How do you identify the best record (or records) that will contain the information you need?
One question you can ask yourself is "What type of record (or resource) that describes me, might have a historical equivalent that would describe the same information about my ancestor?" For instance, you may have a birth certificate, a marriage certificate, a property deed, some form of identification, newspaper clipping, or photograph that describes you. What information about yourself can you glean from that document? Did your ancestor have a similar record? Where might you find that record, and get at that information?
Then you need to work out how you locate and access that record. Is it digitized? On the internet for free? Behind a paywall, in a subscription genealogy database? Or in another digital source, like digitized newspapers or archives? Or is that record in an archive? Or on microfilm? Has it been transcribed into a book? NYPL provides all sorts of free access points for finding records that will help drive your genealogy research.
If you are having any trouble matching your research question to a record type, or are unable to locate that record, you can email a librarian in the Milstein Division, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or
A canvasser in New York City in 1930, an era of skyrocketing urban populations, American Heritage, November 1989
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection
FamilySearch: United States Record Finder is a great tool for identifying what US record or records will answer a genealogical research question. It also gives a researcher a sense of the many different sources that might contain valuable information. You might add to this list of resources historical maps and photographs.
Start with the basics
What records would answer the question about you?
Do they exist?
Where might they be found now?
There are several ways that you can search for genealogy print collections at the New York Public Library, using the Classic catalog.
Search for indexes, transcriptions, abstracts, and compilations of records in books at NYPL using keyword searches to find subject terms. Finding a subject term is really useful, as this will help you find all of the books (and microfilm, and archive collections) that pertain to that subject term.
You want to find out what print materials at NYPL contain genealogical information created in a particular place. Let's say you want to discover if NYPL has any published transcriptions of births, marriage or death notices in newspapers in Suffolk County, New York.
Go back to your original keyword search to look at the bibliographic records of other books to find even more useful subject terms. For instance:
There are many other databases that contain information used by genealogists, including databases of digitized historical newspapers, magazines and journals, archive and manuscript collections, government legislation, and many databases relating to the histories of places and communities.