Records of Aliens Enabled to Own Real Property

The New York State Legislature passed hundreds of special acts enabling individual aliens to acquire, hold, and dispose of title to real property. These acts date from the late 1780s through the early 1870s; however, relatively few of them date after 1830. A general name index to most of them is found in General Index of the Documents and Laws of the State of New-York (Albany: 1842), pp. 198- 233; updated editions of the index to laws (including references to acts enabling individual aliens to hold real property) were published in 1850, 1859, and 1866. Names of persons enabled to own land by legislative acts passed between 1790 and 1825 are abstracted in Kenneth Scott, comp., Resident Aliens Enabled to Hold Land in New York State 1790-1825, National Genealogical Society Quarterly, 67 (March 1979), 42-57.

Between 1825 and 1913 a simpler, alternate proceeding was available to enable aliens to acquire, own, and dispose of real property: the alien made a deposition of intent to become a citizen and filed it in the Secretary of State's office in Albany. The alien's rights in regard to real property expired six years after filing the deposition. The so-called alien depositions, now in the State Archives, typically give name of alien, date and place of deposition, and sometimes the country of origin. A few of the earlier depositions give additional information, such as place of residence in New York, date of entry into the United States, and marital status of a woman (married, single, or widowed). After the mid-nineteenth century many of the alien depositions (up to one third of the total) were made by women. (Statutes passed between 1848 and 1862 allowed married women in New York to own real property in their own names.)

The original signed alien depositions (series A1869) are bound into books and arranged roughly chronologically (1825-1913). These documents are not indexed. The earlier depositions are abstracted in Kenneth Scott and Rosanne Conway, comps. New York Alien Residents, 1825-1848 (Baltimore: 1978). Abstracts of alien depositions (series A1870) were compiled from the original depositions and state the name of the alien, sometimes the residence, and the date and place of the deposition. No other data is included. The abstracts are arranged by assigned consecutive numbers. There is a three-volume index to the abstracts (series A1898). The index is actually multiple indexes for individual volumes or periods of years.

Because there is no comprehensive index to the depositions, State Archives staff will not search the records for individual names. The alien depositions (series A1869), the abstracts thereof (series A1870), and the indexes to the abstracts (series A1898) are available for use at the State Archives. Photocopying will be restricted if a record is in poor condition.

A guide to genealogical use of records relating to land ownership by aliens is Gordon L. Remington, Alien Landowners in New York State, 1790-1913, The Irish at Home and Abroad: A Newsletter of Irish Genealogy and Heritage, 1:4 (Spring 1994), 8-9.