The Edward Floyd De Lancey Collection of Family Papers

Friday, February 1, 2019 by Emily Chapin

The Museum recently completed a project to process, arrange, describe, catalog and digitize the Edward Floyd De Lancey Collection of Family Papers (1660–1904). The collection documents the lives of several related wealthy and prominent families from the New York City region – the De Lancey, Jay, Floyd, and Jones families. The materials date from the early Colonial through the pre-Civil War years and include ample correspondence; legal, financial, and business documents; military papers and orders; genealogical material; personal writings; and a broad range of real estate documents.

The collection provides a rich and deep source of information about the personal and political lives of New York City-area Loyalists before, during, and after the Revolutionary War. The Jones Family sub-series in particular illustrates the difficult and dramatic choices individuals and families were required to make during the war. The collection as a whole is notable for the insight it provides into daily life, politics, and business, as well as the relationships within and among these families. A few highlights are materials related to the 1779 Act of Attainder and subsequent seizure of Loyalist properties in West Chester and Long Island, and 243 pieces of correspondence to and from John Jay, his son Peter Augustus Jay, his nephew Peter Jay Munro, and a young John Quincy Adams. Also notable is a formal, oversize 1687 deed that conveys a parcel of land on the south side of Long Island from Native peoples to first-generation immigrant Colonel Richard Floyd. The document is signed by Tobacus the Sachem, elder of the Unkechaug tribe of Long Island and bears the original wax seals.

The collection was compiled by Edward Floyd De Lancey (1821–1905), eldest son of Bishop William Heathcote De Lancey (1797–1865) and Frances Munro De Lancey (1797–1869). Edward was a lawyer, historian, and writer. He served as the second president of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, the first president of the Westchester County Historical Society, and lifelong member of the New-York Historical Society.

A second smaller collection, the De Lancey Family Papers (1659–1889), was given to the Museum in 1940. The collection contains materials of similar subject matter and related to many of the same family members as the Edward Floyd De Lancey Collection of Family Papers, but the two were maintained as separate collections in keeping with archival principles. Notable materials in the De Lancey Family Papers include a 1775 letter describing the Battle of Bunker Hill from Oliver De Lancey, Jr. to his father Brigadier General Oliver De Lancey; manumission documents; and one of the earliest known impressions of the Seal of the City of New York (1686).

Certificate issued by Nicholas Bayard admitting Stephen De Lancey a freeman and citizen of the City of New York. 1686. 40.190.1.

Images of the objects in these two collections can be found on the Museum’s online Collections Portal. Finding aids, including biographical information and family trees for the families represented in the collections, are linked here: Edward Floyd De Lancey Collection of Family Papers (1660-1904) and the De Lancey Family Papers (1659-1889).

This project was the first large digitization project for the Museum’s manuscript collection, and was made possible by the generous support of the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation.

By Emily Chapin, Collections Access Archivist

Emily Chapin oversees projects involving the Museum's Manuscripts and Ephemera holdings.

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