On advice of @efgen I split this question into two - one for New York and one for Panama, but left the same detail for both thinking the fact that Robert Sellars was in both geographic areas might help solve the "mystery". I now know considerably more than I did when first posing this question so will try to revise it without changing its original nature
Please only provide Answer(s) for New York here.
My 3rd great grandfather Robert Sellars was born 15 Oct 1830 in Dundonald, Ayrshire, Scotland, and with his wife Margaret Clacher, had three sons born abroad:
- Robert John Steven in Albany, New York, USA on 3 Jan 1854
William in New York City, USA in about 1857- record has now been found
- John in Panama, South America in about 1863
He also had two other children born in Scotland:
- Hugh in Glasgow about 1850
- Margaret Elizabeth in Glasgow on 28 Jul 1865
There is also a tantalizing photograph of what is believed to be Robert John Steven "with his sister Margaret" at ages of about 5 and 3 suggesting that another daughter may have been born about 1856, perhaps in Albany or New York City.
There are various Census appearances (1861, 1871, 1881) by his children (except for the Margaret who may have been born in about 1856) and wife, Margaret (nee Clacher) living back in Scotland, there is nothing to indicate that Robert ever returned.
I have found the family in the 1855 New York State Census at Albany where Robert Sellars (24), a Ship Carpenter is living with wife Margaret Clacker (25) and sons Hugh (5) and Robert John Stephen Sellars (1). Robert is recorded as having been living there for one year while it appears that his family joined him more recently. I know that Margaret and Hugh arrived in New York on 10 May 1854 aboard the "Mary Morris".
I have not been able to locate any of the family in any subsequent US Census but Robert's father Hugh Sellars, also a Ship Carpenter, aged 52, is also in the 1855 New York State Census at Albany living with what I resume to be his second wife Mary, aged 50, born in England.
Robert's father Hugh appears to live at Albany through to at least 1872 because he is recorded as having a Variety Store and house at 311 Washington Avenue in eight Albany Directories (and at 287 Washington Avenue in two before that). He is also in Albany for the 1860 Federal Census but I have not seen an image of that to learn more than basic details.
Of Robert himself the only other things I know are that in the 1861 Census his wife Margaret is recorded as being a Ship Carpenter's Wife (not widow), and on the 1865 Birth Certificate (which I have not seen) of his daughter Margaret Elizabeth I believe it records his occupation as being "Railway Company, Ship Building Manager, Panama, Central America".
My overall question is where to find New York City and Albany birth and death records for the mid-late 1850s and possibly early 1860s? I wish to use them to verify the date and location of these events:
- Birth of Robert John Steven (or Stephen?) Sellars on 3 Jan 1854 in Albany
- Possible birth of Margaret Sellars in about 1856 in Albany or New York City
- Birth of William Sellars in about 1857 in New York City
- Possible death of Margaret Sellars aged about 5 or less before 1861 most likely in New York City
- Death of Hugh Sellars aged about 68 or more after 1872 in Albany
Death of Mary Sellars aged anywhere over about 50 after about 1855 in Albany- record has now been found
I recently located an 1865 New York State Census record, and I think there are some other updates that I can and should make to this question, but for now ...
Hugh Sellars 60, Ship Carpenter, born in Scotland, living at Albany City, Ward 6, Albany, New York, USA with his wife Mary Sellars 60 (born in England) and two others: William H Hall, aged 8, recorded as Hugh's son (?) and Caroline R Foster, aged 7, a Boarder. Hugh was recorded as having been naturalized which suggests to me that he not only declared his intent but completed the process.