German and Italian ancestors lived from the mid 1800s.

While many of the directories have been digitized, scrolling through the library’s microfilm allowed me to browse multiple ancestors at once — and to experience the broad sweep of my mother’s extended Gloversville family in just a few hours.

North Main St. and Family Theatre, Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. (circa 1908). My maternal German and Italian ancestors lived here from the mid 1800s, working in the glove industry or as small proprietors. The NYS Library’s city directories for Gloversville helped me verify when they were first listed, where they lived and their occupations.

Beginning with the 1879-80 directory, I set an initial goal of searching the collection chronologically to see when each of my immigrant ancestors first appeared. Yet as I went on, I remembered collateral relatives I wanted to include — and before long my mother’s Gloversville ancestral tree began to take shape before me, one year at a time.

My German ancestors arrived first

I knew that my German forebears were the first to arrive in Gloversville. So I was not surprised to find my great-great grandfathers Andrew Stoutner and Joseph Mimm in the 1879-80 directory for Gloversville, Kingsboro and Johnstown, as excerpted below..

In contrast, the first listing for my great-great grandfather Antonio Curcio, from Italy’s Campania region, did not appear until 1891. Last to appear in 1903 was my great-grandfather Peter Laurence (nee Di Lorenzo), also from the Campania region, who married Antonio’s oldest daughter Mamie after his 1895 arrival in Gloversville.

Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y. -My Immigrant Ancestors’ First City Directory Listing – Source: New York State Library
Year Name Address Occupation
1879 Andrew Stoutner (appears as Stoudner) Wells St. Brick Maker
1879 Joseph A. Mimm Broad c. Fifth Tool Maker
1891 Antonio Curcio 84 E. Fulton Junk Dealer
1903 Peter Laurence (nee Di Lorenzo) (appears as Lawrence) 128 E. Fulton Laborer

A surprise Curcio address

I expected the city directory listings to simply reinforce what I already knew about my Gloversville ancestors from censuses and other sources. What I didn’t expect was a new-to-me address for Antonio Curcio at 84 E. Fulton Street!

As far as I knew, the Curcios had always lived at 128 E. Fulton Street — where their son-in-law Peter Laurence lived with them in 1903.

1891: Gloversville and Johnstown City Directory. (Click to enlarge.) My great-great grandfather A. Curcio is the last name on this page. It’s his first listing in a Gloversville city directory — and at a new-to-me address! Photo by Molly Charboneau

So I later followed up with searches of online Gloversville city directories, and sure enough — in 1891, 1892 and 1893 the Curcios lived at 84 E. Fulton Street. Antonio was not listed at 128 E. Fulton Street until 1894.

Valuable lessons

Genealogy research trips offer valuable lessons, even for longtime family historians — as I learned during my time at the NYS Library.

First, city directories are excellent substitutes for the 1890 federal census, which was destroyed in a fire. Although these books don’t always include female ancestors, they can help place listed ancestors in a time and place. Thus the 1890s directories unexpectedly rewarded me with the Curcios’ first Gloversville address.

The other lesson? Finding family history records and filing them away, as I have done for years with my maternal forebears, are only the first steps in reconstructing an ancestral story. It’s the time spent studying those records — and thoughtfully examining new ones — that truly teases out an ancestor’s narrative.

Well okay, I already knew that. But it never hurts to be reminded.

Up next: One more research discovery at the NYS Library and Archives. Please stop back! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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18 thoughts on “NYS Library: A new family find in Gloversville city directories”

    1. It’s a great place, but huge. So my advice is prepare in advance a list of collections you want to access. Otherwise, it can be quite overwhelming!

  1. Molly, I also love directories and have obtained a wealth of information from them. Unfortunately, many of the Dublin city ancestors lived in tenement buildings. As such, they were not included in our city directories, which were the domain of the gentry class and tradesmen. Still, I managed to trace their movements nonetheless.

    1. I have the same problem finding land records for my ancestors who rented — the closest I can get is to their building’s owner. But as you point out, it never hurts to know more background about the neighborhood where ancestors lived.

  2. I too love old directories. And depending on the setup of the directory, sometimes you can get a good idea of the neighbourhood – and the neighbours. Nice to see your searching was rewarded with a genea-surprise. Hoping for more for all of us in 2020.

  3. This was a productive day of research for you. I love the old city directories. I agree with you that it’s important to find the information but more important to give it thorough examination

  4. I find the old city directories are amazing compendiums of social history. Especially with smaller towns you can almost see the relationships people had with neighbors, jobs, shops, churches, schools, etc. It’s fun to discover how advertisements then describe the things people used to think about — furniture, stoves, wagons, etc. A different kind of consumerism than life in the 21st cent. And is Gloverville pronounced like “lover” or “clover”?

    1. It’s pronounced like “lover” since it took its name from gloves. I also like the directories for social history — watching blacksmiths give way to auto mechanics and seeing the odd remedies folk took for colds and such. Plus some of the ads are beautiful!

  5. Oh boy, you are at it again…finding those tidbits of your ancestors’ lives! You inspire me to keep at it, especially on the one I’m stuck on right now. Of course I have lots that I was once stuck on, and have now just moved on, leaving them for another rainy day!

    1. I’d say keep going, because you never know where/when you will find information that will break down an ancestral brick wall. Especially as new items go online every day. Good luck!

    1. Thanks, Liz. We do have lots of records — the trick is finding them, which sometimes requires traveling to the local area. But that’s part of the fun!

  6. Having fun doing genealogy research is a reward all its own. But learning something new you didn’t expect to find is icing on the cake! 🙂

  7. What a nice reward for your effort. I love when I find something new when I wasn’t expecting to learn anything new.

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