Lately, Cyndislist is on everyone’s lips…well maybe not everyone…but certainly anyone using the Internet to search for their roots. Genealogy is one of the fastest growing hobbies, particularly in the over 50-age group, although its appeal spans all generations. In the past several years, the Internet has become a major resource for genealogists. The Yorktown Historical Society recognizes this important fact and has attempted to share information on the town’s early families while reporting on its history. Oral histories, in particular, give us not only names and dates, but individual impressions of events of the past.

Genealogy is an endless journey. Once one goal is achieved, another is set. Someone recently asked me how far back I plan to go on my family tree before I quit. My response…”Adam and Eve!” The genealogical road is a busy highway with many twists and turns. Some of these paths will be dead-ends, others exciting and filled with mystery and hidden surprises!

The quest is not for everyone. Only a person with a curious mind and a passion for puzzle solving will endure the countless hours and unbudgeted funds to hunt down each family member from the past. For each individual found, two more are sought, not to mention siblings, spouses and children. It helps to have spare time, but many family historians use holiday gatherings and vacations to further their work. It’s an interesting, often frustrating, hobby that results in a better understanding of ourselves. Many families are re-united with long-lost members and health mysteries are sometimes solved. Most family historians have an interesting story to tell of how they uncovered secrets from the past; some are humorous, others incredible!

One Yorktown woman became her family’s storyteller, and did so without the aid of a computer or the World Wide Web. Ruth Townsend Purdy donated her research, along with family photos, to the Yorktown Museum and these are now available to the public.

Ruth Emma Townsend was born on October 1, 1890 in Kent, NY to Arthur Townsend and Ella Terwiliger. She worked in the Putnam County Clerk’s office from 1916-1936 and was Deputy County Clerk for the last 12 of those years. On June 24, 1938 she married George Jacob Purdy in Mahopac, NY, son of Jacob Irving Purdy and Ida May Tompkins. George was born in Granite Springs, NY on December 6, 1895. Ruth and George resided on the family farm on Granite Springs Rd. and were members of the Amawalk Friends Meeting.

Ruth’s quest for her family history began with her mother, who applied for D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Revolution) membership. Ruth picked up where her mother left off, using letters, bible records, gravestone inscriptions and published works to research her family and that of her husband’s family extensively. She saved every letter and piece of evidence she uncovered, as well as her typed and hand-written notes. Some notes were jotted on whatever was handy at the moment: shopping lists, bills, envelopes, etc. Ruth also kept a diary for many years; however, very little personal entries were made. She mostly recorded the births, deaths and marriages of people she knew. Anyone who has delved into family history knows it helps to organize the mounds of material with one of the many computer genealogical programs available, such as Family Tree Maker. Ruth kept track the old-fashioned way!

Ruth attended Drew Seminary in Carmel, NY. She was a charter member of the Enoch Crosby Chapter of the D.A.R., which was organized on April 6, 1926. She later served as its Regent. She was a member of the Grange, The King’s Daughters, and honorary life member of the Friends of the Yorktown Museum. Ruth died in 1968, following George who died in 1966.

The following 34 surnames are family lines connected to George and Ruth Townsend Purdy, of which they have donated much genealogical gleanings. These are loose files and published works, all of which can be found now at the Yorktown Museum’s newly organized research room at the YCCC.


It isn’t known if Ruth and George donated their wealth of information to a central organization, such as the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Morman Church) or in published form to the Library of Congress or the New York Public Library. Many family historians have, however, and these are excellent places to begin a family research project. The Latter Day Saints (LDS) have a research room on Rt. 134 in Yorktown that is open to the public, as well as a web site ( The volunteers at the research room are very helpful and informed. The New York State Archives has census records and early birth, death and marriage indexes, and the National Archives (a branch is in New York City) has census, immigration and military records, just to name a few. Joining an organization such as the Westchester Genealogical Society is a great idea. They offer a newsletter and workshops, seminars, meetings and study groups.

Back to the web, is a free site for research references, as is is a membership site with an extensive offering, including some of it free. Keep in mind one thing…facts you find on the Internet are not always reliable, and should be checked the old-fashioned way much as Ruth Townsend Purdy did. As you travel the cyber highway to follow your genealogical road, at least you’ll have some of the paths cleared and marked for your journey. Happy hunting!

Written by Linda L. Kiederer
Photos courtesy of the Town Clerk

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