Genealogy

We've provided descriptions of the New York State Library's genealogical resources for the convenience of researchers who are planning a trip to the Library. The Library's Web site cannot provide access to the records themselves because our genealogical records are not in an electronic format.

Access

The Local History and Genealogy Section is one of the busiest sections of the New York State Library. It is used by people who are tracing the history of their families, as well as by professional genealogical researchers, biographers and historians who are seeking information about the collective history of families or the domestic life of a period in American history. We welcome onsite researchers to use our large collection of genealogical resources such as:

In general, genealogical materials cannot be borrowed; they must be used on site at the Library during regular Library hours. For more information, see Using the Library.

Collection Scope

The Genealogy Area of the State Library contains an extensive collection of printed histories on individual families. The collection is national in scope, but with an emphasis on New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New England families. Reference works and guides to genealogical research in foreign countries are available, but separate family histories for families outside of the United States are not collected. The Library also has the FamilySearch CD-ROM series.

Excelsior, the Library's online catalog, provides access to information about the Library's collection through author, title, and subject searches. Also listed on Excelsior are records collected during the Historical Documents Inventory, a Statewide survey of manuscripts and archives collections in repositories that are open to the public. These collections are not held at the New York State Library; the catalog record for each item or collection will indicate the name and address of the repository where it is located.

  • See Surnames - A Pathfinder for information on searching Excelsior for family names.
  • See Local Histories for information about searching for histories of New York counties, cities and towns.

Card files, which are available on site at the Library, provide access to materials in the following collections:

Some genealogical materials are also held by the New York State Archives, which is located in the same building as the State Library.

Onsite Research

Library staff members will provide on-site assistance in the use of the collection, suggest research strategies, and provide referrals to sources not available in the State Library. However, Library staff cannot conduct genealogical searches for you. For those who cannot visit the Library themselves and wish to engage the services of a professional genealogist, Board for Certification of Genealogists maintains a database of genealogists who are certified by the Board for Certification of Genealogists and who reside in or have a "special interest" in New York.

(For more information on the Library's policy, see "Guidelines for Response to Genealogy-Related Letters".)

Volunteers: Both the State Library and the Library's users are fortunate that volunteers from the Capital District Genealogical Society are available for assistance. The volunteers are eager to explain the resources of the Library (including the online catalog) and to help users get started doing research. The volunteers use a desk located close to the service desk. Please feel free to consult with them as well as with the Reference Services staff at the Local History/Genealogy Service desk.

Genealogy Research Series: Library staff have prepared information sheets to guide you in your search and answer many of your questions. These sheets are available at no cost in a display rack in the Local History and Genealogy area. The Genealogy Research Series is also available online.

Photocopying: Because the handling involved in the act of photocopying can be hazardous to rare and fragile volumes, please do not photocopy any of the Local History/Genealogy material unless you have received specific approval from a library staff member. Many volumes have been microfilmed or microfiched, and the Library has an ongoing program to film more material. Please check with the staff before photocopying, and make copies from a microform version if one is available. Please join us in protecting the materials of the collection and ensuring that they remain in useable condition. See also Photocopying fees.

Microform Area: The Microform Area is located on the 7th Floor, adjacent to the Local History and Genealogy Area. Staff members at the Microform Desk are available to assist you, in person and over the telephone, in locating and retrieving materials from the microfilm and microfiche collections. The Microform Area is equipped with numerous microfilm readers, microfilm printers, microfiche readers, microfiche printers and micro-opaque readers for the public to use. The Microform Desk staff provides Library users with instruction in how to use this equipment to read and/or make copies from microforms. If you have questions about materials in the microform collection, you may call one of these desks:

  • the Microform Desk at (518) 474-3092,
  • the Local History/Genealogy Desk at (518) 474-5161, or
  • the Reference Desk at (518) 474-5355.
Last Updated: October 22, 2013