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Conducting Research - Milstein Division

Genealogical Research in the Milstein Division and New York Public Library

A selection of the resources available to family historians in the Milstein Division, Room 121 of the NYPL Stephen A. Scwarzman Building and at The New York Public Library.

Classes and Programs

The Milstein Division hosts a number of classes, programs, and lectures given by librarians and guest speakers, including the recurring classes Uncovering Your Family History: Introduction to Genealogical Research, Part I and II, and in genealogy related subjects, such as how to write the history of your house, and how to use photographs in your family history research. 

Research Guides

Librarians have authored a number of guides to assist you with your research, and that illuminate the collections of the Milstein Division. Topics include, how to use the census in genealogical research, overcoming the dreaded genealogy "brick wall," how to research the history of your New York City home, and how to locate obituaries.

Lexington Avenue - East 43rd Street,Chrysler Building spire, Digital ID 1557955, New York Public Library

Genealogy Databases

All public reading rooms in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building offer access to computers featuring a Selected Electronic Resources menu. Library licensed subscription databases and notable free Internet sites are listed under the topic Genealogy. The Milstein Division provides free and unlimited access to the over 70 genealogy and genealogy related databases including:

Library licensed subscription databases and notable free Internet sites pertinent the subjects, with free and unlimited access in the Milstein Division, are also listed under the topics United States History and New York City History.

Visual Collections and Ephemera

The Milstein Division maintains a rich and varied collection of visual materials and ephemera some of which are not cataloged or indexed. Nearly every important topic in United States and New York City history is represented in this collection, which includes photographs, postcards, scrapbooks, pamphlets and clippings. NYPL Digital Collections provides access to thousands of these images including historic photographs of New York City from our collection. 

Vital Records

Vital records - birth marriage and death records - are invaluable sources of information to genealogists and family historians. The Milstein Division provides access to numerous print and digitized indexes of these records, as well as information about the location of these records.

Reference Correspondence Policy

The Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy responds to requests about Library holdings and for information on the following subjects: United States History on the national, state and local level, Genealogy, Heraldry, Personal and Family Names, and Flags.

Send your email reference question here.

Please note that the Milstein Division staff cannot engage in extensive research for correspondents. Requests which require more in-depth research may be directed to the Library's Research Services (fee-based information service.)

Direct requests for document delivery, including copies of articles as well as photographic reproduction or microfilm copies to Research Services.

Current and retrospective book and periodical titles in the Milstein Division can be found by searching the Library's online public Classic Catalog.  Although the Milstein Division's materials do not circulate from the building, many of its U.S. history titles may be found in The New York Public Library's neighborhood libraries.

Among the services we can provide:

  • check Research Libraries holdings for specific titles
  • request volumes for your use from the Library's offsite storage facility in advance of your visit
  • look up names and places in published indexes
  • check NYC census district maps for one address/year
  • look for an individual in up to three years of city directories
  • please direct questions regarding World Wars I and II regimental histories to the General Research Divisiongeneralresearch@nypl.org

Among the genealogical reference services we cannot provide:

  • search New York City Department of Health vital records indexes (some NYC vital records indexes are available at http://www.stevemorse.org/)
  • search National Archives microfilm indexes
  • search old newspapers on microfilm for obituaries and death notices. Research Services provides this for a fee.
  • search telephone directories on microfilm. Research Services provides this for a fee.

Correspondence is generally answered in order of receipt.  We will make every effort to respond to your question within 2 working days, but some requests may take longer. Due to the heavy volume of requests, correspondents are asked to consider the needs of their fellow researchers and refrain from submitting multiple requests.

Surrogate's Court, Hall of Records,31 Chambers Street - Centre Street, Digital ID 1557882, New York Public Library

Other Resources

The Milstein Division has compiled extensive lists of free websites pertaining to genealogy, United States history, and New York City history. These lists are periodocally updated. If you have any suggestions for links to other pertinent websites please contact the Milstein Division at history@nypl.org.

Selected Genealogy Resources

Nearly 200 free resources, including guides to getting started with your research, general resources, links to vital records, census information, historical newspapers, immigration and passenger lists, websites and contact details for libraries, archives, and genealogical and historical societies, and forums and blogs create by genealogists.

Selected United States History Resources

Over one hundred links to free resources pertaining to the colonial period, the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the Civil War, political history, African American history, and United States history in general. Resources include links to digital collections, digitized historical texts, maps, and timelines.

Selected New York City History Resources

More than 80 free resources pertaining to the history of New York City, including links to digital exhibitions and libraries, websites, and information about the city and each of the five boroughs.