Finding New York Ancestors—The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society

September 28, 2019  - by 
Picture of a family in Manhattan, New York City.

Do you have New York ancestors? The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society offers a vast collection of resources to help you find who and what you may be looking for.

The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (NYG&B) was founded 150 years ago when an inspired group of men and women realized the importance of documenting and saving materials of New York families. Not only did they document and save the materials—they also published them for others to find.

The society works closely with the New York Public Library, which hosts their paper collections, and it is also a FamilySearch affiliate library.

The Record—Published by the NYG&B

Most of the family documents the society has collected are housed at the New York Public Library, but online access helps researchers use The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society Record, often called The Record, from anywhere in the world. This collection of online records has an index that makes it searchable, and the collection dates back to when the society was founded.

The Record includes a lot of variety—religious records, cemetery abstracts, and other New York records. The updated Record has been published each quarter since 1870 and also contains peer-reviewed genealogies, abstracts of a variety of New York state property records, New York state vital records, marriage and criminal records, book reviews, and other important information for people researching New York families.

An illustration of Camel Church found in New York Genealogical and Biographical Society Records.
From the history and genealogy of the Thatcher family, from New York. An illustration of Queen Camel Church in Somerset England, where Rev. Peter Thatcher served as Vicar in 1574.

What Is at the New York Public Library, and What Is Online?

The manuscript collections* that the society has added to the New York Public Library contain some of the richest sources for genealogical research. The localities, family, and subject files hold important materials for people tracing New York ancestors.

Because the society has been around for so long, the paper documents collected here are sometimes not found anywhere else—including original family documents, compiled research notes, cemetery transcriptions, abstracts of local records, and other materials. Some of the materials at the New York Public Library are not yet digitized, but that process is coming along.

Online access to society collections has many perks. Researchers can have access to The Record from anywhere, as well as to a vast collection of religious records from around the state of New York.

Around 100 years ago, the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society started an initiative to contact religious organizations across the state to find the location and condition of their records. Many records have been transcribed and are now available to researchers. The collection (which began as the Vosburgh collection) is still being added to and continues to grow.

Online access* contains digitized versions of record surveys, a finding aid, and other items to help narrow down where a particular record set might be found.

*For access to paper and digital records from the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, some fees may apply. Visit the society’s website to learn more about resources available to members and free resources offered by the society.

Joshua Taylor, President of The NYG&B, “Came Home.”

D. Joshua Taylor, president of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society.

World-renowned genealogist D. Joshua Taylor is currently the president of the society and has been since 2016. He has a few branches of his family who lived in New York for many generations. The Record became a go-to source for him, and it was one of the first resources he came across in his family research. “In a way, it felt like I was coming to my ‘genealogical home,’” Taylor said. He also has been a host of the popular Genealogy Roadshow and became a member of the society in the early 2000s.

A Key to New York Research

The resources offered by the New York Geographical and Biological Society have been an essential key for many people not only to access records, but also to learn how to research their ancestors from New York. Many New York records are not yet online. With the help of the society, researchers can find key links to their ancestors and learn what is available.

The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society has many volunteers and thousands of members. Learn more about the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society online, or call them to find out how they can help you discover your New York story.

As a FamilySearch affiliate library, the society helps extend the reach of FamilySearch genealogical services to local patrons. Genealogy and family history centers interested in the FamilySearch affiliate library program can email BushCD@FamilySearch.org to learn more.

Rachel Trotter

Rachel J. Trotter is a senior writer and editor at Evalogue.Life. She tells people’s stories and shares hers to encourage others. She loves family storytelling. A graduate of Weber State University, she has had articles featured on LDSLiving.com, FamilySearch.org, and Mormon.org. She and her husband Mat have six children and live on the East Bench in Ogden, Utah.

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  1. I am intensely interested. Our Thomas Jones Atkins line is the only one that we have not been able to move backward on – and only a shadowy partial line for his wife. Due to the help of a tv show 30 years ago ,we were able to determine that three of their children were sent out to the Midwest by the Orphan Train of the Children’s Aid Society. Due to their help we have been able to pice together the lines of three children but would love to be able to contact family lines of thei Irish parents. Thomas Jones Atkins was an engraver if the plates used in the newspaper printing process .

  2. I am trying to find if Major Daniel Edgar Sickels is an ancestor. The name evolved to Van Sickelen, descendant of Zacharias Sikels(BORN1630 IWien,Vienna,Austria). My family are Van Sicles . My grandfather, George Washington VanSickle was born 1847 in Canada west (Ontario) ,In the census of 1861, he is listed as 13 years old with Daniel and Phoebe Ann Vansicle residing in Berverly, Wentworth, Canada West.