Introduction to Records and Collections
This index identifies archival records housed in the Town Hall of Bethlehem, New York. The majority of these records are
available to the public through the Town Clerk's Office.
Records are segregated by origin. Some records came from both the offices of the
Town Clerk and the Town Historian. The
Town Clerk's records are primarily related to the town administration, and also encompass judicial, town taxation, educational,
public work and public assistance records. The Town Historian's records consist of mostly collections, which detail the histories
of Town of Bethlehem families, schools, community organizations and include some military records, as well as maps and engineering
plans. There is a series description of different sets of documents. For most record series, a detailed index is provided which
identifies individual documents and where they are located. Computer databases support the archival records, offering an additional
finding aid to retrieve desired information.
Also, this index contains an inventory of miscellaneous documents and secondary research sources, including books, some film and
interviews. There is also a set of archived historic photographs, depicting the Town of Bethlehem as early as 1880. These
documents and their subsequent finding aids are available through the office of the Town Clerk and Town Historian.
Summary of Town Clerk Records
1. Administration of Town Government
1793 - 1980, 2.0 cubic feet
This series contains administrative documents related to the Town of Bethlehem government. Within this series, there are
several different types of documents. There is a roster of Bethlehem officers and postmasters from 1794 to 1942 composed by
former historian Ruth Dickinson. There are five volumes containing oaths of office covering 1932 to 1967. There is also a card
file that alphabetically lists town government officials from the 1790s to the early 1900s, focusing particularly on overseers and
constables. Tax reports from 1964 to 1971 as well as annual reports of the Town Supervisor, 1940-1944, 1946-1952, 1954, 1955, and
1957-1980, are located within this file. The annual reports of the Justice of the Peace date from 1964 to 1971. There is also
one juror list from 1907. Payroll journals, expense ledgers and other reports following the 1950s are also included.
2. Burial Permits: 1894 - 1988, Marriage, Birth and Death records
Public access to records limited by confidentiality law. Local cemetery keepers issued burial permits, which followed the death
certificate, until 1932; the Town Clerk assumed responsibility after an amendment to the law. Genealogical research can be
completed for vital records for documents older than seventy-five (75) years. More recent vital records require eligibility
documentation. Contact the Registrar of Vital Statistics (the Town Clerk in the Town of Bethlehem) regarding access to these records.
3. Chattel Mortgage Records
1956 - 1960, 1961 - 1963, 1.0 cubic feet
These records show the name of the mortgagor, amount, and property held as chattel. [Chattel mortgages were mortgages held on
property other than land or houses, such as automobiles, furniture, household appliances and the like.]
4. Conditional Sale Records
1956 - 1966, 1.0 cubic feet
Records in this series contain the name of the buyer and seller. They also delineate property sold and at what price.
5. Early Records of Town Government
1794 - 1939, 2.0 cubic feet
This series consists of handwritten records. There are 1849-1875 school proceedings, an account of school funds from 1901-1903,
1910, 1913-1915, 1921-1922, 1929-1939, and a 1900 school district survey. Road development, such as a road index from 1877-1883,
and road records from 1877-1883, is included as well. A roster of both slave births and manumission records was kept between
1799-1825. Election results from 1833 to 1912 are included. There are records on stray animals. The Board of Health has
documents dating from 1901 to 1938.
6. Legal Cases
1961 - 1979, 5.4 cubic feet
These files are from closed cases that involve the Town of Bethlehem. Information includes individual parties involved, charges,
testimony, court orders, and disposition. Case names and details cannot be disclosed to the general public.
7. Legal Papers of the Town
1910 - 1960, 2.0 cubic feet
These documents consist of records related to government, education, land usage and other town business. These can be
separated into various categories.
This includes notification and reports from 1947 to 1970. Legal documents relating to education date from 1900 and 1909 to
1944. There is also information included about Union Free School District in 1947. There is a blueprint for the 1922 school
district as well as a survey map for the school district in 1909. There is also other information relating to the Bethlehem
Central School District in 1939.
This included a variety of information and dates. Land purchase options from 1934 and 1937 are included. A series of abstracts
of titles includes various park lands, parking lots, water districts, the Rod and Gun Club, sewer districts, and water corporations,
dating from the 1960s to the early 1980s. There is a series relating to leases from 1938, and 1953 to 1985. Assessment exemptions
from 1944 and 1945 detail a list of property owners. There are releases from 1932 to 1992.
This includes review of assessment, six folders of assessment 1917-1956 and office appointments from 1930-1939. Also included is
information on Bethlehem grange, election notices and town meeting notices from 1918. Bills of sale from 1923 to 1941. Reports
and petitions of the Board of Health from 1919 to 1940 are available. Businesses funded under assumed names date from 1933, 1944
and 1950. There is election information dating from 1910-1951 and a polling list from 1912. There is a report on farm taxes from
1913 to 1932. There is a proposal to buy Adams house for Town Hall in 1932. There are also election district maps from 1914, 1918,
1944, 1949, and 1952 and five undated election district maps. A 1918 notice of a town meeting as well as a 1937 election notice is
This section includes New York telephone permits, as well as petitions of the Atlantic Light and Power Company 1922 and 1923.
There are two folders relating to the Suburban Water Company and potential town ownership and incorporation reports from 1901.
There is some information on arrangement of bus lines from 1930-1945 and the Hudson River Connecting Railroad. There is a
blueprint for wharf construction in 1937.
There are reports and petitions from the Board of Health dating from 1919 to 1940. There is information on the dog quarantine of
1923 and other animal information in 1919, and some information on civil procedures such as divorces.
Dr. and Mrs. J. R. Davidson
He was physician in South Bethlehem
picture taken about 1900
8. Maps and Engineering Plans
1909 - 1992, 13.0 cubic feet
The documents in this series detail various construction projects that were sent to the Town Board for approval. This includes
district outlines for fire, sewer, water, and lighting, as well as road construction and some building plans. Election and some
census maps are included as well.
This includes information on Slingerlands, 1938, 1914, 1929, extension 1946. There is also reference to: Delmar, 1938, 1938,
Elsmere, 1938, Selkirk 1949 and New York Power and Light Distribution 1937.
These records detail: Selkirk 1942, 1943, 1960, Delmar 1977, 1927, Slingerlands extension 1942, 1943, Elsmere 1943, 1960 and
some extensions in 1942, 1949, 1960.
Selkirk Fire Company
Delmar Fire Engine Company Number 1
Districts in this record include: South of Whitehall Road and west of Delaware Avenue 914, as well as the Town of Bethlehem's
various sewer contracts: multiple plans for June and July 1981, April 1973. Also included are Delmar/Elsmere 1934, 1936, 1937,
1938, 1951, 1992, Glenmont extension 1960 and Coventry 1968.
These include Bethlehem 1944-1978, various town election districts 1983 and election districts 1949.
Construction/Transit and Miscellaneous Projects
This includes proposals for bridges, railroad construction projects, mall plans, school plans, and tax maps, as well as some
- Normanskill Bridge 1909, 1910, 1912
- Delaware and Hudson (D & H) Railroad proposed over crossing at Rockefeller crossing 1904
- Southgate mall site plan 1972
- Public Grade/High school plans 1925
- Bethlehem Garage Elm Avenue 1972
- Proposed cable television by Adams Russell
- Proposed additions and alterations to existing Town Hall building for Bethlehem 1959
- Restoration and renovation of Nicoll-Sill house 1976
- Bethlehem Township community cable television Jackson Communications 1976
- Tax Maps - Bethlehem (prepared for assessment purposes) 1981
- Map of town of Bethlehem - speed limits
- South Albany map "B" apartments 1927
1929 - 1990, 3.8 cubic feet
Ordinances created laws, prior to the establishment of the town's local law. This file includes ordinances that deal with public
safety, zoning, sewage disposal, and the like.
10. Petitions and Resolutions
1926 - 1959, 2.0 cubic feet
Residents who desire changes in the town generate petitions to the supervisor and town board. Petitions can directly affect the
town, such as physical improvements like street lighting, sewer extensions and sidewalks. Other petitions can include matters
that affect lifestyle, such as Sunday showings of movies.
Resolutions are local law passed by the town board. Documents within this series include notices of public hearings and other types
of orders issued by public bodies.
11. Public Assistance Records
1911 - 1940, 0.4 cubic feet
During the first town meeting, officials elected an Overseer of the Poor. In later years, the position became known as the Welfare
Officer, and was administered by the local government. Later, beginning with the recession years of the 1930s, support and
assistance to those in need was furnished through higher levels of government.
These records include names of individuals receiving public assistance. Claims from 1934 to 1935 are recorded, as well as reports
from 1932 to 1940. Also, the amount and type of aid (food, money, clothes) to each individual was recorded. There are also 1937
records of local projects financed through the federal WPA (Works Progress Administration) program.
12. Public Works Records
1926 - 1972, 1.0 cubic feet
These are documents held by the Town Clerk dealing with public works. Such documents include financial data contained in annual
reports of the water district and in surety bonds. There are also studies, contracts, and notes on public works projects as well
as various bid awards and specifications.
13. Register of Short Term Notes or Certificates of Indebtedness
1932 - 1942, 0.1 cubic feet
This is a record of how the town government funded various activities, such as Works Progress Administration projects and welfare
payments. The date of the obligation, interest rate, payment date and purpose of note are included in these records.
14. Schools - Taxation and Administration Records
1918 - 1954, 4.7 cubic feet
Property owners have traditionally financed the construction and expenses of schools through taxation. School districts maintained
the records of property assessments and tax payments. Since a number of school officials were involved with the process, not all
records throughout past years remain available. Information includes names of property owners, their taxes levied and payments.
There are also records of attendance and names of teachers available from 1923-1926.
15. Surveys and Studies
1990 - 1997, 1.0 cubic feet
These reports include a variety of topics, including environmental, transportation, traffic and road construction, and a historic
district review and map. There are topics concerning the environment such as plans for underground natural gas lines and a
pollution prevention plan. There are reports for road construction, a traffic study and a research project concerning a review
and map of historic districts.
16. Town Board Minutes of Meetings
1794 - 1960, 5.0 cubic feet
These records display minutes of the Town Board and identify issues addressed by town officials since the eighteenth-century
establishment of the Town of Bethlehem.
1939 - 1973
These records display minutes of the Zoning Board (Board of Appeals and Planning Board) and zoning matters within the last forty
Summary of Town Historian Records
1. Bethlehem or Nicoll-Sill House
Collection, 1735 - 1976, 0.2 cubic feet
Bethlehem House is the oldest family structure in the town, established circa 1735. The Town of Bethlehem acquired the
deteriorated house and property. The house was subsequently sold to a private owner and restored. The associated cemetery
continues to be the property of the Town. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
This file contains much information on the house including an architectural structure report, an historical analysis of the house,
details on its restoration as well as grant information. There is also a narrative of a Sill descendent and a biography of a
slave written by Duncan Sill. There are also notes regarding the Margaret M. Sill portrait.
2. Civil Defense Records
Records, 1941 - 1957, 1.0 cubic feet
The Town of Bethlehem was actively engaged in civil defense in both World War II and the Korean Conflict. Former Town Historian
Ruth Dickinson was actively involved in the effort. She kept records on potential volunteers as well as surveys of available
billets (temporary housing for military personnel) within the town. These files include name, family, employment and residence
data. The files also include a file of local servicemen, a warden's manual and report of the War Council.
3. Community Organizations
Collection, 1843 - 1977, 0.3 cubic feet
Filed by organization name
This file contains the records of inactive town organizations. The file has many different types of organizations including
economic, religious, political, community and various leisure groups. The groups are the Tri Village Church Women, the Committee
That Cares, the Delmar-Elsmere Sewing Circle, Economic Development, Bethlehem Debating Club, Opportunity for Growth, Bethlehem
Women's Republican Club, Bethlehem Christmas Community Festival, Delmar Community Field Day, Elks, Selkirk YMCA, Delmar Progress
Club, Pure Water Association of Bethlehem, Delmar Taxpayers Improvement Association, Bethlehem Freeze Lockers, and Bethlehem
Service Men's Committee. Information varies; files can include minutes of meetings, membership lists, programs and organizational
4. Genealogy Reports and Documents
Collection, 1680 - 1980, 0.9 cubic feet
Filed by surname, reference the Town Clerk's index for specific surnames
This file contains miscellaneous family papers, including legal documents, marital information, genealogies, biographies, burial
information, account books, school information and records, deeds, other land information and a family Bible and other miscellaneous
5. Historical Notes and Reports
Collection, 1899 - 1991, 0.8 cubic feet
The Town Historians have preserved the history of the Town of Bethlehem through their numerous and varied collections. Such
collections paint many pictures of the life and history of the Town of Bethlehem. Information includes local history reports,
local directories, church information, newspaper clippings, information on roads, name origins, recollections, and historical
notes on the post office, library, and other historical buildings in the Town of Bethlehem. Also includes notes on the history
of the Hudson River and surrounding natural environments, as well as the histories of various area businesses and industries.
There are two issues of the Bethlehem Chronicle and summaries from the Albany County Post. There is some information on Kenaware
Park and Kenholm Gardens.
6. Old Historical Documents
Collection, circa 1700 -1800, 0.5 cubic feet
Some documents filed by surname
This file contains a large amount of indenture records from various old families from the Town of Bethlehem. There are also a
few other miscellaneous documents contained including family maps, a warrant and a marriage certificate from the early nineteenth
century marriage certificates, warrants, deeds, surveys, abstract of titles, some unidentified documents and even food recipes.
Collection, circa 1870 - present
Index and search engine available through the offices of the Town Clerk and the Town Historian
The town historian accumulated many of the photographs in this collection. The photographs include individual portraits, as well
as homes, buildings and other general scenes. All photographs depict images of late nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first
century life in the Town of Bethlehem.
Mrs. Nelson Pernil
Wolferts Roost, July 1928
8. Records of the Historian's Office
Records, 1946 - 1983, 0.3 cubic feet
Filed by surname
These are the records of the Town Historian. The town created the office of the Historian in 1921, however, documentation began
only in 1945. The file includes correspondence, notes and memos, papers regarding the Bethlehem Historical Association,
certificates of appointments, an oral history by Ruth Dickinson, and the historians' annual reports from 1946, 1948, 1960,
9. Records of Military Service
Records, 1918 - 1953, 0.6 cubic feet
The Town of Bethlehem kept records on all individuals who served in World War II. Albany County received some forwarded copies.
There are also other service documents, including records of service during World War I, as well as photographs and militia
enrollment list from World War I. There are also records from the Korean War Conflict. The information in these records includes
personal family data, addresses, education, military campaign information, etc.
10. Residential-Telephone Directories
Collection, 1908 - 1993, 2.0 cubic feet
Bound volumes in chronological order
The Delmar Progress Club published a 1913 Delmar residential directory to raise funds for a public library. Subsequently, the
First United Methodist Church compiled the Tri-Village Directory from 1932 to 1993. Such directories provided names, spous,
children and employment information. There are maps in some editions. There is also a 1926 issue of Tri-City Suburban Directory
for Bethlehem as well as copies of excerpts from 1908, 1909 and 1917 telephone directories.
11. Schools in Bethlehem - History
Collection, 1918 - 1984, 0.3 cubic feet
This series includes documents and photographs related to the development of Bethlehem schools. There are school histories, as
well as a list of 1918 school officials. There is information on Cedar Hill School and Glenmont/Slingerlands elementary schools.
There are excerpts from District 10 school records from 1845 to 1922. There is also a record of the fiftieth anniversary
celebration of the first High School's graduating class. There is also a 1983 interview with the Superintendent of Schools.
12. Town of Bethlehem Celebrations
Collection, 1932 - 1993, 0.8 cubic feet
This file includes information relating to various celebrations within the Town of Bethlehem. There is a great amount of
information pertaining to the 1993 Town Bicentennial celebration as well as the 1976 U.S. Bicentennial. This includes reports
and minutes of the various committees and meetings. There is also information on the 1959 Hudson-Champlain celebration and the
1932 George Washington Bicentennial, including news clips of a movie. There is also information included on the 1993 Town of
Bethlehem time capsule burial.