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Real Property Records Pathfinder
This pathfinder will direct you to the most useful sources for real property records (deeds and mortgages for private properties). Follow the timeline to the era in which you believe the property of interest was conveyed or mortgaged from one party to another.
Researchers should note that during the colonial period and late 18th and early 19th centuries, much of the land in the Hudson River valley was leased rather than owned by residents, meaning that deeds were not necessary. If the property of interest lay within in present-day Albany or Rensselaer County, there may be records of the leases of that property in the Van Rensselaer Manor Papers held by the New York State Library—Manuscripts & Special Collections Unit.
Researchers should likewise note that real property can also be transferred by will. If that type of transfer took place, there will be no deed. For assistance in locating wills and related records, see the State Archives Probate Pathfinder.
In Dutch Colonial New Netherland, 1638-1664, 1673-1674
Deeds executed in New Netherland under Dutch rule were recorded by the provincial secretary (consult State Archives record series A0270 and A1882) or by municipal officials including notaries. Dutch notarial records survive for New Amsterdam (New York City) and Beverwyck (Albany). These records are held by the New York City Clerk’s Office and the Albany County Clerk’s Office, respectively. There were no deeds for private property in New Netherland prior to 1638.
In British Colonial New York and Early New York State, 1664-1673, 1874-1823
Some deeds conveying private property (mostly in New York City and vicinity) were recorded in the office of the provincial secretary or later the office of the secretary of state (consult State Archives record series A0453). After 1683, almost all deeds were recorded in the newly established county clerks' offices (for an online directory of county websites, visit the NYS Association of Counties website). However, most deeds during the British colonial and early statehood periods were not recorded anywhere, because there was no clear legal requirement for recording. If a recorded deed for the property of interest cannot be located, contact a local historical society or library, which may hold very old original deeds that were never recorded.
Starting in 1794 in New Counties of Central, Northern, and Western New York
Starting in 1794 in the new counties as they were established in central, northern, and western New York, deeds were required to be recorded in the county clerk’s office, or a deed would be invalid if the land were sold again and the second deed was recorded. For an online directory of county websites, visit the NYS Association of Counties website.
After 1813 in New York City and County (Manhattan) Only
In 1813, a separate register’s office was established for New York City and County (Manhattan Island) and given responsibility for recording deeds and mortgages. Pre-1813 deeds and mortgages for properties in New York County are likewise filed in the New York City register's office, which resides within the city Department of Finance’s Division of Land Records.
After 1823 in New York State
Legislation passed in 1823 established a statewide requirement that deeds and mortgages be recorded in the county clerks' offices or the New York City register's office. If a deed was not recorded, it would be invalid if the land were sold again and the second deed was recorded. Sometimes deeds were recorded many years after the actual sale. For an online directory of county websites, visit the NYS Association of Counties website.
After 1852 in Kings County (Brooklyn) Only
A register’s office was established in Kings County (including the City of Brooklyn) in 1852. Deeds and mortgages recorded by this office are now held by the New York City register's office.
After 1898 in New York City Only
Branches of the New York City register’s offices began operating in the newly-established boroughs of Brooklyn, and Queens in 1898 and in the Bronx in 1914. Pre-1898 deeds and mortgages for properties in these boroughs are likewise filed New York City register’s office. In the borough of Staten Island (Richmond County) the county clerk’s office continued to record real property conveyances and still does so today.
Recorded Deeds and Mortgages Digitized by FamilySearch
FamilySearch (formerly Genealogical Society of Utah) has digitized older recorded deeds and mortgages in most county clerks’ offices in New York State and the registers’ offices in New York City. Images may be searched or browsed by visiting the FamilySearch website.
Today in New York State and City
Deeds and mortgages executed outside of New York City (except Richmond County) continue to be recorded in the county clerks' offices throughout the state. Deeds and mortgages executed in the boroughs of Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn continue to be recorded in the New York City register's office.
For further information regarding land title records in New York State or assistance in accessing land title records and indexes available in the State Archives, please contact the New York State Archives Researcher Services Unit at email@example.com.