Title photo with statue of liberty and ellis island with white words on tan background reading Finding Ancestors in New York City with Findmypast
Genealogy Research,  Heritage Travel

Summer Road Trip: Searching for New York Ancestors

Discover your New York ancestors on the Summer Road Trip through FindMyPast’s U. S. record collections. Start finding your ancestors.

We are off to stop #2 on our Summer Road Trip with FindMyPast through the U. S. record collections. If you missed our first stop in Cincinnati, head back to the first post in our series and learn about your Ohioan ancestors.

On to New York….🗽

Skyline of New York City with Empire State Building

Our Second Stop: New York City

Here we are in the Big Apple! Many of our ancestors came into America at New York including my husband’s ancestors. While some settled and stayed in New York, others migrated to the Rochester, New York area.

My husband (who is a licensed New York travel guide) and I both enjoy spending time in New York. We’ve done the touristy things, and we’ve certainly pursued learning more about his ancestors there in the city. On our most recent trip to New York, we spent a few hours touring Ellis Island. We were both enthralled by the immigrant stories and the fact we literally walked in the steps of his ancestors.

Wooden benches on tile floor in the Grand Hall of Ellis Island

We walked the same steps in the great hall at Ellis Island that his ancestor Samuel Solomon walked. We sat on original benches where immigrants waited their turn to appear before the inspector. What was Samuel thinking as he climbed the steps? Sitting and waiting? The connection was almost palpable.

Background photo of Statue of Liberty. White words on red background reading Finding New York City Ancestors
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Let’s Find Some New York Ancestors

When you are starting out with your New York research, you will want to familiarize yourself with key dates. Doing this before jumping into researching the records will save you significant time.

Researching vital records or birth, marriage and death records for your New York ancestors can be complicated. Knowing these dates will help you focus your research in the right direction:

  • Pre-1664 – New York was under Dutch colonial law, so you will find vital records information in the church records of the Dutch Reformed Church.
  • Post 1665 – BMD records began being kept by town clerks.
  • 9 July 1776 – New York became a state
  • 1847 – 1880 – BMD records recorded, but very spotty and inconsistent
  • 1880 – 1914 – BMD indices began state wide
  • 1914 – Vital records certificates available

As with many states, when new record keeping and registrations were required, immediate compliance was not seen. If you suspect this is the case for your ancestor, you will need to seek out alternate birth, marriage and death date resources.

Are you looking to order a vital record for an ancestor? The National Center for Health Statistics has an excellent resource page with pertinent contact information and cost for New York City.

Interesting Fact: Almost all of New York City burials are in Queens or Brooklyn!

After vital records, researchers usually turn to federal and state census records. New York has been a part of all federal censuses taken every 10 years starting in 1790. [The 1890 census did not survive.]

New York also took a state census in the following years: 1855, 1865, 1875, 1892,1905, 1915, 1925. Note that not all state censuses survive for every county.

New York City Genealogy Resources

Keep in mind New York City is made up of 5 boroughs: Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx. A borough is part of the New York City government while the counties are part of the New York State government.

For reference while researching:

🗽Borough – County🗽

Manhattan – New York County

Bronx – Bronx County

Brooklyn – Kings County

Queens – Queens County

Staten Island – Richmond County

Make sure you know the boundaries and jurisdictions when you are searching for the records.

Below is a list of resources for your New York City genealogy research. This is not intended to be a complete listing, so if you have a favorite resource not mentioned, feel free to add it in the comments.

Be sure and check out each repositories’ online collections and offerings!

New York City Records at FindMyPast

We do not often think of FindMyPast as having US records collections, but they absolutely do! Keep reading to what you can find.

Because New York City is so large and covers 5 counties, let me show you how to find the various New York City records at FindMyPast.

Finding New York Records at FindMyPast

The New York records within the Catholic Heritage Archive are crucial to many researchers’ research. A helpful resource is the New York Catholic Parish List for those parishes included in the FindMyPast collections.

Below is a listing of New York resources at FindMyPast. You will notice some rather unique record collections such as the NYC Surrogate’s Office Abstracts of Inventories for the years 1730 – 1752, 1775 – 1786. If you are searching for early ancestors, it is worth checking out.

You undoubtedly noted a few of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Records collections here as well. Did you see that Family Bible collection?

While We Are “In” New York…..

New York City has many sites of interest for the genealogy enthusiast. After all, we love history!

Traveling virtually will not keep you from touring New York. Explore many virtual tour opportunities such as the Brooklyn Heights Tour or learn about your Italian heritage with a tour of Little Italy. Find these and other virtual tour options at Free Tours by Foot.

When you get to visit in person……

Certainly, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are must sees for, well, anyone! I made my first trip to both recently. I was struck by the richness of the immigrant stories throughout Ellis Island. Moving through the building and museum, you can almost feel the anxiety and anticipation the newly arrived must have felt.

Grab a bite to eat at the Fraunces Tavern and tour the museum located at 54 Pearl Street in Manhattan. Have a meal in one of George Washington’s favorite taverns and walk in his footsteps – literally!

photo of Brooklyn Bridge

I highly recommend a live walking tour with Free Tours by Foot when you actually are in New York. My husband and I have done a number of these and have never been disappointed. If you are researching immigrant ancestors, try one of the tours focused on the Lower East Side or explore your culinary heritage with one of their food tours.

Take time to explore your New York City ancestors, and then we’re off to Stop #3 on our Summer Road Trip Series. 🚗

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