This is the second segment of the three-part New York City Research
Guide. Part one included information about vital records, property
records, and estate records. Part two features naturalization records
and continue with immigration records, court records, religious records,
and city directories.NATURALIZATION RECORDS
New York City residents may have naturalized at the local, state, or
federal level. That said, researching a naturalization record isn’t as
complicated as it may sound — at least not until 1907.
Pre-1907 and Federal Naturalization Records
If you’re searching for a naturalization that took place before 1907,
the best source to use first to find the record is the microfilm index,
“Index (Soundex) to Naturalization Petitions, 1792-1906.” The index
covers naturalizations in federal, state, and local courts in New York,
Kings, Queens, and Richmond counties during those years and is popularly
known as the “All-Courts” index.
The records, as part of National Archives Record Group 85, Records of
the Immigration and Naturalization Service, can be found at the National
Archives Northeast-Region (NYC) (M1674). The index and some of the
records are available on microfilm through Family History Centers.
National Archives personnel will search naturalization indexes and
records for you for a fee. For details, send a query to
Archives Northeast-Region (NYC)201 Varick Street, 12th FloorNew
York, NY 10014-4811212-337-1301
All federal naturalization records for New York City through 1991 can
be found at this repository.
Ancestry.com has recently posted a naturalization
database titled, “New York Petitions for Naturalization.” It is
described by Ancestry as being “the soundex index to the petitions for
naturalization filed at the New York County Supreme Court.” However,
based on there being information about naturalizations from various
courts, not just from the courts of New York County, the database
appears to be the index cards of the “All Courts” index, 1792–1906, of
New York, Kings, Queens, and Richmond counties. The cards have been
scanned and are an exciting addition to naturalization research.
An online, work-in-progress index to Southern District (Manhattan and
Bronx) naturalization records, 1906-49, compiled by the volunteers of
the Italian Genealogical Group, can be found at www.italiangen.org/southern.stm.
Volunteers are also working on the mammoth task of indexing Eastern
Post-1906 Naturalization Records
If you’ve ever looked for the naturalization record for someone
you’re sure naturalized between 1906 and 1927 or later and nothing could
be found at the National Archives, it’s possible that the person
naturalized at one of the State Supreme Courts. Finding
post-1906 naturalization records can require more research, as
individuals may have naturalized at the federal level in a federal court
or at the state level in any one of the five counties at a New York
State Supreme Court. (For a description of how to search for and what to
expect in a New York State Supreme Court of New York County
naturalization record, 1907-24, see my article, “New
York State Supreme Court Naturalization Records in the New York County
Clerk's Office/ Division of Old Records. Part 1: 1907-1924.”)
Federal naturalizations can be researched and obtained at the
National Archives. County-level naturalizations can only be obtained at
the Office of the County Clerk where the person became naturalized,
usually in the county where he/she lived or worked. Some federal and
county-level naturalization indexes and records have been microfilmed
and are available through Family History Centers.
For a list of County Clerk’s Offices in the five counties of New York
City, see the section below about Court Records.
Some indexes to New York State Supreme Court and military
naturalizations are posted online, the bulk of which were compiled by
the hard-working volunteers of the Italian
Genealogical Group and the Jewish Genealogical Society.
Here are the indexes currently available:
The inimitable Stephen P. Morse has found a way to use one template
to search the online indexes to Kings County, Southern District
(Manhattan and Bronx, 1906-49), Military naturalizations, and other
naturalization indexes. See his website.
The Works Projects Administration (WPA) created indexes for
immigrants to the Port of New York for the years 1820-46 (National
Archives microfilm M261), June 16, 1897-June 30, 1902 (T519), and July
1, 1902-December 31, 1943 (T621). If an immigrant is located in these
indexes, the passenger manifest can then be obtained (M237 and T715).
All of the indexes and manifests on microfilm are available at the National
Archives Northeast-Region (NYC).
There are published indexes for arrivals of some nationalities of
immigrants for the years not indexed by the WPA, including Irish,
German, Italian, Swedish, Greek, Russian, and others.
One of the most popular online offerings is the Statue of
Liberty-Ellis Island Foundations’ Ellis Island database,
which indexes passengers (both aliens and returning U.S. citizens) and
leads to images of manifests of arrivals, 1892-1924. A superior search
engine for these records can be found at the website of Stephen P. Morse.
recently added a new immigration
database, including arrivals at the Port of New York, 1851-91. The
index links to images of manifests. The database contains an every-name
search to all immigrants arriving during this previously unindexed time
period.The Emigrant Savings Bank records, one of the best
resources for locating genealogical information about Irish immigrants
to New York City and surrounding areas, also list how and where an
immigrant arrived in the United States. More about this magnificent
resource will be discussed in an upcoming column.
Ah, the beauty of court records: informative, fascinating, and,
sometimes, a source of long-ago, swept-under-the-rug family stories.
Among the major holdings of County Clerk’s offices are case files
(lawsuits), business records, name change petitions, matrimonial actions
(annulments, separations, divorces), and post-1906 naturalizations (see
Our nineteenth-century ancestors were litigious. It’s quite common to
find someone—and not just the moneyed folks—listed in indexes of case
files. Order the record and you might discover someone’s address not
listed in a city directory or found in a census enumeration, names of
family members (perhaps some on the other side of Justice’s balance),
and insights into ancestors’ lives and personalities.
Business records can include such details as the names and addresses
of the principals, the objectives of the business, and annual reports.
Name change petitions are among the most valuable of genealogical
records. They can include such gems as the person’s original name and
date of immigration, the parents’ names, and the reason the person
wished to alter his or her name.
There is nothing like divorce files. Sealed for one hundred years in
New York State, these files can include the date of the marriage, names
and birth dates of children, transcripts of court testimony, letters,
photographs, investigators’ reports, and more. Indexes are available for
The New York City Municipal Archives is the caretaker of some court
files for New York, Kings, and Richmond counties. Visit their
website for details.
All but the most recent Federal court files are kept at the National
Archives Northeast-Region (NYC).
County Clerk's Office - State Supreme Court, New York County
(Manhattan)60 Centre St, Room 103BNew York, NY 10007212-374-4704,
8344Post-1940 records and indexes
County Clerk's Office - State Supreme Court, New York County,
Division of Old Records31 Chambers St, 7th FloorNew York, NYMailing
Address:New York County Clerk’s Office60 Centre St, Room 161New
York, NY 10007212-374-4376Pre-1940 records and indexes
County Clerk's Office - State Supreme Court, Bronx County851
Grand Concourse, Room 118Bronx, NY 10451718-590-4922, 7043
County Clerk's Office - State Supreme Court, Kings County360
Adams Street, Room 189Brooklyn, NY 11201718-643-4149
County Clerk's Office - State Supreme Court, Queens88-11
Sutphin Boulevard, Room 105Jamaica, NY 11435718-520-2877
County Clerk's Office - State Supreme Court, Richmond County130
Stuyvesant Place, 2nd FloorStaten Island, NY 10301718-390-5389
Typically, if a religious institution is extant, it will be caretaker
of its own records. If it is no longer extant, its records may be in
the safekeeping of its successor, a nearby religious institution of the
same denomination, or in a central repository, such as the Presbyterian
Historical Society. The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society
Library has an extensive
collection of church records. Many church records are also housed
at the New-York Historical Society.
The WPA compiled inventories of various churches in New York City
between 1939 and 1941, such as the multi-volume Inventory of the
Church Archives of New York City, 1939-41. These books, also
available on microfilm through Family History Centers, can tell you the
location and extent of records at the time of publication, a brief
history of each church, and the names of the clergy.
Some major transcriptions of New York City church records have been
created. One of the most extensive is the nine-volume set of
transcriptions of Trinity Church and Parish, by Hope Cox Lefferts, under
the supervision of John Cox, Jr. The volumes, held by the NYG&B
Library, also include transcriptions of the records of Trinity’s
Chapels: St. George’s, St. Paul’s, and St. John’s.
The WPA’s Historical Records Survey also included synagogues. The
two-volume unpublished manuscript, Brooklyn Synagogues, provides
information about the records of the synagogues in Brooklyn extant circa
1940. This manuscript can be found at the American Jewish Historical Society at
the Center for Jewish History.
The organizations at the Center for
Jewish History have the records of some Jewish congregations,
including Congregation Shearith Israel register of marriage
certificates, 1758-1834 (American Jewish Historical Society, Samuel
Oppenheim Collection). But, like the records of churches, most records
of extant synagogues will have to be obtained from the institution
There are published sources of church records from the seventeenth
through the nineteenth-, centuries that can be of immense help to
genealogists. Among them is Joseph Silinonte’s Bishop Loughlin's
Dispensations, Diocese of Brooklyn: Genealogical Information from the
Marriage Dispensation Records of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn,
Kings, Queens and Suffolk Counties, New York, 1859-66.
City directories, if researched year after year, can reveal much
about individuals and families. Along with the individual listings,
which include the person’s name (or, in the case of the 1933-34
directories, the name of the spouse or living companion as well),
business address and residence, city directories can include “reverse”
directories by street, lists of vital events, ads, maps, informational
articles about the area, and much more. Knowing someone’s address can be
key to finding other records, such as New York State and municipal
censuses and tax lists, and using city directories is often the only way
to find an address.
New York City directories were first published in 1786, and,
depending on the years, also include part or all of what is now the
Bronx. Brooklyn directories began ten years later, in 1796. Both sets of
directories continue, with gaps, through the 1933-34 publications.
Queens and Staten Island/Richmond directories (beginning in the 1860s)
Other types of directories besides residential directories also exist
and can be very helpful to the genealogist. Among them is Doggett’s
Street Directory, 1851, the only mid-nineteenth-century “reverse”
directory. It lists Manhattan occupants by address. Other helpful
directories are Phillip’s Elite Directories, Wilson’s 1861
Co-Partnership Directory, occupational directories, and business
directories organized by type of business.
Various repositories around New York City contain directories in
their collections. The Family History Library has microfilmed many
directories as well.
Ancestry.com has some
New York City and Brooklyn directories available online. Scans or
transcriptions of directories can also be found online at HeritageQuest, Genealogy.com, RootsWeb, GenWeb, Making of America,
and other websites.
New York City telephone directories were published beginning in 1878.
Some of the earlier directories also include Brooklyn, Queens, Staten
Island, and other nearby localities. Few people had telephones until
well into the twentieth century, but when researching someone with a
good income who doesn’t appear in city directories, telephone
directories may show where the person lived. Telephone directories can
also substitute for unpublished city directories in those state census
years when an address is needed to search for an enumeration.
The final segment of the New York City Research Guide will feature
Federal, and State censuses, tax lists, juror censuses, the 1890 Police
Census, cemetery records, military records, newspapers, and a list of
major New York City libraries.