NYFingerLakes-L ArchivesArchiver > NYFingerLakes > 2001-11 > 1004727322
From: "Gary Welch" <>
Subject: RE: [NYFL] Town or Township
Date: Fri, 2 Nov 2001 13:55:22 -0500
One minor correction, NY cities are not part of towns. There is a City of
Canandaigua and a Town of Canandaigua but their boundaries do not overlap.
The same is true of Geneva.
From: lyn wilson [mailto:]
Sent: Thursday, November 01, 2001 7:44 PM
Subject: [NYFL] Town or Township
This is a bit lengthy. Sorry, but please bear with
me. I hope this will help clear up some of the
confusion about towns and townships in NYS.
This is also partly in response to Karen's questions
about her brick wall.
Karen, I'm sorry, I don't have any info on Tharp, but
as to Penn Yan, let me try to explain it this way:
Yates County was not formed until 1823. It was taken
from part of Ontario County. That's why when you look
at the 1810 Census, it says that Penn Yan is in
Penn Yan was part of the Town of Jerusalem in Ontario
County in 1810. In 1823, when Yates County was
formed, new towns were created and today, Penn Yan is
primarily part of the Town of Milo, but is also, in
part, in the Town of Jerusalem and the Town of Benton.
As well as the County records, many records for these
various towns can be found in the respective Town
Clerk's Offices. -- including vital records, as of
1880 or so. You'll get a quicker reply from them than
you will from the State.
But I digress --
There are no townships in New York State, at least not
as we are used to seeing them in neighboring states.
In New York, a township is a surveying tool used in
1789 when Phelps and Gorham surveyed the lands in
western NYS and divided the area into townships and
ranges for sales purposes, basically.
New York, however, does have towns, which are a
subdivision of the county much like the townships as
found in other states. The Legislature created Towns
as governing bodies within counties to provide
services to the villages and hamlets within its
With that in mind, to be accurate, it is the Town of
Gorham and the Town of Seneca, etc. There are 16
towns in Ontario Co. (if I counted correctly). There
are also two cities (Canandaigua and Geneva) which
also are part of towns of the same name.
The main community in a town does not always have the
same name, however. Example: Stanley (where the town
records are kept) is in the Town of Seneca. There is
no village of Seneca.
Where were get confused in researching these records
is when the town and the village have the same name or
we assume that the town name is referring to a
village. When we see that someone is a resident of
the town of Gorham, we automatically think he lives in
the village and overlook the "town of" part when we
record the information.
Think about it. Most of our ancestors were farmers
and as such lived out in the country. Only rarely have
I found an ancestor who lived IN the village. Most of
them lived within a mile to several miles out in the
country. (The Town of Gorham is about 10 miles wide,
by the way.)
The same thing happens when people transcribe records.
The Census, both State and Federal, are taken by
counties and towns. Yet many transcribers fail to
note "town of" when they prepare their records. This
leads us to record incorrect information in our files
as to the location where our ancestors lived and
confusion when we try to do further research.
If you're not sure if they lived in the village,
you're always safe to record their location as in the
The same thing with Wills and Deeds. They record that
"John Doe, a resident of the Town of Gorham, County of
Ontario, State of New York..." That does not mean he
actually lived in the village, but simply that he
lived in that area of the county.
Total accuracy in our records is, for the most part,
beyond our control. Your efforts will be shared with
others for years to come. But by paying careful
attention to detail, you will decrease the spread of
that dread of all researchers, the inaccurate record.
Hope this helps,
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