Mapping Vermont

New_Hampshire_grants_(1776)-croppedAs part of the Society’s Ask a Genealogist service, I was recently asked about locating someone in post-Revolutionary War Strafford, Vermont. The time frame in which this person lived reminded me of the special considerations for this region, which was once hotly disputed  by New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and even Massachusetts.

The territory that would become today’s Vermont was claimed by both New Hampshire and New York in the mid-eighteenth century, a squabble that took years to sort out. In general the land grants made by New Hampshire governor Benning Wentworth between 1749 and 1764 lay in territory already claimed by New York. A royal decree of 1764 awarded jurisdiction over the disputed territory to New York, which created four counties: Albany (established in 1764), and from Albany County Gloucester (1766) and Charlotte and Cumberland Counties (1772). In 1770, the New York Supreme Court declared all the Wentworth land grants invalid, at which point the residents in this area rebelled and declared themselves an independent republic. These residents created the jurisdiction of Rutland Shire (1777–1781) which become a very large Rutland County between 1781 and 1785. This republic remained a free “country” until after the American Revolution, when Vermont was admitted as the fourteenth of the United States in 1791. Some beautiful maps created by Jalanne C. Barnes outline the boundaries of these different jurisdictions and are available for 1772–17771777–1781,  and 1781–1785.

Strafford, in today’s Orange County, Vermont, began its existence in 1761 as one of the Wentworth land grants.  As of 1764, it was briefly a part of New York’s Albany County, then a part of Cumberland County starting in 1772. Following the 1777 creation of the Vermont Republic, Orange, Windham, and Windsor Counties were established and Cumberland County abolished in 1781. Regardless of the jurisdictional dispute between New York and New Hampshire, much of the vital and land records remained with the Vermont towns recording them, while probate records are held by the probate district within the county – Strafford is covered by the Bradford Probate District, for which digital images may be viewed at https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1807377.

Overall, Vermont is a major crossroad of westward migration. Many of its settlers were from New Hampshire, but the enticement of land attracted many from Massachusetts and Connecticut as well. Their children and grandchildren in turn moved westward, following land opportunities as their parents and grandparents did.

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About Alice Kane

Alice assists NEHGS constituents with family history research on the 4th floor in the microtext and digital collection area and also serves in the new 1st floor patron services area, orienting and facilitating research for the thousands of first-time visitors to the NEHGS headquarters. Prior to joining the staff, she was a librarian at the Boston Public Library for 19 years. Alice is an expert in Chinese and Chinese-American genealogy and also has extensive experience with French-Canadian, Irish, and German research. She earned a bachelor’s degree in History from Harvard University.

9 thoughts on “Mapping Vermont

  1. I wonder if this is why I am not able to find an ancestor who was supposedly born in what we now know as Albany, NY in 1794, married ./ lived in Dalton and Hinsdale, MA and then settled in Fair Haven, VT?

  2. After finding an ancestor in three different counties in18th century Virginia and finding all three counties now in an area of West Virginia it didn’t seem logical for this family to move a very short distance so frequently. I started looking for maps and found this Atlas of Historical County Boundaries. http://publications.newberry.org/ahcbp/ I found they likely lived in one spot and the county, and eventually the state, changed around them. This is now one of my favorite research tools. With just a couple of clicks it’s easy to determine if a family actually relocated or a new county was formed which only seemed to change their location. It can answer a lot of questions very quickly.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing this resource! I’ve spent the last 3 years working on one of my “brick walls” in Lewis County, NY and have never found a good map of county boundaries. Maybe I can finally find my Dennis E. Hubbard’s origin and parents!

  3. Thanks for the links to the early maps of Vermont. Some of my research has included the town of Cabot, which itself has been in Orange County, Caledonia County and now Washington County from the period of 1791-1855.

    1. You’re welcome, Kelly! Since finding these maps, I refer to them frequently when working on reference questions in this area and time frame. Alice

  4. Such a relief to hear about these changing of borders and names of counties and so forth for Vermont. I had been discouraged trying to trace my roots back from a 2nd great grandfather who settled in Battle Creek MI about 1860 whose ancestors seemed to go back to Genesee New York and then back earlier generations to the VT/NY area. It gives me renewed hope to track them down. Although it sounds very challenging.

  5. My 4th great grandfather, Abraham Jackson, Sr., was born in 1726 in Wilton Connecticut. He was the first legal settler of the town of Wallingford, Rutland County, Vermont, having moved there in 1773 from Cornwall, Connecticut with 10 children at the age of 48. He owned 1000 acres of land, was the first deacon of the Congregational Church, first town representative and first town clerk. In 1778 he was chosen selectman, tythingman, treasurer and “lister brander” as well. Subsequently, he acquired a considerable tract of land which became known as “Jackson’s Gore”. He settled there in 1791; the land was later organized into the town of Mt. Holly.

    In July, 1776 he attended the Convention at Dorset and signed the document that resulted from that meeting only days following the Declaration of Independence (an extract from the Convention relating to support for the Revolution is found at http://www.rowleyresearch.org/Other/Stories/mono-008.html; a copy of the earliest transcribed version of the full Convention in PDF form — which also contains language relating to the conflict with NY and NH and to the founding of Vermont — may be found at http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/39234061/person/19342087412/media/6?pgnum=1&pg=32814&pgpl=pid%7cpgNum). He attended every important convention thereafter to 1791. He was the first representative to the meetings of the Committee of Safety and Correspondence, the start of organized government. He was moderator of the first town meeting of Wallingford after Vermont became the 14th state.

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