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By Henry B. HoffEditor of the Register
| Guides and Finding Aids | Records | Genealogical Compendia and Special Sources | | Maps & Atlases | Periodicals | Websites | Need Help? |
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.
Note: The year in the call number is not necessarily the year of original publication.
Guide to Genealogical and Biographical Sources for New York City (Manhattan), 1783–1898by Rosalie Fellows BaileyNEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F128.25 B.35 1998Originally 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), 63–88NEHGS, 1st Floor CS1 .G382
Research in New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County by Laura Murphy DeGraziaNEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F128.25 D44 2013
New York State Censuses & Substitutes by William DollarhideNEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .D65 2006
New Netherland Roots by Gwen F. EppersonNEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .E66 1994
Early Settlers of New York State: Their Ancestors and Descendants by Janet Wethy FoleyNEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .E24 1993
Gazetteer of the State of New York by J. H. FrenchNEHGS, 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. GrundsetNEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .G78 2012
Guide to Historical Resources in _____ County, New York RepositoriesNEHGS, 5th Floor [call numbers differ by county; browse]
Genealogical Resources in New York edited by Estelle M. GuzikNEHGS, 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. HenryNEHGS, 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. RemingtonNEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F118 .R44 2011
New York State Towns, Villages, and Cities: A Guide to Genealogical Sources by Gordon L. RemingtonNEHGS, 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 1998This 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. RikerNEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F118 .R55 1999
New York Family History Research Guide and Gazetteer by the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (forthcoming)
Colonial CensusesAlthough 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-YorkNEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .D62 1979
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. ChildNEHGS Bookstore
"Appreciating the New York State Census" by Henry Hoff in American Ancestors 13:2 (Spring 2012):54–55Full article available at AmericanAncestors.org
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:
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).
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 VosburghNEHGS, 4th Floor F118 .V67 1913A series of 101 reels of microfilm with a subject index: The Vosburgh Collection of New York Church recordsNEHGS, 5th Floor F116 .N37
Index to Baptismal Surnames in the Reformed Churches of Claverack, Cortlandt, Fishkill . . . [etc.] compiled by Wilson LedleyNEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .L42 1990
Also consult databases on AmericanAncestors.org, including:Early Records of the Lutheran Church, New York, 1697–1771New York, NY: Parish Register of All Saints' Church, 1824–1862New York, NY: Marriages in the Reformed Dutch Church, 1639–1801New York, NY: Parents & Witnesses, Dutch Reformed Church, 1629–1730New York, NY: Parents & Witnesses, Dutch Reformed Church, 1731–1800
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 1998This 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.
Also consult databases on AmericanAncestors.org, including:New York: Long Island Cemetery Inscriptions, 1652–1910Brooklyn, NY: Cemetery Inscriptions, 1686–1882Cemetery Transcriptions from the NEHGS Manuscript Collections
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 GavitNEHGS, 4th Floor F118 .G38
Directory to Collections of New York Vital Records, 1726–1989, with Rare Gazetteer by Fred Q. Bowman and Thomas J. LynchNEHGS, 7th Floor Reading Rm F118 .B698 1995
10,000 Vital Records of Western New York, 1809–1850 by Fred Q. BowmanNEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .B68 1985
10,000 Vital Records of Central New York, 1813–1850 by Fred Q. BowmanNEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .B696 1986
10,000 Vital Records of Eastern New York, 1777–1834 by Fred Q. BowmanNEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .B665 1987
8,000 More Vital Records of Eastern New York State, 1804–1850 by Fred Q. BowmanNEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .B666 1991
7,000 Hudson-Mohawk Valley (NY) Vital Records, 1808–1850 by Fred Q. BowmanNEHGS, 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, 166–70NEHGS, 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, 1743–1773NEHGS, 5th Floor F128.25 .S329 1970
The New York Magazine, Marriages and Deaths, 1790–1797NEHGS, CS68 .N49 1975
Also consult databases on AmericanAncestors.org, including:Death Notices from the New York Evening Post, 1801–1890Marriage Notices from the New York Evening Post, 1801–1890Deaths in The Christian Intelligencer (Reformed Dutch Ch.), 1830–1871Marriages in The Christian Intelligencer (Reformed Dutch Ch.), 1830–1871
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. RemingtonNEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F118 .R44 2011Includes 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.
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):11–15NEHGS, 5th Floor F116 .N37This 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 YorkNEHGS, 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
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):54–56Includes 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. EardeleyOnondaga County, NY: Abstracts of Wills 1796–1841Onondaga County, NY: Guardianship Records, 1815–1849
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.
"State Patents and Deeds at NYG&BS," in The NYG&B Newsletter 9 (1998):9NEHGS, 5th Floor F116 .N37
Calendar of New York Colonial Manuscripts: Indorsed Land Papers, 1643–1803NEHGS, 5th Floor CD2406 .S8 1864a
Landholders of Northeastern New York, 1739–1802 by Fred Q. BowmanNEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .B65 1983
The Balloting Book, and Other Documents Relating to Military Bounty Lands in the State of New YorkNEHGS, 5th Floor NY 5 28
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 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).
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
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. BuckNEHGS, 5th Floor F127.D8 B82 1991
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 LaerNEHGS, 5th Floor F122.1 .N57
The Records of New Amsterdam from 1653 to 1674, 7 vols. edited by Berthold FernowNEHGS, 5th Floor F128.4 .N53 1976Includes 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 LaerNEHGS, 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 ScottNEHGS, 5th Floor F128.25 .S34 1982
Records of the Chancery Court, Province and State of New York, Guardianships, 1691–1815 compiled by Kenneth ScottNEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .S3Read more about Chancery 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.
New York Colonial Muster Rolls, 1664–1775, 2 vols.NEHGS, 5th Floor F118 .N492 2000The 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.
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 Revolution as Colony and State, 2 vols. (second volume, supplement) by James A. RobertsNEHGS, 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. DeLanceyNEHGS, 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
Visit our New York Town Guide to learn if a Civil War register (TCR) exists for a given town.
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 RohrbachNEHGS, 5th Floor E184.P3 J67 2002
Settlers of the Beekman Patent, Dutchess County, New York, 10 vols. by Frank J. DohertyNEHGS, 5th Floor F127.D8 D63 1990; also vols. 1–8 available to NEHGS members as a searchable database on AmericanAncestors.orgThis 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.
Genealogical and Biographical Directory to Persons in New Netherland, From 1613 to 1674, 4 vols. + supplement by David M. RikerNEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F118 .R55 1999This 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. PurpleNEHGS, 5th Floor F128.25 .P87 2013
Download a map of New York's current county boundaries from Gordon L. Remington's New York State Probate Records (Boston: NEHGS, 2011).
Atlas of Historical County Boundaries edited by John H. LongNEHGS, Atlas Collection G1201.F7 A8 1993
The New York Genealogical and Biographical RecordNEHGS, 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 JournalNEHGS, 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 JournalNEHGS, 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 DirectoryNEHGS, 5th Floor F116 .V34 IndexDirectory/index to The Capital, The Columbia, The Mohawk, and The Saratoga
The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, newyorkfamilyhistory.orgCentral New York Genealogical Society, rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nycnygs/Western New York Genealogical Society, wnygs.orgNew England Historic Genealogical Society, americanancestors.orgNew York State Archives, archives.nysed.govNew York State Library, nysl.nysed.govNYGenWeb, rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nygenweb (part of the USGenWeb project)New York Genealogy, newyorkgenealogy.org
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