Milstein Division FAQ
Do I need a Library Card?
You will need a library card to request most print materials held in the Milstein Division's collections. You can request a library card onsite, or in advance of your visit: see the New York Public Library's Library Card page for more details.
All visitors to the Milstein Division, who have formal identification, regardless of home address, are entitled to a library card.
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:
- Index to Births, 1866–1909 (start date varies by borough)
- Index to Deaths, 1847–1948 (start date varies by borough)
- Index to Marriages (Grooms), 1888–1937
- Index to Marriages (Brides), 1869–1937
In the case of births, marriages and deaths, indexes are lists of names, dates and, where relevant, certificate numbers, but not the certificates themselves. Depending on the date that they were issued, copies of the certificates are held by the New York City Municipal Archives or the Department of Health. Visit the Milstein Division's Vital Records page for more details.
What are your U.S. Census holdings?
The Milstein Division has microfilm copies of the U.S. Census of Population schedules, 1790–1940 for selected states. Our holdings vary according to Census year but are complete for New York. We have online subscriptions to the Ancestry Library Edition, Fold3, and HeritageQuest Online databases, which include access to digitized images of the Census, with linked name indexes. The databases can be accessed on dedicated workstations 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?
Like the Federal Census, many of the passenger lists have been digitized and are searchable on Ancestry Library Edition in the "Immigration Collection." 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.
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 to and including the Spanish-American War. Indexes to veterans' records are available on microfilm, in books, or online via Ancestry Library Edition. 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 Milstein Division has an extensive historical collection of U.S. city directories on microfiche and microfilm. The Milstein Division Microform Room (Room 119) has a complete set of New York City directories and all available New York State city directories. New York City directories were published only until 1933–34. After that, the researcher must use telephone directories. These are available on microform in Room 100, the Microforms Reading Room. Some city directories can be searched online in the Fold3 and Ancestry Library Edition databases avilable onsite at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. This research guide exploring the history of city directories has more information.
Can you search for obituaries that may have appeared in New York City newspapers?
The Library has an extensive collection of New York 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 Research Services, the Library's fee-based research division may be contracted for this purpose. You may also search for obituaries and death notices in the digitized newspapers in the Library's historical newspaper databases. This research guide describes researching obituaries, and this one describes using historical newspapers to conduct genealogical research.
Are any Milstein Division collections available online?
Most of the books and the periodical collections of Milstein Division are listed (brief descriptions) in the online catalog, including the materials donated from the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society. Some books published before 1923 (out-of-copyright) from the collection are available online via Google Books.
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 the Milstein Division. 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 Research Services. You must always consult with a Librarian before making photocopies of Library materials.
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 division, Research Services. 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?
NYPL Digital Collections provides access to thousands of these images including historic photographs of New York City from our collection. Photographic collections of note include Photographic Views of New York City, 1870s–1970s, Fifth Avenue, New York, from start to finish. (1911), and the Collection of Photographs of New York City, 1932–1942.
In addition to digital images, 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. See the Milstein Division's Visual Collections and Ephemera page for more details.
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, microfilmed copies of property deeds, 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. Please consult this research guide for more information: Who Lived In a House Like This? A Brief Guide to Researching the History of Your NYC Home.
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, among many others, Ancestry Library Edition, HeritageQuest Online, and American Ancestors. Online indexes to historical periodicals and newspapers include: ProQuest Historical Newspapers, America's Historical Newspapers, America: History and Life, Periodicals Index Online, and Nineteenth Century Masterfile. All of these resources are available via the Selective Electronic Resources workstations located in divisions throughout the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.
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 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.