Family History Outing: Holland Land Office Museum

Although online research lets us visit places virtually whenever, wherever, and wearing our pajamas, there are definite benefits to traveling to visit museums, chat with experts and historians, and meet with local researchers. This Spring I had a chance to do all that (and more).

Beginning in 1801, the Holland Land Company sold the land from the Holland Purchase, from its office in Batavia, NY. Agents opened offices in other areas of the purchased land. By 1840, all their land was sold. Much can be learned about the Holland Land Company in online databases, and maps.

Our visit started with a phone call to check on the Holland Land Office Museum’s hours for the day of our trip. We asked if someone would be able to help us locate the purchases on the map. The answer was that they were open and would certainly try. Finding expert about the Holland Land Office land purchase was reason enough to drive over to Batavia.

The Museum is housed in the original Land Office building in Batavia, Genesse County, NY. A transaction could be done at this building for any of the purchases, for any of the counties. In addition to the history of Holland Land Office, there were information and exhibits about the local area and its history. The items in the exhibits are informative and help place ancestors in their context. Another blog post covers the WWI Exhibit.

The Museum has Livsey’s volumes of “Western New York, Land Transactions” which are extracted from the archives of the Holland Land Company. The extractions are indexed and thoroughly document the names and dates of the transactions. (These are also available online.) But the lists of transactions do not indicate whether the transaction was a payment or a reversion back to the company. You need to check the county land records for the nature of the transactions. If you had ancestors in this area, at this time, it is worth checking these books in case your ancestors tried to buy a property in the area but did not complete the sale. One of the big surprises was that an ancestor had purchased land in Erie County, which would later revert to the Holland Land Company

We learned that the Museum also holds the Land Records for Erie County, from about 1809-1840. Executive Director Duffy retrieved these books from storage, put on his gloves and handled them himself.

Just as outlined in our Land Tutorial, the way to use these books is to look for the name in an index then find the page for the transaction. This book also contained map details for the sales.

The recording of his sale was on Page 27

Lumis Lillie’s lot was in Township No.11 Range No. 5.
His property on the map was labeled with 27.

Lumis Lillie’s lot was in Section 6 shown marked 27 for the page number.

In the pages of these original Land Books we found the names of prominent members of the community for whom streets were named. Unfortunately, these books were too early to contain records for other ancestors in Erie County.

When you visit, be sure to check out their store for their selection of books and pick up a very reasonably priced map of the Purchase area.

A local researcher also advised immersing myself and my research team in local culture near the Museum, at Oliver’s Candies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources:

The Holland Land Office Museum

The Reed Library in the State University of New York at Fredonia has Archives of the Holland Land Company on microfilm

Click on the image of Ellicot’s Map of the Holland Land Company Purchase in New York to view and right clock to download.

The New York Heritage Digital Collections contains Holland Land Company Maps. You can search for the County name, Township and Range to get a specific map.

Search Livsey’s books on Ancestry.com: Western New York Land Transactions, 1804-1824 and Western New York Land Transactions, 1825-1835.

For those with access to Hathitrust, you can search Western New York land transactions, 1825-1835, and view other books about the Holland Land Company.

On Google Books, you can search Western New York Land Transactions, 1804-1824

Many other resources and references can be found online by searching on Google.

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