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Brief History

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.
  • 1672: New York employed Indians to carry mail from city to Albany because of the extreme hardships involved.
  • 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).
  • 1700: Tuscarora tribe of North Carolina migrated to New York and joined the Iroquois Confederacy.
  • 1731: The boundary between New York and Connecticut was settled.
  • 1768: Fort Stanwick Treaty, the Iroquois Confederacy ceded 1/2 its land to U.S.
  • 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: ( July 26,)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.
  • 1898: Over 300,000 men were involved in the Spanish-American War which was fought mainly in Cuba and the Philippines.
  • 1914: Bronx was incorporated as the fifth borough of New York City.
  • 1917–1918: More than 26 million men from the United States ages 18 through 45 registered with the Selective Service. World War I over 4.7 million American men and women served during the war.
  • 1930's: The Great Depression closed many factories and mills. Many small farms were abandoned, and many families moved to cities.
  • 1940–1945: Over 50.6 million men ages 18 to 65 registered with the Selective Service. Over 16.3 million American men and women served in the armed forces during World War II.
  • 1950–1953: Over 5.7 million American men and women served in the Korean War.
  • 1950's–1960's The building of interstate highways made it easier for people to move long distances.
  • 1964–1972: Over 8.7 million American men and women served in the Vietnam War.

Historical Content

Histories are great sources of genealogical information. Many contain biographical information about individuals who lived in the area, including:

  • Parents' names
  • Maiden names of women
  • Place of birth, death, or marriage
  • Occupation
  • Migration
  • Military service
  • Descendants

Local Histories

Some of the most valuable sources for family history research are local histories. Published histories of towns, counties, and states usually contain accounts of families. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. You can also find lists of pioneers, soldiers, and civil officials. Even if your ancestor is not listed, information on other relatives may be included that will provide important clues for locating your ancestor. A local history may also suggest other records to search. Local histories are extensively collected by the Family History Library, public and university libraries, and state and local historical societies. The United States Research "History" page cites nationwide bibliographies of local histories which include histories of New York.

  • Harold Nestler, compiler, A Bibliography of New York State Communities, Third Edition. (Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books, Incorporated, 1990; Family History Library book 974.7 H23nh 1990). An excellent resource for New York biographies.
  • 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, [1]

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