Scope and arrangement
The James Riker Papers are a valuable source of information on colonial New York, the early settlement of Harlem and the history of the Riker family and their ancestors. The collection also provides insights on historical scholarship and family life during the nineteenth century. The papers consist of original documents from colonial New York, transcripts and translations of documents, genealogical notes, research notes and memoranda, personal and financial records, correspondence, writings by James Riker and printed matter pertaining to his writings. Highlights include Dutch manuscript records of the town of Harlem (New York City), 1662-1674, in Dutch; Kingston, N.Y., church accounts, 1681-1684, in Dutch; original papers relating to the Harlem Commons; transcripts and extracts of early records concerning Harlem, Newtown, Long Island, Brooklyn and other early communities in New York; maps of Holland and New York; Civil War correspondence and military records of James Riker's brother John Lafayette Riker, who was Colonel of the United States Army New York Volunteer Infantry 62nd Regiment ("Anderson Zouaves"); and photographs of the Riker family and their descendants.
The James Riker papers are arranged in eight series:
- 1864-1894, n.d..5 linear feet
James Riker's correspondence files contain incoming and outgoing letters regarding his historical and genealogical research, the publication of his books and pamphlets and, to a lesser extent, his personal affairs. Several items that postdate Riker's death in 1889 are addressed to his widow, Anna. The chronologically arranged letters in Series I are complemented by additional correspondence filed in Subseries VIIIA, described below.
- 1660-[1880s]5 linear feet
The bulk of this series is comprised of Dutch manuscript records of Harlem pertaining to real estate transactions, wills, surveyor's reports, auditor's accounts and lawsuits. Of particular interest are several volumes of the Council Minutes of New Harlem from 1602-1760. Also included are extracts from church records and other documents from several New York-area towns including Bergen, N.J., Brooklyn, Kingston and Newtown. The material is arranged by town name.
- 1840s-1880s1 linear foot
These files contain miscellaneous genealogical and demographic notes regarding New York families of the colonial era and their descendants. Interspersed among Riker's notes are extracts from church and town records.
- 1840s-1880s.5 linear feet
These pocket notebooks contain diary entries, appointments, accounts, memoranda, genealogical references and research notes on Harlem and Newtown. The sixteen volumes were numbered by James Riker; a volume numbered 18 is included in the 1997 additions to the collection and is filed in Subseries VIIID, described below. Notebook number 17 is missing.
- 1790-1873, n.d.1 linear foot
These files and volumes contain extracts from French and Dutch historical works, indexes to historical records and publications, notes of conversations with various persons regarding local history and genealogy, personal memoranda and maps.
- 1880-18811 linear foot
Filed here are a draft manuscript of Riker's History of Harlem (1881) and related research notes, and a few pages of personal reminiscences.
- 1840s-1880s2 linear feet
These volumes contain extracts, clippings and research memoranda drawn largely from New York state and town records. There is abundant information regarding New York-area marriages, births and wills during the colonial era, with a particular emphasis on Newtown. Also included is information regarding the participation of New Yorkers in the French-Indian War and the American Revolution.
- 1754-19894 linear feet
Additions to the James Riker Collection received by The New York Public Library in 1997 have been arranged into eight subseries which mirror the organization of the previously accessioned Riker materials described above. The eight subseries and their contents are described below.