As the Revolutionary War progressed and funds for prosecuting the war became scarce, the real and personal property of loyalists was confiscated and sold to raise money for the State. Although initially only personal property was confiscated, in 1779 the legislature attainted 59 loyalists (abolished their civil rights) and declared their real property forfeited. In addition, procedures were established whereby persons indicted for treason also forfeited their lands if they failed to appear for trial.
The State was divided into four districts and commissioners of forfeiture were appointed in each district to conduct sales of confiscated lands. Sales of confiscated lands were authorized by law in 1780 and again in 1784. Clear titles to lands purchased through the commissioners of forfeitures were often not obtained for decades due to claims against the forfeited estates, especially by widows and heirs of attainted loyalists. To settle these claims, in 1799 the State appointed commissioners to extinguish claims against lands sold by the State.
The records described below provide information on survey, sales of, and payment for confiscated lands, and settlement of claims against forfeited estates.
COMMISSIONERS OF FORFEITURE
A4032. Lists of Sales of and Accounts of Payments for Confiscated Lands, 1784-1788. .5 cubic foot (4 volumes)
Arrangement: By district (Eastern or Western), then chronological by date of sale or date of payment (for accounts).
These volumes contain a record of sales of land confiscated from loyalists in the Eastern and Western districts. The records of sales generally give the following information:
- date of sale
- name of purchaser
- by whom forfeited (Eastern Division only)
- lot number and location
- acreage (Eastern District only)
- date of deed (Western District only)
One additional volume contains accounts of the commissioners with purchasers of Western District lands. Each account gives the purchasers' and forfeitors' names, the lands purchased, and date and amount of sale, and then lists the amounts and means of payments made by the purchaser. Typical payment instruments include the face value of a variety of certificates issued by the State, interest due on certificates, and Continental currency.
A4013. Report and Abstract of Sales of Land Forfeited to New York State by Roger Morris and Claimed by John Jacob Astor, 1781-1819. .2 cubic foot (2 volumes)
Arrangement: Chronological by date of conveyance.
These records were generated in response to a claim by John Jacob Astor to lands forfeited by Roger Morris and his wife Mary Philipse. Astor purchased rights to the estates from Morris' heirs who were not attainted by the confiscation law. One volume contains abstracts of sales of land by the commissioners of forfeitures giving descriptions of lands; acreage; names of purchasers; dates of purchase; and price paid. A second volume contains a report prepared for the surveyor general providing additional information on certain lots in Morris' estate.
B0256. Records of Applications for and Sales of Forfeited Estates and Military Lots, 1783-1807. .3 cubic foot (1 volume)
Arrangement: By type of application and thereunder chronological.
This volume contains applications for the survey and purchase of unclaimed lots in the Military Tract or lots on estates confiscated from loyalists during the Revolutionary War. Each application gives the following information:
- name of purchaser
- lot number and location
- acreage (sometimes)
- cost of survey and appraisal (sometimes)
- by whom forfeited (if a forfeited estate)
B0964. Minutes of Commissioners to Extinguish Claims Against Lands Sold by the State, 1799-1831. .2 cubic foot (1 volume)
Arrangement: Chronological by date of decision.
The Commissioners of the Land Office were empowered in 1799 to serve as commissioners to extinguish claims against lands sold by the State. In 1801 these duties were transferred to the comptroller, attorney general, and surveyor general or any two of them acting together. As commissioners they examined and settled claims against loyalists' lands confiscated and sold by the commissioners of forfeitures. Most claims were based on erroneous sales of land not subject to forfeiture, or the dower rights of widows of loyalists. These minutes locate and describe the bounds of the property in question; recite the substance of the claim; and state the commissioners' decision and award, if any.
An online name index to Loyalists and to claimants is available.
A0847. Incoming Correspondence, 1777-1890. 92 cubic feet
Included in this correspondence is one folder of documents dated 1777-1791, containing correspondence to the auditor general concerning accounts of civil and military officials; an abstract of sales made by the commissioners of forfeiture of the Western District (no names of property owners given); and a return of money received by officers and soldiers of a corps of invalids (veterans disabled due to military service).