The Holland Land Company at SUNY Fredonia

WNYLRC held its penultimate 50th anniversary celebration last night at the Reed Library, The State University of New York at Fredonia. Our host library provided a nice assortment of refreshments for people to munch on as they socialized and checked out the exhibit.




The topic of the exhibit, and that evening’s speaker, was the Holland Land Company, who you probably know were a group of Dutch investors who bought and sold much of the land in Western New York in the early 1800s. The exhibit featured posters explaining some of the organization’s story, as well as historical artifacts.




Karen Livsey was our speaker for the evening, discussing her two books from the early 1990s: Western New York Land Transactions, 1804-1824 and Western New York Land Transactions, 1825-1835. Together, both volumes index the transactions, including name, date, lot, and location, making them a boon to genealogists and historians.

To write the books, she had gone through the Reed Library’s microfilm of the Holland Land Company’s land transactions and correspondence. She worked with about 5 rolls of the over 200 rolls of film held in the library. She created the database using dBase IV software, and sometimes occupied 3 microfilm readers at once, for ease of cross-referencing.


Karen shared many facts that she came across in her research:

  • Buyers did not get a deed until the land was fully paid for, so many landowners were not listed.
  • Most lots were 6×6 miles, but many purchases were for only parts of a lot, such as 100 or 200 square acres.
  • Some down payments were made in the form of cattle or grain.
  • With cash, some down payments were as low as 25 cents.

After Karen’s educational presentation, librarian Scott Richmond invited the attendees to browse the books (multiple copies were available) and the microfilm. One could look up a name in the book, identify the roll of film, and get the transaction records right there at the library’s microfilm reader.


Laptops were also available, showing the library’s collection of Holland Land Company maps on New York Heritage. Library Archivist Kim Taylor also mentioned that she is currently working on having more of the film digitized for New York Heritage, including the transaction paperwork and correspondence.

Our series of anniversary events, comprised of one event in each of our six counties, concludes next month when we hold our 50th Annual Meeting in Ellicottville. This year, in addition to the usual annual meeting activities, there will be a WNYLRC retrospective, ceremonial cake cutting, and basket raffles. You can also register for additional activities such as beer tasting, golf, and a sky coaster ride. You can register for the meeting now!