Pre-County and County Courts


PRE-COUNTY COURTS

The Court of Fort Orange and Beverwijck

     This court was established in 1652.  One of the earliest courts 
in the region, its jurisdiction covered Fort Orange, Beverwijck 
(Albany's original Dutch name), Schenectady, Kinderhook, Claverack, 
Coxsackie and Catskill.  The court heard civil cases and non-capital 
criminal cases.  Capital cases were heard in Stuyvesant's court, 
the Central Council, on Manhattan.  In 1664, the English took 
control of the colony of New Netherlands, renamed it New York 
and with this change, the Court of Fort Orange and Beverwijck 
ceased to function.

MINUTES. (1652-1659, not inclusive). 1.5 Volumes.  Arrangement: 
Chronological. Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk.  Handwritten.  
In Dutch.  AVAILABLE ON MICROFILM.

     This series summarizes the day-to-day proceedings of the court.  
Some of the more common cases were those involving property 
disputes, debts, slander and the use of abusive language.  
New laws were also published in these minutes.
     The original manuscripts are in Dutch, but typed translations made 
earlier this century are available in bound volumes or on microfilm. 
A more thorough discussion of the Fort Orange Minutes, 
as well as a more recent translation of the minutes, is available in 
a printed bound volume entitled Fort Orange Court Minutes 
by Charles T. Gehring; published by the Syracuse University Press. 
A copy is housed at the Hall of Records.
     The Minutes for the years 1658-59 are included in the first half of a 
book labeled Fort Orange Proceedings, The second half of the book 
contains such records as deeds, bills of sale, Indian treaties and powers 
of attorney; entries for the year 1657 are missing from this series.

The Court of Albany, Rensselaerwyck and Schenectady

     This court replaced the Court of Fort Orange and Beverwijck 
in 1664 with the establishment of English rule.  However, 
despite English rule the official administrative language remained Dutch 
until 1685.  It was at the end of that year that the court was abolished 
and its duties were transferred to the new Mayor's Court.

MINUTES. (1668-1685, not inclusive). 4 Volumes.  Arrangement: 
Chronological. Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk.  Handwritten.  
In Dutch.  AVAILABLE ON MICROFILM.

     These records are basically the same as the Fort Orange Court Minutes; 
only the name of the court has changed.  The minutes summarize 
the day to day proceedings of the court or chronicle such cases 
as property disputes, debts, and slander.  A complete, typed translation 
of the minutes in bound volumes or on microfilm is available.  
A more thorough discussion of the minutes, as well as a complete 
translation, is available in printed bound volumes entitles Minutes of 
the Court of Albany, Rensselaeryck and Schenectady, Volumes one 
through three, published by the University of the State of New York 
at Albany, 1932,   Entries for the year 1674 are missing from this series.

COUNTY COURTS

The Court of Sessions

     When the colony of New York established counties in 1683, each 
county established a Court of Sessions.  Originally, this court heard 
civil and criminal cases, but after 1691 it became restricted to 
criminal matters that were not capital cases.  Among the more 
common cases were assault and burglary, less common were 
attempted rape, bigamy and receiving stolen goods.  The 
jurisdiction of the Court of Sessions was eventually 
absorbed by the County Court.


MINUTES. (1685-1895, not inclusive). 42 Volumes.  
Arrangement: Chronological.  Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk.  
Handwritten.  AVAILABLE ON MICROFILM.

     These are useful records for obtaining important facts of the case.  
Often a case can be traced from beginning to end, since each case 
has more than one entry.  The last entry, which records the 
convict's sentence, also reveals the crime, when it occurred and 
upon whom.  Other information includes rulings on motions, orders 
of the court, and the swearing in of jurors and witnesses.  The 
following gaps exist in this series: 1690-1716, 1724-1762 
and 1782-1799.


RECORD OF CONVICTIONS. (1849-1899. 4 Volumes.  
Arrangement: Chronological then Alphabetical.  
Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk.  Handwritten. 
AVAILABLE ON MICROFILM.

     This series and the Minutes have similar information.  These 
records give each convicts name, crime, when it was committed, 
upon whom and the sentence received.


SURETY OF THE PEACE, SET BY RECOGNIZANCES. (1873). 1 Volume.  
Arrangement: Chronological.  Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk.  
Handwritten.

     This is a record of surety bonds posted by one accused of 
threatening violence upon another.  The information recorded 
is the name of the bond-holder, the amount of the bond, the 
crime threatened, the name of the party threatened and a witness 
to the threat.  The most common threats recorded were of 
murder and assault.  Unfortunately, this is the only volume 
and it contains only a few entries.


REGISTER OF INDICTMENTS. (1875-1884). 2 Volumes. 
Arrangement: Chronological.  Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk. 
Handwritten.  Indexed.

     These records give the name of the accused, the alleged crime and 
how the case was disposed.  They also indicate whether the accused 
was indicted and the case sent to trial, or the accused was cleared of the 
charges.


REGISTER. (1901-1906). 1 Volume.  Arrangement: Chronological.  
Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk.  Handwritten.

     This series appears to be a record of arraignments.  It reveals when 
the cases were received, the charge, the arraignment date, the plea and 
the name of counsel.  About half the cases have a recorded 
outcome: "case dismissed", "fined and discharged", 
or "pled guilty, suspended sentence".


The Court of Common Pleas

     The Court of Common Pleas was established in 1691 to take over 
the civil jurisdiction of the Court of Sessions.  It continued until 
1847 when its duties were absorbed by the County Court.


MINUTES. (1763-1849). 20 Volumes.  Arrangement: Chronological.  
Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk. 
Handwritten.  AVAILABLE ON MICROFILM.

     These records contain little information on the facts of each case.  
The titles of the case (e.g., Jones vs.  Smith), the date and the final 
judgement is just about all that is recorded.  Why the case was brought
to trial and what it was about is impossible to ascertain from this series.


ORDER BOOK. (1803-1832). 1 Volume.  Arrangement: Chronological.  
Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk.  Handwritten. 
AVAILABLE ON MICROFILM.

     This series is a record of court orders.  The most common orders were 
for people to "enter a plea within twenty days" or to pay a judgement.


FILINGS. (t790-1822). 1 Volume.  Arrangement: Chronological.  
Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk.  Handwritten. 
AVAILABLE ON MICROFILM.

     This volume is a judgement docket which is arranged in a printed 
chart containing the following information: who won the case, 
the amount of damages awarded and whether the judgement was 
obtained through a verdict, confession or default by the defendant.

County Court

     The Albany County Court was established in 1847.  In that year 
it took over the jurisdiction of the Court of Common Pleas, which 
heard civil cases, and in 1896 it absorbed the Court of Sessions 
which tried criminal cases.  Therefore, since 1896 the court has 
had both criminal and civil jurisdiction in Albany County.


MINUTES. (1850-1911, not inclusive). 28 Volumes. Arrangement: 
Chronological.  Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk.  Handwritten.

     This series pertains only to civil cases and mostly records orders 
of the court.  Two of the more common suits or matters recorded 
were those involving land disputes and those 
concerning incompetent persons.


CRIMINAL CAUSES. (1896-1911). 2 Volumes.  Arrangement: 
Chronological.  Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk.  Handwritten.

     These records continue the earlier series of minutes.  Among 
the information recorded were jurors lists, names of witnesses and 
defendants, motions to set aside verdicts, and sentences.  Some 
important information is located under the arraignment 
section, such as when and where the defendant was born, 
his or her address, age and occupation.  The court heard an 
array of cases, from violation of the liquor law to murder.

CIVIL CAUSES. (1911-1943). 11 Volumes.  Arrangement: 
Chronological. Agency 0rigin: Albany County Clerk.  Handwritten.

     This series continues the earlier series of minutes.  It records orders, 
petitions to the court, affidavits, etc.  The bulk of this series deals 
with cases involving the appointment of a guardian for an infant (minor) 
or an incompetent.


RECORD OF CONVICTIONS. (1931-1933). 1 Volume.  Arrangement: 
Chronological Then Alphabetical.  Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk.  
Handwritten.

     This volume is a record of persons convicted of a crime in the 
County Court.  The following information is recorded: the convict's name, 
the crime, where it was committed, upon whom, the sentence 
received and the name of the jail or juvenile facility the convict 
was sent to.  Most of the cases involve felony crimes, such as 
burglary, assault, rape, and attempted murder, for which most 
convicts received a sentence of at least on year.


RECORD OF CASES. (1895-1899,1931). 1 Volume.  Arrangement: Chronological. 
Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk. Handwritten.

     This volume is a record of convictions which provides the convict's 
name, the crime committed, where it occurred, upon whom 
and the sentence received.

JUDGEMENT ROLLS. (1828-1922, BULK 1869-1898). 50 Cubic Feet. 
Arrangement: Chronological.  Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk. 
Handwritten.

     This series contains an array of records pertaining to court cases.  
The bulk of these records is from civil cases.  The most common 
materials are pleadings, summons to appear in court and orders for a 
sheriff to seize land or personal property for the satisfaction of a law 
suit.  Probably the most complete and helpful information on a case 
can be found in this series.  The pre-1896 boxes contain only civil 
cases and the post- 1896 boxes contain only a few criminal cases.  
It should be noted that, according to James Folts of the New York 
State Archives, these may be filed papers from the Court of Common Pleas.


INDICTMENTS. (1909-1910). 1 Cubic Foot.  Arrangement: Chronological. 
Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk.  Handwritten.

     This series records the date the indictment was filed, the plea, 
trial date, verdict, sentence, and a list of witnesses who testified 
in the case.  A brief description of the crime is also recorded.

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