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Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs:
Historical Appendix: Albany County

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[This information is from Vol. IV, pp. iii-v of Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs, edited by Cuyler Reynolds (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1911). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 929.1 R45. Some of the formatting of the original, especially in lists of descendants, may have been altered slightly for ease of reading.]

[Map of 1614]

The original counties into which the New York colony was divided numbered twelve. The division was made pursuant to the act of 1683. The twelve counties were then named Albany, Cornwall, Dukes, Dutchess, Kings, New York, Orange, Queens, Richmond, Suffolk, Ulster and West Chester.

It may seem strange in these times, but Cornwall county consisted of the district known then as Pemaquid, now in Maine, and Dukes county was composed of some islands off Massachusetts. This was because this land was included in the patent of the Duke of York and Albany. They were detached in 1681, upon reorganization of the government.

On October 17, 1683, the first "General Assembly of the Colony of New York," chosen by "the planters or inhabitants of every part of the government," met at Fort James in the city of New York, with "free liberty to consult and debate among themselves all matters as shall be apprehended proper to be established for laws for the good of the government of the said Colony of New York and its dependencyes."

In preparation for this meeting, it was "ordered that the Sheriff of Albany and Rancelaers Colony cause the freeholders to meet and choose two persons to be their representatives in the General Assembly, to be holden at the City of New York, October ye 17th, 1683."

Among the acts bearing the date November 1, 1683, resultant of the meeting mentioned, was one "To divide this province and dependencyes into shires and countyes * * * for the better governing and settling the courts in the same."

This act having specified the twelve original counties, defined "The County of Albany to containe the Towns of Albany, the Collony Renslaerwyck, Schonecteda, and all the villages, neighborhoods, and Christian Plantaçons on the east side of Hudson River from Roelof Jansen's Creeke, and on the west side from Sawyer's Creeke to the Sarraghtoga."

Attention is called to the fact that the names of the original counties were distinctively English in their derivation; but after the Revolution, when new divisions were made so as to split the original into more numerous and smaller counties, the names bestowed were indicative of the Indians who had been associated with certain sections, or else honored the name of American patriots.

[Engraving: Fort Frederick, in Albany]

When the Council held a session at Fort William Henry in New York City, October 1, 1691, the previous Act was confirmed; but in describing the County of Albany, there was an omission of "the Town of Albany," and a substitution of "Mannor of Ranslaerswyck" for the "Collony of Renslaerwyck," as well as an extension, "to the uttermost end of Sarraghtoga," instead of "to the Sarraghtoga."

At the Council's session held at Fort George, in New York City, May 27, 1717, the area of Albany county was enlarged further by "An Act for annexing that part of the Mannor of Livingston which now lyes in Dutchess County, unto the County of Albany."

The counties of Dukes, consisting of Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, Elisabeth Island and No Man's Land (now in Massachusetts) and Cornwall, consisting of Pemaquid and adjacent lands and islands (now in Maine), which lands were included in the patent given to the Duke of York, were set off upon the reorganization of the colonial government, about 1691, or soon after the abdication of King James II., and the succession of William and Mary to the English throne.

There were but few changes in the ten original counties left within the borders of New York until the year 1770. It is surprising what the real extent of Albany county was in those days. It embraced the whole territory lying north of Ulster county, west of the Hudson River, and it took in nearly the whole State, going northward to the lakes and Canada; and north of Dutchess, on the east side of that river, including the entire State of Vermont. Plainly stated, within the bounds of Albany county were the State of Vermont and the fifty counties of the State of New York erected since the 1683-1691 period mentioned, excepting Putnam, Sullivan, Rockland, and part of Greene and Delaware.

The ten counties formed directly from Albany county, and before some of them were again subdivided into other counties, were:

  1. Gloucester, March 16, 1770; included what is now Orange, Washington, Caledonia, Orleans, and Essex, Vermont.
  2. Tryon, March 12, 1772; changed to Montgomery, April 2, 1784, from which and the wilderness then known only as land of the Indians, the counties west of Greene, Schoharie, Schenectady, Saratoga, and the Adirondack counties have since been formed.
  3. Charlotte, March 12, 1772; changed to Washington, April 2, 1784, from whose territory have since been erected Warren, Clinton, St. Lawrence, Essex and Franklin.
  4. Cumberland, April 4, 1786; covering the present counties of Bennington, Windsor, Windham, Rutland, Addison and Chittenden, in Vermont.
  5. Columbia, April 4, 1786.
  6. Rensselaer, February 7, 1791.
  7. Saratoga, February 7, 1791.
  8. Schoharie, April 6, 1795.
  9. Greene, March 25, 1800.
  10. Schenectady, March 7, 1809.

Albany county, in 1900, was bounded as follows: On the north, by the counties of Saratoga and Schenectady; on the west, by the county of Schoharie; on the south, by Greene county, and on the east by Rensselaer county.

The eastern boundary is very marked, being the Hudson river, flowing between Albany and Rensselaer counties, "a line drawn through the middle of the main stream with such variations as to include the islands lying nearest to the west bank thereof."

The northern boundary, between Albany and Saratoga counties, "made by a line beginning at a point in the middle of the main stream of the Hudson River in the westerly boundary of Rensselaer county, opposite to the middle of the most northerly branch of the Mohawk River, and running thence through the middle of said northerly branch of the said Mohawk River, westerly, to a point in said river where it is nearest the north line of the Manor of Rensselaerswyck, at Niskayuna."

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