New York State History – Colonial Period

Segment from an engraving showing the plan of Fort William Henry.
A section of the plan of Fort William Henry, from "A Set of Plans and Forts in America."

The New York State Library has a wide variety of primary documents and published material on the history of Colonial New York. The collection includes muster rolls of colonial troops, accounts of explorers, land purchase agreements, correspondence of early settlers, orderly books, diaries, maps, records of Rensselaerwyck Manor, colonial laws, documents of New Netherland, histories of the French and Indian War, accounts of relations with Native Americans, and personal papers such as those of Sir William Johnson.

Listed below are publications that have been digitized from items in the New York State Library’s collection.  As the State Library digitizes other materials related to New York State's Colonial Period, links to the digital copy will be added to this list.  The titles listed below are also available in print copy at the NYSL for use onsite. Additional materials relating to the colonial period in New York State can be found by searching the NYSL online catalog and the Finding Aids to Special Collections.

For more information, contact the Reference Desk at 518-474-5355 or via email, or see the Digital Collections FAQ.

Agreement for the Purchase of Indian Lands, 1697 October: This is an agreement for the purchase of land at Ramapo, Rockland County (New York) between Blandina Bayard and the following Native Americans: Zerickham, Mettissiena, Eghkenem, Onarkommagh, Kraghkon, Saeuwapigh Kim, and Nanawaron.

Annual Report of the State Historian: In 1895, Governor Morton appointed a state historian, whose duties were "to collect … edit, and prepare for publication all official records … and data, relative to the colonial wars, war of the revolution, war of 1812, Mexican war and war of the rebellion." The 1st Annual Report (1895), 2nd Annual Report (1896) and 3rd Annual Report (1897) were digitized from volumes in the State Library's collection. Volume 1 of the Colonial Muster Rolls for 1664-1760 can be found in Appendix H of the 2nd Annual Report. Volume II of the Colonial Muster Rolls for 1664-1760 can be found in Appendix M of the 3rd Annual Report. An index of names contained in the Colonial Muster Rolls can be found on pages 899-1130 of the 3rd Annual Report.

Champlain and the French in New York: A short publication by William G. Tyrrell on the history of Samuel De Champlain and the French in New York State.

Contract of Sale of Land Along the Hudson River From the Mahican Indians to Kiliean Van Rensselaer, 6 August 1630:  This document is a copy of an original parchment copy of the land title that established the Colony of Rensselaerwyck within the province of New Netherland.  It relates to the patroonship plan of colonization, under the auspices of the West India Company, that allowed an investor, called a patroon (lord of manor), to negotiate with natives for a tract upon which he was obligated to settle 50 colonists at his own expense. The patroon was granted complete jurisdictional rights and could hold the land in perpetual fief of inheritance with the right to dispose of colony by last will and testament. Kiliaen van Rensselaer became the first patroon of Rensselaerwyck. The lands in the conveyance comprised much of present Albany and Rensselaer counties of New York State. Peter Minuit, Director General of New Netherland, signed this document along with others on the governing council.  The original document is in Dutch; an English translation by A.J.F. van Laer with revisions by Charles Gehring is included with the original.

Conveyance, 1761, October 1: This document certifies the conveyance of title to a certain tract of land held by John Klein to John Jones. The tract of land was situated at the time in Albany County, New York, being north of the Mohawk River and between two creeks "called George Creek and Caicharon or Canida Creek." The land was granted to Klein and others by settlers patent in 1760.

Correspondence of Maria van Rensselaer, 1669-1689:  This volume was translated and edited by A.J.F. van Laer and published by University of the State of New York in 1935.  Maria van Rensselaer was the wife of Jeremias van Rensselaer.  After her husband's death, she carried on a regular correspondence with her husband's youngest brother, Richard van Rensselaer, in regard to the administration of Rensselaerwyck.  The volume also contains correspondence between Maria and her brother, Stephanus van Cortlandt, and other members of the Van Cortlandt family.

Letter to Spencer Phips, 1750 December 18: This is a digital copy of a letter that Governor George Clinton wrote to Governor Spencer Phips of Massachusetts proposing that all the colonial governors assemble in Albany for the purpose of meeting with the Six Nations of Indians to attempt to end the influence of the French on the Indians.  The letter was written at Fort George in New York City.

A Letter to the Freemen and Freeholders of the City of New-York: Relating to the Approaching Election of Their Representatives. Wherein the Several Papers That Have Lately Appeared on the Subject of Politicks, Are Briefly Considered: the Conduct of the Authors Exposed, and the Controversy Represented in its True Light: The pamphlet was signed "Feb. 10, 1752, A Lover of Liberty."  It was printed and sold by J. Parker at the New Printing Office Beaver-Street New York in 1752.  Bound with this pamphlet is a second pamphlet, "An Answer to a Pamphlet, Entitled, A Letter to the Freemen and Freeholders Of the City of New-York. Wherein Is Fully Shown, the True Causes Of the Defection Of the Six Nations Of Indians; With Some Historical Collections Never Yet Made Publick."  This second pamphlet is "By a Contemner [sic] of Licentiousness" and was also printed and sold by J. Parker in New York in 1752.

Orderly Books, 1759-1760, 1762: These are the orderly books of Captain Amos Hitchcock's Connecticut provincial companies during the French and Indian War. The orderly books are the companies' official record of all military orders, and include courts martial, disciplinary actions, and promotions.  The volumes also provide a record of troop movements in northern New York and Canada and encampments at Albany, Fort Edward, Lake George, Crown Point, and Fort Ontario.

Papers of Sir William Johnson:  In his official capacity as Indian agent or military officer, Sir William Johnson corresponded with people from all walks of life. His papers, covering the time period of 1738-1808, form an invaluable source of information on the political, military, social and agricultural history of the period. (As Johnson had died in 1774, the few papers we have for those years relate to matters with which his relatives were connected.) The 14 volume set that has been digitized is the most comprehensive source of printed transcripts from the original manuscripts.

  • Sir William Johnson and the Indians of New York: This booklet was published by the Office of State History, New York State Education Department, in 1967. The foreward notes that "There is a vast literature dealing with Indian and white relations, but little of it is readily and easily accessible to teachers, students, and general readers. To bring together the main points of this exciting and vivid history, Dr. Milton W. Hamilton has written this booklet on Sir William Johnson and the Indians. As trader, Indian agent, soldier, and Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Johnson was a key figure in the Indian story. He is as important for his great work during the momentous events of the 18th century as for his ability to understand the Indians and to work well with them ... To tell this significant story of Johnson and the Indians, Dr. Hamilton drew extensively on the 13 volumes of the Sir William Johnson Papers."

Patent for the Manor of Rensselaerwyck: This is a copy of the original manuscript, from November 5, 1685.  This document confirmed the right of the former Dutch colony known as Rensselaerwyck to continue its existence under the suzerainty of the British Crown. The boundaries were clearly defined and included all of the lands originally granted to Rensselaerwyck in 1630 as a colony under the jurisdiction of New Netherland, with the exception of lands reserved for the settlement called Albany and special right away connecting said settlement on the Hudson River to the Mohawk River.  Many of the feudal rights and privileges of the Patroon were reconfirmed too, excepting the legislative and judicial powers held under Dutch authority. The document was signed and sealed by Thomas Dongan, Governor of the Colony of New York.

A Set of Plans and Forts in America, Reduced From Actual Survey: This volume was published in 1763 in London.  The author is John Rocque. The volume consists of 30 maps of forts in America, such as Fort William Henry and the Redoubts at Crown Point.  The volume also includes a "Map of the British Dominions in North America according to the Treaty of 1763."


A map of the English empire in America, c. 1685.
"A map of Ye English Empire in Ye Continent of America," c. 1685.

Belgii Novi, Angliae Novae, et Partis Virginiae: Novissima Delineation: This map was prepared by Jan Jansson between 1660 and 1663 in Amsterdam.  The map was dedicated to Gualthero de Raet. 

A General Map of the Middle British Colonies in America: viz Virginia, Màriland, Dèlaware, Pensilvania, New-Jersey, New-York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island: of Aquanishuonîgy, the Country of the Confederate Indians; Comprehending Aquanishuonîgy Proper, Their Place of Residence, Ohio and Tïiuxsoxrúntie Their Deer-hunting Countries; Couxsaxráge and Skaniadarâde, Their Beaver-hunting Countries; of the Lakes Erie, Ontario and Champlain, and of Part of New-France: Wherein is Also Shewn the Antient and Present Seats of the Indian Nations: The map was prepared by Lewis Evans and engraved by James Turner. The map was published in Philadelphia on June 23, 1755, by Lewis Evans. The map is hand colored and includes text, tables of traveling distance, historical notes, and inset of "A sketch of the remaining parts of Ohio R. & c."

A Map of the Hardenbergh [sic] Patent: Shewing the Original Partition, That of Ebenezer Worster in 1749 of Part and the Subsequent One of the Residue in 1751 With the Adjoining Patents, Mostly From Actual Survey: This hand colored map was made in 1810 by John Kiersted.  In 1707, Major Johannes Hardenbergh, a merchant of Kingston, Ulster Co., purchased a large tract of land from the Indians.  The Hardenbergh Patent included all of the western part of Ulster County.  (This area is now known as Sullivan Co. and parts of Delaware and Ulster Counties.) On April 20, 1708, the patent was officially granted to Hardenbergh and his associates by Governor Edward Hyde Cornubury.  In 1749, the patent was divided into "Great Lots" apportioned by lot among the proprietors. These were further subdivided into tracts and divisions of various sizes.

[Map of the Land Patents in Greene County Circa 1735]: This hand colored map is believed to have been prepared sometime in the 1800s and shows drainage, locations of structures, and names of landowners.

A Map of the Manor Renselaerwick: This area was surveyed and laid down by a scale of 100 chains to an inch by Jno. R. Bleeker, surveyor.  This map is a copy made by David Vaugnam from the original that was held by Stephen Van Rennselaer.  It includes landforms, drainage, roads and farmstead locations.  The scale in D. Vaughan's copy was reduced to 200 chains to an inch.

A Map of the Patent Granted [?]th of April 1673 to Bart. Petersen Coejemans: As Claimed by Abm. Lott Esqr. In Behalf of the Heirs of the Said Barrent Petersen Coejemans: This hand colored map was drawn and printed by Simon Metcalfe around 1770. The map shows drainage, landmarks, and names of some landowners.

A Map of the Province of New York, Part of New England, With a Part of New France: the Whole Composed From Actual Surveys By a Scale of 16 mile [sic] to a [sic] Inch: This map was made in 1758 by Francis Pfister, an ensign in the 1st Battalion, Royal American, Regiment.

A Map of Ye English Empire in Ye Continent of America: viz. Virginia, Mary Land, Carolina, Pennsilvania, New York, New Iarsey, New England: This heavily illustrated map is by Robert Morden in 1685(?).

Nova Anglia, Novum Belgium, et Virginia:  This map was drawn by Jan Jansson and published in Amsterdam in 1636(?).  The map shows the eastern seaboard of North American including parts of New France, New England, New Netherland, and Virginia.

Novi Belgii, Quod Nunc Novi Jorck Vocatur, Novae q[ue] Angliae & Partis Virginiae: Accuratissima et Novissima Delineation: The map was prepared by John Ogilby and includes decorative cartouche and illustration.

Pas-Kaart Vande zee Kusten van Niew Nederland Anders Genaamt Niew York: Tusschen Renselaars Hoek en de Staaten Hoek:  This hand colored map was prepared by Claes Janszoon Vooght and printed in Amsterdam circa 1719.  The map covers the Hudson River as far as Albany, the New York region and the coast of Long Island, and New England as far as Nantucket Island.

Plan of the Town and Fort of Carillon at Ticonderoga: This map includes information on the attack made by the British Army commanded by Gen. Abercrombie, 8 July 1758. The engraving was made by Thomas Jefferys, geographer to the Prince of Wales, in London in 1758.

A Plott of Ye Situations of the Towns & Places on Ye Wester End of Long Island to Hempstead Rounds, Dated July 3, 1666: This map is commonly referred to as the "Hubbard Map." The original 1666 map made by W. Hubbard was destroyed in the 1911 Capital Fire. The digital reproduction was made from a negative blueprint. The digital reproduction includes inverted (i.e. positive polarity) image of the original negative blueprint. The towns of Brooklyn and Bushwick are missing from the map.

Renselaerswyck [sic]: map: This is a copy of the original manuscript map on vellum that was part of the Rensselaerwyck Manor Records. The map "represents the land along the Hudson River from Barren Island, just south of Coeymans to the Mouth of the Mohawk. The map is without date or makers name ... [but] is commonly ascribed to Gillis van Schendel and to the year 1630, but ... was probably executed in Holland shortly after July 20, 1632 from rough drafts and surveys of different parts of the colony ...." (From the Van Rensselaer Bowier Manuscripts (Albany, 1908), p. 33.)

Last Updated: June 29, 2021