Van Rensselaer Family
Van Rensselaer Manor Land Surveys and Maps, ca. 1785-1840; bulk, 1785-1800

SC7079a

Quantity: 18 boxes and 16 Map folios (ca. 6 cubic ft.)
Access: Access is restricted due to on-going conservation issues. Prior approval of the Associate Librarian for Manuscripts and Special Collections is required before access to the papers is granted.
Acquisition: Accretion to Van Rensselaer Manor papers, ca. 1913
Processed By: Fred Bassett, Senior Librarian, Manuscripts & Special Collections, 1999; Revised 2007; 2015

Scope and Content Note:

These papers consist of land survey field books, survey bills, and map folios of Renselaerswyck that were compiled chiefly by Job Gilbert, John E. Van Alen, and William Cockburn from about 1785 to 1800.  The survey field books contain the actual land surveys and plats (drawings of parcels of land) of many individual lots in both East and West Manor.  The surveys detail the distance between compass degree points which was generally measured in chains at the time. See chart below for further information regarding units of measurements commonly found in the surveys.  Total acreage is also recorded in the description of the lot as well as remarks on the characteristics of the land, such as fertility of the soil, type of timber, and other information regarding agricultural value of the land. Descriptions may also indicate the date when the lease was executed. 

Most of the surveys are found in bound volumes that are organized by the names of townships used by the surveyors.   Some of these volumes also include an index to the names of tenants of a particular farm lot.   In addition to the field books are found many loose survey bills and plats that are also arranged under the name of a particular township. A series of related map folios of East Manor townships and southwest corner of the West Manor complement the surveys by showing all the lots of a given townships.  The name(s) of the individual or party that hold title to a particular lot are identified on these maps. Both the surveys and maps are surprisingly very accurate, considering the rugged wilderness of much of the manor lands in the late eighteenth century, as well as the seemingly primitive instruments in use at this time. 

The Hudson River divided the Rensselaerwyck into the East Manor and the West Manor.  The East Manor lands included all of Rensselaer County south of Lansingburgh, Schaghticoke, Pittstown, and Hoosick.  John Van Alen and Job Gilbert, the principle surveyors of the East Manor, created divisions named Elizabethtown, Philipstown, Roxborough, Greenbush, Schodack, Stephentown, Middletown, and Little Hoosick.  Elizabethtown included the present town of Brunswick and part of the City of Troy. Greenbush included lands that are presently situated in the City of Rensselaer, East Greenbush, North Greenbush, and the western parts of Postenkill and Sand Lake. Roxborough included the present town of Grafton and the western part of Petersburgh.  Philiptown included the present town of Nassau and the western part of Stephentown. Middletown included chiefly the eastern portions of the present towns of Poestenkill and Sand Lake and the western portion of Berlin. Little Hoosick encompassed the present town of Petersburgh and the eastern portion of Berlin.

All of Albany County was included in the West Manor except the City of Albany, the southeast portion of the Town of Coeymans and the northern part of the Town of Watervliet (now the Town of Colonie). William Cockburn, Jacob Winne, and John Preston were the surveyors for many of the West Manor lots.  Land records related to the West Manor cover primarily the southwest corner that now comprises the towns of Berne, Knox, Rensselaerville, and Westerlo. 

Land Survey Terms—1790 Definitions

Common units measurement found in surveys.

Acre The (English) acre is a unit of area equal to 43,560 square feet, or 10 square chains, or 160 square poles. It derives from a plowing area that is 4 poles wide and a furlong (40 poles) long. A square mile is 640 acres. The Scottish acre is 1.27 English acres. The Irish acre is 1.6 English acres.
Chain Unit of length usually understood to be Gunter's chain, but possibly variant by locale. The name comes from the heavy metal chain of 100 links that was used by surveyors to measure property bounds.
Gunter’s Chain Unit of length equal to 66 feet, or 4 poles. Developed by English polymath Edmund Gunter early in the 1600's, the standard measuring chain revolutionized surveying. Gunter's chain was 22 yards long, one tenth of a furlong, a common unit of length in the old days. An area one chain wide by ten chains long was exactly an acre. In 1695 Queen Elizabeth I had the mile redefined from the old Roman value of 5000 feet to 5280 feet in order for it to be an even number of furlongs. A mile is 80 chains.
Furlong Unit of length equal to 40 poles (220 yards). Its name derives from "furrow long", the length of a furrow that oxen can plow before they are rested and turned. See Gunter's chain.
Link Unit of length equal to 1/100 chain (7.92 inches)
Pole Unit of length and area. Also known as a perch or rod. As a unit of length, equal to 16.5 feet. A mile is 320 poles. As a unit of area, equal to a square with sides one pole long. An acre is 160 square poles. It was common to see an area referred to as "87 acres, 112 poles", meaning 87 and 112/160 acres.

Below are some of the terms that are frequently found in remarks by the surveyors that described the soil conditions and other physical characteristics of the land.

“Strong Soil” Loamy, firm, hard, and compact
“Middling Soil” Tolerable, barely acceptable
“Indifferent Soil” Moderate or of middle rank
“Cold Soil” Hydric or great tendency to hold water
“Uneven” Hilly or rolling terrain
“Vly” Dutch term for swamp or marsh (wetlands)
“Rock Oak” Chestnut oak (Quercus Montana)
“Fir” Balsam fir (Abies balsamca)

Container and Item List:


Box Folder Description
1 1 Elizabethtown Book “A” (Brunswick and part of Troy), ca. 1789-1796. John E Van Alen, surveyor. 1 v. (87 p.); 34 cm.; index
1 2 Elizabethtown Book “B” (Brunswick and part of Troy), ca. 1790-1796. John E Van Alen, surveyor. 1 v. (55 p.); 34 cm; index
1 3 Elizabethtown Book “C” (Brunswick and part of Troy), ca. 1790. John E Van Alen, surveyor. 1 v. (ca. 56 p.); 34 cm; index (A note written on the cover states that the surveys in this volume were transcribed in Elizabethtown (Brunswick) Survey Books “A” and “B”)
1 4 Elizabethtown: Surveys for various plats of land done primarily by Evert Van Alen, circa 1790s; 10 items
1 5 Elizabethtown: Surveys for various plats of land done primarily by Evert Van Alen, circa 1790s; 11 items
1 6 Elizabethtown: Surveys of lands held by Daniel and Peter Fonda.  Evert Van Alen and John R. Bleecker, surveyors, ca. 1790s; 5 items
1 7 Elizabethtown (Brunswick): Surveys of lands held by Hendrick
Gardenier, ca. 1790s; John E. Van Alen, surveyor;  9 items.
1 8 Elizabethtown (Troy): Surveys of lands held by Johannis Van Buren and Col. Stephen J. Schuyler, ca. 1790s;  Evert Van Alen, surveyor; 6 items
1 9 Elizabethtown (Brunswick): Surveys of lands held by Nicholas Wager (Weger), ca. 1788-1794.  Michael Vandercook, surveyor.  12 items.
1 10 Elizabethtown: Surveys of various plats of land by Michael Vandercook, ca. 1788.  8 items.
1 11 Elizabethtown: Survey bills and plats of various lots, ca. 1788-1792.  9 items.
1 12 Brunswick: Survey of Reformed Dutch Church lands, ca. 1813-1814.  William McManuss, surveyor.  4 items
Troy: Nail factory lots held by Jeremias Lansing; surveys by Evert Van Alen, ca. 1847.  2 items.
2 1 Greenbush Survey Book “A” Part I  (p. 1-48). John E.Van Alen, surveyor, ca. 1787-1795.  1 v.; 32 cm.; unbound; index.
2 2 Greenbush Survey Book “A” Part II (p. 49 -94), ca. 1787-1895. John E.Van Alen, surveyor.  1 v.; 33 cm.; index.
2 3 Greenbush Survey Book “A” Part III (p. 95-141), ca. 1787-1895. John E.Van Alen, surveyor.  1 v.; 33 cm.; index.
2 4 Greenbush Survey Book “B”, ca. 1787-1795.  John E.Van Alen, surveyors.  1 v. (55 p.); 32 cm.; index.
2 5 Greenbush: Surveys of various lands by John E.Van Alen, ca, 1787-1795.  .  13 items.
2 6 Greenbush: Surveys of various lands by John E.Van Alen, ca, 1787-1795;  12 items.
2 7 Greenbush: Surveys of lots held by David De Friest by John E. Van Alen, ca. 1794; 6 items.
2 8 Greenbush: Survey field notes of various lots by John R. Bleecker, ca. 1780s;  5 items.
2 9 Greenbush: Survey field notes of lands of Jacob Glen and Philip Wendell, ca. 1790s;  8 items
3 1 Schodack Survey Book “A” Part I (pp. 1-47), ca. 1790-1796. John E.Van Alen, surveyors;  1 v.; 30 cm.; index.
3 2 Schodack Survey Book “A” Part II (pp. 48-79), ca. 1790-1796. John E.Van Alen, surveyors. 1 v.; 33 cm.; unbound; index.
3 3 Schodack Survey Book “B”, ca. 1788-1796. John E.Van Alen, surveyors.  1 v. (48 p.); 33 cm.; unbound; index
3 4 Schodack Survey Book “C”, ca. 1790-1796. John E.Van Alen, surveyors.  1 v. (25 p.); 30 cm.; unbound; indexed.
3 5 Schodack: Survey bills and plats, Evert Van Alen, surveyor, ca. 1803-1846.  1 v. (21 p.); 33 cm.; unbound.
3 6 Schodack: Surveys of landholdings of Barheyt, Schermerhorn, Ten Eyck, Van Buren, and Van Valkenbergh.  John E. Van Alen, surveyor, ca. 1789-1797.  12 items.
3 7 Schodack: Land surveys and plat maps of various lots surveyed by John E. and Evert Van Alen, ca. 1790-1799.  12 items.
3 8 Schodack: Land surveys of Ostrander and adjoining lots.  John Van Alen, surveyor, ca. 1790-1797. 7 items.
3 9 Schodack: Land surveys and plat maps of lots held by Jonathan and Tobias Witbeck and saw mill lot of McKown and Lansing. John E. Van Alen, surveyor, ca. 1789-1797. 8 items.   
3 10 Schodack (Nassau): Land surveys of Thomas Tobias lot and vicinity. John E. Van Alen, surveyor, ca. 1788-1790. 7 items.
3 11 Schodack: Draft and sketch maps, ca. 1765-1790.  6 items.
4 1 Roxborough (Grafton) Survey Book “A”, ca. 1787-1797.  John E. Van Alen, surveyor.  1 v.  (37 (74) p.); 33 cm.; index.
Town also included lands presently situated in the western part of Petersburgh.
4 2 Roxborough (Grafton) Survey Book “B”, ca. 1793-1803.  John E. and Evert Van Alen, surveyor.  1 v.  (29 (58) p.); 33 cm.; index.
4 3 Roxborough (Grafton) Survey Book “C”, ca. 1792-1795.  John E. Van Alen, surveyor.  1 v. (48 (96) p.); 33 cm.; index.
4 4 Roxborough (Grafton) Survey Book “D”, ca. 1790-1793.  John E. Van Alen, surveyor.  1 v. (62 p.); 33 cm.; index.
4 5 Roxborough (Petersburgh): Book of land surveys of lots presently situated in northwest corner of Petersburgh.  Lots surveyed ca. 1790-1810.  1 v. (18 p.); 33 cm.; no index.
4 6 Roxborough (Grafton): Land surveys and plat maps of various lots.  John E.Van Alen, surveyor, ca. 1787-1803. 
15 items.
4 7 Roxborough (Grafton): Land surveys and plat maps of various lots.  John E.Van Alen, surveyor, ca. 1793-1808. 
9 items.
4 8 Roxborough (Grafton): Land surveys related to the northern boundary line of the town, ca. 1800s.  15 items.
5 1 Field book of Middletown, surveyed in the year 1789, Job Gilbert. 1 v. (148 p.); 32 cm.; indexed
Information is organized by lot number and notes added later regarding the conveyance of the land.
5 2 Middletown: Land survey bills and plats of lots surveyed by Job Gilbert, ca. 1787-1789.  9 items.
5 3 Middletown: Land survey bills and plats of lots surveyed by Evert Van Alen, 1797-1803.  7 items.
5 4 Middletown: Land survey bills and plats of lots surveyed by Evert Van Alen, 1795-1806.  8 items.
5 5 Middletown: Land survey bills and plats of lots surveyed by John and Evert Van Alen, 1795-1804.  7 items.
6 1 Philipstown (Nassau and Stephentown) Survey Book.  John Van Alen, surveyor, 1787.  1 v. (204 (416) p.); 39 cm.; bound; index.
7 1 Stephentown and Roxborough Survey Book, ca, 1789-1803. John E. Van Alen, surveyor. 1 v. (61 p.); 33 cm.; index (Stephentown: folios 1-25; Roxborough: folios 26-61)
7 2 Stephentown Survey Book, ca. 1788-1806.  John Van Alen, surveyor.  1v. (48 (96) p.); 32 cm.; index.
7 3 Stephentown:  Book of surveys of various lots copied from other books, ca. 1840s. 1 v. (10 p.); 33 cm.
7 4 Philipstown: Survey bills and plats of various lots, 1789-1790.  John Van Alen. Job Gilbert, and Evert Yates, surveyors.  11 items.
7 5 Philipstown: Survey bills and plats of various lots, 1792-1805.  John and Evert Van Alen, surveyors.  8 items.
7 6 Philipstown: Survey bills and plats of various lots situated along Kinderhook Creek, 1786-1814. John and Evert Van Alen, surveyors.  9 items.
7 7 Philipstown and Stephentown: Survey bills and plats of various lots, 1791-1799. John and Evert Van Alen, surveyors.  5 items.
7 8 Philipstown and Stephentown: Survey bills and plats of various lots, 1790-1807.  William Douglas and others, surveyors. 11 items.
7 9 Stephentown: Survey bills and plats of various lots, 1795-1805.  William Douglas, surveyor. 11 items.
7 10 Stephentown: Survey bills and plats of various lots, 1795-1805.  William Douglas, surveyor. 8 items.
7 11 Stephentown: Survey bills and plats of various lots, 1795-1805.  William Douglas, surveyor. 10 items.
7 12 Stephentown: Survey bills for various lots, 1786-1787. Noah Ely, surveyor.  34 items,
7 13 Stephentown: Survey bills for Lots in the Stephentown Gore, 1786-1787. Noah Ely, surveyor.  21 items.
8 1 Petersburgh Survey Book “A” ca. 1787-1793. John Van Alen and others, surveyors. 1 v. (60 (120) p.); 32 cm.; index.
8 2 Petersburgh Survey Book “B”, ca. 1790s.  1 v. (61 p.); 31 cm.; index. (mostly numbered lots; some farms leased ca. 1810s)
8 3 Little Hoosick Survey Book “A”, ca.1790-1795. John Van Alen and others, surveyors. 1 v. (48 (96) p.); 32 cm.; index.
Lands are presently situated in Berlin and Petersburgh.
8 4 Little Hoosick Survey Book “B” ca.1791-1805. John Van Alen and others, surveyors. 1 v. (55 (110) p.); 32 cm.; index.
8 5 “Little Hoosick Surveys: Petersburgh and Berlin Office”, ca. 1840s.  1 v. (40 p.); 33 cm.; index.
9 1 Petersburgh: Surveys of lots situated in east mountain region near the Vermont border, ca. 1800-1840.  2 items.  20 p.
9 2 Petersburgh: Surveys of unnumbered lots east of Grafton town line, ca. 1790s. 11 p.
9 3 Petersburgh: Surveys and plats of lots held by Abraham Ten Broeck, ca. 1791.  John Van Alen, surveyor. 5 items.
9 4 Petersburgh: Surveys and plats of lots in the subdivision of David Davis farm, ca. 1801. 4 items.
9 5 Petersburgh: Surveys and plats of lots held by Benjamin Randall, ca. 1791.  John Van Alen, surveyor. (returned by Evert Van Alen, ca, 1822)  12 items.
9 6 Little Hoosick (Berlin and Petersburgh): Survey bills and plat s of various lots, ca. 1791-1813. John and Evert Van Alen, surveyors. 11 items.
9 7 Little Hoosick (Berlin and Petersburgh): Survey bills and plats of various lots, ca. 1793-1814. John and Evert Van Alen, surveyors. 13 items.
9 8 Little Hoosick (Berlin and Petersburgh): Survey bills and plats of various lots, ca. 1787-1803. Hezekiah Hull, surveyor. 12 items.
9 9 Little Hoosick (Berlin and Petersburgh): Survey bills and plats of various lots, ca. 1787-1803. Hezekiah Hull, surveyor. 18 items.
9 10 Little Hoosick (Berlin and Petersburgh): Survey bills and plats of various lots, ca. 1787. Hezekiah Hull, surveyor. 10 items.
9 11 Little Hoosick (Berlin and Petersburgh): Survey bills of various lots, ca. 1787-1803. Hezekiah Hull, surveyor. 15 items.
9 12 Little Hoosick (Berlin and Petersburgh): Survey bills of various lots, ca. 1786. William Hull surveyor. 15 items.
9 13 Little Hoosick (Berlin and Petersburgh): Survey bills and plats of various lots, ca. 1780s.  Various surveyors.  10 items
9 14 Little Hoosick (Berlin and Petersburgh): Survey bills and plats of various lots, ca. 1787-1789.  Robert Perrigo, Jr., surveyor. 20 items
9 15 Little Hoosick (Berlin and Petersburgh): Survey bills and plats of various lots, ca. 1787-1789.  Robert Perrigo, Jr., surveyor. 10 items
10 1 East Manor Survey Book, ca. 1790-1796.   Includes surveys and plats of lots in Middletown, Philiptown, Stephentown, and Little Hoosick.  John E. Van Alen, surveyor.  1v. (79 p.); 34 cm.; index.
10 2 East Manor: Surveys and plats of lots situated in Elizabethtown, Greenbush, Middletown, and Schodack, ca. 1790-1796. John Van Alen, surveyor.  14 items (from unbound book); index.
10 3 East Manor: Surveys and plats of lots situated in Elizabethtown, Greenbush, Middletown, and Schodack, ca. 1790-1796. John Van Alen, surveyor.  13 items (from unbound book); index.
10 4 East Manor: Surveys and plats of lots situated in Greenbush, Schodack, Philiptown, and Petersburgh, ca. 1790-1796. John Van Alen, surveyor.  16 items (from unbound book); index.
10 5 East Manor: Surveys and plats of lots situated in Greenbush, Middletown, and Schodack, ca. 1790-1796. John Van Alen, surveyor.  30 items (from unbound book); index.
11 1 Berne: Record of leases by lot number, ca. 1790s. 1 v.
(ca. 200 p.); 21 cm.
11 2 Berne: Survey field notes and remarks of numbered lots by William Cockburn, ca. 1780s. 1 v. (461 p.); 26 cm.
12 1 “Manor of Rensselaer, 1789 [Book] B”.  Surveys of various lots situated in the West Manor by Jacob Winne. 1 v. (Fire salvage restoration).
12 2 West Manor Survey Book, ca. 1789.  John Preston, surveyor.  1v. (Fire salvage restoration).
13 1 West Manor: Survey of lots along the Great Western Turnpike, 1834. 1 v. (98 p.) (Fire salvage restoration)
13 2-3 West Manor: Survey of lots along both sides of the Schenectady Turnpike, 1802. John Preston, surveyor. 1 v. (240 p.) (Fire salvage restoration)
14 1 Bethlehem: Surveys and plats of lots by John R. Bleecker, ca. 1776.  3 items.
14 2 Bethlehem: Surveys and plats of lots, ca. 1780s.
14 3 Berne: Plat map of lots of John Schoonmaker, Christian Schoonmaker and Col. Abraham Wood.  Elijah Templeton, surveyor. 1841.  1 item.
14 4 Westerlo: Plat map of lot held by Deborah Powell and three vacant lots surveyed by John Preston, 1822.
14 5-8 Albany Water Works: Land titles, land surveys, plat maps, contracts, and specifications, 1813.
14 9-12 Papers related to Van Rensselaer vs. Wendell litigation, ca. 1822-1836.  Includes correspondence, affidavits, surveys, and plat maps.
14 13 Papers related to the eastern boundary of the manor, ca. 1780s.
14 14 Plat maps of land held by Jacob Lansing, ca. 1780s. 2 items.
14 15 Plat map of land held by Abraham Lansing, ca. 1780s. 1 item. (Files with extra-large manuscripts).
14 16-18 Miscellaneous surveys and maps.
15 1-17 Surveys and plats of lots in the West Manor, ca. 1785-1795. (Burnt and fragile materials; use restricted)
16 1-13 Survey and plats of lots in Guilderland, Saratoga Patent, Tioga County, New York, and Schenectady. (Burnt and fragile materials; use restricted)
17   Fragment of a survey field book and other documents. (Burnt and fragile materials; use restricted)
18   Original leather covers of East Manor Survey Books.
19 1-8 Photocopies of surveys of Berlin and Petersburgh Survey books in boxes 8 and 9

Inventory of Maps

The original maps are not available for general use.  Please consult photostatic copies available in the Manuscript /Archives Reading Room.

Item Description
Map 1 Map of the eastern half of East Manor.  Area includes Roxborough, Middletown, Little Hoosick, Philipstown, and Stephentown. 27 x 46
Map 2 Philipstown:  Map showing plats in the vicinity of Kinderhook Creek, ca. 1790s.  35 x 53
Map 3 Map showing all of East Manor as divided into lots,, ca. 1790s.  26 x 25
Map 4 Brunswick, [ca. 1800]. Scale: 20 chains per one inch. 33 x 47
Map 5 Elizabethtown, ca. 1790s.  Town was later renamed Brunswick.  24 x 48
Map 6 Greenbush, 1790; 39 x 50
Map of that part of Rensselaerwyck, which is called Green-Bush Surveyed into Farms in the Fall of 1788 and Spring of 1789 and laid down by scale of 20 chains to one inch by John E. Van Alen. 
Map 7 Greenbush, [ca. 1800].  This map is a revision of the previous map.  40 x 46
Map 8 Map of lands of Col. Walter S. Church and others, Greenbush, 1877. 27 x 30
Map 9 Philipstown, [ca. 1800].  Map boundaries include present Town of Nassau and eastern part of Stephentown.  35 x 46
Map 10 Roxborough [Grafton], 1791-1792;  35 x 47
Map of that part of Rensselaerwyck, which is called Roxborough Surveyed into lots in the years 1791-1792 and laid down to a scale of 20 chains to one inch by John E Van Alen. 
Map 11 Schodack, [ca. 1800s].  40 x 42
Map 11a Stephentown, ca. 1790s.  37 x 51
Map 12 A Map of South West part of the Manor of Rensselaerwyck run into lots A.D. 1787 by William Cockburn. Scale: 10 chains to one inch.  4 sheets as described below.  Includes table of lots and number of acres pert lot.  40 x 34
Map 12 N.E. Portion of map showing lots in area that are now situated in northeastern part of Town of Berne.
Map 12 N.W. Portion of map showing lots in area that are now situated northwestern part Town of Berne
Map 12 S.E. Portion of map showing lots in area that are now situated Town of Westerlo and part of present Town of Rensselaerville.
Map 12 S.W. Portion of map showing lots in area that are now situated in the Town of Rensselaerville.
Map 13 Town of Rensselaerville, [ca. 1820].  29 x 37
Map 14 Town of Westerlo, [ca. 1820]. 26 x 31
Map 15 Survey bill and plat, Cunningham  & Tracey farm, 22 April 1807
Map 16 Map of Middle Town, Manor of Rensselaerwyck surveyed in the year 1788 by Job Gilbert.  (Photocopy of  original map found in the Historic Cherry Hill Papers – Map collection)
Last Updated: April 17, 2017