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Genealogy : Getting Started at The New York Public Library: Help with genealogy research

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

Reference assistance at NYPL

New Dorp, Miss Eleanor Ayoub, Branch Librarian, New Drop Regional Branch, 1971-1987Librarians are a great resource for people researching their family history, and librarians at the Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy specialize in genealogy research. We can help you find books and records at NYPL and elsewhere, useful resources that will answer your research question, and that help you overcome your genealogy brick walls. We offer free regular classes in genealogy research, speak at local and national genealogy conferences, and write on the subject of genealogy, producing articles, and research guides for genealogists. If you need help, email us at history@nypl.org.

You can also consult the following pages

About the Milstein Division of U.S., Local History and Genealogy

Genealogical Research at The New York Public Library

Reference questions

In the Irma and Paul Milstein Division librarians specialize in helping patrons with their genealogy and history research. Librarians have history and genealogy qualifications, and years of experience with answering reference questions, and assisting genealogists with their research.

You can visit or write to us at the the Milstein Division:

The Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
476 Fifth Avenue (42nd St and Fifth Ave)
First Floor , Room 121
New York, NY 10018

Email librarians for research assistance, or set up a 30 minute consultation at history@nypl.org, or using the Milstein Division's Email Reference Form.

Classes

The Milstein Division offers a number of free classes to help patrons with their genealogy research. 

Genealogy Essentials

The New York Public Library can help you with your genealogy research. This series will help you get started on your family history with detailed classes on the research strategies, best practices, and specific records and documents that help us explore and understand our ancestors' past. Taught by librarians in the Irma and Paul Milstein Division, Genealogy Essentials covers the fundamentals of genealogy research, and comprises the following classes:

Getting Started in Genealogy Research 

Start your family history research at NYPL. Learn about the library’s genealogy resources, discover essential research methods and strategies, identify relevant records and how to locate them, and organize your family research information.

Researching Vital Records and the Census

Discover genealogical resources at the New York Public Library with an exploration of vital records and the census. First, learn how to search for and find your ancestors on birth, marriage, and death certificates. Next, we'll explore the history of the U.S. Federal Census, explore what other types of census records exist, and offer a variety of search strategies to use in your genealogy research. 

Researching Ship Passenger Lists

Learn the history of ship passenger lists for vessels arriving at U.S. ports in the 19th and 20th centuries, and how to get started using the research methods and resources related to passenger list information.  

Researching Naturalization Records 

In this class we explore the history of how  your ancestors became citizens of the United States of America, the kinds of records they generated when they did so, what information those records contain, and where you can find them. 

Newspapers in Genealogy

Discover the  abundant uses of historical newspapers for genealogical and local history information in the numerous digital collections available at NYPL.  

Other classes

The Milstein Division offers a variety of other classes that can help you with your genealogy research, including:

  • What DNA testing can (and can’t) tell you

  • Finding Clues in Family Photos

  • African-American Genealogy Part I: An Introduction

  • African-American Genealogy Part II: Next Steps

  • Newspapers in Genealogy Research

  • Irish Genealogy: Resources and Research Methods

  • Genealogy Research with Maps

  • Writing Your Family History

Check the Milstein Divisions homepage for details of upcoming classes.

Research guides and blog posts

Other sources

National Archives: Start Your Genealogy Research

A great guide from the National Archives that includes information about records, how to get started, with videos and handouts.

FamilySearch Wiki

"The FamilySearch Research Wiki is a free, online genealogical guide created and maintained by FamilySearch, a non-profit organization. It contains links to genealogy databases, websites, other resources, research strategies, and genealogical guidance to assist in the search for your ancestors. Articles included are locality pages for countries around the world and topic pages that include pertinent genealogy record types explaining how to use the record, what it contains, and how to find it."

Consultations

Most genealogy research questions can be answered quite easily by email. But if you need to set aside some time to speak to a reference librarian who specializes in genealogy research, you can make a 30 minute consultation appointment to do just that. 

Email history@nypl.org. Please allow at least 3 days notice.

Librarian with young reader in Browsing Room of the Nathan Strauss Branch for Young People

Reference librarians