Saturday, February 2, 2013

Using Online New York Land Records

     The Family Search web site has uploaded land records for all of New York State.  When I first checked them out I was dismayed to find they were not searchable.  Browsing thousands of deeds in old hen scratch handwriting was not an inviting proposition.  However, there are indexes arranged by county, both grantor and grantee indexes.  The grantor is the person selling land; the grantee is the one purchasing it.  I used to get the two mixed up all the time so I remember them by imagining the grant-or as similar to employ-or.  Both are the one with something to sell.  Works for me anyway.

     The indexes are easy to use, if looking for land purchased by Catherine Ryan for instance, first scroll down past the deeds to the grantee index that covers the years you want to search and includes R surnames and select that.  (If you were looking for Catherine selling land you would go to the Grantor Index.)

  The indexes are arranged roughly alphabetically with the surnames beginning with Ry in the same section.  After we find the Ryans it gets even easier.  Since we want Catherine whose name begins with letter C, we just scan down the a-e column to see if she’s there and sure enough, there she is on line 5, (see picture, it’s self-explanatory).  They even thoughtfully included her in the K column so as not to confuse those who spell Catherine with a K.

     Now that we’ve located her, we look over to the far right and there we see the liber, (Latin for book), number and a page number where the deed can be found, in this case liber 156 and page 300.  Now go back to the page with the deeds and look through them for that volume.  Notice there will often be 2 books together in one link, so if after opening the link you don’t find your deed on the first page 300 you come to, skip ahead, or back, to find the other page 300.

     Land records can be great sources of information.  There will be wives names, sometimes children’s names, the grantor, (seller), who might be a relative; of course the date and price of the purchase, some totally weird land measurements involving creeks, tree stumps and the neighbor’s cat among other interesting bits.  Sometimes the sale was a forced one and that too will be noted enabling you to check the local newspaper for details of the auction. 

      I have found some very interesting transactions among my various ancestors, and was able to find the maiden name of a third great aunt since it turns out the man she bought land from was her father.

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