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Blog Posts by Subject: Genealogy

Lawmen and Badmen: The Tin Star of the Old West

In the early American West, the lawman might be a U.S. marshal, appointed by the Attorney General, or he might be a local sheriff elected to office by the townfolk. The distinction often makes no difference in old Western movies, but is an optimum detail in the pursuit of genealogy and local history research in the Milstein Division, where reference librarians must wrangle between the local, county, state, and federal levels in order to rope in relevant resources for patron requests.Read More ›

20 Reasons Why You Should Write Your Family History

If you have done any family history research, such as looking for records on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org or conducting interviews with older family members, you may have pondered writing about your genealogy research. Here are 20 reasons why you should cease pondering and start writing.Read More ›

Jersey Genealogy: A Research Guide Using Local History Collections

Perhaps familiar to New Yorkers as a garden state of smokestacks, or surrogate playing field for the Jets and Giants, or otherworld of childhood memory, New Jersey bucks understanding from without and blinkers perspective from within. If your genealogy research leads you to it, find help with this guide.Read More ›

What’s Your Story? Conducting Interviews for Genealogical Research

Family history research often begins with an interview. Speaking with your family to discover names, dates, locations, and important life events is one of the most important steps in delving into the genealogy world.Read More ›

Conducting Genealogical Research Using Newspapers

Historical newspapers are useful tools for history and genealogy research. They can be searched for ancestors’ death notices/obituaries, personal announcements and celebrations, community involvement, social news and gossip, lodge and club news, employment ads, real estate transactions, legal notices, casualty lists, military news, criminal activity, and much more.Read More ›

Can You Help Find the Descendants of Seneca Village?

Anthropologists Diana Wall, Nan Rothschild, and Cynthia Copeland of the Seneca Village Project want to hear from "anyone who has heard family stories or has other reasons to believe that he or she is a descendant of residents of Seneca Village."Read More ›

Researching Orphans in Genealogy

If you have an orphan in your family tree, you may have to go through additional steps to find relevant genealogical records for the orphaned or adopted ancestor. Orphans originating in New York City are not uncommon because of the city's history with the Orphan Train movement.

From the 1850s to the 1920s, the Orphan Train Movement was an organized effort to transport children from overcrowded cities, such as New York City, to foster homes across the country. An estimated 250,000 orphaned, abandoned, or 

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USSC Processing Project: The United States Sanitary Commission Records Open for Research on July 16, 2013

We are delighted to announce that archival processing of the records of this important Civil War humanitarian organization has been completed. The collection will be available for research in the Manuscripts and Archives Division reading room beginning on July 16, following usual procedures. A draft guide to the collection will be made available at that time.

A snapshot of USSC shelvingThe project marks the first comprehensive arrangement of the entire collection since 1878, made possible by 

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Why Your Family Name Was Not Changed at Ellis Island (and One That Was)

Between 1892 and 1954, over twelve million people entered the United States through the immigration inspection station at Ellis Island, a small island located in the upper bay off the New Jersey coast. There is a myth that persists in the field of genealogy, or more accurately, in family lore, that family names were changed there. They were not. Numerous blogs, essays, and books have proven this. Yet the myth persists; a story in a recent issue of The New Yorker suggests that it happened. This post will explore how and why names were not changed. It will then tell the story of Frank 

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Special Library in Focus: The New-York Historical Society Library

While I was in the neighborhood (visiting the library of the American Museum of Natural History - AMNH), I serendipitously noticed that the New-York Historical Society (NYHS) was next door. After visiting the AMNH, I decided to check out the library of the historical society. I was happy to discover that it is open to the public free Tuesday-Friday 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and on Saturdays 10 a.m.-1 p.m, and they have a wealth of resources! In addition to their physical 

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Direct Me NYC 1786: A History of City Directories in the United States and New York City

Before the telephone directory, there was the city directory, a book that listed the names, addresses, professions, and in some cases ethnicity, of people in a particular town or city. Many of these directories have been digitized for your perusal, or are available on microfilm, all at the New York Public Library.

In New York City, city directories were printed between 1786 and 1934: the first telephone books began to appear in the late 1870s. 

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Connections in Unlikely Places: A WWII Genealogy Story

Many patrons arrive at the Milstein Division of U.S. History, Local History and Genealogy with questions and something more. Often it is a letter written long ago, an address of a deceased cousin, or a sepia toned photograph from 1930. All are talismans from which patrons begin their family research.

This photo is my maternal uncle, Sgt. Phillip M. Carlon, 451st Bomber Group, U.S. Army Aircorps. Uncle Phil sits on the barrack steps at Stuart Airfield in 

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Direct Me NYC: NYPL Helps You Find New Yorkers in the 1940 Census

The genealogy world is buzzing with today’s release of the 1940 Federal Census, but some have been disappointed to discover that the newly released data cannot yet be searched by name. Never fear, NYPL to the rescue!

NYPL Labs has created a fantastic new online tool to help you locate New Yorkers in 1940. In conjunction with the Milstein Division, One-Step, and the

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Behind the Scenes of the Milstein Suspense Trailer

History has secrets... but secrets don’t stay hidden if you know where to look...

The Library's Milstein Division staff are very excited to present a movie trailer-style promotional video, which debuted this week on YouTube. We've loved the videos that other NYPL divisions and neighborhood libraries have made — especially Jefferson 

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Everyone Counts: Using the Census in Genealogy Research

You should always start your genealogy research by interviewing your relatives. Carefully record all of the names, dates, and places that they tell you. Don’t worry if Uncle Joe and Aunt Joan have a different story about where grandma was born, write it all down. With that step complete, it is time to start looking into the United States Federal Census. Census takers assiduously attempt to include all Americans, and they typically do a good job at this task. This is what makes it such a valuable genealogical tool. With few exceptions, the census is generally complete, but not always 

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The Great Obituary Hunt: A Genealogy Research Guide

Like all good detective work, genealogy research benefits from organization, patience, and procedure. One of many tools in the researchers toolbox is the obituary. Obituaries are small articles in a newspaper that offer a posthumous piece of the story of a person’s life. They can also be very useful to those who are researching genealogy, adding details that would otherwise be unknown. The names of relatives, location of birth, final resting place, occupation, religious affiliation, volunteer work, and other 

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Finding a Life at The New York Public Library

This last week of October, 2011 is Magic Week. Perhaps it's a good time to tell this true story about how I found a life at The New York Public Library:

In the spring of 1923, my grandfather, a magician, disappeared. This well practiced man of magic had pulled off his greatest trick of all. He was never seen again — at least not by my family. His love for the circus could not hold him to a small town, a young wife, and a three-year-old son. He left, and the memory of him was put aside. Occasionally my grandmother would 

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Genealogy Research Tips: Breaking Through Brick Walls and Getting Past Dead Ends

Genealogy research may now be among America’s favorite hobbies, but it certainly is not the least frustrating. Stamp and coin collecting may start to look more attractive after you spend a few days combing through Ancestry Library Edition and can’t find any new records to help add details to your family tree. But don’t despair for too long, the following tips and tricks may help you get past the dreaded brick wall in genealogy research.

I would be remiss 

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New York City Land Conveyances 1654-1851: What They Are and How They Work

On microfilm, in olde worlde language, in undecipherable hand writing. Who cares? This is digitized, right? Yes, sometimes, often, and not yet. Being a librarian, I spend a lot of time rummaging through old documents, seemingly dull and indecipherable tracts that often prove to be invaluable sources of the good stuff. Land conveyances are just such a document. The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society recently donated to the New York Public Library's 

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Who Do You Think You Are—A Musician? Genealogy in the Music Division

Genealogy is back on prime time with the resumption of the show Who Do You Think You Are?, now beginning its second season on NBC-TV on Friday, February 4th.  Genealogy is my hobby too, so I'm always excited when I can combine it with my professional activities in the Music Division.

According to the American Library Association, "Genealogical research has become one of America's favorite 

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