New York History
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The following important events in New York history affected political boundaries, record-keeping, and family movements.
1609: Henry Hudson, sailing for the Dutch, established Holland's claim to the New York region.
1624–1626: The Dutch West India Company established established the colony of New Netherland. Its chief settlements were at New Amsterdam, on the lower tip of Manhattan Island, and at Fort Orange, the present site of Albany.
1629: The Dutch introduced the patroonship (manorial) system, which established a landholding aristocracy in the Hudson Valley.
1664: New Netherland surrendered to the English, who separated it into the colonies of New York and New Jersey.
1673–1674: The Dutch briefly reconquered New York. 1674
1683: The twelve original counties were formed (Albany, Cornwall [Maine], Dukes [Massachusetts], Dutchess, Kings, New York, Queens, Orange, Richmond, Suffolk, Ulster, and Westchester).
1731: The boundary between New York and Connecticut was settled.
1769: After long conflicts, the present border with New Jersey was agreed upon. The line was surveyed and marked in 1774.
1773: The New York-Massachusetts boundary dispute was finally resolved.
1776: New York declared independence from Britain and Vermont declared its independence from New York. At the end of the Revolutionary War, in 1783, the British evacuated Loyalists to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the British West Indies.
1786: The Hartford Treaty gave Massachusetts the title to the land in western New York west of the "Preemption Line" (a line running north and south between Seneca and Keuka Lakes) but reserved political governance to New York.
1788: New York ratified the U.S. Constitution and became the eleventh state of the Union.
1791: New York's eastern boundary was finally determined when Vermont was admitted as a state.
1796: The state capital moved from New York City to Albany.
1825: The Erie Canal (between Albany and the Great Lakes) was completed, stimulating settlement of the midwestern U.S. By 1842, rail lines connected Albany and Buffalo.
1839–1845: The Anti-Rent War led to the end of the manorial system.
1898: Brooklyn (Kings) established 1683, New York (Manhattan) established 1683, Queens established 1683, and Staten Island (Richmond) established 1683 were incorporated as boroughs of New York City.
1914: Bronx was incorporated as the fifth borough of New York City.
The best one-volume history of New York is probably David M. Ellis, et al., A History of New York State, 1957, revised (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1983; FHL book 974.7 H2e). One of the best multi-volume histories is Alexander C. Flick, ed., The History of the State of New York, Ten Volumes. (1933; reprint, Port Washington, New York: Ira J. Friedman Incorporated, 1962; FHL book 974.7 H2f).
Some published collections of historical documents essential for early New York genealogical research include:
Brodhead, John Romeyn, compiler; O'Callaghan, Edmund Bailey, and Berthold Fernow, translator and Editor. Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, Procured in Holland, England and France, by John Romeyn Brodhead, Esquire, Agent. 15 Volumes. Albany, New York: Weed, Parsons, and Co., 1853–1887. (FHL book 974.7 H2d; films 824380–91.) Biographical sketches drawn from official records of governors, courts, and petitions.
Documentary History of the State of New York. Four Volumes in eight parts. Albany, New York: Weed, Parson and Company, 1849–51 (octavo edition); 1850–51 (quarto edition). (FHL book 974.7 H2o; films 986504–07; fiche 6051121; subject index on film 017137 item 10.) Biographical information drawn from official records of governors, courts, and petitions.
O'Callaghan, Edmund Bailey, ed. Calendar of Dutch (and English) Historical Manuscripts in the Office of Secretary of State, Albany, New York, Two Volumes. 1865–1866. Reprint, Ridgewood, New Jersey: The Gregg Press, 1968. (FHL book 974.7 A3c; fiche 6051113.) Many of the documents described in this inventory were destroyed or damaged in the 1911 capital fire.
An excellent bibliography of New York local histories is Harold Nestler, compiler, A Bibliography of New York State Communities, Third Edition. (Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books, Incorporated, 1990; FHL book 974.7 H23nh 1990).
New York has officially appointed town and county historians who gather material about their locality and its people. They often have original and transcribed cemetery records, newspaper clippings, church records, and local histories. For their addresses, see The County Historians Association of New York State, 1991 Directory of New York State County and Municipal Historians, Fifth Edition. (Albany, New York: The New York State Education Department, Division of Research and Collections, 1991; FHL book 974.7 N24v 1991).