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Early records of the city and county of Albany, and colony of Resselaerswyck (Volume 2) online

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The University of the State of New York

New York State Library

History Bulletin 9






Volume 2

(Deeds 3 and 4, 1678-1704)





A. J. F. VAN LAER, Archivist




Regents of the University
With years when terms expire

1926 Pliny T. Sexton LL.B. LL.D. Chancellor - - Palmyra

1927 Albert Vander Veer M.D. M.A. Ph.D. LL.D.

Vice Chancellor Albany

1922 Chester S. Lord M.A. LL.D. - - - Brooklyn

1918 William Nottingham M.A. Ph.D. LL.D. - - Syracuse
1921 Francis ^L Carpenter - - - - Mount Kisco

1923 Abram L Elkus LL.B. D.C.L. - - - New York

1924 Adelbert Moot LL.D. - - - - Buffalo

1925 Charles B.Alexander M.A. LL.B. LL.D.Litt.D. Tuxedo

19 19 John Moore - - __ - __ Elmira
192S Walter Guest Kellogg B.A. - - - Ogdensburg
1917 William Berri - - - - - Brooklyn

1920 James Byrne B.A. LL.B. - - - - New York

President of the University
and Commissioner of Education

John H. Finley M.A. LL.D. L.H.D.

Deputy Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner for Elementary Education^

Thomas E. Finegan M.A. Pd.D. LL.D.

Assistant Commissioner for Higher Education

Augustus S. Downing M.A. L.H.D. LL.D.

Assistant Commissioner for Secondary Education

Charles F. Wheelock B.S. LL.D.

Director of State Library

James I. Wyer, Jr, M.L.S.

Director of Science and State Museum

John M. Clarke Ph.D. D.Sc. LL.D.

Chiefs and Directors of Divisions

Administration, George M. Wiley M.A.
Agricultural and Industrial Education, Arthur D. Dean D.Sc,

Archives and History, James A. Holden B.A., Director
Attendance, James D. Sullivan
Educational Extension, William R. Watson B.S.
Examinations, Harlan H. Horner M.A.
Inspections, Frank H. Wood M.A.
Law, Frank B. Gilbert B.A.
Library School, Frank K. Walter M.A. M.L.S.
School Libraries, Sherman Williams Pd.D.
Statistics, Hiram C. Case
Visual Instruction, Alfred W. Abrams Ph.B.

New York Siate Library

Albany, N. Y.
Hon. John H. Finley

President oj the University

Dear sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith and to recom-
mend for pubUcation the first volume of Professor Jonathan Pearson's
translation of those early Dutch records of Albany, the editing and
publishing of which was authorized by vote of the Board of Regents,
June 25, 1 914. This editing has been carefully done with constant
reference to the original records by Mr A. J. F. van Laer, Archivist
in the State Library. The present work follows in immediate chrono-
logic sequence Professor Pearson's volume of nearly fifty years ago
and his own earlier title has been continued for the present series.

In the editor's introduction, details appear as to contents of the
present instalment with interesting comment on the significance of
the material as a fruitful source for the social, personal and political
history of colonial New York. The deeds, mortgages and wills when
thus translated and carefully edited are also of high practical value in
connection with local real estate titles and litigation.

Very truly vours

J. I. Wyer, Jr



Approved jor publication this 21st day of May, igi^

President oj the University


The early Dutch records in the Albany county clerk's office,
though long recognized as exceeding in interest and fuhiess many
similar records in other parts of the State, have thus far been among
the least accessible for historical purposes. Translations from these
records were made by the late Professor Jonathan Pearson almost
half a century ago, but with the exception of a small portion cover-
ing the first two volumes of Deeds they remained unpublished at the
time of his death in 1887 and could not be found in the summer of
1899 when the present editor made inquiries about them. In 1886,
at the time of the Albany bicentennial celebration, Judge Franklin
M. Danaher proposed to have translations of the records printed,
but the plan did not go through. Shortly afterwards two copies of
a manuscript calendar of the records were made by Berthold Fer-
now, one for the county in connection with the preparation of a
printed index of grantors and grantees, and the other for the late
John V. L. Pruyn of New York; but of these the first has disap-
peared, except the part relating to the court records of 1652-85, and
the second, after having been placed in the hands of the editor for
eventual publication by the State, was destroyed by the Capitol fire
of March 29, 191 1. In view of these imsuccessful attempts to make
the contents of the records available and of the fact that the records
themselves barely escaped destruction in the fire of the old city hall
on February 10, 1880, it seems especially fortunate that the State
Library should now be able to publish part of the long lost transla-
tions of Professor Pearson which recently have been found and
generously placed at its disposal by the author's sons, Mr John M.
Pearson and Dr W. L. Pearson, of Schenectady. The manuscript
received contains, besides the translations included in this volume,
translations of two volumes of Notarial Papers, 1660-95, one
volume of Mortgages, 1658-60, one volume of Court Minutes,
1658-59, and portions of two volumes of Wills, 1685-1765, all of
which, with the exception of the Court Minutes, have been revised
and will shortly be issued in two or more additional volumes. The
Court Minutes, which belong to a separate series of records running
from the establishment of the first court at Beverwyck in 1652 to
the organization of the Mayor's Court in 1686, will be reserved
for the present, but it is hoped that before long an opportunity may



be found to publish them also in their proper chronologic place in
that important series of records. The entire manuscript, inclusive
of the court record, consists of 171 1 pages, which are numbered
from I to 407, from 436 to 587, from 487 to 918, and from 477 to
820. Allowing for a certain amount of overlapping of the figures
and for the possibility that one group of 476 pages may have con-
tained translations of the first two volumes of Deeds which have
appeared in print but which may have been counted as unpublished,
it would seem that the manuscript constitutes about one-half of the
unpublished material that is alluded to in the following passage
from Major J. \\'. Mac^^Iurray's preface to the History of the
Schenectady Patent, by Prof. Jonathan Pearson and others, which
was published in 1883.

Professor Pearson, of Union College, enjoys a well-earned repu-
tation as student, translator and writer on the colonial history of
northern New York. During the past forty or more years, he has
been a constant worker at the records of the ancient county of
Albany and has accumulated a vast store of information, which has
fortunately been put in writing and embraces many thousand pages
of legal cap manuscript. This herculean task was a labor of love
without hope of pecuniary profit ; as Professor Alexander aptly ex-
presses it — the recreation of a busy life. His friend, the late Joel
Munsell, of antiquarian fame, induced him to print much of this
matter and " Early Records of the County of Albany," translated
from the original Dutch, " Contributions Toward the Genealogies
of the First Settlers of Schenectady," " Genealogies of the First
Settlers of Albany," " History of the Reformed Protestant Dutch
Church in Schenectady," besides very many magazine and news-
paper articles have been given to the public from Munsell's Press.
There remain more than four thousand pages of unpublished manu-
script and notes, much of which was written many years ago.

Just what the rest of these four thousand pages contained it is
impossible to say, but from other statements in the same history and
from rough notes left by Professor Pearson, it seems that they
must have consisted partly of translations of church and city rec-
ords of Albany and Schenectady and partly of manuscript for a
last volume on the history of Schenectady, relating to the city
proper, more especially to streets, schools, churches, names of locali-
ties, mills, streams, hills etc.

As the title indicates, the present volume contains translations of
volumes 3 and 4 (or C and D) of Deeds, ranging in date from July
I, 1678, to March 14, 170^. Of the first of these volumes the

DEEDS I 678- I 704 7

text as here printed is complete, it having been deemed desirable to
add to Professor Pearson's translations copies of a few English
deeds which occur in the record ; but as regards Deeds, v. 4, which
is largely in English and which, besides a record of conveyances
from December 25, 1688, to September 28, 1705, with two receipts
of May I, 1707, and May i. 1708, contains five pages of proceed-
ings of the Court of Sessions held for the town and county of
Albany on March 3, i68f, and June 2, 1685, the printed text is
confined to such instruments as were originally recorded in the
Dutch language. As may be inferred from statements made above,
the present volume forms a direct continuation of Professor Pear-
son's earlier publication covering the first two volumes of Deeds,
which appeared separately in 1869 under the title of Early Records
of the City and County of Albany and Colony of Rensselaerswyck,
1656-1675,^ and again in 1870 and 1871 as part of volumes 3 and 4
of Munsell's Collections on the History of Albany, this time with
the addition in volume 4 of the Collections of "A Key to the Names
of Persons occurring in the Early Dutch Records of Albany and
Vicinity," " Contributions for the Genealogies of the First Settlers
of Albany," and " Diagrams of the Home Lots of the Village of
Beverwyck." From the nature of the case, the character of the rec-
ords here presented is largely that of the earlier series and little need
be added therefore to the preface which Professor Pearson supplied
to the first volume. It should be noted, however, that while the
earlier records fell to a considerable extent within the period of
Dutch control over the colony, when Dutch laws prevailed in regard
to the title and transfer of real estate, the records covered by the
present volume fall entirely within the period of British occupation
and witness the gradual change from Dutch to English methods of
conveyancing. As is well known, the articles of surrender ratified
on September 8, 1664, by the Dutch authorities and the British
commander, declared all inhabitants of New Netherland to be
" free denizens " and secured to them their property as well as
the enjoyment of Dutch customs concerning inheritances. Under
this agreement, the people of Albany and vicinity continued for a
period of nearly twenty years to follow their customary procedure
in regard to the transfer of real property and to record their instru-
ments in the Dutch language, unaffected by the provisions regarding
such matters in the Duke's laws promulgated at the Hempstead
meeting of 1665, which, though intended to be ultimately the law

1 In reality running from August 19, 1654, to June 20, 1678, with two
deeds of March 3, 1679.


of the whole province, it was at first not thought prudent to enforce
. in the Dutch settlements in the Hudson and ^lohawk valleys. As
an exception to this rule, however, must be mentioned the pro-
vision in the Duke's laws whereby tenure of lands was to be from
the Duke of York and all persons were required to bring in their
old grants and take out new patents from the governor. This pro-
vision applied to Albany as well as to other parts of the province
and accounts for a long series of confirmatory grants issued for the
greater part in 1667 and 1668 which in the absence of many of the
Dutch patents are of the utmost importance for a knowledge of
the original land titles and which for that reason have been fre-
quently cited in the present work. As regards the form and regis-
tration of conveyances between private individuals, the first im-
portant changes were introduced by the General Assembly convened
by Governor Thomas Dongan in 1683. First came the act to divide
the province into shires and counties, passed November i, 1683,
whereby the county of Albany was erected and described as '" to
conteynje, the town of Albany the County [colony] of Renslaers-
wyck, Schonechteda, and all the Villages, neighbourhoods and
Christian Plantacons on the East side of Hudsons river from Roelof
Jansens creeke, and on the West side from Sawers Creeke to the
Sarraghtoga." In consequence of this act we find the term " Justices
of the Peace of the County of Albany " used instead of the former
expression " Commissaries of Albany, colony of Rensselaerswyck
and Schenectady," though not till June 13, 1684, and by no means
regularly thereafter. Two days later, on November 3, 1683, an act
was passed entitled "An act to prevent fifrauds in conveyancing of
lands," which provided that from and after the 25th of December
next after the date of the act no grants, deeds, mortgages or other
conveyances whatsoever of any lands or tenements within the
province would be of any force or validity in law unless recorded
within six months in the register of the county wherein such lands
or tenements lay, and furthermore, that once a year the clerk of
each county was to transmit to the secretary's office at New York,
for registration in that office, all deeds, mortgages and other convey-
ances of which the consideration exceeded the sum of fifty pounds.
This act remedied whatever defects there may have been thought
to exist in the Dutch method of recording deeds and mortgages but
of course did not affect the question of validity of former instru-
ments, more especially that of the informal mortgages that were
included in many Dutch bonds. Consequently, on October 29, 1684,
the Assembly passed an act entitled "A Bill Concerning fformer

DEEDS I 678- I 704 9

Mortgages," whereby all mortgages of lands, houses and tenements
duly and legally obtained and made according to the former cus-
toms of the province before its restoration to his Majesty and Royal
Highness were to be deemed and adjudged in any of the courts of
equity and courts of record within the province as effectual in law
and right, as if according to the methods and practice of England or
the laws now established.

As a result of these laws, more particularly that of November 3,
1683, we find the English form of deed gradually taking the place
of the former Dutch style of transport, the record being at first gen-
erally still in the Dutch la^nguage and tearing the original signatures
of the parties and witnesses, but after August 10, 1685, more often
written in English, without actual signatures. Whatever may have
been the advantages of the new style of drawing and recording
deeds, it is undeniable that from the historical point of view the sub-
stitution of a mere record for the original instruments, signed by
the parties and witnesses, was a great loss, not only because these
signatures gave a personal touch to the records which at this dis-
tance of time is of peculiar interest, but because they are of vital
importance in determining the identity of many of the persons men-
tioned in the records. Indeed it may be doubted whether with the
loose method of designating people then in vogue, it would without
these signatures be at all possible at the present day to distinguish
between the various Jan Thomassens or Cornelis Teunissens who
are mentioned in the records now with and then without the addition
of a surname or place of origin, so that much of what we know of
the relationship of the early settlers hinges on these very signatures
which form such a conspicuous feature of the Dutch records.

In the preface to the first volume, much stress has been laid by
Professor Pearson on the brevity and vagueness of the descriptions
in the deeds and the consequent difficulty of locating the various
village lots. This difficulty undoubtedly exists but, as the author
himself has suggested, it can in many cases be successfully over-
come by comparing the descriptions in subsequent repeated convey-
ances of the same lots. From his own experience the editor is con-
vinced, however, that no satisfactory solution of the problem can be
attained by means of such simple diagrams as Professor Pearson
has given in Munsell's Collections. To account Avith absolute cer-
tainty for the many pieces of property owned at different times by
the same persons in different parts of the town, as well as for the
numerous strips and small parcels of ground that were taken off
from or added to the original lots, it is necessary to construct a map


of the entire settlement, drawn to a sufficient scale, preferably, for
the sake of greater accuracy and economy of labor, by means of a
Dutch ruler, directly from the dimensions in Dutch rods, feet and
inches as expressed in the original conveyances, without reduction
to English measurements. In doing so, no reliance should be placed
on translations, no matter by whom made, nor for that matter on the
descriptions in the early confirmatory patents, which themselves are
but imperfect translations from earlier Dutch instruments and in
which, as shown in footnotes in the present work, the compass direc-
tions have in many cases been reversed. The preparation of such
a map has long been in the editor's mind.- It would prove of great
value in tracing the title to real estate and properly should have pre-
ceded the publication of the deeds in order to insure absolute accu-
racy of translation. Time, however, forbids its preparation at the
present moment and all that can be done is to refer the reader for
the location of the lots to the diagrams in Alunsell's Collectiotis. It
should be borne in mind, however, that by Professor Pearson's own
admission these diagrams are quite imperfect and that much remains
to be learned in this matter from later registers of deeds and

While the value of such records as are here presented lies pri-
marily in their character as evidence of title of real estate, it is be-
lieved that a careful examination of the volume will reveal a num-
ber of things that are of interest to the student of the general
history of the period as well as to the antiquarian and the genealo-
gist. In the first place it may be pointed out that during the period
covered by the present volume the stockaded village around which
most of these records cluster occupied an important place in the
province as the center of the internal traffic with the native savages
and was the scene of many conferences between the Indians and
•the successive governors. One of the most notable of these con-
ferences of which a record appears in this volume was that held in
September 1683 in consequence of William Penn's attempt to secure
to himself the upper Susquehanna valley, which caused Governor
Dongon to make a hurried visit to Albany almost immediately after
his arrival in the province. Subsequently, the threatening situation
with regard to the French in Canada more than once compelled
Governor Dongan to visit Albany and finally in i68j-8S, just before
his recall to England, to spend the entire winter there. In the
second place it is to be noted that the same period saw the final
settling of the long-standing controversy between the colony of
Rensselaerswyck and the village of Beverwyck or Albany, resulting

DEEDS I 6/8- I 704 II

in the erection of the colony into an English manor by patent of
November 4, 1685, and the granting of a city charter to Albany on
July 22, 1686, whereby its government was definitely placed upon
an English basis and whereby all vacant and unappropriated lands
within the city limits which had formerly belonged to Rensselaers-
wyck were vested in the mayor, aldermen and commonalty of the
city. These and other important events lend interest to many details
which of themselves are of purely local significance, but there is
more. It should be remembered that in history as in many other
fields it is intensive rather than extensive investigation that is likely
to lead to new results and that nothing gives a clearer insight into
the social condition of a given period than the concentrated study
of a single typical community. Such a typical community the fron-
tier settlement at Albany certainly was and once the character of
its population, its mode of living and daily occupations are fully
understood, much will be known that applies equally to the contem-
poraneous settlements at Schenectady, Kingston, Kinderhook and
other parts of the province. As to the character of the population,
the reader will doubtless be impressed with the fact that a much
larger number of settlers than is generally supposed came from parts
• of Europe outside of the Netherlands, particularly from East Fries-
land, Oldenburg and the duchies of Schleswig-Holstein. As in-
stances hereof may be mentioned such names as Evert Jansen Wen-
del from Emden, Jan Harmensen from Aurich, Elmer Otten from
Isens (Esens), Volckert Jansen Douw from Stapelholm, Jacob Jan-
sen from Noortstrant, Jan Fransen from Hoesem (Husum), Jan
Thomassen from Wittbek, Casper Jacobsen from Hollenbek, Cor-
nelis Barentsen from Ditmars, and others of less-known persons
from Norden, Jever, Eiderstedt, Bredstedt, Friedrichstadt and Flens-
burg. Just what the cause of emigration from these regions was
is an interesting question to which as yet no definite answer can be
given. Some of these men may have been of the seafaring class
who came over as sailors and who upon arrival decided to stay and
to engage in trade. Others may have been engaged as soldiers by
the Dutch West India Company and yet others may have sprung
from families that during the Spanish war sought refuge across
the Dutch borders and rather than to return to the former homes of
their parents they may have preferred to join their compatriots
across the sea. Whatever the cause, the prevalence of this element
is interesting and undoubtedly accounts for the large number of
Lutherans in the early settlement which occasioned the call to Al-
bany in 1669 of the Rev. Jacobus Fabritius, the first Lutheran
minister in the province.


As to the mode of living of the colonists, one should like to have
a clearer idea than it is possible to gather from the records of the
character of the houses that are mentioned in the conveyances, more
particularly whether they were built of brick or wood and whether
they consisted of more than one story or not. Practically nothing
appears in the deeds that throws any light on these matters, but
from certain contracts and specifications in the Notarial Papers
which are to appear later it seems evident that between 1660 and
1680 many of the houses in the village were still of the Dutch farm-
house type, meaning that the fore part of the house was occupied
as a dwelling while the rear part served as a barn, the latter having
an open space in the center and stalls and bays on either side. It is
probable, however, that this statement does not apply to the more
prominent streets, such as Jonker, riDW State street, on which before
16S0 many substantial city houses seem to have been built. ^ Inciden-
tally it may be noted that the lots on the south side of this street,
between Broadway and Pearl street, were all granted on the same
day, namely the 23d of April 1652, shortly after Director General
Stuyvesant had condemned the lots around the old fort near the
present steamboat square. With the exception of the occasional
subdivision of a lot, the original lot lines as then laid out have been
preserved to this day and can be readily distinguished by any one
familiar wMth the original grants. As under the circumstances might
naturally be supposed and as is moreover clearly shown on the plan
of the city w^hich accompanies the Rev. John Miller's Description
of the Province and City of Nezv York, of 1695, these lots were all
laid out in a straight line, a feature which at once disposes of the
commonly accepted notion that in the early days the settlement pre-
sented an irregular appearance, land being cheap and people being

Online LibraryAlbany County (N.Y.)Early records of the city and county of Albany, and colony of Resselaerswyck (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 43)