New York Alien Depositions, 1825 – 1871
By Dwight Radford
There is an important database online that may provide a birthplace in Ireland for your ancestors. If your ancestor owned land in New York State, then you may find the following database helpful: “New York, Alien Depositions of Intent to Become U.S. Citizens, 1825-1871.” (Ancestry.com)
What is an Alien Deposition?
From 1825, an alien could buy land in New York if they had filed a deposition stating their residence in the state and intention to become a naturalized citizen. There are about 27,000 depositions (1825-1871) housed at the New York State Archives. Prior to the Ancestry database, the widely used index to these was Kenneth Scott and Rosanne Conway’s amazing work: New York Alien Residents, 1825-1848 (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1978). This book is also available on Ancestry.com.
Information in these depositions includes name, residence, date of deposition, and in many cases, birthplace, date of arrival and a woman’s maiden name. The deposition was valid for six years.
Women’s Studies and Alien Depositions
Prior to 1848, when a woman married, all her land or future lands went to her husband. She could not acquire property on her own. After 1848, in New York, a woman could buy or inherit property on her own. This right was protected, as if she were a single woman. From that year on, about one-third of the depositions were filed by women. These will provide her husband’s name.
Research Strategies for Alien Depositions
As valuable as this source is, keep in mind that the depositions do not always list the birthplace. Many of the early papers do provide this information. However, the collection is valuable in that it can help with your female ancestors, establish migration patterns, and identify potential relatives.
The index is searchable by first and last name as well as time period. You cannot use place names, whether in Ireland or New York. Scott and Conway’s book, mentioned above, does allow you to scan through the indexed book, which does provide geographic place names.
Alien Depositions are another tool in your toolbox. If you do not identify the birthplace, then pursue other strategies such as the ones mentioned above. If you know that your immigrant ancestor owned land in New York State from 1825 through 1871, then this collection is a must.
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