colonial New York, Genealogy, Family History

Colonial New York Genealogy

If your ancestors were living in New York state at the time of the American Revolution, your line of descent is likely to take on one of a handful of forms. If your immigrant ancestor arrived before 1664, you are likely to be descended from a Dutch inhabitant of old New Netherland. After that date, however, tracing your Colonial New York genealogy down the line means your antecedents are far more likely to have been born in Great Britain (England, Wales, or to a lesser extent, Scotland or Ireland). They could also have been New Englanders who migrated to New York from Massachusetts or Connecticut, once New York was under English rule.

After the turn of the 18th century, a number of emigrants from the German Palatinate began to make their way to New York’s Mohawk Valley; however, as late as 1790 only one percent of New York heads of household were of German or French descent. On the eve of the Revolution, New Yorkers were concentrated in New York City, Long Island, and along the Hudson and Mohawk rivers, and the state trailed Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina in total population.

This picture changed dramatically by the early 1800s, when New York’s population surpassed that of all other states, thanks to the pull of its extraordinary harbor, industries, hinterland, and internal improvements, as well as to the inexorable push of Western European emigrants vying for greater opportunities in a free land.

If you’re researching early New York roots, Genealogical.com (the parent publishing company who sponsors this blog) offer a wide variety of publications you could consider. Running the gamut from statewide to regional to countywide and New York City titles, this extensive collection covers they key record sources (wills, deeds, military records, marriages, etc.) that are crucial to 17th- and 18th-century New York family history. In the aggregate they touch on well over 1,000,000 New York ancestors. In the absence of official New York public records, some of titles for Upstate New York fill in the gaps, and the multi-volume sets of New York genealogies, mostly compiled from obscure, unindexed periodicals will save you an enormous amount of time in your research.

There are also some wonderful online resources dealing with New York history, such as the New York History Blog.

Image credit: Engraving depiction colonial New York councilors Nicholas Bayard, Stephanus van Cortlandt, and Frederick Phillipse attempting to quiet revolutionary fears at the time of Leisler’s Rebellion in New York City, 1689. By Art: Alfred Fredericks; Engraving: Albert Bobbett [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.