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Genealogy : Getting Started at The New York Public Library: Archive collections at NYPL

A guide to getting started with genealogical research at The New York Public Library

Family files, locales, bible transcriptions, and subjects

Family file archive boxes in the Milstein DivisionFamily files

Included in the collections of the Milstein Division are thousands of family files, archive collections of manuscripts of family histories, research notes, pedigree charts, documents, and photographs of families. The largest collection of family files is part of a substantial number of materials donated to The New York Public Library by the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (NYGB), in 2008. Comprising research files donated by members of the NYGB, the collection is strong in New York families. 

You can search for family files in the collections of The New York Public Library in the NYPL Classic Catalog, as you would search for printed family histories, using the subject term [family name] - family, e.g. Wilson family.

Family files have the following letters at the beginning of their call number:

There are numerous other archive collections of family history materials available from the Milstein Division, accessible onsite, and searchable in the NYPL Classic Catalog using the subject term [family name] family.

Locales, bible transcriptions, and subject files

Genealogy research is said to be name, place, and date driven, and the importance of subject terms becomes obvious when a researcher uses a library catalog. 

New York Genealogical and Biographical Society Locale Files

Locales are a collection of miscellaneous documents filed by location including, church, cemetery, and vital records, and legal and tax documents primarily of New York City and New York State. New Jersey and Connecticut are heavily represented, and other states are included to a lesser degree.

New York Genealogical and Biographical Society Subject Files ca. 1828-ca. 2000. 

Original documents and reproductions of marriage certificates, correspondence, genealogical research notes, wills, deeds, land records, vital records, maps, and clippings relating to groups, events, and individuals of genealogical or historical interest situated primarily in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Several of the New York files contain transcripts of records and notes for the Society of Friends.

New York Genealogical and Biographical Society Bible Transcript Files, 1550-1967 

Photocopies and transcripts of Bible records relating mostly to New York families of the 16th to 19th centuries, including the Allen, Davis, Francis, Hall, Johnson, Lewis, Mott, Rikert, Smith, and Thompson families. Some family Bible transcripts are in Dutch and some files contain additional materials.


List of loyalists against whom judgments were given under the Confiscation Act, 

is the Archives Portal for archive collections at The New York Public Library's research libraries, and allows you to search in archive collections held at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the Performing Arts Library.

 A sample of collections of interest to genealogists might include:

Manuscripts and Archives Division, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

“The strengths of the Division are the papers and records of individuals, families, and organizations, primarily from the New York region.”

A sample list of collections of particular interest to genealogists might include:

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

  • The Schomburg Center is the world’s leading archive on the global black experience.  It collects, preserves, and provides access to materials documenting black life, and promotes the study and interpretation of the history and culture of peoples of African descent.  
  • The Center’s collections include books, periodicals, newspapers, manuscripts, photographs, rare books and art from the United States, the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa.  Additional resources include oral histories, audio and visual recordings and access to a broad range of databases. 
  • In the Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, the extensive newspaper and archival microfilm collections are particularly significant for genealogists. Also, biographies and school yearbooks.
  • In the Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books Division, personal papers; records of organizations and institutions; subject or thematic collections; literary and scholarly manuscripts and typescripts; ephemera; and, rare books.

"[Schomburg] is one of the world's largest, most comprehensive, and most heavily used repositories of records documenting the experience of the peoples of African origins and descent." Williams, Sam P. Guide to the research collections of the New York Public Library, 1975.

Further reading

NYG&B Collections at the New York Public Library

Archival materials from the NYG&B collections are located in both the Manuscript Division and in the Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy. This guide indicates the title of a collection and the call number of the item within the New York Public Library.

Before you request access to archive materials...

Tips for researchers new to archive collections

Archives may be different from library reading rooms. You will usually be required to

  • make an appointment ahead of time to see materials
  • talk to an archivist about your research
  • look at one item at at a time
  • ask permission to take photographs
  • check your bag and coat.

For more information about using archive collections at NYPL, contact the pertinent archive division (see left).

Before you ask to look at archive collections, you may like to check that...

  • The record you need has not been digitized
  • Or transcribed in print
  • You may be able to access the information you need more quickly that way.

If you are not sure, please email a librarian in the Milstein Division.

NYPL Archive Collections with Recently Digitized Content

Reference librarians