Friday, October 12, 2012

First Reformed Church Book of Indentures, 1788-1823

Portion of the first page in the First Reformed Book of Indentures, 1788-1823.

This blog entry is written by volunteer Paul Contarino.

Over the last couple of months I had the pleasure of working on the First Reformed Church’s Book of Indentures, 1788-1823. For those who are unfamiliar, an indenture can be defined as a legal contract involved with a purchase. In this case, all pertained to purchases of land.

The project involved creating high-resolution digital images of each page and extracting information from the indentures to create a spreadsheet. This spreadsheet serves as a finding aid and guide to the Book of Indentures. Fields in the spreadsheet were created with respect to what information might be potentially useful to a researcher, such as the names of the parties involved. The extracted information is subdivided into numerous categories such as page number, transaction date, and name of grantee. The description field contains information about the property, bordering properties and their owners, and any defining landmarks such as streams, trees, and roads. Information about the area of land is provided in morgans, followed by the payment date and method as well as present value. Any commuted land rent is listed and the date given. Memoranda are essentially amendments made to the indenture itself; these notations have been fully transcribed. A New Ledger book, also in the holdings of the First Reformed Church, is referenced by a number of indentures. There are some transactions in which the church elders signed. Some pages contain either a red seal, a non-red seal or no seal at all. Click here to open the complete spreadsheet.

Until I started working on this project, I did not realize the First Reformed Church possessed a lot of land. The ledger proved to be in surprisingly good condition considering its age, and the handwriting fairly legible. It is important, however, to have a digital copy not only for increased user access but also for preservation. Unfortunately, there is the real possibility of a flood, fire or theft.  I look forward to continuing to work with the First Reformed Church and the Schenectady County Historical Society in safeguarding the past.  On a final note, I extend my gratitude to both institutions.

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