New York Research

Statue of LibertyIntroduction

Finding information about your New York ancestors can be tricky. The difficulty depends on time, place, and group. Researching Dutch-descended New Yorkers in the Hudson Valley during the eighteenth century is likely to be easy; whereas researching settlers from New England in the same locale may be difficult. And of course the 1911 fire at the State Library in Albany and the fact that statewide registration of vital records did not start until 1880 only adds to the difficulty. There are, however, bright spots in New York research, such as the state census. This subject guide provides a list of key resources and records that will help you trace your New York ancestry. Note: To learn more about the implications of the 1911 fire in Albany, read "The 1911 State Library Fire and Its Effects on New York Genealogy" in The NYG&B Newsletter 10 (1999):19–22.

Watch the archived webinar "New York Resources at NEHGS":

New York Resources at NEHGS
Live broadcast: July 23, 2015
Presented by: Chris C. Child
Level: Beginner Running Time: 1:02:26
Description:Finding information about your New York ancestors can be tricky. Learn what resources are available at NEHGS, AmericanAncestors.org, and other repositories, while gaining valuable research tips from genealogist and New York expert, Chris Child.


Guides and Finding Aids

Note: The year in the call number is not necessarily the year of original publication.

New York Family History Research Guide and Gazetteer by the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F118 .N46 2014

Guide to Genealogical and Biographical Sources for New York City (Manhattan), 1783–1898
by Rosalie Fellows Bailey
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F128.25 B.35 1998
Originally published in the Register in 1954.

“The Yankee Settlement of New York, 1783–1820” by David Paul Davenport in Genealogical Journal 17:1–2 (1988/89), 63–88
NEHGS, 1st Floor CS1 .G382

Research in New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County by Laura Murphy DeGrazia
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F128.25 D44 2013

New York State Censuses & Substitutes by William Dollarhide
NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .D65 2006

New Netherland Roots by Gwen F. Epperson
NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .E66 1994

Early Settlers of New York State: Their Ancestors and Descendants by Janet Wethy Foley
NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .E24 1993

Gazetteer of the State of New York by J. H. French
NEHGS, 5th Floor and 7th Floor Reading Rm F117 .F74 1983

New York in the American Revolution: A Source Guide for Genealogists and Historians by Eric G. Grundset
NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .G78 2012

Guide to Historical Resources in _____ County, New York Repositories
NEHGS, 5th Floor [call numbers differ by county; browse]

Genealogical Resources in New York edited by Estelle M. Guzik
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reading Rm F128.25 .G46 2003

New York Essays: Resources for the Genealogist in New York State Outside of New York City by Marian S. Henry
NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .H46 2007

"New York" by Roger D. Joslyn in Red Book: American, State, County, and Town Sources, 3rd ed.
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reading Rm CS49 .A55 2004

New York State Probate Records: A Genealogist's Guide to Testate and Intestate Records, 2nd ed.
by Gordon L. Remington
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F118 .R44 2011

New York State Towns, Villages, and Cities: A Guide to Genealogical Sources by Gordon L. Remington
NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .R423 2002; available on AmericanAncestors.org

Revised Master Index to the New York State Daughters of the American Revolution Genealogical Records Volumes, 2 vols.
NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .R455 1998
This is a subject index; there is an every-name index online.

Genealogical and Biographical Directory to Persons in New Netherland, From 1613 to 1674, 4 vols. + supplement by David M. Riker
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F118 .R55 1999

State House, Albany, NYRecords

Censuses

Colonial Censuses
Although the 1911 fire in Albany destroyed some colonial censuses and still others were previously destroyed or lost, a surprising number of colonial censuses do survive for Albany, Dutchess, Kings, New York, Orange, Queens, Richmond, Suffolk, Westchester, and Gloucester counties. Consult "Pre-1750 New York Lists: Censuses, Assessment Rolls, Oaths of Allegiance, and Other Lists" in The NYG&B Newsletter 3 (1992):20–22.

Lists of Inhabitants of Colonial New York: Excerpted from the Documentary History of the State of New-York
NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .D62 1979

State Census

Between 1825 and 1925, New York State took a census every ten years, with the exception of 1892 (instead of 1885). The state copies of those records through 1905 were burned in 1911, but many county clerks had retained a copy. The state census offers remarkably valuable genealogical information beyond what's contained in the federal census.

The New York state census records are not available in a single location. Original census schedules prior to 1915 are generally kept at the county level, with the exception of the 1915 and 1925 censuses, which are kept at the New York State Archives. Many repositories, such as the New York State Library and Salt Lake City Family History Library, hold microfilm. In recent years, however, many of these records have been digitized and are available on FamilySearch.org. Read more about the New York state census.

The Portable Genealogist: New York State Census by Christopher C. Child
NEHGS Bookstore

New York State Censuses & Substitutes by William Dollarhide
NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .D65 2006

"Appreciating the New York State Census" by Henry Hoff in American Ancestors 13:2 (Spring 2012):54–55
Full article available at AmericanAncestors.org

Vital Records

Keeping vital records in New York State did not begin in earnest until 1880. Indexes to these records are available in Albany, New York City, Syracuse, and Rochester. There was a brief, statewide attempt between 1847 and 1852, which have been published for many towns in regional and county periodicals or as a book. Read more about New York vital records.

Prior to 1847 there were a few other types of vital records in New York State:

  • Marriage licenses: New York Marriages Previous to 1784; NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .N485 1968
  • Marriage bonds: New York Marriage Bonds 1753–1783; NEHGS, 5th Floor F128.25 .S33 1972
  • Records of civil marriages (those performed by mayors or justices of the peace)
  • Town records of some Long Island and Westchester towns include a limited number of vital records, usually births
  • New York City death records (returns from sextons of cemeteries) starting in 1801
  • New York City and other major cities in the state began keeping vital records between 1847 and 1880
  • Information on marriages and deaths within the twelve months before the 1855, 1865, and 1875 censuses were given as separate schedules with the censuses.

Divorces were granted by the Chancery Court between 1789 and 1847. For New York City and vicinity these records have been indexed and published in The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record 129 (1998):81–88 (does not contain record detail). After 1847 the Supreme Court of each county granted divorces. Note: Many New York residents were granted divorces in other states, see "New Yorkers in Some Connecticut Divorces," The NYG&B Newsletter 12 (2001):24–26, 43–46.

In the relative absence of early vital records, church records, newspaper notices, and cemetery records, are particularly important for New York research (see below).

mt vernonChurch Records

Church records in New York act as important substitutes for vital records. To learn what church records exist for each town (either transcribed or published), visit our New York Town Guide. Read more about New York church records.

See under Cemetery Records below for Revised Master Index and Early Settlers of New York State.

[The Vosburgh Collection]: New York State Protestant Church records, transcribed by Royden Woodward Vosburgh
NEHGS, 4th Floor F118 .V67 1913
A series of 101 reels of microfilm with a subject index: The Vosburgh Collection of New York Church records
NEHGS, 5th Floor F116 .N37

Index to Baptismal Surnames in the Reformed Churches of Claverack, Cortlandt, Fishkill . . . [etc.] compiled by Wilson Ledley
NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .L42 1990

Also consult databases on AmericanAncestors.org, including:
Early Records of the Lutheran Church, New York, 1697–1771
New York, NY: Parish Register of All Saints' Church, 1824–1862
New York, NY: Marriages in the Reformed Dutch Church, 1639–1801
New York, NY: Parents & Witnesses, Dutch Reformed Church, 1629–1730
New York, NY: Parents & Witnesses, Dutch Reformed Church, 1731–1800

Cemetery Records

There are various collections of cemetery records for New York. "Cemetery records" usually refers to transcriptions of gravestones; nevertheless, the actual records of a few cemeteries have also been published. To learn what cemetery records exist for each town (either transcribed or published), visit our New York Town Guide. Read more about New York State cemeteries.

Revised Master Index to the New York State Daughters of the American Revolution Genealogical Records Volumes, 2 vols.
NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .R455 1998
This is a subject index to the New York DAR Cemetery, Church, and Town Records—probably the largest collection of cemetery records for New York State. There is an every-name index online.

Early Settlers of New York State: Their Ancestors and Descendants by Janet Wethy Foley
NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .E24 1993

Also consult databases on AmericanAncestors.org, including:
New York: Long Island Cemetery Inscriptions, 1652–1910
Brooklyn, NY: Cemetery Inscriptions, 1686–1882
Cemetery Transcriptions from the NEHGS Manuscript Collections

bootblackNewspaper Notices and Announcements

Newspaper notices and announcements provide important information concerning vital statistics. Many of these abstracts have been published and/or digitized. Visit the websites: Northern New York Historical Newspapers, nyshistoricnewspapers.org and Old Fulton NY Postcards, fultonhistory.com.

American Deaths and Marriages, 1784–1829 [microform] by Joseph Gavit
NEHGS, 4th Floor F118 .G38

Directory to Collections of New York Vital Records, 1726–1989, with Rare Gazetteer by Fred Q. Bowman and Thomas J. Lynch
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reading Rm F118 .B698 1995

10,000 Vital Records of Western New York, 1809–1850 by Fred Q. Bowman
NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .B68 1985

10,000 Vital Records of Central New York, 1813–1850 by Fred Q. Bowman
NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .B696 1986

10,000 Vital Records of Eastern New York, 1777–1834 by Fred Q. Bowman
NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .B665 1987

8,000 More Vital Records of Eastern New York State, 1804–1850 by Fred Q. Bowman
NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .B666 1991

7,000 Hudson-Mohawk Valley (NY) Vital Records, 1808–1850 by Fred Q. Bowman
NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .697 1997

"1,100 Vital Records of Northeastern New York, 1835–1850," in The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record 118 (1987): 135–42, 203–09; 119 (1988):35–43, 91–98, 166–70
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reading Rm F116 .N28

For the eighteenth century, there are a few by Kenneth Scott:

Genealogical Data from Colonial New York Newspapers [1726–1783]
NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .S369 1977

Genealogical Data from the New York Post-Boy, 1743–1773
NEHGS, 5th Floor F128.25 .S329 1970

The New York Magazine, Marriages and Deaths, 1790–1797
NEHGS, CS68 .N49 1975

Also consult databases on AmericanAncestors.org, including:
Death Notices from the New York Evening Post, 1801–1890
Marriage Notices from the New York Evening Post, 1801–1890
Deaths in The Christian Intelligencer (Reformed Dutch Ch.), 1830–1871
Marriages in The Christian Intelligencer (Reformed Dutch Ch.), 1830–1871

Probate Records

New York probate is a complex subject, even after the creation of a Surrogate's Court for each county in 1787. Read more about New York probate records.

New York State Probate Records: A Genealogist's Guide to Testate and Intestate Records, 2nd ed.
by Gordon L. Remington
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F118 .R44 2011
Includes an explanation of the various periods in New York's probate history and lists what is available at the Family History Library, online, etc.

“New York, Probate Records, 1629–1971,” online at FamilySearch under Historical Record Collections.

Before 1787:

Prior to 1787 there was probate in county courts and there was centralized probate in New York City for estates worth more than a certain amount. Resources that may assist during this time period:

"New York Probate Records Before 1787," by Harry Macy, Jr. in The NYG&B Newsletter 2 (1991):11–15
NEHGS, 5th Floor F116 .N37
This article explains what records have survived for what courts and what records have been transcribed, abstracted, indexed, and/or microfilmed. Besides wills, it also discusses administrations, inventories, guardianships, probate of New Yorkers who died elsewhere, probate at the county level, and the recording of wills in deed books and town records.

Abstracts of Wills on File in the Surrogate's Office, City of New York
NEHGS, 5th Floor F116 .N63 v.25–41

Also consult databases on AmericanAncestors.org, including:
New York: Abstracts of Wills, 1662–1801, New York County
New York Wills, 1626–1836

After 1787:

The creation of the Surrogate's Court system in 1787 simplified probate in New York, but there were still inconsistencies and overlapping jurisdictions until 1829. In that year a new set of laws and rules improved the system and instituted the requirement of probate petitions naming the heirs at law, regardless of the provisions of the will (if there was one). These probate petitions are a valuable resource for New York research. Abstracts of probate records for many of the state's counties are at the NEHGS library.

“Library Resources for Research in New York Probate Records since 1787,” by Harry Macy, Jr., in The NYG&B Newsletter 3 (1992):3–7.

“Navigating New York Probate,” by Henry B. Hoff in American Ancestors 12:4 (Fall 2011):54–56
Includes a list of counties with filmed probate petitions at the Family History Library.

Also consult databases on AmericanAncestors.org, including:
Abstracts of Wills, Admins. and Guardianships in NY State, 1787–1835 compiled by William A. D. Eardeley
Onondaga County, NY: Abstracts of Wills 1796–1841
Onondaga County, NY: Guardianship Records, 1815–1849

long islandLand Records

Land records in New York State could be recorded at any of four levels: state, county, town, or "other," the last being a manor, a patent, or a corporate landlord like the Holland Land Company. In addition, some land records were never recorded or were recorded decades after they were made. Read more about New York land and property.

At the state level:

"State Patents and Deeds at NYG&BS," in The NYG&B Newsletter 9 (1998):9
NEHGS, 5th Floor F116 .N37

Calendar of New York Colonial Manuscripts: Indorsed Land Papers, 1643–1803
NEHGS, 5th Floor CD2406 .S8 1864a

Landholders of Northeastern New York, 1739–1802 by Fred Q. Bowman
NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .B65 1983

The Balloting Book, and Other Documents Relating to Military Bounty Lands in the State of New York
NEHGS, 5th Floor NY 5 28

At the county (or city) level:

At this level, deeds and deed indexes have been microfilmed for all the counties in the state. There are multi-volume published indexes for New York City and Albany (the latter with descriptions), but abstracts of land records have been published for only a few counties and usually just the first book (with the notable exception of Westchester deeds in The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record).

"New York Land Records, 1630–1975," online at FamilySearch under Historical Record Collections.

At the town level:

At this level, land records may be mixed in with documents, or there may be one or more town deed books (e.g. Huntington, Suffolk County).

At the "other" level:
  • Manorial records: "Manors in New York," in The NYG&B Newsletter 10 (1999):55–60; 11 (2000):13–17
    NEHGS, 5th Floor F116 .N37
  • Patents: The land records of some patents, especially in Dutchess County, have been published. Note: Many of the owners of manors and patents leased land to tenants instead of selling it.
  • Corporate landlords: Western New York Land Transactions, 1804–1835, 2 vols. by Karen E. Livsey
    NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .L58 1991
    An index to some of the records of the Holland Land Company, which owned millions of acres in western New York.

Town Records

Town records have been published for many towns on Long Island (but not those in Kings County) and the Hudson Valley; unfortunately, many are poorly indexed. They usually contain a hodgepodge of town meetings, a few vital records, tax lists, a few wills, land records, and often references to adjacent manors and patents. Rarely have all records of a town been published. Starting the mid-eighteenth century, the towns on Long Island started keeping records of the Overseers of the Poor. These have been published for the town of Huntington for the period 1752–1861 and include illegitimate births. To learn more about records held at the town level or if a published town history exists, visit our New York Town Guide.

Minutes of the Common Council of the City of New York, 1675–1776, 8 vols.
NEHGS, 5th Floor JS1226 .A5 1905

Tax Records

The survival of tax record in New York is uneven. Tax lists begin in many counties in 1779 but continue only sporadically; nevertheless, there are complete tax lists for the entire state for 1799–1804. Read more about known tax lists in "New York State Censuses in Tax Lists," in The NYG&B Newsletter 3 (1992):20–22. Read more about New York taxation.

Dutchess County is unique in having a complete run for most of the eighteenth century:
Dutchess County, NY Tax Lists 1718–1787 by Clifford M. Buck
NEHGS, 5th Floor F127.D8 B82 1991

Court Records

There are many New York courts that have presided over both civil and criminal matters since Dutch rule. Some of these records have been published and are available through NEHGS. Read more about New York court records.

Register of the Provincial Secretary, 3 vols. translated and annotated by Arnold J. F. Van Laer
NEHGS, 5th Floor F122.1 .N57

The Records of New Amsterdam from 1653 to 1674, 7 vols. edited by Berthold Fernow
NEHGS, 5th Floor F128.4 .N53 1976
Includes records from the courts of schouts and schepens—Dutch courts with criminal and civil jurisdiction.

Minutes of the Court of Albany, Rensselaerswyck and Schenactady, 1668–1685, 3 vols. translated and edited by A. J. F. Van Laer
NEHGS, 5th Floor F122 .A25 1926

New York City Court Records, 1684–1804: Genealogical Data from the Court of Quarter Sessions, 4 vols. compiled by Kenneth Scott
NEHGS, 5th Floor F128.25 .S34 1982

Records of the Chancery Court, Province and State of New York, Guardianships, 1691–1815 compiled by Kenneth Scott
NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .S3
Read more about Chancery Records.

naval review nycMilitary Records

Many military records were destroyed in the 1911 fire in Albany, but fortunately, many had already been published. Read more about New York military records.

For the colonial period:

New York Colonial Muster Rolls, 1664–1775, 2 vols.
NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .N492 2000
The included rolls for 1715 take up more than one hundred pages, providing an effective census of the military age men in those towns and counties. Most of the rolls are for the French and Indian War, 1755–1764, and include age, place of birth, occupation, and physical description.

For the Revolutionary War:

The Revolutionary War caused major upheaval in New York because of the battles fought on New York soil and the British occupation of New York City and environs. Many relevant records were destroyed in the 1911 fire, but some of the key sources had already been transcribed or abstracted.

New York in the American Revolution: A Source Guide for Genealogists and Historians by Eric G. Grundset
NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .G78 2012

New York in the Revolution as Colony and State, 2 vols. (second volume, supplement) by James A. Roberts
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference E263.N6 N442 1898

Calendar of Historical Manuscripts Relating to the War of the Revolution, 2 vols.
NEHGS, 5th Floor NY 5 5

Muster and Pay Rolls of the War of the Revolution, 1775–1783 by Edward F. DeLancey
NEHGS, 5th Floor F116 .N63 v.47–48

Note: Because of the proximity of New Jersey and the lack of a biographical directory fro New York Loyalists, it may be useful to consult The Loyalists of New Jersey by E. Alfred Jones; NEHGS, 5th Floor F131 .N62 v.10

For Civil War:

Visit our New York Town Guide to learn if a Civil War register (TCR) exists for a given town.

Genealogical Compendia and Special Sources

For eighteenth-century German immigrants:

The Palatine Families of New York, 2 vols. by Henry Z Jones, Jr.
NEHGS, 5th Floor F130.P2 J66 1985

More Palatine Families by Henry Z Jones, Jr.
NEHGS, 5th Floor E184.P3 J66 1991

Even More Palatine Families, 3 vols. by Henry Z. Jones, Jr. and Lewis Bunker Rohrbach
NEHGS, 5th Floor E184.P3 J67 2002

Early residents of Dutchess County:

Settlers of the Beekman Patent, Dutchess County, New York, 10 vols. by Frank J. Doherty
NEHGS, 5th Floor F127.D8 D63 1990; also vols. 1–8 available to NEHGS members as a searchable database on AmericanAncestors.org
This series is more than just a genealogical dictionary; the author identifies all the families before they came to Dutchess County, he includes records from all over Dutchess COunty while they were there, and he lists unplaced persons for that surname from all over the state.

People of New Netherland:

Genealogical and Biographical Directory to Persons in New Netherland, From 1613 to 1674, 4 vols. + supplement by David M. Riker
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F118 .R55 1999
This is the first genealogical dictionary for seventeenth-century New York; it is generally reliable and extremely useful.

Contributions to the History of Ancient Families of New Amsterdam and New York by Edwin R. Purple
NEHGS, 5th Floor F128.25 .P87 2013

ny mapMaps and Atlases

Download a map of New York's current county boundaries from Gordon L. Remington's New York State Probate Records (Boston: NEHGS, 2011).

Gazetteer of the State of New York by J. H. French
NEHGS, 5th Floor and 7th Floor Reading Rm F117 .F74 1983

Atlas of Historical County Boundaries edited by John H. Long
NEHGS, Atlas Collection G1201.F7 A8 1993

Periodicals

The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reading Rm F116 .N28; also available on a limited basis to NEHGS members at AmericanAncestors.org

The New York Researcher (called The NYG&B Newsletter before 2004)
NEHGS, 5th Floor F116 .N37

The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, including annual supplement (starting in 2009), American Ancestors Journal
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reading Rm and Vault F1 .N56; also available to NEHGS members at AmericanAncestors.org

American Ancestors (called New England Ancestors before 2010)
Available to NEHGS members at AmericanAncestors.org

Tree Talks (published by the Central New York Genealogical Society)
NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .T7

Western New York Genealogical Society Journal
NEHGS, 5th Floor F116 .W47 1974

New Netherland Connections (1996–2010)
Available as an e-book and to NEHGS members as a database on AmericanAncestors.org

De Halve Maen (published by the Holland Society of New York)
NEHGS, 5th Floor F116 .H78

Valley Quarterlies Directory
NEHGS, 5th Floor F116 .V34 Index
Directory/index to The Capital, The Columbia, The Mohawk, and The Saratoga

Websites

The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, newyorkfamilyhistory.org
Central New York Genealogical Society, rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nycnygs/
Western New York Genealogical Society, wnygs.org
New England Historic Genealogical Society, americanancestors.org
New York State Archives, archives.nysed.gov
New York State Library, nysl.nysed.gov
NYGenWeb, rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nygenweb (part of the USGenWeb project)
New York Genealogy, newyorkgenealogy.org

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