Sunday, July 8, 2012

How Harry Porter's first deed was recorded in a county he had nothing to do with: Beware peripheral vision!

Last week I spent some time focusing on Harry Porter, the husband of my mother-in-law's great-grand aunt Elizabeth Bassett. Back in 2009 he had only been in my genealogical "peripheral vision." In other words, my interest in him had extended only to his relationship to another (non-problematic) relative. He wasn't crucial to that project, but I was just interested enough at the time to jot down the book and page numbers for his property transactions, as recorded in Orleans and Monroe Counties, New York.

Now that I'm focusing on him, I went back and copied and read the deeds themselves. What a revelation! I had always wondered what he'd been doing in Orleans County in 1825 when he never showed up there again.

Well, he was never there. That deed was made in 1819, when Harry bought 1.5 acres in the Town of Murray in Genesee County. Later that year, the Town of Clarkson was split off from the Town of Murray. In 1821, the Town of Clarkson and more was taken from Genesee County and went into the making of Monroe County. In 1824, Orleans County was split off from Genesee County, taking with it the smaller Town of Murray. Harry and his family lived for the next 15-20 years in Clarkson, where he'd made his first land purchase and where all his later land dealings took place as far as I know.

(If you're getting dizzy, take the map cure. For the county part of these boundary changes, check out the maps at the on-line Atlas of Historical County Boundaries from Chicago's Newberry Library.)

In 1854, some diligent person from Orleans County went down to Batavia (the Genesee County seat) and laboriously copied out by hand every pre-1824 deed recorded in the area that later became Orleans County -- or what he thought was the area. The Town of Murray was in Orleans County in 1854, of course, but not the part of it that became Clarkson. So Harry's 1819 deed was erroneously re-recorded in Orleans County after the fact, in Deed Book A.

Fortunately, the book was labeled properly and the recopied deed included mention of the book and page in Genesee County records. Even more fortunately, when I in turn went to Batavia, I was pleased to find that the original 1819 recording of the deed was far more legible than the 1854 copy!

The rewards of going to the original just keep coming.

Harold Henderson, "How Harry Porter's first deed was recorded in a county he had nothing to do with: Beware peripheral vision!," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 8 July 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

1 comment:

Debbie V. said...

I wonder if I will be the only one who at first glance thought you said Harry Potter instead of Porter :)
I actually had to retrace my reading to see it wasn't - lol.