Fair Warning, I went to Albany on a research trip back in 1990 or so.
It was a total mess!!!
A bureaucratic nightmare!!
Maybe Gov. Pataki has them whipped into shape by now.
But Albany was a very nice city, best one in the state, next to N.Y.C.
Records in the New York State Archives document functions and activities of State government; none of the records were created for the purpose of genealogical research. However, the Archives does hold many records containing information on individuals. Among these records are indexes to vital records (births, marriages, deaths); records documenting war service (Revolutionary War through World War I); land records (mostly transactions involving the Colony or State of New York); trial court records (including colonial wills and early nineteenth century civil cases); and records of some State-run correctional and custodial institutions.
This leaflet provides introductory, summary information on the record series in the New York State Archives that are most useful for genealogical research. (A "record series" is a group of files or documents maintained together because they relate to the same function or activity.) In some series information about individuals is accessible through an index or alphabetical arrangement. Many other series lack indexes, making searches difficult. Series titles and numbers are indicated in bold face type. Titles are sometimes abbreviated.
The leaflet refers the researcher to published guides and indexes to records in the Archives; and mentions some sources of genealogical data at other levels of government. Persons planning to use the State Archives for genealogical research are encouraged to become familiar with the techniques and sources of family history and with basic facts of New York State history, government, and geography. See references in the bibliography at the end of this leaflet.
The New York State Archives
The State Archives acquires, preserves, and makes accessible State government records that have continuing historical or legal value. The Archives also acquires microfilm copies of some archival records of local governments. The Archives contains about 63,000 cubic feet of records, dating from the seventeenth century to the present and taking a variety of formats, including parchment, paper, and photographic and magnetic media. The New York State Archives is part of the State Education Department. For further information on holdings, services, and current public hours of the New York State Archives, contact:
NEW YORK STATE ARCHIVES
Cultural Education Center Room 11D40
Albany, NY 12230
Phone (518) 474-8955
World-Wide Web http://www.sara.nysed.gov
Access to Records in the New York State Archives
Records in the New York State Archives are available to the public in the Archives' research room, Cultural Education Center (11th floor), Madison Avenue, Albany. Click here for information on directions and hours. Records are not available for use while they are being microfilmed or processed, or if they are so fragile that handling would damage them. If records are available on microfilm, access to the original documents is restricted. While most records in the Archives are available under New York State's Freedom of Information Law, some records contain information that is restricted by law.
Record series in the Archives are listed in Guide to Records in the New York State Archives. Various Archives publications describe records of particular agencies, institutions, and topical areas. Click Here for a List of Publications available from the State ArchivesUnpublished descriptions of and finding aids to record series may be used at the Archives. Some records are available on microfilm; most of the film may be purchased, or borrowed through inter-library loan.
The Archives maintains an on-line catalog of descriptive information about its records. The catalog, the Guide to Records, and various leaflets and finding aids are accessible on the Internet through our World-Wide Web server http://www.sara.nysed.gov.
The Archives will attempt to locate records relating to specific individuals, but will search only those record series that are indexed or otherwise easily accessible by name. The researcher must provide specific information on the individual who is the subject of the search. There is a charge for photocopies or abstracts of records. On searches of war service records, see below.
Vital Records Indexes
New York began statewide registration of births, marriages, and deaths in 1880- 81. (New York City and a few communities upstate have some vital records pre-dating 1880.) The State Archives makes available for on-site use copies of State Department of Health microfiche indexes to birth, marriage, and death certificates filed with that Department. The indexes commence in 1880-81 and cover the entire state outside New York City. Index entries give only name, date, place of event, and State certificate number. Indexes for births become available for use by the public after 75 years, for marriages and deaths after 50 years.
To obtain copies or abstracts of birth, marriage, or death certificates for genealogical purposes, contact New York State Department of Health, Vital Records Section, Corning Tower Building ESP, Albany, NY 12237-0023; or the local (city, town, or village) registrar of vital statistics. Older New York City vital records are held by the New York City Municipal Archives, 31 Chambers Street (Room 103), New York, NY 10007.
Records of Military Service
The New York State Archives holds many records that document the military service of individuals. The records usually take the form of financial claims or one-page abstracts or cards. Information on the military and naval service records available at the State Archives for various conflicts is provided below. The National Archives holds service, pension, or bounty land warrant case files for persons who served in the U.S. armed forces. For searches of records of Federal military service prior to the early 20th century, contact National Archives, Reference Services Branch (NNIR), Washington, DC 20408. For more recent records, contact National Personnel Records Center (MPR), 9700 PageBlvd., St. Louis, MO 63132.(Most World War I and World War II service records were destroyed by fire in 1973.)
War Records Search Service.
Archives staff will search selected record series documenting war service in which information on individuals is accessible by name, and will provide copies or abstracts of records on specific individuals. There is a fee for this service. Copies of the search request form and NYS Archives Information Leaflet #4 War Service Records & Searches are available on request. Or you can view the Informaton Leaflet and print out the request form on-line. Click Here to read the Military Service Records Information Leaflet. You can download a military service search request form by clicking here. Note that there is a small fee required when submitting this request form.
Colonial Wars. Muster rolls for the colonial militia were destroyed by fire in 1911. The rolls were published inAnnual Report of the State Historian, 1895-96 (Albany: 1896-97). Grants of land to British officers and private soldiers who fought in the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) and resided in the colony are recorded inMilitary Patents, 1764-1797(A0447). The applications for those grants are found inApplications for Land Grants(A0272) (see reference to microfilm and calendar, below).
Revolutionary War. The Archives holds two major series of records relating to bounty land grants in the Military Tract of central New York:MilitaryPatents, 1764-1797 (A0447) andApplications for Land Grants (A0272). Series A0272 is available on microfilm, and is abstracted and indexed in Calendar of N.Y. Colonial Manuscripts Indorsed LandPapers, 1643-1803 (Albany: 1864; repr. 1987). Data on military patents to Revolutionary War veterans is available inThe Balloting Book,and Other Documents Relating to Military Bounty Lands in the State of New-York (Albany: 1825; repr. 1983). Most other New York records relating to Revolutionary War service were destroyed or damaged by fire in 1911. The surviving Revolutionary War Accounts and Claims ("Revolutionary Manuscripts") (A0200) have been microfilmed, and a name index is in preparation. Documents in series A0200 were abstracted and indexed in New York in the Revolution as Colony and State, 3d ed., 2 vols. (Albany: 1904). Certificates Submitted by Disabled Revolutionary War Veterans Claiming Pensions ("Pension Board Minutes") (A0174) are available on microfilm. Other small, unindexed, and sometimes fragmentary series of Revolutionary War-era records are described in Guide to Records Relating to the Revolutionary War Held in the New York State Archives (1994).
War of 1812. Payroll data on militia men who were mustered into Federal service during the war is available inAbstracts of Payrolls for New York State Militia (B0810). Veterans' claims for reimbursement for clothing, arms, and equipment furnished at their own expense are found in two series(A0020, A3352); the claims are indexed in Index of Awards on Claims of the Soldiers of the War of 1812 (Albany: 1860; repr. 1969).
Civil War. During the late nineteenth century the N.Y. Adjutant General's Office abstracted data from muster rolls of men who served in New York units during the Civil War; the original rolls were then destroyed. The one-page abstracts of Civil War service are found in Muster Roll Abstracts of New York State Volunteers, U.S. Sharpshooters,and U.S. Colored Troops (13775) and similar abstracts for the U.S. Navy and Marines, and the N.Y. National Guard. The Archives also holdsRegisters of Officers and Enlisted Men Mustered into Federal Military or Naval Service during theCivil War (A0389), which are organized by county, then by town or city, but are not indexed. Also in the Archives areTown and City Registers ofMen Who Served in the Civil War (13774), which are organized by town or city ward (registers for New York City, Brooklyn, Albany, Troy, Utica, Rochester, and some towns are missing). Series A0389 and 13774 and part of 13775 are available on microfilm. Published lists of officers and soldiers are found inRecord of the CommissionedOfficers, Non-CommissionedOfficers and Privates of theRegiments Which Were Organized in the State of New York . . . to Assist in Suppressing theRebellion ("N.Y. Muster Rolls"), 8 vols. (Albany: 1864-68), and Annual Report of the Adjutant-General of the State of New York. . . Registers of New York Regiments in the War of the Rebellion, 43 vols. (Albany: 1894-1906). Summary data on regiments and commissioned officers is available in Frederick Phisterer, comp.,NewYork in the War of the Rebellion, 3d ed., 6 vols. (Albany: 1912). Full descriptions of military administrative and personnel records are available inThe Union Preserved: A Guide to Civil War Records in the New York State Archives (forthcoming).
Spanish-American War. Summary data on New York men who served in the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps is available in card form in Abstracts of Spanish-American War Military and Naval Service Records (B0809). Additional information on National Guard and Naval Militia members is found in Abstracts of Muster Rolls for National Guard Units Mustered into Federal Service (B0801). Series B0801 is abstracted and indexed inNew York in the Spanish-American War, 4 vols. (Albany: 1900-14).
Mexican Border Conflict. Data on National Guard members is found in Abstracts of Muster Rolls for National Guard Units Mustered into Federal Service during the 1916 Mexican Punitive Campaign (B0802).
World War I. Summary data on New York men who served in the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps and on women who were Army or Navy nurses is found in Abstracts of World War I Military Service (B0808). These summary cards were prepared from Federal personnel records which were destroyed by fire in 1973. Additional information on National Guard members mustered into Federal service is found in Abstracts of National Guard Service in World War I (13721). Descriptions of these records and of others relating to "home front" activities are available in A Spirit of Sacrifice: . . . A Guide to Records Relating to World War I Held in the New York State Archives (1993). For searches of World War I draft registration cards, contact National Archives--Southeast Region, 1557 St. Joseph Ave., East Point, GA 30344.
World War II and Later Conflicts. The State Archives holds no military service records relating to these conflicts. Administrative records relating to "home front" activities during World War II are described in They Also Served: . . . A Guide to Records of the New York State War Council (1993).
Other Military Service Records. The Archives holds two series of registers of N.Y. Militia and National Guard commissioned officers (1800-1909)(series13728, 13729) and National Guard Muster Rolls (1878-1954) (13726). These record series are organized by unit or date; they contain military service data only and arenot indexed. Commissioned officers appointed between 1783 and 1821 are listed in the Military Minutes of the Council of Appointment, comp. Hugh Hastings, 4 vols. (Albany: 1901-02). Personnel files (1920-current) of the New York State National Guard are held by the N.Y. Division of Military & Naval Affairs, 330 Old Niskayuna Road, Latham, NY 12110.
The Archives holds the original schedules of the State population census for 1915 and 1925(series A0275, A0276). The schedules are not indexed, and Archives staff will not search them except to provide legal proof of age. The schedules are fragile, and therefore use is restricted. The 1915 and 1925 census schedules and key maps for large cities are available on microform at the State Library. Manuscript schedules of the State census for 1801- 1905 were destroyed by fire in 1911. Some county clerks' offices hold duplicate copies of some of the State censuses taken periodically between 1825 and 1925. For further information on these census records, see New York State Census Records, 1790- 1925 (N.Y. State Library Bibliography Bulletin 88, 1981).
The Archives holds a Population Census of Indian Reservations, 1845 (A1832), which is available on microfilm. The 1915 and 1925 population censuses (see "Census Records") include Indian reservations. The Archives also holds Indian Census and Annuity Rolls, 1881-1950 (A0742). Related annuity rolls are held by the National Archives.
Real Property Transfer Records
Land conveyances (deeds and mortgages) are recorded in the county clerks' offices or in the New York City Register's Office. Recording of deeds became mandatory statewide in 1840. Before that many deeds were not recorded. The State Archives holds records of land grants ("patents") by the Colony and State of New York. Applications for grants and related documents are found in Applications for Land Grants ("Land Papers") (A0272), available on microfilm. The applications are abstracted and indexed in Calendar of N.Y. Colonial Manuscripts Indorsed Land Papers, 1643-1803 (Albany: 1864; repr. 1987). The actual grants are recorded inLetters Patent (12943) andMilitary Patents (A0447). Some private conveyances of real property, mostly in the New York City area in the later 17th and early 18th centuries, were recorded by the Secretary's Office inDeeds ("Miscellaneous Records") (A0453).
Real Property Tax Records
The chief fiscal officer for each county has custody of real property tax assessment rolls; most counties have these records commencing about 1850. The State Archives has available on microfilmTax Assessment Rollsof Real and Personal Estates,1799-1804 (B0950) for the whole state except New York County (Manhattan). The Archives also holds scattered tax assessment rolls and lists for some towns and districts in the Hudson and Mohawk valleys in the 1770s and '80s (series A1201, A3210, A3206); these records are not available on microfilm. Many colonial tax rolls are published in Lists of Inhabitants of Colonial New York (Baltimore: 1979).
The Archives holds many records of New York's higher trial and appeals courts prior to 1847, and of appeals courts from 1847 to the present. Of special interest to genealogists are records of the Court of Chancery (1704-1847) and the Court of Probates (1778-1823) and its colonial predecessor, the Prerogative Court (1686-1783).
Probate Records. The Surrogate's Court, established in each county in 1787, has custody of almost all probate records created since that date. Many Surrogate's Court records have been microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah. (The microfilm is loaned to Mormon family history centers worldwide.)
The State Archives holds the records and filed documents of the Court of Probates, the predecessor of the Surrogate's Courts. Holdings include Probated Wills (J0038), Inventories and Accounts (J0301), and Administration Papers (J0033). The wills relate to estates in all parts of New York; the inventories and administration papers relate mostly to estates in the Hudson and Mohawk valleys. Most of the documents in these series pre- date 1787; all pre-date 1823. The Archives has microfilmed part of series J0038 and all of J0301 and J0033. The published indexes to these records were not filmed. The Archives also holds recorded wills for New York County (Manhattan) through 1879 (series J0043). Archives staff will search probate records only if name of decedent and date of death are provided. For further information on probate records and indexes to them, see NYS Archives Information Leaflet #3 Probate Records.
Chancery Records. Chancery jurisdiction included guardianship for the property of widows and orphans; mortgage foreclosure; real property partition; and divorce (1787- 1847 only). All surviving Chancery Decrees and Papers Before 1800 (J0065) are available on microfilm. Many pre-1800 Chancery case documents were not preserved; and the existing indexes to pre-1800 cases are incomplete. Various series of ChanceryMinutes covering the period 1781-1847(series J0048, J0050, J0059,J0081) are available on microfilm, as are theEnrolled Decrees After 1800 (J0063) and accompanying index to complainants. The files of Chancery cases that did not result in a final decree, and the files of cases handled in the seven upstate Chancery circuits between 1823 and 1847, are not on microfilm. Access to Chancery records can be difficult. Archives staff will search the records only if a specific case citation (names of parties and date of case) is provided. Other Chancery records, mostly relating to downstate New York, are at the New York County Clerk's Office,31 Chambers Street, New York, NY10007. Data from Chancery records is abstracted in Kenneth Scott, Records of the ChanceryCourt, Province and State of NewYork, Guardianships, 1691-1815 (New York: n.d.).
Naturalization and Related
Records Naturalization records are created by the Federal and State courts. State court naturalization records generally remain in custody of the county clerks. Older Federal court naturalization records have been transferred to the National Archives. Photocopies of naturalization documents and indexes for New York City for the period 1792-1906 (both Federal and State courts) are held by the NationalArchives--Northeast Region, 201 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014. A table of locations and dates of naturalization records for New York counties is found in James C. and Lila Lee Neagles,Locating Your Immigrant Ancestor: A Guide to Naturalization Records (Logan, UT: 1986), pp. 111-13. See also NYS Archives Information Leaflet #6 Naturalization Records.
The State Archives holds Alien Depositions of Intent to Become U.S. Citizens, 1825-1913 (A1869) and abstracts thereof(A1870). The depositions typically provide information on name of alien, country of origin, and date and place of making deposition. Because there is no unified index to the depositions, Archives staff will not search them. The records and the multiple indexes to them are available for use at the Archives. The earlier alien depositions, which contain a little more personal information than the later ones, are abstracted in New York Alien Residents, 1825-1848, comp. Kenneth Scott and Rosanne Conway (Baltimore: 1978).
Prior to 1784 couples intending to marry were required to obtain licenses from and file bonds with the provincial secretary, if the impending marriage was not announced in a church. TheseMarriage Bonds (A1893) were mostly destroyed in the 1911 Capitol fire. Published abstracts are available inNames of Persons for Whom Marriage Licenses Were Issued by the Secretary of the Province of New York, Previous to 1784 (Albany: 1860; repr. with supplements 1984); and in New York Marriage Bonds, 1753-1783, comp. Kenneth Scott (New York: 1972).
Prison and Reformatory Records
The State Archives holds numerous inmate registers, cards, and case files from several State correctional facilities. (Most of the record series are incomplete, and only a sample of post-1956 case files is being preserved.) Basic personal information (including information on adult convictions and incarcerations) is available without restriction. However, probation, parole, and medical data is restricted by Department of Correctional Services regulations. Access to prison and reformatory records is difficult because there are almost no indexes to the records. Archives staff will search for a specific inmate record only if sufficient information is provided (such as place and dates of incarceration and/or institutional identification number) to locate the record.
The institutions and date spans of correctional facility case registers or cards available for use at the State Archives are as follows:
State Prison of the City of New York ("Newgate") (1797-1810)
Auburn Prison (1817-1970)
Clinton Prison (at Dannemora) (1846-1964)
Sing Sing Prison (at Ossining) (1865-1971)
State Prison for Women at Auburn (1893-1933)
Westfield State Farm [for Women] (1933-52)
Fishkill Correctional Facility (1949-77)
New York House of Refuge (at New York City) (1824-1935) (case records on microfilm)
Western House of Refuge (at Rochester), later State Agricultural & Industrial School (at Industry) (1849-1960) (case records on microfilm)
New York State Reformatory (at Elmira), later Elmira Reformatory (1877-1957)
Western House of Refuge for Women (at Albion), later Albion State Training School (1894- 1948)
Eastern New York Reformatory (at Naponoch) (1900-1909)
The Archives holds aCensus of Inmates in Almshouses and Poorhouses, 1875-1921 (A1978). This series contains some personal data on residents of county and city poorhouses. It is arranged by county and institution, then by admission date. The series isnot indexed. Archives staff will search the censuses only if name of resident and place and dates of residence are provided. The censuses are available on microfilm.
The State Archives holds about 80,000 maps in various formats, dating from the 17th century to the present. Among the maps are surveys of lands granted by the Colony and State of New York, but these maps do not show occupants of lands. The principal index to early manuscript maps created or filed by State agencies is David E.E. Mix,Catalogue of Maps and Surveys, in the Offices of theSecretary of State, StateEngineer and Surveyor, and Comptroller (Albany: 1859; repr. 1981). Most of the maps listed in this catalog have been transferred to the State Archives. If a map is fragile, use and copying will be restricted.
Local Records on Microfilm
In 1975-76 the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission microfilmed many historical records across the State. The records included county, town, and village records; and some non-government records (including records of a few churches). This microfilm is now held by the State Archives, and most of the film is available for purchase or inter-library loan. Click here for a list of microfilmed local records available in the Archives. Local film is also cataloged in the archives' on line catalog. Click Here to Connect to the On-Line catalog.
The following works are useful for locating published and unpublished sources of genealogical information relating to New York State residents.
Rosalie F. Bailey. Guide to Genealogical and Biographical Sources for New York City (Manhattan) 1783-1898 (New York: 1954). Still a useful guide; see also Guzik, below.
Warren F. Broderick, "Local Government Records Useful in Family History Research," LocalRecords Information Leaflet no. 31 (n.d.). Available from New York State Archives and Records Administration, Cultural Education Center Room 10A63, Albany, NY 12230.
Cornell University Libraries, Guide to Historical Resources in Albany County, New York Repositories, 3 vols. (Ithaca: 1984). Similar guides are available for most other counties in New York. The guides contain descriptions of manuscript and archival collections in libraries, historical societies, and other repositories. The data is also accessible on line through the Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN), available at major research libraries.
County Historians Association of New York State,Directory of New York State County and Municipal Historians (Albany: 1991). Lists addresses of official local government historians (county, town, and village).
Arlene H. Eakle and Johni Cerny, eds.,The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy (Salt Lake City: 1984).
Arlene H. Eakle, L. Ray Gunn, and others, Descriptive Inventory of the New York Collection (Finding Aids to the Microfilmed Manuscript Collection of the Genealogical Society of Utah, no. 4) (Salt Lake City: 1980). Lists public and private records from New York State and City available on microfilm at the Genealogical Society of Utah as of 1980.
Estelle M. Guzik, ed., Genealogical Resources in the New York Metropolitan Area (New York: 1989). Information is organized by borough or county.
Roger D. Joslyn, "New York [Genealogical Research],"Ancestry's Red Book: American State, County & Town Sources, rev. ed., ed. Alice Eichholz (Salt Lake City: 1992), pp. 521-40. Contains numerous references to published genealogical sources and guides, as well as to records containing genealogical data.
~nygenweb/"NYGenWeb World Wide Web site specializing in New York State genealogy; has links to databases, other web sites, also aims to colect genealogical data on New Yorkers.
Milton Rubincam, ed. Henealogical Research: Methods and Sourcesrev. ed., vol. 1 (Washington: 1980). Contains guides to sources in N.Y., particularly New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley.
George K. Schweitzer,New York Genealogical Research (Knoxville, TN: 1988).
U.S. National Archives,Guide to Genealogical Research in theNational Archives (Washington: 1982).
U.S. National Historical Publications and Records Commission.Directory of Archives and Manuscript Repositories in the UnitedStates, 2d ed. (Phoenix, AZ: 1988). New York repositories of archival and manuscript materials are listed pp. 387- 477.
Melinda Yates,Gateway to America: Genealogical Researchin the New York State Library, 2d rev. ed. (Albany: 1982). Still a useful introduction to the State Library's genealogical collections. The Library has also issued several one-page topical guides to genealogical research. Contact New York State Library, Cultural Education Center 7th floor, Albany, NY 12230.