Each of the 16,000 individuals who lived in the city of Albany before the Industrial Revolution has been the subject of intensive historical research conducted over the past two decades as the core activity of the Colonial Albany Social History Project.
We are dedicated to learning all that we can about life in the past by studying the individual lives of all of early Albany's diverse peoples. The stories of these historical characters are basic to all project presentations. Biographical portraits figure prominently in project publications, public programs, and, most directly, in the expositions that appear on this website.
A general understanding of biography-driven project research and research priorities is best gained by reading the web page entitled "state of the art" and by checking for research updates posted in the "New Features" section.
As many as three-quarters of the historical characters in our study population belong to the 150 families residing in the city of Albany for more than two generations before 1800. Some of these families were found in Albany over seven or eight generations prior to 1800 while others were in Albany barely three. This core population represents the heart of our research program. Over the years, we have compiled extensive information on the members of each of these early Albany families and on each family in general. With the help of project members, associates, and benefactors, we continue to articulate and refine our archive on each of these families in their early Albany context.
To help structure family-based learning, ensure that the project has not overlooked legitimate study population candidates, and also that we have not included individuals who really do not meet the criteria for inclusion, the Colonial Albany Project has adopted a research strategy we refer to as "Family Reconstitution."
The goal of our family reconstitution program is to reconstruct the structure of each early Albany family by identifying (by name and life dates) each family member either born to Albany parents or who lived in the city before 1800; establish clear kinship lines for each family member; and then integrate all known information on an individual's life into the appropriate biographical file.
Over the past decade, a number of these major families have been the subject of an increasingly structured reconstitution procedure. These inquiries have been conducted by new interns as part of their basic training experience. For each "reconstituted" family, our family files now contain an annotated list of documented family members, one or more "family trees," an essay on the particular family, a cache of printed family-based resources, and other pertainent materials. Based on these resources, each person's biography is further articulated and enhanced.
The reconstitution program continues with the arrival of each new project member. It is a basic experience that all project associates share. It provides hands-on contact with a wide range of historical resources, requires critical thinking and problem-solving, and provides the budding community historian with the basic tools for developing a biographical profile for a range of early Americans.
We really do intend to produce a web-based biography for each early Albany person and descriptive pages for every place, thing, and theme relevant to their lives. Our progress can be monitored by visiting a section entitled "New features."
Early Albany families "reconstituted" by the Colonial Albany Project:
first posted: 7/28/00; last revised 12/29/06