New York State Library
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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.

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

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 Also listed on Excelsior are records collected during the Historical Documents Inventory, a Statewide survey of manuscripts and archives collections in repositories that are open to the public.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.

Genealogy Research Topics

  • Vital Records explains how researchers can obtain copies of vital records such as birth and death certificates. Although the New York State Library does not hold these records, it does have an extensive collection of church and cemetery records that may be of interest to some researchers.
  • Census Records - New York State lists the New York State censuses that the State Library has available. For related pages, see:
  • Census Records - United States provides some basic information about the U.S. census and indicates which ones are available at the State Library.
  • New York State Wills provides information on locating wills; however, the New York State Library is not the official repository of the wills of New York State residents.
  • Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) describes several record series compiled by New York State Chapters of DAR and held by the New York State Library.
  • Loyalist Records is a bibliography of sources that focus directly on Americans who supported the British Government during the American Revolution.
  • New York State Military Records resources are listed on two pages:
    • Pre-Civil War - covers the Colonial Militia and the Revolutionary War through the Mexican War; and
    • Civil War and Following - covers the Civil War through the Korean and Vietnamese Wars .
  • City Directories and Selected Telephone Directories on Microfilm and Microfiche lists the directories available at the State Library. Information in the directories cannot be accessed online.
  • Finding Places provides links to pages that can help you locate places in New York State or in other parts of the U.S.
  • Local Histories are accounts of life and events which relate to small geographic areas such as counties or villages.
  • Databases in Local History and Genealogy describes the databases that are available to on-site researchers at the State Library.
  • The New Netherland Project's primary objective is to complete the transcription, translation, and publication of all Dutch documents in New York repositories relating to the seventeenth-century colony of New Netherland. Their web site includes links to Dutch genealogy sites.
  • New York State Newspapers lists newspapers available on microfilm in the New York State Library and in other libraries around the state. For genealogists, local newspapers may be an important source for information such as wedding announcements and obituaries. (For information on the Library's newspaper holdings, including those in paper format, see Access to Newspapers).

For more resources visit our list of other genealogy websites.

On-site 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 can be hired to conduct research for you.

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.

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: February 8, 2024