New York County Resources
Since 1919 New York has had a system of local historians who are appointed to collect and preserve old records. While each county, town, and village should have a historian, not all vacancies are always filled, and of those that are, the knowledge and helpfulness in answering inquiries varies. In most cases it is best to start with the county historian, whose office may contain original or transcribed county, church, cemetery, newspaper, and other material, and in some cases, specialized indexes to these and other types of records. See Directory of New York State County and Municipal Historians (n.p., 1991), available for $20 from Directory, RFD #2, Box 228, Bath, NY 14810. A list of county historians can be found at www.tier.net/~aphnys/cohistorians.html.
Publication of town records is not widespread, with the exception of those for Queens (including Nassau), Suffolk, and Westchester counties. Various items from town records have been presented in Tree Talks (see Periodicals). See also Harold R. Nestler, A Bibliography of New York State Communities: Counties, Towns, Villages (Port Washington, N.Y.: Ira J. Friedman, 1968).
Some New York counties have set up record centers or archives such as are found in Broome, Cayuga, Montgomery, Ontario, Rockland, Ulster, Warren, Washington, Westchester, and other counties. While most initial inquiries about records should be made with the county clerk and county Surrogate’s clerk, the information sought might actually now be housed in a county records center/archives. This practice will doubtless continue in New York, especially for older records.
All the counties in New York, past and present, are listed below. The first column indicates the map coordinates. The name of the county and the mailing address of the county clerk, who is in charge of deeds, mortgages, copies of marriage records (1908–ca. 1935), divorces, court records, state censuses, and other records, is in the second column. The year the county was created follows and, where applicable, the parent county or counties from which it was formed. The date the earliest deed was recorded is in the fourth column. County deeds and mortgages not found with the county clerk are also indicated here. The last column shows the date of the earliest county Surrogate Court record, followed by the mailing address of the county Surrogate’s clerk, if not the same as that of the county clerk. Some counties have copies or abstracts of earlier deeds and wills from parent counties.
It should be kept in mind that the names of the parent county or counties are those from which the new county was first formed in the year indicated. Many changes took place later, at which times whole towns or parts of them were annexed to or from the newer county. For example, Yates County was created in 1823 from part of Ontario County; the following year, two towns were added to Yates from Steuben County. For the specifics of other changes, consult gazetteers, county directories, and county histories.