At-Home Library Resources to Start (or Re-Start) Genealogical Research

By Carmen Nigro, Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
April 17, 2020
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

Midland Beach, Staten Island, N.Y. House with family gathered on front porch. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 104509

Recently, an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution titled "Now Could Be the Time to Get To Those Genealogy Projects" raised the idea that “if you are not homeschooling or working, it could be an excellent time to get organized” in your genealogy research. In Psychology Today, author Libby Copeland made the point that “genealogy provides context to our suffering” and that “that there is something reassuring about knowing we have been here before, even if we’ve never experienced precisely this.” Partner these thoughts with the fact that phone calls have increased dramatically during the pandemic response—and that people are talking more with friends and family members—so now may be a good time to conduct interviews for genealogy facts. And, if you are well along in your genealogy research, now may be the time to finally write your family history

How can the Library help with genealogy research while the buildings are closed? 

Remote access to research databases 

During the Library's closure users can log in from home to important genealogy collections that were formerly only available by visting the Library. These include Ancestry, Newspapers.com, America’s Historical Newspapers, The New York Times Historical Database, and the African American Historical Serials Collection.  

Bryant Park view of the New York Public Library Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 1558521

Librarians are assisting researchers remotely

The librarians of the Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy are answering questions by email (send a message to history@nypl.org or use our web form). So far, the librarians have been able to respond with the information needed for most of the questions, with only a few that will require follow-up once the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building reopens. 

NYPL has developed Digital Research Books,

This is an early beta test of a new project that collects digital versions of research books from many different sources—including Open Access publications—into one convenient place to search. In addition, staff members can often locate digitized versions of books that researchers need. 

New York City directory, 1886/87. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 56830227

Digital Collections, Archives & Manuscripts, Serials & Newspapers

The Library’s Digital Collections portal and Archives & Manuscripts portal provides access to some popular genealogy resources such as the NYPL’s collection of New York City Directories or Yizkor books and the Archives and Manuscript’s Division’s digitized holdings. Digital access to several serials and newspapers such as The Villager and B'nai B'rith Messenger are available, as is the Library’s digitized collection of Maps & Atlases

Online research guides

The Library’s online research guides for genealogy cover a range of topics. Some of the most popular and useful guides include: