Southold’s history begins like most of Long Island when the land was created by the retreat of the glaciers. Eventually it was inhabited by the Algonquin people who lived across most of the northeast.
The first Europeans to settle here arrived in 1638 and established two small farms in the Hashamomuck area. It was not until 1640 that settlers arrived with the intent of establishing a community. Reverend John Young originally from Southwold, England by way of Salem, Massachusetts, gained the backing of the Colony of New Haven, in what is now Connecticut to establish a “plantation” or sub-colony across Long Island Sound on the sparsely settled North Fork of Long Island.
New Haven Colony provided the funds to purchase rights to use the land from two sources, the local Native American Sachems and from James Farrett, the representative of Earl of Stirling, who was given the island by the British Crown. First known as Yennicott, the community flourished under the guidance of the church. The government of Southold Town was formed in 1649, when the plantation felt established enough to purchase its independence from New Haven.
The town stretched across approximately 63 miles from Fishers Island to what is now Wading River. In 1792, the town feeling that it was too spread out petitioned New York State to divide itself into two parts. “…the reputed line of division between the parishes of Ocquebouge and Mattertuck; shall from and after the first Manday in April next, be erected into a distinct and separate town, by the name of River Head…” [Laws of New York, chp 24 pg 286]
From that point to this Southold Town flourished as farming and fishing community. Beginning in the mid- 20th century viniculture has become one of the largest crops of the north fork. The many wineries have breathed new life into the agricultural landscape of the town and have made Southold a popular summer destination.
Genealogical Research, an Explanation
Because family history is one of the fastest growing hobbies in America and since Southold is such an old town, each year I receive more and more genealogical queries.
I am unable to answer most of these requests for several reasons: Records of Southold Town’s first eleven years are missing and even those early records that exist are incomplete. There are no records of births, deaths, or marriages until about 1881 after New York State mandated that municipalities keep a record of vital statistics.
For births, deaths, and marriages after 1881 you can call (631)765-1800 or apply to:
Southold Town Clerk
P.O. Box 1179
Southold, NY, 11971
If you believe your ancestor came from Southold’s only incorporated village, call (631) 477-2385 or write to:
Village of Greenport
236 Third St.
Greenport, NY 11944
A charge of $11 is set by the state for each certificate you need for genealogical purposes.