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About the Milstein Division of U.S., Local History and Genealogy

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The Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy collects publications documenting American history on the national, state, and local levels, including extensive holdings on New York City history. The Division has a renowned collection of family histories and other genealogical collections, with a particular focus on the New York region. Included in the collections are published works from the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society library, photographs, vertical files, postcards, and other visual ephemera.  Its collections and reference services are used each year by thousands of scholars, students, family historians, and researchers.  Learn more about our world-class collections, and follow the activities of the Division through our blog, twitter, and facebook pages.

In-Person Research

Researchers can access the majority of our collections by consulting the Library's Classic Catalog, or with the guidance of our staff.  A valid library card is required to request most print materials. ( Apply for a card ) Laptops are welcome as our reading room is Wi-Fi enabled and equipped with ample power outlets.  

  • The Reading Room has 16 computers with databases and the catalog for research only, and a large selection of collection related reference materials on open shelves.
  • Printing  from the databases and photocopying (with the Librarian's permission) can be done in the reading room; payment is by credit card. 
  • Room 119 is the Milstein Division Microform Room. It facilitates self-service access to many important microform genealogy resources including  NYC vital records indexes, probate records, city and business directories, state censuses, property deeds, and more.  
  • Both rooms are open Monday, Thursday to Saturday, 10-5:45, and Tuesday and Wednesday, 10-7:45. Closed Sunday.

Plan Your Visit

We encourage you to plan your research visit. Please note that portions of our collection may be offsite and requesting materials in advance from the Classic Catalog will help you make the most of your visit.

  • Contact us with your research questions at history@nypl.org.
  • Please note that portions of our collection are not yet searchable though the catalog or may be located in offsite storage and e-mailing us in advance will help you make the most of your visit. 
  • If you have already identified the resources you would like to consult, you can request materials in advance of your visit
  • Request for onsite materials cannot be accepted beginning 30 minutes prior to closing.

Visits, Classes, and Tours

The Milstein Division welcomes requests for organizational tours, lectures, and class visits and similar events. Please submit your request for your organization or class using our Request Form

Collection Description

The Milstein Division bears the responsibility for maintaining the excellence of a body of materials that has traditionally been one of the strengths of The Research Libraries. The Astor Library's holdings of United States history on the national, state and local level were enriched by the acquisition of the George Bancroft Collection, purchased by the Lenox Library. Later significant additions were the Ford, Emmet and Myers Collections. Complementary holdings in the Rare Book and Manuscripts & Archives Division, the Print Collection and other divisions of the Research Libraries enhance the resources of The Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy.

As one of the nation's largest publicly accessible and non-membership genealogical collections, the Milstein Division is a national resource. Unlike many other genealogical and local history collections, the Milstein Division acquires materials beyond the local region.  Our holdings in town, city, county, and state histories are national in scope, while our historical genealogical materials are international in scope, including foreign language materials in Roman alphabets. The collections are comprised of 1/2 million books, 400,000 photographic images, as well as the published materials and researcher and vertical files from the collections of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society.

The Milstein Division's book and serial collections are supplemented by materials in other formats. Visual resources include photographic and negative collections, primarily of New York City views, and over 100,000 postcards documenting United States local views. A local history ephemera collection of provides primary study materials for the cultural, social, and religious history of the United States. The Milstein Division also collects political campaign ephemera, including broadsides, and pamphlets. Vertical files and genealogical charts further enhance the holdings of The Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy.

The Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy is endowed through a generous gift from the Paul & Irma Milstein Foundation.