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The Central New York Military Tract map

Updated: Jun 3, 2021

Before I began my genealogy quest, all I knew about my family was that they had lived in central New York for as long as anyone could remember. Whereas most of my friends knew when and where their ancestors had emigrated from - France, Germany, etc., it seemed my roots sprang up out of the ground in upstate New York and I knew nothing about them.

Until fairly recently, the region was mostly comprised of small towns and villages nestled between massive farms, fields, and forests. Even today, in many of these towns, little has changed in the past century. It seemed such an insignificant place. How did my ancestors end up here? And where did they come from?

It wasn't until I began researching that I learned about the Military Tract, also called the Central New York Military Tract and the New Military Tract. Soldiers who enlisted to fight in the American Revolution were promised a minimum of 100 acres of land for their service. However, this wasn't tempting enough for some and because by 1781 they had only enlisted about half the quota set by Congress, the payment was increased to 600-5,500 acres, depending on rank.

To my surprise, at least ten of my ancestors fought in the American Revolution. This explains how they ended up in Central New York, primarily in Cortland, Tompkins and Cayuga Counties!

The Military Tract encompassed all of Cortland County, Cayuga County, Onondaga County, Seneca County, as well as parts of Tompkins County, Oswego County, Schuyler County and Wayne County. Lots were drawn in 1791 and they were required to settle the land by 1799.

Most of the soldiers were from eastern New York, Massachusetts and the rest of New England and many sold their lots instead of relocating. Of course there were disputes, mostly caused by swindlers "selling" land that did not belong to them. Some buyers arrived and found out they had been duped when others proved ownership of the land.

The townships which were created from the Military Tract were surveyed and named after classical Greek and Roman names, as well as famous authors, as shown here. These towns for very large and were eventually divided and subdivided. Choose a town for details and possible resources for finding more information about the place and the people who lived there:

1. Aurelius (#8)

2. Brutus (#4)

3. Camillus (#5)

4. Cato (#33)

5. Cicero (#6)

6. Cincinnatus (#25)

7. Dryden (#23)

8. Fabius (#15)

9. Galen (#27)

10. Hannibal (#2)

11. Hector (#21)

12. Homer (#19)

13. Junius (#26)

14. Locke (#18)

15. Lysander (#1)

16. Manlius (#7)

17. Marcellus (#9)

18. Milton (#17)

19. Ovid (#16)

20. Pompey (#10)

21. Romulus (#11)

22. Scipio (#12)

23. Sempronius (#13)

24. Solon (#20)

25. Sterling (#28)

26. Tully (#14)

27. Ulysses (#22)

28. Virgil (#24)


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