FAQ: Genealogical research using the Library's collections

Will the Library do genealogical research for me?

The staff of the New York State Library cannot undertake genealogical research for individuals. There are many sources of information in our collection for onsite research. For those who cannot visit the Library themselves and wish to engage the services of a professional genealogist, the Board for Certification of Genealogists maintains a directory of genealogists who are certified by the Board for Certification of Genealogists and who reside in or have a "special interest" in New York.

What city directories does the Library have?

See our City Directories and Selected Telephone Directories On Microfilm and Microfiche (The directories themselves are NOT ONLINE.)

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Where can I find information about birth, marriage and death records in New York State?

Birth, marriage and death records, known as vital records, are currently kept by the New York State Health Department and the New York City Health Department. The New York State Library has Vital Records information on its web site which will guide you to the correct location to find the record you are seeking. Indexes to vital records that are available to the public can be searched at the New York State Archives. Information on adoption can be found at the Library.

If you haven't done so already, check out the many web resources referenced on the NYSL Genealogy page. In addition, Selected Genealogical Resources lists genealogy sites that focus on New York State, as well as to those that encompass the the entire United States.

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Where can I find information on adoption?

The Library's Adoptees page lists many resources, both print and online, for adoptees who are trying to trace their families.

The New York State Department of Health has an Adoption Information Registry.

For New York City records, contact the New York City Office of Vital Records.

For more information about genealogical resources, including links to on-line resources, please see the NYSL Genealogy page.

Have you spoken with the librarians at your local library? They may be able to direct you to other sources.

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Where can I find United States Census information?

The New York State Library's U.S. Census page provides a list of links to census information. Your local library may also have selected publications. The New York State Library has a large collection of current and historical publications which may be researched onsite.

The New York State Data Center (NYS Depaprtment of Labor) is a cooperative program with the US Bureau of the Census for managing the dissemination of Census, state and federal statistical information. As part of the New York State Department of Economic Development, Bureau of Economic and Demographic Information, the Data Center provides a variety of services to business, government and general data users.

For more information: Selected census web sites

My ancestors came from New York. Where can I find information about doing genealogy research in New York?

Many local libraries and historical societies in New York have genealogy sections. The NYSL Genealogy page and the New York State Archives are also resources of information. Both have extensive information about their collections available online. (Note that inmost cases these sites do not include links to the full text of the items in the collections.)

The New York State Health Department's Vital Records unit has information about finding historical birth, death and marriage records.

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How do I find wills in New York State?

Wills are found in the probate records in the Surrogate's Court in each county in New York State. Probate records include case files, minute books, record books of wills, letters, orders, etc. A concise explanation of wills and other probate records is available on the New York State Archives Probate & Wills page.

Last Updated: October 31, 2018