A couple of weeks ago FamilySearch added digital images of NY State deeds and mortgages that they filmed many years ago. The collection “New York, Land Records, 1630-1975” covers most of New York State except Franklin, Nassau, and Queens Counties. In New York land records are filed at the County Courthouse. The collection usually covers from the beginning of the county up to around 1900 in spite of the name of the collection that makes you think that the collection comes up closer to the present.
This is a browse-able collection of 8,129,310 images. Don’t let that huge number of pages put you off. When you start your search you get a list of counties to pick from. You click on the county you want to search and you get a list of the records available. Included in that list are “Grantor” (buyer of land) and “Grantee ” (seller) indexes that cover part of a alphabetical list of surnames and years. It may take a little time to find the correct page for your ancestor. When you find the names the important information that you will need are the “Liber” (volume) and page. Then you go back to the County page and click on the Deed volume and find the page you want. You can save the page to your computer.
I looked at Monroe County and the Grantee and Grantor indexes are from 1821 to 1975 but the Deeds only go from 1821 to 1905. For Cattarugus County the indexes go from 1818 to 1968 but the Deeds only go up to 1905
The deed hardly ever give relationships except for spouse’s name. If a father is selling land to his son it only gives their names.
Also in the FamilySearch collection for most counties are old mortgage records. Sometimes people would live on property with a mortgage but wouldn’t complete the purchase of the land. The legal terms are that the “Mortgagee” is the person issuing the mortgage and the “Mortgagor” is the person attempting to purchase land.
Sometimes a deed will say that a person paid “$1 or more” for their land. That term gets used more often over time so as not to indicated the actual amount paid for the land.
The worst part of a deed is the description of the land. It will tell you the Town the land is in and gives the Town lot number. Then it tells the boundary which often tells the neighbors and I have even seen that the boundary could go to a large tree or a creek. Then it will tell the total acreage. Seeing as old roads didn’t have names, the only thing you have to search for is the Town lot number. If you were in the County Courthouse you could ask a clerk to see a plat book that would show Town lots. Very few Counties have put plat books online because they are usually very large and also very fragile.
I found old NY plat maps on Historic Map Works. That website appears to have an extensive collection of old plat books. You will need to start out with your county of interest. It then gives Town maps that show the Town lot numbers.
I searched for my ancestor, Frank Nicholson in Livington County records on FamilySearch. I found he purchased 1/4 acre of land in the Town of Portage in 1880 in Town lot 203. Then in 1884 he purchased 20 acres in Town lot 202. On Historic Map Works there were plat books dated 1872 and 1902. Frank sold all his land in Portage in 1900 and moved elsewhere. But I was able to find the lots and a house for Henry Holley on lot 202 on this 1902 map that my Frank had sold his land to. So now I know exactly where Frank’s family lived.
Historic Map Works lets you view maps online for free They also sell good quality reproductions of the Town maps from the plat books. Prices start at $10.