Standing proudly on Main Street in Penn Yan is the anchor building of the Yates County History Center, the Oliver House Museum, one of three buildings comprising the YCHC. The Center, formerly Yates County Genealogical & Historical Society, is one of the oldest in NYS, has been actively collecting, preserving and interpreting history since 1860. Continue reading about us...

Open Tuesday - Friday 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
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Oliver House Museum
L. Caroline Underwood Museum
Scherer Carriage House Museum
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Research Resources Available At the L. Caroline Underwood Museum

The Spencer Research Center is located on the first floor of the L. Caroline Underwood Museum. The facilities containing genealogical information, publications, donated research and collected information on topics in Yates County's history. The Frank Swann Archives contain the Center’s manuscript and document collection.

Included in a Yates County History Center membership is the on-site use of the Spencer Research Center and our volunteers can provide historical and genealogical research at a rate of $20 per hour.

To help support the preservation and maintenance of the research facilities, non-members visiting the Spencer Research Center are charged a research fee of $5.00 per hour (minimum $5.00 per day, maximum $20.00 per day). Genealogical research is available for a fee of $20 per hour plus cost of copies/scans.  There is no guarantee of results.  Contact the office at (315)536-7318 to begin the research process.

Students doing research for a school project or paper are exempt.

Use this membership form to become a member today. 

New and updated research to add to our collection is always welcome. Please contact a staff member.

Cemetery Records

Most current and thorough information on all of Yates County cemeteries collected and published by Sherry E. Conybeare and Francis Dumas in a six volume set. These cemetery volumes are for sale in our Museum Gift Shop.

Census Indexes, 1790 - 1865

Complete index for records on file at the Yates County Historian Office.

Documentary Artifacts

Collection of materials including deeds (1792 - 1949), mortgages (1862 - 1915), diaries, almanacs, certificates, personal correspondence, etc.

Family Research

Family history researchers seeking New York State genealogical databases are advised to check FamilySearch often for published records available at their site.

Genealogy Articles

Abraham H. Bennett
Lodowick Disbrow
Samuel Fosdick Curtis
James Raplee
Robert Selden Rose
Hezekiah Townsend
Solomon D. Weaver

Local History Publications

Books and pamphlets related to many facets of Yates County history.

Marriage and Death Records, 1820's - 1990's

Information gleaned from area newspapers, genealogies, and other records.

New York, Yates County, Swann Vital Records Collection, 1723-2009

Swann Vital Records Collection, found at FamilySearch, is a digital index to 88,000 images located at the Yates County History Center, in Penn Yan, New York. FamilySearch is a world leader in capturing, indexing, preserving and providing online access to genealogy records.

The Swann Collection contains compiled genealogy and vital records gleaned from newspaper clippings, bible pages, and family records. Named for Frank L. Swann (1894-1987) who was the Yates County Historian from 1956 to 1980.

Non Yates County Place Names
Yates County Place Names

Penn Yan Academy Graduates

Listing of Penn Yan Academy graduates for the years from 1866 through 1949.

Penn Yan and Yates County Directories, 1879 - 1990

Penn Yan New York by W Wolcott, 1914

From the publishers, "We issue this brochure in the modest hope that it may contribute toward satisfying the demand, persistently expressed, for the portrayal of the beauties of Penn Yan and Lake Keuka..." The History Center has reprinted Penn Yan New York and has it for sale in the Heritage Books Gift Shop in the Underwood Museum..

School Records

Attendance records for some Yates County schools and information compiled by Ms. Jennie. Hyler of rural Yates County schools. Rural School Memories is a compilation cross section of one room schools throughout Yates County. At the end of the Rural School era there had been upwards of 104 active one room schools. The 350 plus page book serves to preserve the people and structures from this historic time. Copies are available in the gift shop for purchase and in the research center to use while on site.

Scrapbook Collections

The History Center has many scrapbooks in its collections. Some of these were assembled by Yates County local, town and village historians and many family historians. A few date back to the very early Yates County settlement period. They can be a valuable local history and genealogical resource to the researcher. Volunteers have assembled indexes for the scrapbooks that contain significant historic content. This content was often typewritten on onion skin paper and placed in the scrapbook itself. The Spencer Scrapbook document contains 963 pages in Adobe Acrobat text document format.

The indexes are keyword searchable, include the principal subject of the clipped article and ancillary information. Requests for a copy of a page containing your reference can be processed for a donation of $1.00 per page with a $5.00 minimum. Members receive this service free of charge. The original scrapbooks are housed in the archives of the Yates County History Center, 107 Chapel Street, Penn Yan, New York.

Penn Yan Historian, Catharine Spencer Scrapbook Index contains 47,000 entries from 1900 - 1975
George and Oliver Sheppard's Scrapbooks contain entries from 1903 - 1949
Maude Stiles scrapbooks covering the 1930's through 1980's

Special Collections

Collections of documentary artifacts and photographs including the Women's Christian Temperance Union; Jemima Wilkinson - The Publick Universal Friend; E. Ben Knight, John S. Hollowell, Verdi Burtch, the Oliver Family, GAR, and others.

Women Who Made A Difference

First-person recordings were made in the early 2000’s by members of the Yates County Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and feature Yates County life experiences from a women’s viewpoint.

Yates County Area Maps, 1790 - 1969

Including Sanborn insurance maps, wall maps with lot numbers and residences identified, and the 1876 Yates County Atlas, the only such publication for the area.

Yates County Historian

The Yates County Historian has custody or original copies of the Penn Yan Democrat from the last half-century of publication, 1898 through 1949. These records have been indexed, are in the County's possession and are available to researchers. Penn Yan Democrat Births, Marriages & Deaths 1899-1939 Index. Other local resources can be viewed at NYGenWeb for Yates County

Yates County History Files

Over 800 files of collected information by subject including mills, architecture, churches, farming, industry, and others. Indexed.

Yates County Newspaper Resources on Paper, Microfilm and Digital Format

Yates County (NY) newspapers on microfilm and paper at all NYS locations

The NYS Historic Newspapers website provides free, searchable online access to more than 11 million New York State newspaper pages. Beginning 2015, YCHC has generated more than 230,000 searchable pages of Yates County newspapers and made them available for online searching on NYS Historic Newspapers. A guide is available, General Comments and Search Examples to help you get started searching this valuable resource. A minor searching problem exists on the NYS Historic Newspapers website, click here for a workaround to handle this.

Training videos have been developed to assist navigating NYS Historic Newspapers; Spotlight on New Search Tools and Reintroduction to New York State Historic Newspapers.

Yates County Surnames

Files containing newspaper clippings, genealogies, family history publications, and other contributed information on Yates families.


Materials housed in our genealogical & historical vertical files are the result of donated research from many sources and intensive volunteer efforts over a number of years. We cannot be responsible for erroneous or incomplete information. Each researcher must determine the validity and pertinence of the information regarding his or her research.

Photocopying services are available for a nominal fee. Some material may be deemed too fragile for photocopying. Materials may be kept aside for returning researchers for up to five working days. After that, unless special arrangements are made, the material will be returned to the collection.


Open Tuesday - Friday 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
107 Chapel Street, Penn Yan, NY 14527
Phone 315.536.7318 | Fax 315.536.0976
Email YCHC | Email Webmaster
Friday, April 26, 2024 | Copyright © 2024

A community museum where every story matters!

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