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Guide to the Relyea Family Papers
1839-1924 (bulk 1860-1900)
  MS 518

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400

@ 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Gregory Tavormina

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on November 02, 2011
Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Title: Relyea Family Papers
Dates: 1839-1924
Abstract: The papers cover over three generations of the Relyea family, but particularly concern Peter Relyea. The collection includes letters, legal documents, accounts, and also contains documents relevant to the Rosevelt family.
Quantity: 0.3 Linear feet (1 box)
Location note: Manuscript cage
Call Phrase: MS 518

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Biographical Note

The bulk of the papers revolve around Peter Relyea (1817-1896), a prosperous New York undertaker. He served in the New York State Militia during the 1830s and 1840s rising to the rank of lieutenant. Relyea also achieved prominence in his secondary field, having crafted the hearse that carried President Lincoln's body through New York City in 1865.

Relyea relocated to Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 1869, and was appointed an Official Undertaker of that city in 1881. Peter Relyea married Elizabeth Ryers in 1838. After her death in 1866, he married C.A. Decker. A long-time Freemason, Peter Relyea was buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn with Masonic honors.

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Scope and Content Note

This collection includes various letters from Peter Relyea to his daughter Millie, letters to Willie Relyea from his cousin Henry, invitations addressed to Relyea family members to attend surprise parties, and letters addressed to Peter Relyea from business associates.

The collection also includes the military records of Peter Relyea, mortgages, real estate deeds, bonds, deeds to cemetery plots, receipts (including undertaker services rendered by Peter Relyea), and other various papers, such as a license granted to Peter Relyea to act as an Official Undertaker of the city of Brooklyn.

The collection also contains genealogy papers of the Rosevelt family (to which the Relyea family was related) and business papers of Rosevelt and Sullivan, the contracting partnership of Warren Rosevelt and John M. Sullivan. These concern the construction of a pile dock on Governors Island.

The Relyea Papers do not include any information regarding Peter Relyea's construction of Abraham Lincoln's hearse.


The collection has been arranged into folders by type of material. Items within the collection are arranged chronologically.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Relyea family
  • Relyea, Peter, --d. 1896 -Estate
  • Rosevelt family

Document Type

  • Buddington, Lucy Avery
  • Commissions
  • Correspondence
  • Deeds
  • Ephemera
  • Invitations
  • Invoices
  • Legal documents
  • Mortgages
  • Programs
  • Relyea, Peter, d. 1896
  • Rosevelt & Sullivan
  • T. Rosevelt & Griffiths

Subject Topics

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) - Buildings, structures, etc.
  • Freemasons. -Americus Lodge (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  • Funeral rites and ceremonies - New York (State) - New York
  • Governors Island (New York County, N.Y.)
  • New York (State) -Militia
  • Real property - New York (State) - New York
  • Undertakers and undertaking - New York (State) - New York
  • Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.) - Buildings, structures, etc. - Design and construction.

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers.

Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to twenty exposures of stable, unbound material per day. (Researchers may not accrue unused copy amounts from previous days.)

Use Restrictions

Permission to quote from this collection in a publication must be requested and granted in writing. Send permission requests, citing the name of the collection from which you wish to quote, to:

Manuscripts Curator
The New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as Relyea Family Papers, MS 518, The New-York Historical Society.

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Container List

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Agreements, Grave Deeds, Wills
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Certificates (Confirmation and License)
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Letters (Personal, Business, Invitations)
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Masonic Pamphlets Concerning Peter Relyea
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Military Records of Peter Relyea
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Mortgages, Deeds, Bonds
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Receipts/Billings
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Relyea Family Genealogy
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Rosevelt Family Genealogy
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Rosevelt Papers (Contract Between W. Rosevelt & J. Westbrook)
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Rosevelt Papers (Envelopes, Construction Contracts, Letters)

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