Thursday, 10 January 2013 15:08

Heritage Hunters: Uncovering the Unknown

By Chelsea DiSchiano | Families Today
“Who were my ancestors? Where did they come from?”
“Do I have relatives I don’t know about?”
“Is it possible that some of my ancestors were involved in the Battle of Saratoga or another war?”

These are just some of the many questions that have sparked the curiosity of the members of Heritage Hunters, a local organization dedicated to genealogy and history research.

Though only 23 people were in attendance at the group’s first meeting back in May 1993, the organization has since grown to almost 300 people, including members not only in Saratoga but throughout the United States, with one member even living in Canada.

“People who start searching out their families are amazed at some of the information they find,” said Joan Cady, president of Heritage Hunters. “They can find relatives that they didn’t know they had and connect with them, and have family reunions and bring their families together, all kinds of things—I’m completely hooked.”

Cady said she has been researching her own family’s genealogy for over 40 years.

“I’ve researched both sides of my family and my husband’s family, and I’m still in the process of going through it—I’m constantly adding and constantly trying to search out other names,” she said. “We’ve been trying to find a connection with Elizabeth Cady Stanton on my husband’s side of the family, though I have yet to make the connection line, so I’m still looking for that.”

Former president of Heritage Hunters, Pat Peck, was able to reconnect with relatives in Michigan she didn’t know she had until she began researching her family tree.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Peck said. “And you learn a lot about the local history of the area as you try and track down what folks did and what their contributions may have been or their occupations.”

Cady added that Heritage Hunters is a helpful resource for those who have been researching genealogy on their own but have gotten stuck.

“We have a lot of dedicated people who are willing to help other people get started and take down brick walls that form—our group is very good about helping each other, ” Cady said. “Some of our members have started genealogy classes so that people with questions can ask them during the class, and research is carried out to find family names and historical things in relation to that.”

Heritage Hunters isn’t just about finding answers to questions about your own family, though. The group conducts major research projects on historical events and locations around Saratoga Springs every year.

Peck said the organization recently finished a 10-year project of transcribing local deeds from the Saratoga County Clerk’s office, which is now available for the public to view online. Another big project regarding the Saratoga Battlefield was completed several years after it was started by Frank Goodway, a former member of Heritage Hunters who has since passed away.

“A couple years ago, we finally got permission from Saratoga National Historical Park to put a computer at the battlefield that contains the people’s names Frank had collected at that time into the program, so people can now go to the battlefield and look up their ancestors and see if they fought in the Battle of Saratoga,” Cady said.

The organization also keeps busy with smaller projects such as researching local cemeteries, helping anyone who requests assistance with their own family research, and putting out a 24-page bi-monthly newsletter to all its members that contains helpful hints, information on new technology, local happenings with the group, birth and death records, and information on big research projects.

Heritage Hunters also has monthly meetings hosting different speakers on various topics—this month, the group will feature John Cromie of Ballston Spa who will speak about learning how to research your house history.

The group also hosts a History Faire every April and a genealogy conference every October.

“At the History Faire, we have exhibitors come in, and last year we had a wide variety of people come—we had an 11-year-old boy who liked to collect military things and he set up a display with that,” Cady said. “We had a wide range of various people who dealt with history and genealogy come, and we’re trying to expand that this year.”

Until then, Cady, Peck and the rest of the members of Heritage Hunters will continue to research their family lines and work on various projects.

“The more you know about your family and the more you connect your family with various [historical] things, it brings your family and history more alive so you get more of a sense of family and pride,” Cady said. “Finding out about your ancestors is a mystery and you have to be a very good detective, but it’s always well-worth what you come up with.”

Those interested in joining and/or learning more about Heritage Hunters can email Membership Chair Carol Waldrin at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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