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Blog Posts by Subject: Genealogy

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 

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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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New Year's Waltz

New year's wishes to everyone!

Just a few words on the music pictured above.  This anonymous piano work was published around 1827 by Samuel Bromberg of New York City.  The address listed on the music is 395 Broadway, but in the New York City directory of 1829-1830, the publisher is located at 80 Broadway "upstairs."  Bromberg apparently came from Denmark: his petition for naturalization was made on June 9, 1835.  (These immigration and naturalization documents are available online through

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A Look at "The Book": The Fall and Rise of the Telephone Directory

It can't have escaped your attention that there has been a lot of talk recently about the imminent demise of the book, at least the print version. But what about the book? Both the New York Times and the Washington Post have this year reported that the White Pages may soon be discontinued. This is perhaps understandable. How many copies of this book currently lie abandoned in a cupboard or drawer, 

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It's All Relative

Family is a topic that often takes on added significance around this time of year, as during the holiday season, many interact with relatives successfully avoided—er, um, I mean, not visited due to other pressing obligations the rest of the year. Knowing one's family history is of vital importance medically speaking, and, on a psychological level, being aware of one's familial roots assuages the feeling of being cast adrift in the world. Additionally, this year, I experienced a special interest in ascertaining information on my family.

Experiencing a surfeit 

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Heist Society: A Review

Katarina Bishop grew up all over Europe, but she isn’t an heiress. She has a Faberge egg, but she isn’t a Romanov. Kat is used to looking at a room and seeing all the angles, but that was before she stole a whole other life at the Colgan School only to walk away from it months later without a trace.

That was before everything went sideways.

While Kat was busy trying to steal a new, legit, life the family business prospered. When a powerful mobster’s priceless art collection goes missing it isn’t all that surprising that 

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Hex Hall: A Review

Sophie Mercer is a witch. But not with many perks. She has no broomstick to fly, no spell books, no talking cat (she’s allergic).

She can perform magic. But not particularly well. And not without a lot of unforeseen... complications.

Sophie and her (non-magical) mom have lived in nineteen states. They lasted the longest in Indiana (four years). They only made it two weeks in Montana. And most recently, well, that didn’t go too well either.

In fact it went so badly that Sophie’s been sentenced to Hecate Hall; a reform school for 

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Finnikin of the Rock: A Review

A long time ago, before the five days of the unspeakable, Finnikin of the Rock dreamed he was to sacrifice a pound of flesh to save the royal house of Lumatere. Though only nine, Finnikin knew the dream was not to be ignored.

Frightened for his kingdom, Finnikin convinced his friends Prince Balthazar and Lucian of the Mont to make a pledge with him. They climbed to the rock of three wonders and sacrificed flesh from their bodies and a hair from the head of a weeping princess Isaboe. Balthazar swore to die defending his royal house of Lumatere. Finnikin swore to 

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