New York, Yates County, Swann Vital Records Collection - FamilySearch Historical Records

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New York, Yates County, Swann Vital Records Collection, 1723-2009
This article describes a collection of records at
Yates, New York, 
United States
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Flag of New York
US Locator Map New York Yates.PNG
Location of Yates County, New York
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Location of New York
Record Description
Record Type Vital
Collection years 1723-2009
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
Yates County Genealogical and Historical Society, Oliver House Museum, and Underwood Museum

What is in This Collection?[edit | edit source]

The collection consists of an index and images for the Swann Vital Records Collection from the Yates County History Center in Penn Yan, New York, comprising birth, marriage, and death information for the first white settlers of what is now Yates County, their descendants, and those connected with Yates County and surrounding areas. The predominant source is newspaper obituaries and marriage announcements, and the earliest source is family bibles, family registers, marriage certificates, and clergyman marriage registers. The collection is named for Frank L. Swann (1894-1987), who was the Yates County Historian from 1956 to 1980.

The Swann Collection cotains birth, marriage, and death information for the first white settlers of what is now Yates County, New York, their descendants, and those connected with Yates County and surrounding areas. The earliest settlers were part of a religious migration from Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania under the leadership of the charismatic Quaker evangelist Jemima Wilkinson (1782-1819). Their first settlement, named Hopeton (1788), was on the west shore of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lake area of western New York near what is now the village of Dresden.

The collection is named after its compiler Frank L. Swann (1894–1987) who began a 40-year newspaper career at the age of 18, eventually becoming general manager and treasurer of the Chronicle-Express, one of the Finger Lake area’s major newspapers. With a history degree from Cornell University and a penchant for genealogy, he served as the Yates County Historian from 1956 until 1980, Town of Milo Historian, and during the 1970’s president of New York’s fourth-oldest existing historical society: Yates County Genealogical & Historical Society, now Yates County History Center.

As a newspaper executive, Swann enjoyed convenient access to an archive of papers from Yates County and surrounding areas, the earliest dating back to 1818. In 1958 it was said of him: "Mr. Swann has among many other things to collect data, gone back through all of the back copies of the county paper and card filed the births, deaths, and marriages of vital statistics of Yates County families from an early day." From newspapers he compiled tens of thousands of original, copies, typed, and handwritten transcriptions of obituaries and marriage announcements; and to a much lesser extent, birth announcements. While the majority of his compilation comes from newspapers, he gleaned information from many other sources, including from family bible records, a few with dates extending back to the 1600s; family registers; cemetery records and inscriptions; physicians' birth records; typed BMD compilations, some identifying Civil War veterans; clergyman’s marriage registers; marriage and death certificates; memorials and other types of printed announcements; and early assisted living center admission records.

Swann placed most of his collection on 4 x 6 inch cards arranged in alphabetical order. A complete record fit on the front side of cards for about 80% of his Card File. The card’s backside was used when additional space was required, and sometimes to record the newspaper source, abbreviated, in the form YCW for Yates County Wig and YCC for Yates County Chronicle, followed by year of publication and issue. For indexing purposes, front/back cards were treated as a single image by making the index for the front exactly the same as the index for the back so search results would include both pieces of the record. This creates no problem for the user other than to understand that when examining computer search results for this collection some records are in two pieces.

Not all of the Swann Collection is on cards however. Large and fragile documents were archived. “Reference cards” specifying record type(s); record description complete with all surnames pertaining to the image; inclusive dates; and archive location were later placed in the Card File to make patrons browsing the Card File aware of the archived documents and how to retrieve them. Hundreds of additional images from clergyman’s marriage registers, typed compilations were archived without reference cards because of the large number of names they contain, using a printed inventory instead. Since reference cards are unnecessary for computer searching and image retrieval, they were not indexed, but they do provide helpful browsing markers.

Many of the Swann’s records are primary sources, as they predate statewide registration of vital records. Although New York made several partially successful attempts to enact registration of vital records, and finally in 1880 passed legislation making it law, even then it was not generally complied with until 1890 for deaths, 1908 for marriages, and 1915 for births.

  • Vital records card file (85,968)
  • Bible records (111)
  • Births, marriages, deaths with no card reference (119 indexed)
  • Large format vital records (439)
  • Vital collection records folders (604)

Although the Swann Collection is relatively small, contained in its images is a treasure trove of genealogical and family history information, much of it primary because of the early dates. Fortunate are the descendants, both present and future generations yet unborn, of those early Yates settlers whose records have been lovingly preserved to help them learn from whence they came.

Swann used local vernacular such as SS, no 9, or County Home when recording places in Yates County and some surrounding areas. These have been translated into proper place names for the index, for example: Penn Yan, Yates County, New York for SS (Soldiers and Sailors Hospital); Town of Seneca, Ontario County, New York for no 9 (popular historic Seneca Presbyterian Church); and Town of Jerusalem, Yates County, New York for County Home. Extensive place lists compiled to aid indexing are available on the Yates County History Center website under Genealogy & Historic Research, New York, Yates County Swann Vital Records Collection, 1723-2009. These lists are designed to be searched on a computer (off-line) using the Adobe Reader Find option found in its Edit dropdown menu.

To Browse This Collection[edit | edit source]

You can browse through images in this collection using the waypoints on the Collection Browse Page for New York, Yates County, Swann Vital Records Collection, 1723-2009.

Image Visibility[edit | edit source]

Whenever possible FamilySearch makes images and indexes available for all users. However, rights to view these data are limited by contract and subject to change. Because of this there may be limitations on where and how images and indexes are available or who can see them. Please be aware some collections consist only of partial information indexed from the records and do not contain any images. For additional information about image restrictions see Restrictions for Viewing Images in FamilySearch Historical Record Collections.

What Can This Collection Tell Me?[edit | edit source]

The following information may be found in these records:

Marriages and deaths

  • Surname and given names for both spouses
  • Titles such as Mr, Mrs, Miss, Dr, Rev
  • Age (death records)
  • Date the event occurred
  • Place where event occurred


  • Surname and given names of child
  • Son or Daughter in Title field when the record doesn’t contain given names
  • Birth date
  • Place where birth occurred

Collection Content[edit | edit source]

How Do I Search This Collection?[edit | edit source]

Before searching this collection, it is helpful to know:

  • The name of the individual
  • The approximate date of the birth, marriage, or death

Search the Index[edit | edit source]

Search by name on the Collection Details Page.
  1. Fill in the search boxes in the Search Collection section with the information you know
  2. Click Search to show possible matches

View the Images[edit | edit source]

View images in this collection by visiting the Collection Browse Page:
  1. Select Record Type
  2. Select Surname Range and Year Range to view the images

How Do I Analyze the Results?[edit | edit source]

Compare each result from your search with what you know to determine if there is a match. This may require viewing multiple records or images. Keep track of your research in a research log.

What Do I Do Next?[edit | edit source]

When you have located your ancestor’s record, carefully evaluate each piece of information it contains. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details. The information may also lead you to other records about your ancestors.

I Found the Person I Was Looking For, What Now?[edit | edit source]

  • Add any new information to your records
  • Use the names, dates, and places as the basis for family groups or to build a family pedigree
  • Use the dates along with places or residences to help you locate the family in other records, such as census, church, and land records
  • Use age listed to determine approximate birth dates
  • Use burial information to locate mortuary or funeral records, which could include names and addresses of family members
  • You may need to compare the information of more than one family or person to make this determination
  • You may need to search for both their Indian name and their English name
  • Be aware that, as with any compiled source, transcription errors may occur
  • Compile entries for individuals and families with the same surname
  • Continue to search the records to identify children, siblings, parents, and other relatives who may have lived in the same locality or nearby. This can help you identify other generations of your family. Repeat this process for each new generation you identify

I Can’t Find the Person I’m Looking For, What Now?[edit | edit source]

  • Check for variant spellings of the surnames.
  • Check for an index. Check online or with local historical and genealogical societies.
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby counties.
  • Consult the New York Record Finder to find other records

Research Helps[edit | edit source]

The following articles will help you in your research for your family in the state of New York.

Citing This Collection[edit | edit source]

Citations help you keep track of places you have searched and sources you have found. Identifying your sources helps others find the records you used.

Collection Citation:
The citation for this collection can be found on the Collection Details Page in the section Citing this Collection.
Record Citation:
When looking at a record, the citation can be viewed by clicking the drop-down arrow next to Document Information.
Image Citation:
When looking at an image, the citation is found on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen.