The records comprising the Archives of the Holland Land Company, an early 19th-century Dutch conglomerate of six Dutch banking houses, document an essential component of Western New York history and represent a critical resource for scholarship within a variety of disciplines. These include history, geography, political science and economics, alongside considerable material for research on a more local or regional level by members of the general community and genealogists. As primary source documents, the records provide a unique insight into land speculation and land use development for the period of 1789 to 1869, from both foreign and domestic perspectives. The records also serve to highlight the crucial role performed by the Holland Land Company in the history of the United States in general and New York State in particular. The materials include investment records, land purchase negotiations, land surveys, financial records, land sales ledgers with contracts and payments, deeds, warrants, patents and tax assessments. Also included are court records and related papers and considerable correspondence between land owners, agents, bankers and the settlers who purchased the land. A significant portion of the materials are in English, though some correspondence is written in either French or Dutch.
While the original manuscript materials that comprise this digital collection are held by the Gemeentelijke Archiefdienst van Amsterdam (Municipal Archives of Amsterdam) in The Netherlands, the Daniel A. Reed Library of The State University of New York at Fredonia holds the entire extent of the collection in microfilm format (202 reels). The microfilm is a result of a project undertaken several decades ago by former Reed librarian, Franciska Safran. Through the generous support of a Regional Bibliographic Database Initiative (RBDB) grant from the Western New York Library Resources Council, 20 reels from this collection are now available in digital format. It is hoped that the remainder of the collection (182 reels) will eventually be digitized and made available on New York Heritage as funding is obtained. Previous digitization efforts funded by 2007 and 2008 RBDB grants focused solely on the digitization of nearly 1400 maps (from color microfiche) found in the Holland Land Company archives. Many of these maps are also found in the present digital collection, though with the added benefit of context, in that they appear alongside other documents according to the original order of the document groupings held at the Municipal Archives of Amsterdam.
As the collection is rather extensive, researchers are encouraged to first consult the Inventory of the Archives of the Holland Land Company 1789-1869 (Municipal Archives of Amsterdam, 1976) by Dr. Wilhelmina C. Pieterse, former Head Archivist of the Municipal Archives of Amsterdam. Dr. Pieterse’s guide provides a detailed description of materials, as well as numbers for the corresponding microfilm reel on which the materials (arranged by document groupings) appear. This information is critical to navigating the digital collection, as the materials were digitized in groupings to reflect this guide. Specifically, the title and description for each document grouping is based on how it appears in the Inventory. For example, the materials found in document group 786 may be found by searching the Title field for the text string “document group 786”. Additionally, the identifier for each digital grouping is based on the reel number and document group for the physical materials, again reflected in the Inventory. For example, the document grouping 786 is found on reel 175. Thus, the identifier for those materials appears as: XFM003_HLCr175_v786, wherein “r” denotes the reel and “v” denotes the document grouping. Alternatively, researchers may simply browse materials by using the pull-down menus on the left.
The Daniel A. Reed Library Archives & Special Collections of The State University of New York at Fredonia remains grateful to the Gemeentelijke Archiefdienst van Amsterdam (Municipal Archives of Amsterdam) and the Nederlandse Document Reproductie B.V. for their collaborative roles in the original microfilming project of the Holland Land Company Archives.