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January 2nd, 2014

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Rick Porter Finger Lakes House Histories


May 12th, 2010

I have noticed on my web site, traffic tied to searches for specific items;

Surnames, places, land descriptions and other items. The object of this post is to encourage those who are searching for specific names, places or other items contact me and see if I can add to what they are looking for by checking what I have previously researched, or since I have researched in several regions of New York State including New York City, I may be able to suggest repositories or web site that may have the records they are after.

Please check the Surname and Useful items page at and see what might be there. If you think their might be a connection or you have an idea or question, or what to exchange information, please feel free to contact me at

Powers of Attorney

April 28th, 2010

This document between large scale landholders in parts of NY, and often overseas owners, often give a local prominent attorney the power of attorney to sell and manage land transactions.

These documents will be a very good source for the ownership chain of those granting a Power of Attorney.

The date of the Power Attorney issued to give an individual the authorization to sell and collect money is often the first time a land holders property is available for public sale. This can be useful in determining if an individual is a “squatter”. In recording the deed for a property the Lawyer given power of attorney will list him as the grantor or the seller. These deeds are more likely to be recorded as a matter of book keeping, and also the basis for any future legal problems with the buyer.

A Power of Attorney will sometimes make provisions for a chain of command should the original attorney die, have health problems or neglect his duty as the primary land agent. The Power of Attorney, can also give the person appointed as the primary land agent, the power to appoint individuals as his agent and issue deeds, collect money, pay taxes, record sales and undertake civil actions at the direction of the primary agent.

This document can sometimes be used as the beginning of the history of a particular piece of property or tract of land sold for profit.

Disclaimer: This post is in no way intended as legal advice, in all matters a legal attorney needs to be consulted as this blog deals with real estate questions.

This Blog Copyrighted in 2010 by Finger lakes House

Section-township and range

October 25th, 2008

One of the early land divisions of surveyed land used sections, township and range to locate on maps where a property was.

In Western NY this was used to layout the Holland Land Company’s land holdings west of the Morris reserve. The Morris reserve was a 12 mile strip of land retained by Robert Morris. This property lay west of the Genesee River and was the eastern boundary of the Hollan Land company.

Sections were a small portion of each township, and townships were located by range.

Range numbers started at the Pennsylvania border beginning at the SW corner of the Morris Reserve and numbered sequentially from east to west.

Township numbers started at the Pennsylvania border and were numbered sequentially from south to north.

In locating property by more modern town and county location will require a map that shows both.Two of these that will help are a Burr Atlas from 1834 and the 1895 Atlas of New York by Joseph Rudolph Bein. The latter is usefull because it over lays the original tracts/purchases and grants so that you can more easily identify where a parcel of land was located when a more modern location is not given.

Church records

September 18th, 2008

Was your home ever used as a meeting place for a Church prior to the building of a formal building? The Peter Campbell house, now on the grounds of the Genesee Country Village and Museum was. It was one of the meeting places for the 1st Presbyterian Church of Caledonia, NY. A Baptism was performed there in 1809, this also helped to date the property.

Early Church records, if they survive, will often note meeting places used by the Congregation while they worked towards building a Church. With Presbyterian Churches, the session books can help establish this. Other records of other denominations may make note of this.

Local newspapers or columns written about pioneer days of an area may include a section on religion of a given area and may note the formation of early churches and where meetings were often held.

Fire Insurance

January 19th, 2008

The ancestor you are looking for has multiple deeds for the same property, why?

One reason is that people used the land as collateral to make physical improvements to their property. When the stipulations in the deed were full filled the deed was discharged and the title reverted back to the “borrower”.

Around 1870, since this is the time frame I started finding references to it, the borrowers became more protective of their investment. There will be on occasion a mention of the requirement that the individual maintain protection of the property against lightning or fire. This protection safe guarded the investment by allowing for a cash settlement by the borrower against this type of loss.

Among the records that may be preserved by the person you are research will be the actual insurance policy that will list the items covered and their value. As well as the dates the insurance was enforce. This may help to date a house or other structure should you be lucky enough to locate these papers.

Will and Probate file-Genealogical

January 19th, 2008

Finding a copy of a will for genealogical purposes will help to establish a picture of the individual at the time the will is written, their thought process as they construct how their estate is to be divided and any restrictions on the disposal of the estate. What happens if a person named in the wil dies before individual writting the will? Do parts or all of the estate go into trust?

The answer to a lot of questions when the will is finally proven or probated will often tell a lot more. Who were the heirs or next of kin, the creditors and debtors of the deceased.  The inventory of their estate in both real and personal property is often part of this process to establish value and taxes owed.

One should always try to locate and request copies of the probate file in its entirety, or look over the paper work and copy those items of interest should the file contain a large number of copies.

Will and Probate file-how will these papers help?

January 19th, 2008

You have recently purchased an older home, and now you would like to know more about it. There is a set of legal documents that just might help you understand your house and maybe give you a snap shot of how influential the owner was and what kind real and personal property he or she had.

If a person died and left a will, there maybe inventory sheets regarding the person’s estate. As part of determining the estate’s value this inventory is a catalog of items found on the property such as furniture, clothing, utinsiles and other items. At the time this information was gathered you will have a good idea of what your house and any related buildings such as a barn or shop contained. In the will their maybe specific references to certain items that are bequeathed to another person. This is another window into the life of the person who owned your home.

Also in tracing a property, any owner who dies in the possesion of the property should trigger a search for these records. There maybe an inventory or appraisal of the building at the time the estate is settled. This is valuable for giving you a picture of the house at a specific point in time.

These documents will be a big help in interpreting your structure by giving an insight into how the individual and his or her family lived at the time the papers were filed.

Does a house history increase it’s value at resale?

January 10th, 2008

I have often wondered since starting this work and after seeing the “Antiques Roadshow” on PBS, does a house history enhance the resale value of a house?

On the “Roadshow” they occasionally explain that if an item or collection has provenance or a paper trail of some significance it may add to the value, over and above it’s condition and rarity among other tangible items.

If you are an appraiser, real estate professional or just have an opinion I would like to hear your thoughts on this subject.

Holland Land Company

January 3rd, 2008

In researching properties in Western NY, one will often come in contact and have need to research the records of the Holland Land Company.

I have located a certificate issued for land that lists the purchase price, the payment schedule and amounts, the requirement for settling on the property within a certain time frame and the penalties for certain conditions.

I have found references to land costs being discounted for early settlers to a given area, requirements for full purchase price payments before a deed was issued ( a sale to speculators fell under this category).

I have also heard that in order to develop and area and to spur settlements, that those individuals wishing to open a tavern or Inn were given a price break on the cost per acre of their purchase.

I would like to hear from others who have researched the Holland Land Company records for their stories and compare notes.