Land Records

Holland Land Company records

If your ancestors settled west of the Genesee River in upstate NY, chances are they settled on land owned by the Holland Land Company based in the Netherlands. If they were among the first settlers to own land in this tract of land, chances are they were issued a certificate in lieu of a deed. In order to delineate between settlers and speculators a certificate issued to settlers was developed. Briefly this allowed individuals or families to buy land on what amounted to a payment plan. It required the purchaser to settle on the land within a certain time frame. It would also list the purchase price and a schedule for making payments. It also restricted lumbering and held severe penalties for lumber removed for any purpose other than to erect buildings and fences. If your ancestor made payments equal to 50 percent of the purchase price a deed was issued. If the payment were missed the land was reverted back to the company and re sold. As you can imagine, pieces of land may have changed hands or were re purchased by the same people as their situations improved. Land purchased for settlement was often sold for less than land bought for speculative purchases. These transaction required 100 pct of the purchase price to be paid up front before a deed was issued.

Pulteney Estates and Phelps & Gorham purchases.

The records for these lands have deeds, mortgages and maps available in several repositories. The records also include for the Pulteney Estates several letters issued to local Lawyers to act as the agents for non-resident land owners. As such the deeds were recorded, but sometimes the grantor was listed as one of the agents. Determining who the agents were and where the records are kept will play a big role in finding the buyers names. In some case the lands were divided by internal divisions, which were a pricing guide for the sellers if the lots are located on a map which also lists the division boundaries.  The most valuable land (quality of soil, water power availability and transportation) was listed as first division, with higher numbers being less desirable.

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