Sunday, June 2, 2013

CVGS Program Review - "New York State Research and Resources"

CVGS member Shirley Becker discussed "New York State Research and Resources" at the 29 May 2013 Chula Vista Generalogical Society monthly program meeting with 30 persons in attendance.

She started with an overview of New York colonial history, from the Dutch in 1624 in New Amsterdam and fort Orange (now Albany) to the English in 1664, through the Revolution to the modern New York state of today.  In the process, she showed how counties developed over time from 1683 to 1830, when the present counties were as they were then.  The patterns of settlement were typical for colonial America - along the coast and along waterways.  There were settlements up the Hudson River to Albany, and then east along the Mohawk River.  Eventually, the Erie canal was built to open up western New York to settlers.

Shirley also described the different land grants made by the New York Land Commission between 1786 and 1791 after the Revolutionary War, notably the Phelps and Gorham Purchase, the Morris Reserve and the Holland Land Company Purchase, all in western New York.  The land purchasers then sold lots to settlers from New York and New England.  

She also discussed state census records (available every ten years from from 1825 to 1925, except 1892 instead of 1895), church records, military records, and probate records.

Local records are divided among counties, cities and towns, villages and hamlets.  There are 62 counties, 62 cities, 932 towns, and over 4,200 local government entities.  Each town is supposed to have a town historian, and sometimes there are also county historians.  The historians have knowledge of the town records, cemetery records, land records, probate records, and more.  

The USGenWeb sites for the counties often have indexes and transcriptions for local records - start at An inventory of New York newspapers is available online at  The New York Probate Records, 1629-1971 collection and the New York Land Records, 1630-1975 collection are online in FamilySearch record collections (, but without indexes.  Most counties have indexes to use to find record volumes and pages, and then the volumes themselves.

This was an informative presentation about the difficulties and opportunities for performing New York research and the resources available in repositories and online databases.

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