The Historian's Office


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The Yates County Historian's Office


Each of New York's counties (and for that matter each of the state's towns, villages and cities) is required by state law to appoint a public historian. The Yates County Historian is a department head, charged with preserving the County's history: in the written record, in the built environment, in archaeological remains, in oral tradition and in whatever other ways suggest themselves.


The Historian assists visitors in several ways: by locating documents or series of documents, by explaining the use of certain records or their indexes, by accessing computer databases, by simply answering questions. The files contain a great deal of compiled information, particularly on historic structures and on family history; but the main focus is on making the County's public records available to researchers.

Several finding aids are available: to the County Clerk's records, to a large collection of microfilmed town and village records, and to the County's court records, as well as to more specialized series such as naturalization and immigration records, and to Surrogate Court case files. 

Leaflet-style guides to our land records and very complete collection of indexed census records are available on request. We also keep other reference materials on hand for the use of visitors.


Penn Yan is the county seat, located at the intersection of NYS Rtes 54, 14A and 54A at the northern end of Keuka Lake in the west-central part of the state, the beautiful Finger Lakes region, about equidistant from Rochester, Syracuse and Elmira.

The office is located on the lower level of the County Office Building at 417 Liberty Street, in the center of an extensive historic preservation district.

Other county offices in the same building that may interest the researcher are:

  • County Clerk: The Record Room and Vault contain census records, land records, survey maps and other recorded documents. A microfilm reader/printer is available for public use. Various guides, indexes and finding aids are available in the Record Room.
  • Surrogate Court: The clerk of this court has custody of wills, probate case files and petitions for guardianships. All are indexed by name of the decedent or orphan seeking a guardian. A database index to the name of all persons mentioned in petitions to the court (19th century cases only) is available in the Historian's Office.
  • Real Property Tax Service: Tax maps of all real estate parcels in the county are located in this office.

    The County Office Building is located at 417 Liberty Street between Main and Liberty Streets. 

    The Record Room is open weekday business hours, as are most other offices in the building. The Historian's office hours are 9:00 - 5:00; during these hours staff will be presesnt to assist you. If you expect to need more than casual guidance, or if there are several people in your party, please call ahead. 

    Mail should be addressed to the Yates County Historian, 417 Liberty St., Penn Yan NY 14527. 

    The Historian's phone number is 315/536-5147. There is voice mail on this phone. Fax number is 315/531-3226. Email is  history@yatescounty.org