New York Land and Property
Early Land Records
There are few pre-1660 New York land records. Some records of earliest land grants during the Dutch period are in the following publications:
- Gehring, Charles T., translator and editor. New York Historical Manuscripts. Dutch. Land Papers, Volumes GG, HH, & II. Published under the direction of The Holland Society of New York. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1980. Family History Library book 974.7 R2lp, FHL Collection. This book is a translation of land patents, 1630–1651 and 1654–1664, the earliest land records of New Netherland.
- O'Callaghan, Edmund Bailey, comp. Calendar of New York Colonial Manuscripts, Indorsed Land Papers in the Office of the Secretary of State of New York, 1643–1803. 1864. Revised reprint, Harrison, New York: Harbor Hill Books, 1987. Family History Library book 974.7 R2n, FHL Collection; older edition on Family History Library film 947853, FHL Collection. This indexes the Land Grant Application Files, 1642–1803, commonly referred to as the New York Colonial Manuscripts, Endorsed Land Papers, in 63 volumes at the state archives (not at Family History Library). The records pertain to New York and Vermont. They give name and date and place of residence. These records have recently been microfilmed by the New York State Archives, and the films are available for sale by the New York State Archives or through interlibrary loan.
- Van Laer, Arnold Johan Ferdinand, translator; Kenneth Scott and Kenn Stryker-Rodda, editors. New York Historical Manuscripts. Dutch. Register of the Provincial Secretary. Three Volumes. Published under the Direction of The Holland Society of New York. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1974. Family History Library book 974.7 H2vL v. 1–3, FHL Collection. This book contains translations of conveyances recorded in the minutes of the provincial secretary, 1638–1660. Gives name, date, and location of the patent.
A patent is a right to a parcel of land granted by the governor. A map and information about the larger patents can be found in:
- Ruth L. Higgins, editor, Expansion in New York with Especial Reference to the Eighteenth Century. 1931; reprint edition, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Porcupine Press, 1976; Family History Library book 974.7 H2h 1976, film 1036688 item 2, FHL Collection. For more information about patent maps, see New York Maps.
All colonial patents and land grant applications and many deeds are in the State Archives. Patents and deeds from 1664 on are also on microfilm at the Family History Library. Some of the major collections of early land records are described in the following sections.
New York. Secretary of State. Patents of the State of New York 1664–1912 (Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1973; on 60 Family History Library films). May give name, location (residence), and volume number. Indexes include:
- Colonial Patents Grantee Card Index, 1649-1912
- Grantee Card Index for v. 18–53, ca. 1775–1912
- Index to Patents, ca. 1664–1864
- Military Card Index for Patents, 1764–1797
Bowman, Fred Q. Landholders of Northeastern New York, 1739–1802 (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1983). Indexes patents, 1739–1775, and deeds and mortgages, 1764–1802, for the present-day counties of Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Warren, and Washington. Family History Library book 974.7 R24b; film 1321009 item 8, FHL Collection. Other libraries with this book.
Surveys sometimes contain descriptions, proprietor's records, names of buyers, names of neighbors, and maps. These surveys and accompanying maps sometimes show settlers or occupants of property; most of the surveys were made prior to subdivision of patents or other tracts.
New York. Secretary of State. Field Books, New York, 1701–1848 (Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1973; on 12 Family History Library films). These are in 53 volumes at the state archives and contain the state's official surveys, accompanied by maps.
New York. Department of Transportation. Land Survey Field Notes, 1665–1927. These are at the state archives and consist of notes and maps of land surveyed as well as books of sale, cashbooks, and registers (not available at the Family History Library).
Secretary of State's Deeds and Mortgages
Some pre-1810 land sales between individuals were recorded by the secretary of state instead of a county clerk. Many are deeds in which one of the parties resided in another county, state, or country. Many are transfers between wealthy people. The deeds are not recorded chronologically. Deeds deposited with the Secretary of State are now at the State Archives.
Deeds usually show buyer, seller, residence, and dates. Sometimes they show previous residence and give relationships.
- New York. Secretary of State. Grantor Card Index to Deeds, abt 1640–1973. (Family History Library films 947643–51).
- New York. Secretary of State. Grantee Card Index to Deeds, abt 1640–1973. (Family History Library films 947652–54, and 947838–41).
- New York. Secretary of State. Deeds, 1659–1846. 43 Volumes. (Family History Library films 945268–8). Deeds in volumes 40–43, 1810–1855, are Deeds to State-Owned Real Estate, where the state is represented as the grantee or the grantor. These valuable indexes refer to deeds, manors, patents, military bounty lands, Vermont lands, court, probate, Indian, and other records.
- New York. Secretary of State. Abstracts and Indexes of Deeds. Seven Volumes. (Family History Library films 947105–106 and 947114–15.) These are handwritten ledgers indexing and abstracting the 43 volumes of deeds, years 1659–1846, giving volume and page references.
Mortgages establish when a family resided at a specific place. Mortgage information is found in:
- New York. Secretary of State. Mortgages Grantor Card Index, 1784–1973. (Family History Library film 945399).
- New York. Secretary of State. Loan Mortgages, Volume 3, 1807–24. (Family History Library film 947121).
- New York. Secretary of State. State Mortgages, 1807–42, Four Volumes. Volumes. 1–3, 1807–24 (Family History Library film 947101).
- New York. Secretary of State. Index to Deeds and Mortgages, 1641–1842. (Family History Library film 947116).
- New York. State Comptroller. Bonds and Mortgages for the Sale of State Lands, 1797–1878. 38 Volumes. (Not at Family History Library.) These are account books recording mortgage payments on land purchased from the state.
A manor was a tract of land granted by the governor. In some cases, manors had their own courts and exercised civil and criminal jurisdiction over the tenants who leased land. Manorial records are used to establish a place of residence.
The largest manors were Rensselaerswyck (granted in 1630 and 1685), Livingston (granted in 1686), Philipsburgh (granted in 1693), Cortlandt (granted in 1697), Fordham (granted in 1671), Pelham (granted in 1687), and Morrisania (granted in 1697).
The Family History Library has few records about the Hudson Valley manors. However, it does have the Livingston Family Papers, 1630–1929, from the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park (Family History Library films 1421078–90). The library also has a helpful index, Van Rensselaer Manor Papers, published about 1990 (Family History Library book 974.7 R2r; film 1697716). This manor was located in what is now Albany and Rensselaer Counties. The original records are at the New York State Library.
A source for more historical information about the manors is Kim, Sung Bok, Landlord and Tenant in Colonial New York: Manorial Society, 1664–1775 (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press for the Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1978; Family History Library book 974.7 R2k). The appendix, "A Note on Sources," describes the manorial records that exist and where they are located.
Military Bounty Land
New York granted military bounty land patents for service in the French and Indian War, and in the Revolutionary War, but did not grant lands to veterans of the War of 1812. Most French and Indian War grants were in the region of the upper Hudson River. In 1782, Revolutionary War veterans were issued land by lottery in the Finger Lakes region of central New York (28 townships in the present counties of Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, Cortland, Oswego, Wayne, Schuyler, and Tompkins). Many men sold their grants and never settled the land. Before this, lands were made available in the Old Military Tract—located in present-day Clinton, Essex, and Franklin counties—but few soldiers settled there.
The military bounty land patents are at the state archives:
- New York. Secretary of State. Military Patents and Abstracts, 1764–1846. Ten Volumes. The first eight volumes (to 1797) are available on microfilm at the Family History Library (Family History Library films 945291–95). The patents give the name of the patentee, reason for the grant, location by township, lot number, and acreage. Each volume is indexed by the name of the patentee.
- The names of Military Tract and Old Military Tract patentees are indexed by the Grantee Card Index to Patents, 1775–1912. There is also a card index for the Military Tract. It is arranged by the township and lot number and found in the Family History Library Catalog Author/Title Search under New York, Secretary of State, Military Card Index for Patents (Family History Library films 946418–20).
- Soldiers that drew land are listed in The Balloting Book, and Other Documents Relating to Military Bounty Lands in the State of New York (Albany, New York: Packard & Van Benthuysen, 1825; Family History Library film 812864 item 4). The book is arranged by township, lot number, and grantee name. There are volume and page cross references to the military patent books. An index to this source is M. Frances Ferris, Index, the Balloting Book and Other Documents Relating to Military Bounty Lands in the State of New York(Syracuse, New York: Onondaga Historical Association, 1954; Family History Library film 896803 item 6).
- The state archives has Revolutionary War Accounts and Claims. These records were abstracted in James A. Roberts, New York in the Revolution as Colony and State, Revised Edition. (Albany, New York: 1904). See Revolutionary War at New York Military Records. About two-thirds of the original documents plus the entire name index were destroyed in the Capitol fire of 1911. The surviving records have been microfilmed and the films are available for purchase or interlibrary loan from the New York State Archives at http://www.archives.nysed.gov/aindex.shtml.
Between 1786 and 1791, the New York Land Commission sold 5.5 million acres of western New York to speculators. Many settlers first obtained land from companies such as the Holland Land Company. The Hartford Treaty of 1786 gave Massachusetts the title to land in western New York but reserved political governance to New York.
Massachusetts sold this land, which ultimately resulted in three large tracts: the Holland Land Purchase (present Niagara, Erie, Chautauqua, and Cattaraugus counties and the western parts of Allegany, Wyoming, Genesee, and Orleans counties); the Morris Reserve (eastern Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming, and Allegany counties plus the western portions of present Monroe and Livingston counties); and the Phelps and Gorham Purchase (Ontario, Yates, and Steuben counties; the eastern portions of present Monroe and Livingston counties; the western parts of Wayne and Schuyler counties; and part of Allegany County).
The Holland Land Company surveyed the land and then sold it to individuals. The records are described in Wilhelmina C. Pieterse's Inventory of the Archives of the Holland Land Company. 1789–1869 (Amsterdam, Netherlands: Municipal Printing Office of Amsterdam, 1976; Family History Library book 974 A1 no. 4; film 1421412).
A partial index to the collection is Karen E. Livsey, Western New York Land Transactions, 1804–1835: Extracted from the Archives of the Holland Land Company, Two Volumes. (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1991, 1996; Family History Library book 974.7 R28L). This record indexes land tables (company accounts) and is useful for finding someone in a particular place at a particular time. The collection is at the Municipal Archives of Amsterdam and on microfilm at the state library, the Daniel E. Reed Library at the State University of New York at Fredonia, the Library of Congress, and the New York Public Library. The largest single set of Holland Land Company records at the Family History Library is the Van Eeghen collection, Holland Land Company Records (Family History Library 202 microfilms).
A history of the Holland purchase is Wyckoff, William, The Developer's Frontier: The Making of the Western New York Landscape(New Haven, Connecticut and London, England: Yale University Press, 1988; Family History Library book 974.7 E3w).
Another large tract was purchased by Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham. The Phelps and Gorham Papers are located at the New York State Library. The Family History Library does not have these records. A history is Orsamus Turner, History of Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham Purchase and Morris' Reserve (1851; reprint with supplements and indexes by LaVerne C. Cooley and George E. Lookup, Interlaken, New York: Heart of the Lakes Publishing, 1976; Family History Library book 974.7 H2t index; film 871566 item 3).
The Macomb Purchase was made in 1792. This four-million-acre tract included all of modern Lewis County; most of modern St. Lawrence, Franklin, and Jefferson counties; and parts of Oswego and Herkimer counties.
County Land Records
Deeds and Mortgages. After land was transferred from the proprietors to individual owners, county clerks were to record subsequent transactions. Sadly, in many cases the deeds were never recorded. Some colonial deeds were, however, recorded in town records.
Recorded deeds and mortgages are found at the office of the county clerk. These begin with the date when the county was set off from the parent county. Recording of deeds in county clerks' offices became mandatory statewide in 1830. If a deed was not recorded at the time of the sale, a subsequent recorded deed for the same property was valid. In New York City, land records are maintained at the city register's office. The mortgages often include a schedule of payments, the names of assignees, and the name of the mortgagor.
The Family History Library has hundreds of reels of New York county land records. Grantee (buyer) and grantor (seller) and mortgagee and mortgagor indexes are available on microfilm for most counties, as are the deeds, to about 1900. The indexes for Albany and New York counties have been published.