Ontario County, New York Genealogy

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This article is about a county in New York state. For other uses, see Ontario (disambiguation).

United States Gotoarrow.png New York Gotoarrow.png Ontario County

This page describes sources of genealogical data about Ontario County, New York Genealogy families, including links to smaller localities at the bottom of this page. New York-related pages show useful statewide sources. United States pages explain the terminology and contents of genealogical records.

Ontario County, New York
Map of New York highlighting Ontario County
Location in the state of New York
Map of the U.S. highlighting New York
Location of New York in the U.S.
Founded January 27, 1789
County Seat
Address 27 North Main Street
Canandaigua, New York 14424
Ontario County Website

Historical Facts

Parent County

27 January 1789: Created from Montgomery County.[1]

Neighboring Counties

Livingston · Monroe · Seneca · Steuben · Wayne · Yates[2]

Boundary Changes

  • 1791: A part taken from Montgomery County.
  • 18 March 1796: Steuben County set off.
  • 30 March 1802: Genesee County set off.
  • 1814: A part taken from Steuben County.
  • 23 February 1821: Livingston and Monroe counties set off.
  • 5 February 1823: Yates County set off.
  • 11 April 1823: Wayne County set off.

Record Loss


Bible Records

  • 1581–1917 New York, Family Bible Records at Ancestry– ($); Index. Database is a collection of genealogically important records taken from the Bibles of colony and state residents. Reveals the Bible's original owner, brief record of descendants,and a particular event such as birth or marriage as recorded in Bible.


Business Records and Commerce


Cemetery records often reveal birth, death, relationship, military, and religious information.

Online Grave Transcripts Published Grave Transcripts County Cemetery Directories
Findagrave.com* Family History Library* Findagrave.com*
Interment.net* WorldCat* Tombstone Transcription Project*
Cemetery Site*   NYGenWeb Cemeteries*
New York Gravestones*   epodunk*
NYGenWeb Cemeteries*   Billion Graves*
Billion Graves*   Names in Stone*
Names in Stone*    
Ontario County AHGP    
   *See the New York Cemeteries page for details about each site.


For information and tips on using and accessing online census records, see New York Census.


U.S. Census Mortality Schedules for New York, 1850-1880:

  • Available online at Ancestry ($).
  • Deaths are included for the 12 months prior to the census, 1849-50, 1859-60, 1869-70, and 1879-80 beginning 1 June and ending 31 May of the census year.[3]
  • Basic contents of the records include: Name, sex, age, color, marital status, place of birth, month of death, occupation, and cause of death. 1870 also has parents' birthplace. 1880 lists how long a resident of the county.
  • Also on FHL Films 1415128–42.
Source 1825 1835 1845 1855 1865 1875 1892 1905 1915 1925
Family History Library - - - Yes Yes Yes Yes - Yes Yes
FamilySearch Historical Records - - - - Yes Yes Yes - - -
New York State Library - - - Yes Yes Yes Yes - Yes Yes
Ancestry.com - - - - - - - - - -

New York State 1865 and 1875 Census Marriage, Mortality; and 1865 Soldier Mortality records:

  • Images available online at New York State Census, 1865 and New York State Census, 1875. Click on the link to go to the page, then click on the ‘Browse through images’ link and select your county, then select an ancestor's town and browse to the end of the population schedule until you find the Marriage, Mortality, and 1865 soldier mortality schedules.
  • Includes marriages and deaths for the 12 months prior to the census, ending 1 June of the census year.
  • Marriage entry content: Husband's name, wife's name, ages and previous marital status, month and day and place of marriage, and church or civil ceremony.
  • Death entry content: Name, age, sex, color, marital status, month and day of death, native state or country, occupation and cause of death.
  • 1865 deaths of officers and enlisted men entry content: Name, age, marital status, citizenship status, enlistment date, original regiment, original rank, regiment at death, rank at death, promotions, death date and place, manner of death, surviving associates, and burial place.
  • Also on microfilm. See the Family History Library line in the above State Census Chart.

Church Records

Church records are good substitutes for birth, marriage, and death information and are most often found on a local city/town or county level.  Published and manuscript church records can be found at public, university, and private libraries.

For a brief general history of denominations and a guide to finding various New York denomination's records, see New York Church Records Wiki page.

Cornell University's Study Center for Early Religious Life in Western New York has an online guide to Ontario County church records in their library.

Court Records

Ancestors may have also been involved in municipal, state, or federal court cases. See also New York Court Records and United States Court Records.

The Ontario County Records and Archives Center has placed many of their historical records on-line including various court records.

Crime and Criminals


Ethnic, Political, or Religious Groups




  • The original owners of this land were men of Massachusetts and Connecticut, Nathan Gorham and Oliver Phelps.
  • They were trustees for thirteen Dutch investors in Amsterdam. Trustees were needed because aliens were not then permitted to own land. This tract was later known as The Holland Purchase.
  • The legal transactions and recordings were conducted in Massachusetts by the General Court assembled and passed in that House of Representatives and Senate. It was approved by John Hancock, the governor of Massachusetts, before it was recorded in New York. Many transactions thereafter recorded include the grantors Nathan Gorham of Massachusetts and Oliver Phelps of Connecticut. A deed in 1817 from Oliver Phelps daughter, Mary, granted land to the school commissioner of Connecticut.
  • More about Bristol and Our History, by the Town of Bristol, has a fairly lengthy history of the town (accessed 19 October 2011).

Land and Property

  • The indenture was procured from Chiefs and Warriors of the Five Indian Nations inhabiting this land by “fee or right of soil” in July of 1789. Nathan Gorham of Charlestown, Massachusetts and Oliver Phelps claimed title and began their development of this New York land from that date forward while never establishing residence in that State.
  • The original records for the Holland Land Company are in Holland. SUNY (State University of New York) at Fredonia microfilmed the records and they are in SUNY Brockport, New York.
  • Also available at familysearch.org "Holland Land Company Records"

The Ontario County Records and Archives Center has placed many of their historical records on-line including the following:

  • Real Property Deeds for the period 1789-1845.
  • Chattel Mortgages 1830's-1860's
  • Chattel Morgages 1840's-1870's

Additional resources

Additional resources for Ontario County, New York Genealogy land records may be found in the Ontario County, New York Genealogy – Land Records topic page of the FamilySearch Catalog . Copies of records on FHL microfilm and microfiche may be available for viewing at various Family History Centers. Copies of books found in the FamilySearch Catalog may be found in WorldCat catalog and ordered from your local library through interlibrary loan. Explore how to search the FamilySearch Catalog and the Worldcat Online Catalog.



Early migration routes to and from Ontario County for European settlers included:



Civil War

Town registers. The New York town clerks kept a bound register of all soldiers from their town serving in the Civil War 1861-1865. Registers are arranged by county, and town. Some town registers are missing. The registers include an index at the start of each town.

Content. Many register entries include full name, residence, date and place of birth, parents names, marital status, date of enlistment and muster and rank, discharges, death, or promotion.

Access. The original registers are at the New York State Archives in Albany, New York. Microfilm copies are found at the Family History Library (FHL Film 1993401-37). They are also indexed and available at Ancestry.com ($).

Available towns. Registers are available for: Bristol · Canadice · Canandaigua · East Bloomfield · Gorham · Hopewell · Naples · Phelps · Richmond · Seneca · Victor · West Bloomfield.

Regiments Service men in Ontario County served in various regiments. Men often joined a company (within a regiment) that originated in their county.[5]

- 126th Regiment, New York Infantry
- 138th Regiment, New York Infantry
- 148th Regiment, New York Infantry
- 154th Regiment, New York Infantry
- 160th Regiment, New York Infantry

The Ontario County Records and Archives Center has placed many of their historical records on-line which include the following military records:

  • Civil War Records
  • Civil War Pension Records
  • Military Commissions
  • Civil War Records from 1865 Census Records
  • Revolutionary War Pension Records

Naturalization and Citizenship




Poorhouses, Poor Law, etc.

Probate Records

Probate records including original estates and wills for New York are held in the office of the county Surrogate Court beginning in 1787, or when the county was formed. Prior to 1787, most are housed at the New York State Archives. See New York Probate Records for more information about using probate records.
Content:  Probate Records may give the decedent's date of death, names of his or her spouse, children, parents, siblings, in-laws, neighbors, associates, relatives, and their place of residence.
Record types:  Wills, bonds, petitions, accounts, inventories, administrations, orders, decrees, and distribution.

Probate Petitions

In 1830, state law required the Surrogate Court clerk to issue a probate petition for a deceased individual with property. This petition, unique to New York, usually lists the deceased's death date. It also lists the heirs, their relationship to the deceased, and their residence. Alice Eichholz, Red Book: American State, County and Town Sources, 3rd ed. (Salt Lake City: Ancestry Pub., 2004), 479. At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27rb 2004. Henry B. Hoff, "Navigating New York Probate," American Ancestors 12 (Fall 2011): 57.

These petitions are often found in the estate files and can be obtained from the county Surrogate Court.

Online Abstracts and Indexes

Online Probate Records

Original county-by-county New York, Probate Records, 1629-1971 are available free online at FamilySearch. To access these records, click Historical Records below, then click "Browse through 1,630,900 images". Then select the county name, and then the probate records and time of interest.

  • Historical Records - Ontario County: Decrees, Minutes, Orders, 1862-1872; Guardianship records, 1814-1817, 1862-1876; Inventories, 1797-1822; Letters of administration, 1851-1864; Letters of administration, Letters of testamentary, 1838-1865; Letters of guardianship, 1830-1862; Letters, 1830-1838, 1864-1870; Orders, 1862-1874; Probate records, 1818-1851, 1862-1924; Real estate records, 1851-1883; Surrogate record index, 1789-1965; Wills, 1795-1823, 1830-1875

Probate Records on Microfilm

Additional Probate Indexes and Abstracts

Additional probate indexes or abstracts can sometimes be found using search phrases such as Ontario County, New York Genealogy probate wills in online catalogs like:


Cornell University, Guide to Historical Resources in Ontario County, New York Repositories. ([Ithaca, New York]: New York Historical Resources Center, Olin Library, Cornell University, 1984). At various libraries; FHL Book 974.786 A3 and film 1597833 Item 4. Includes index. Includes references to some family histories and genealogies.

Archives, Libraries and Museums
  • Pioneer Library System has names and addresses of libraries in Ontario, Livingston, Wayne, and Wyoming counties.
- Ontario, Wayne, Wyoming, Livingston Counties (OWWL) Catalog
  • Bristol Library, 6750 County Rd 32 Canandaigua, NY 14424, phone: (585) 229-5862. Web site explains about the local history and genealogy resources with information about the Town of Bristol Historian. Requests may made to the town historian.

The Ontario Records Management Officer has marriage, divorce, probate, court land, Revolutionary War, naturalization records as well as state census and county maps. For further information about where the records for Ontario County are held, see the Ontario County Courthouse page.

County Clerk

County Clerk
20 Ontario Street
Canandaigua, NY 14424
Phone: (585) 396-4200

County Historian

County Historian
3051 County Complex Drive
Canandaigua, NY 14424
Phone: (585) 396-4034

Genealogical Resources: The County Historian may provide access to obituaries, vital records, church records, maps, and family files or journals. Some historians provide search services for their office records and others may refer you to local genealogists who research in the area.

Family History Centers

Family History Centers (FHCs) are branches of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and are located all over the world. Their goal is to provide resources for family history research.

The main FHC for Ontario County, New York Genealogy is the Palmyra New York Family History Center. For additional nearby Family History Centers, search online in the FHC directory.


Ontario County Historical Museum

Ontario County Historical Museum List of references you can request to be searched.

Central New York Genealogical Society[7]
Box 104, Calvin Station
Syracuse, New York 13205
E-mail: CNYSG@yahoo.com

Member queries; surname research list; online resources; six meetings/year; publishes Tree Talks (At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 974.7 B2t) quarterly with annual index.
Counties served: Albany, Allegany, Broome, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Chemung, Chenango, Clinton, Columbia, Cortland, Delaware, Erie, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Genesee, Greene, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Livingston, Madison, Monroe, Montgomery, Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Orange, Oreleans, Oswego, Otsego, Rensselaer, St. Lawrence, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, Washington, Wayne, Warren, Wyoming, and Yates.

Western New York Genealogical Society
P.O. Box 338
Hamburg, New York 14075-0338
Email: info@wnygs.org

Focus is on eight Western New York counties - Erie, Niagara, Genesee, Wyoming, Orleans, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany - which comprise the area of the original Holland Land Company purchase.

Social Group Online


Town Records

Town records in New York may include early births, marriages, deaths, divorces, local histories, selected military records, and town meeting minutes. Vital records from 1880/1882 are kept by town and village clerks, although some (Kent’s and Putnam Valley’s) are available in the County Historian’s Office. For further details, try the links to individual town Wiki pages found in Places. See also:

The County Archives has the following records:

  • 031 Petitions, Licenses, and recognizance to sell liquor (Tavern licenses) 1813-1878
  • 139 Monthly Reports of Hunting and fishing licenses, 1908-1938
  • 165 Certificates of Qualifications as Examiner in Lunacy, 1883-1947

Vital Records

Vital records of birth, marriage or death were first recorded at the local level in the village clerk, town clerk, or city clerk’s ledger book. If you know where a birth, marriage or death took place, a copy of the certificate or record may be obtained by writing to the town, village or city clerk. See also How to order New York Vital Records or order electronically online.

See the heading Places on this wiki page for links to local community wiki pages and their available records. See New York Vital Records for a discussion about beginning dates and availability of vital records in New York.

Use substitute records for birth, marriage, and death information. These substitute records include Bible Records, Cemeteries, Church Records, Newspapers, and Probate Records.


Early births were recorded on the town level and the years vary by town. (List of towns) The New York State Department of Health (state level) began recording births in 1881. Births were not recorded on the county level.

Birth Substitutes

  • See Town Clerks' Registers of Men who Served in the Civil War in the Civil War section of Military for birth information.

Early marriages were sometimes recorded on the town level and the years vary by town. In 1880, town clerks were to record the marriage and a copy was sent to the New York State Department of Health (state level). Town clerks continue to record marriages. The marriages in this county were recorded by the county clerk from 1908 until 1933.[8]

Marriage Substitutes

  • 1800–1855 New York Marriage Notices at Ancestry– ($); Index. This database is a collection of marriage notices published in newspapers around the state. Contains name of bride and groom, marriage date, marriage location, residence, and newspaper found in.
  • 1864-5, 1874-5 See Marriage Schedule information in the State Census section of Census for marriage information for 1864-5, and 1874-5.


All divorces were granted by the governor or legislature and were very rare.


All divorces were granted by the court of chancery. These records are found in the New York State Archives or for the New York City area at the New York County Clerk's office.These divorces were granted only on the grounds of adultery.


All divorces are handled by the county Supreme Court where the divorce was granted. Divorce files in New York are sealed for 100 years. Contact the County Clerk for information about divorce records.

Divorce judgment papers often include date and place of the marriage and the names and birthdates of any children. Local newspapers may publish notices of divorce actions.


Early deaths were recorded on the town level and the years vary by town. (List of towns) The New York State Department of Health (state level) began recording deaths in 1881. Deaths were not recorded on the county level.

Death Substitutes

  • 1849-50, 1859-60, 1869-70, 1879-80 See Mortality Schedule information in the Federal Census section of Census for death information.
  • See Town Clerks' Registers of Men Who Served in the Civil War in the Civil War section of Military for death information.
  • 1864-5, 1874-5 See Mortality Schedule information in the State Census section of Census for death information for 1864-5, and 1874-5.

Additional Resources

Additional resources for Ontario County births, marriages and deaths may be found in the New York, Ontario– Vital Records topic page of the FamilySearch Catalog . Copies of books found in the FamilySearch Catalog may be found in WorldCat catalog and ordered from your local library through interlibrary loan. Explore how to search the FamilySearch Catalog and the Worldcat Online Catalog.

Voting Registers



Wikipedia has more about this subject: Ontario County, New York


  1. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), 490. At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27e 2002.
  2. Handybook, 478.
  3. Arlene Eakle, and Johni Cerni, The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1984), 103. At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27ts.
  4. Compare the more northerly route in Handybook, 849, with the more southerly route described in Wikipedia contributors, "New York State Route 5" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_State_Route_5 (accessed 28 June 2011).
  5. Frederick Phisterer, New York in the War of the Rebellion, 3rd ed. (Albany, N.Y.: J. B. Lyon Company, 1912). Internet Archive digital copy; At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Film 1486494-96; Fiche 6083559-64; Book 974.7 M2p.
  6. About Abstracts of Wills, Admins. and Guardianships in NY State, 1787-1835 at New York Ancestors, accessed 8 December 2011, http://newyorkancestors.org/.
  7. Central New York Genealogical Society at http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nycnygs/index.htm (accessed 1 November 2011).
  8. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), 488-493. At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27e 2002.