Here is a valuable online resource for genealogists, historians, students, and probably many others as well. The New York Public Library is currently digitizing upwards of 50,000 pages of historic early American manuscript material.
Quoting from the Project’s web site: “…to revisit major political events of the era from new perspectives and to explore currents of everyday social, cultural, and economic life in the colonial, revolutionary, and early national periods. The project will present on-line for the first time high quality facsimiles of key documents from America’s Founding, including the papers of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. Drawing on the full breadth of the Library’s manuscript collections, it will also make widely available less well-known manuscript sources, including business papers of Atlantic merchants, diaries of people ranging from elite New York women to Christian Indian preachers, and organizational records of voluntary associations and philanthropic organizations. Over the next two years, this trove of manuscript sources, previously available only at The Library, will be made freely available through www.nypl.org.”
This collection may or may not contain references to your Colonial-era ancestors but it certainly is worth a few minutes to find out. If you don’t find any such reference, check back in six months or a year or so as the collection is constantly growing.
The New York Public Library’s Early American Manuscripts Project is found at http://www.nypl.org/node/302658.
You can also keep track of new additions and other news in the Early American Manuscripts Project Blog at http://www.nypl.org/blog/division/5216.