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Milstein Division FAQ

Can books and other materials be checked out from the Milstein Division?
The Milstein Division is part of the Research Libraries of The New York Public Library and all materials must be used on Library premises.

Where can I obtain copies of New York City Birth, Death and Marriage records?
The Milstein Division has indexes to New York City Vital Records, as follows:

  • Index to Births, 1888-1982
  • Index to Deaths, 1888-1982
  • Index to Marriages (Grooms), 1888-1937
  • Index to Marriages (Brides), 1869-1937

Depending on date, copies of the certificates are held by the New York City Municipal Archives or the Department of Health.

What are your U.S. Census holdings?
The Milstein Division has microfilm copies of the U.S. Census of Population schedules, 1790-1930 for selected states. Our holdings vary according to Census year but are complete for New York. We have online subscriptions to the AncestryPlus and HeritageQuest Online databases which include access to digitized images of the Census, with linked name indexes. The databases can be accessed on Selected Electronic Resources workstations here in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Statistical information from the U.S. Censuses, 1790-2000, is available at the Science, Industry and Business Library.

Do you have copies of ships passenger lists?
The Milstein Division has copies of passenger lists and indexes to the lists published in book form, as well as microfilm copies of lists and indexes in the National Archives. Our holdings are strongest for Port of New York arrivals. Naturalization records can sometimes be helpful in establishing immigration dates. We regret that our small staff cannot search these records for you.

Is it possible to research an ancestor's U.S. military service in the Milstein Division?
The Milstein Division collects materials pertaining to all U.S. wars up through and including the Spanish-American War. Indexes to veterans' records are available on microfilm, in books, or online via AncestryPlus. Additionally, we have an extensive collection of unit or regimental histories from all branches of the armed services. Materials on 20th century wars, including unit histories, can be found in the General Research Division.

Do you have city directories?
The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building has an extensive collection of U.S. city directories in the Microform Room (Room 100). The Milstein Division Microform Room (Room 119) has a second copy of New York City directories only. Some city directories can be searched online in the AncestryPlus database. New York City directories were published only until 1933/34. After that date the researcher must use telephone directories. These are available on microform in Room 100.

Can you search for obituaries which may have appeared in New York City newspapers?
The Library has an extensive collection of New York City newspapers which may be searched by title in our online catalog. Unfortunately, few of these newspapers are indexed for content. Milstein Division staff are unable to search for obituaries in response to the request of correspondents, but NYPL Express, the Library's fee based research service may be contracted for this purpose.

Are any Milstein Division collections available online?
Although all of the books and most of the periodical collections of Milstein are now listed in the online catalog, you must come to the Library to read them.

Can copies be made from Milstein Division books, periodicals, and microfilm?
Yes, depending on physical condition of the originals, and within fair use guidelines of the Copyright Act. A self-service photocopier and two reader printers for microform materials are available to researchers in Milstein. If the condition of the originals is fragile, other copying methods are available: scanning, microfilming, or custom photography. Copies can be ordered onsite or remotely from Photographic Services.

For those unable to visit the Library, can you supply the names of researchers for hire?
The Library has a fee based research and document delivery service, NYPL Express. The names of New York City based researchers can be found in the classified sections of family history magazines, such as Everton's Genealogical Helper. The Board for Certification of Genealogists maintains a roster of accredited genealogists. The Association of Professional Genealogists publishes the APG Directory of Professional Genealogists.

Do you have photographs of New York City?
Photographic Views of New York City, 1870s-1970s is an extensive collection of over 54,000 original prints. Arrangement is by street address, but the collection is also indexed by building name and topical subject. Researchers access the collection onsite by using a microfiche edition published in 1981 by University Microfilms International. After the researcher makes a selection, copies of prints may be ordered from Photographic Services and Permissions. We regret the staff of the Milstein Division cannot do picture research, but NYPL Express may be able to assist you for a fee. Photographic Views of New York City, 1870s-1970s is currently being digitized and will be available online as part of The New York Public Library Digital Library. 

Copies of the microfiche edition are available in some libraries outside New York City: (CA) U.C.-Riverside, U.C.-Santa Barbara; (DC) Library of Congress, Smithsonian Institution; (FL) Broward County Library Division; (KY) U. of Kentucky; (LA) Southern University; (MA) Harvard, M.I.T, U.of MA-Amherst; (MD) U. of Maryland; (MI) Michigan State University; (NC) U. of N. Carolina-Chapel Hill; (NE) U.of Nebraska-Lincoln; (NY) SUNY Brockport, Syracuse University; (OR) University of Oregon; (VA) Chrysler Museum; (WA) U. of Washington; (Canada) U. of Calgary-Alberta.

Do you have resources for research on New York City buildings or neighborhoods?
The Milstein Division has a large number of Landmarks Preservation Commission reports as well as an extensive collection of histories of New York City, its buildings and its neighborhoods. We also have clipping files on individual streets and neighborhoods, as well as scrapbooks, real estate brochures, city directories, and collections of photographs of individual buildings. The Milstein Division, along with the Art and Architecture Collection and the Map Division, is an excellent place to learn the history of your building and neighborhood.

What history or genealogy databases are available at the Library?
Visitors to the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building have access onsite to an extensive array of databases that are of interest to genealogists and historians. We have subscriptions to Ancestry Library Edition, HeritageQuest Online, New York Times Historical Backfile (1851-2001), and New England Ancestors. Online indexes to historical periodicals and newspapers include: America: History and Life, Historical Newspapers Online, Periodicals Contents Index, and Nineteenth Century Masterfile. All of these resources are available via the Selective Electronic Resources workstations located in divisions throughout the Humanities Library. None of these resources can be accessed remotely at this time.

How can I donate a genealogy or local history book to the library?
Donations of printed genealogies and local histories help to build our collections. Please send gift copies of your books to:

Milstein Division of U.S. History, Local History and Genealogy
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building - Room 121
The New York Public Library
Fifth Avenue & 42 Street
New York, NY 10018

We accept bound volumes and typescripts, but regret that we cannot accept CDs or other electronic formats.

If you are unable to donate a copy of your printed book, please provide us with order information. If appropriate we will place an order for the title through the Library's regular acquisitions process. Please do not send any materials to the above address unless they are a gift. All gifts will be acknowledged by The Library and may be tax deductible.