To submit a copy request:
How the Index entries are set up and arranged:
To search the index:
Real Estate Records prior to 1823
Before Yates County was organized in 1823, all of its towns had
settlements, and therefore land transactions and records documenting
them. Deeds and mortgages were filed at the county seat, which was in
Ontario or Steuben County, depending on the town. Of the nine modern
towns, seven came from Ontario County, and two from Steuben.
All the deeds recorded for land sales in the towns which became Yates
County were transcribed by commissioners in the mid 1850s. There are
five books of deeds from Ontario County, two from Steuben County, a book
of mortgages from each, and a general index.
The original five towns which made up the new Yates County were
Benton, Italy, Jerusalem, Middlesex and Milo. Potter and Torrey were
made from portions of some of these, making a total of seven towns in
the original area of the county. Land transactions in these towns began
in the fall of 1788, as soon as Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham
completed their purchase of the Genesee Country from the Senecas.
Purchases and sales of real estate in these towns between 1788 and 1823
were originally recorded in Canandaigua, the seat of Ontario County.
The two southernmost towns, Barrington and Starkey, were annexed in
1826. Unlike the others, these two towns were taken from Steuben County,
and thus all transactions between 1796 (the year Steuben County was
formed from part of Ontario County) and 1826 were originally recorded at
the county seat in Bath.
To summarize: from 1788 to 1796 the entire area of modern Yates
County was in Ontario County, from 1796-1826 part was in Steuben. All
the rest remained in Ontario until 1823, with (naturally) one exception.
The area between the forks of Keuka Lake, known now as Bluff Point, was
part of the Steuben County town of Wayne until 1815, when it was
transferred to the (then) Ontario County town of Jerusalem.
The transcribed (or transmitted, as they are legally called) deeds
from Ontario County fill five books of nearly 600 pages each, and
document the earliest settlements in the county, the tribulations of the
people caught up in the uncertainties over the Pre-emption Line,
bankruptcies and consequent forced sales, distribution of land to settle
estates, gifts of land from one relative to another, and numerous other
important issues. They are an incredibly valuable resource. The two
Steuben County books are equally valuable and interesting.
The original books have been wrapped and are stored in the Archive.
Copies were made several years ago, and it is these volumes that are
available for use by the public. The General Index is organized by the
initial of the surname of the buyer (grantee) and the seller (grantor).
It covers both sides of all transactions in both counties, and is fairly
confusing to use. A new index has been prepared for posting on line.
There are two books of transcribed mortgages. One contains 116 pages
of mortgages originally recorded in Steuben County between 1797 and
1825; most apply to land in the present towns of Barrington and Starkey,
which were annexed to Yates County in 1826; a few apply to lands on
Bluff Point in Jerusalem, which was annexed by Ontario County in 1815.
The other book contains 632 pages of mortgages originally recorded in
Ontario County between 1792 and 1821. Each book is indexed separately in
the front by the initial letter of the surname. Grantees (also known as
mortgagees, who were the lenders of money with real estate as
collateral) and Grantors or mortgagors (borrowers) are in separate
columns on the same page of the index.
Copies of land instruments
Of course, anyone who wants to may copy any of these documents at the
County offices. The County Historian will also make copies and send them
to researchers by mail, for $1 a page (to help cover postage costs).
To get your copies in a timely manner you
must include in your request:
- your name and postal address;
- the name of the County and index (eg: Ontario grantee);
- the reference exactly as it is in the index;
- the phrase "Historian's deed (or mortgage) request" in the subject line.
Submit copy request
How to use the Index
All index files in this series are set up the same way. A typical "Grantee from Grantor" entry would read:
Benton Levi // Caleb Benton // 1 // 245
This means that a parcel of land was sold to Levi Benton, the grantee, by Caleb Benton, the grantor. The deed was recorded at Book
1, page 245.
The same transaction would be entered in the "Grantor to grantee" index like this:
Benton Caleb // Benton Levi // 1 // 245
This is the same deed, so the reference is to the same
book and page; however, the file is sorted by the surname of the seller
instead of the buyer as in the first example.
Since there is only one book of transmitted mortgages for
each county, there is no need for a volume reference for them. Index
entries in the Grantee part look like this:
Williamson Charles // George Brown // 78
This means that Charles Williamson (who was the agent for
the Pulteney syndicate) loaned money to George Brown for the purchase of
land, and this transaction was recorded on page 78 of the Ontario
transmitted mortgages. The instrument is in the form of an indenture and
resemble deeds quite a lot, except they are conditional on the payment
terms being met. Thus this particular mortgage will read as though Brown
is turning over a lot to Williamson unless he (Brown) can make a series
of payments amounting to a certain sum by a certain date. That's why the
lender is the grantee, because he takes title to the real estate unless
the payment is made.
Entries in the Grantor part of the mortgage index look
Brown George // Charles
Williamson // 78
Nowadays the grantee or mortgagee is nearly always some
institution, like a bank or mortgage company. But at the period covered
by this index, people were more apt to borrow purchase money from a
relative, the seller of the property, or some pther private individual.
They can sometimes be very revealing, and are almost always well worth
Together, the transmitted land records represent a massive
effort in an attempt to make title searches more convenient. Modern
researchers can find a wealth of information, including location and
value of property; occupations, places of residence and relationships
among the parties; land usage; distribution of rights (to water,
minerals and other resources); clues to estate settlements; the maiden
names of married women, and their given names as well; and the patterns
governing the early settlement of the area.
Deeds Transmitted from Ontario County 1788-1823