New York History and Research Overview

New York History and Research Overview

Learn about New York's history and available records in this research guide that includes a map and bibliography.


Originally called New Netherland, New York was founded by the Dutch West India Co., a merchant company founded in 1621, and chartered by the Dutch government. The colony remained New Netherland until 1664, when the English separated it into what became the British colonies of New York and New Jersey.

After the American Revolutionary War ended in 1783, Loyalists from New York were relocated to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the British West Indies. If your ancestor seems to have disappeared about this time, you may want to investigate these areas.

The Reorganization Act of 1788 divided the state into 120 towns, which became the level at which many records are kept. Cities are not part of towns. In fact, New York City is in many ways almost a separate entity, exempt from some of the state laws, that can affect record keeping.

New York began to grow in many different ways after the American Revolutionary War. Shipping lines chose its port, as a major stop, increasing immigrants and cargo traffic and giving New York City an opportunity to become a thriving metropolis. The completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 further enhanced travel through the state of New York.

(click to enlarge)
New York state map with county outlines


  • When working with state census records, look for a published index for the county of interest.
  • Border disputes with Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Vermont during the 1700s may affect where you search for records. Some records from this time may be in one of these states.
  • New York has town and county historians. See the Association of Public Historians of New York State website for their contact information.


  • Federal census: 1790, 1800, 1810, 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1890 (only Eastchester, Westchester, Brookhaven and Suffolk counties), 1900, 1910, 1920
  • Federal mortality schedules: 1850, 1860, 1870,1880
  • Civil War Union veterans and widows: 1890
  • Agricultural, industrial (manufacturing) and social schedules: 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880


  • A Bibliography of New York State Communities, 3rd edition, compiled by Harold Nestler (Heritage Books, 1990)
  • The Book of Names Especially Relating to the Early Palatines and the First Settlers
  • in the Mohawk Valley compiled by Lou D. MacWethy (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1981)
  • Colonial Families of Long Island, New York and Connecticut, 5 vols., by Herbert Furman Seversmith (H.F. Seversmith, 1939-1958)
  • Contributions for the Genealogies of the Descendants of the First Settlers of the Patent and City of Schenectady, From 1662 to 1800 by Jonathan Pearson (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1976)
  • Cutter Index: A Consolidated Index of Cutter’s 9 Genealogy Series by Norma Olin Ireland and Winifred Irving (Ireland Indexing Service, ca. 1970)
  • Documentary History of the State of New York, 4 vols., arranged by E.B. O’Callaghan (Weed, Parson, Public Printers, 1849)
  • Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York: Procured in Holland, England, and France, 15 vols., by John Romeyn Brodhead, edited by E.B. O’Callaghan (Weed, Parsons & Co., 1853-1887)
  • Dutch Houses in the Hudson Valley Before 1776 by Helen Wilkinson Reynolds (Dover Publications, 1965)
  • Encyclopedia of Biography of New York, 4 vols., by Charles Elliot Fitch (American Historical Society, 1916)
  • Famous Families of New York, 2 vols., by Margherita Arlina Hamm (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1902)
  • Genealogical Data from Colonial New York Newspapers compiled by Kenneth Scott (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1977)
  • Genealogical Data from New York Administration Bonds, 1753-1799 and Hithero Unpublished Letters of Administration abstracted by Kenneth Scott (Genealogical and Biographical Society, 1969)
  • Genealogical Data from the New York Post-Boy, 1743-1773 by Kenneth Scott (National Genealogical Society, 1970)
  • Genealogical and Family History of Central New York, 3 vols. (Reprinted for Clearfield Co. by the Genealogical Publishing Co., 1994)
  • Genealogical and Family History of Southern New York and the Hudson River Valley, 3 vols. (Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1914)
  • Genealogical Notes of New York and New England Families by S.V. Talcott (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1973)
  • Genealogical Resources in New York edited by Estelle M. Guzik (Jewish Genealogical Society, 2003)
  • Genealogical Resources in the New York Metropolitan Area edited by Estelle M. Guzik (Jewish Genealogical Society, 1989)
  • Genealogies of Long Island Families: From the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, 2 vols., selected by Henry B. Hoff (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1987)
  • Genealogy of the French Settlers of New Paltz by Louis Bevier (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1965)
  • Guide to Genealogical and Biographical Sources for New York City (Manhattan) 1783-1898 by Rosalie Fellows Bailey (1954)
  • A Guide to the Manuscript Collections of the New-York Historical Society, 2 vols., by Arthur J. Breton (Greenwood Press, 1972)
  • The Guide to NYC Public Records by Barbara Kronman (Public Interest Clearing House, 1992)
  • History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West, 1614-1925, Covering the six Counties of Schenectady, Schoharie, Montgomery, Fulton, Herkimer, and Oneida, 4 vols., edited by Nelson Greene (S.J. Clarke, 1925)
  • A History of New York State by David M. Ellis. et al. (Cornell University Press, 1983)
  • History of the Valley of the Hudson: River of Destiny, 1609-1930, Covering the Sixteen New York State Hudson River Counties, 5 vols., edited by Nelson Greene (Genealogical Society of Utah, 2000)
  • Inhabitants of New York, 1774-1776 by Thomas B. Wilson (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1993)
  • Land Papers translated and edited by Charles T. Gehring (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1980)
  • Lists of Inhabitants of Colonial New York by E.B. O’Callaghan (Edmund Bailey) (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1979)
  • Long Island Genealogical Source Material, a Bibliography by Herbert F. Seversmith and Kenn Stryker-Rodda (National Genealogical Society, 1962)
  • New Netherland Roots by Gwen F. Epperson (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1994)
  • New York Area Key: A Guide to the Genealogical Records of the State of New York by Florence Clint (Keyline Publishers, 1979)
  • The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record: Master Index, 113 Years, 1870-1982 by Jean D. Worden (J.D. Worden, 1983)
  • New York Genealogical Research by George K. Schweitzer (Schweitzer, 1988)
  • New York Research Outline by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Family History Library (online at>)
  • New York State Probate Records: A Genealogist’s Guide to Testate and Intestate Records by Gordon L. Remington (New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2002)
  • New York State Towns, Villages, and Cities: A Guide to Genealogical Sources by Gordon L. Remington (New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2002)
  • Obituary Index edited by Ellen S. Wasserman (Meckler Publishing, 1989)
  • Personal Name Index to “The New York Times Index,” 1851-1974, 25 vols., by Byron A. Falk, Jr. and Valerie R. Falk (Roxbury Data Interface, 1976-1985)
  • Personal Name Index to “The New York Times Index,” 1975-1996 Supplement, 7
  • vols., by Byron A. Falk, Jr. and Valerie R. Falk (Roxbury Data Interface, 1998-1999)
  • Proceedings of the Commissioners of Indian Affairs Appointed by Law for the Extinguishment of Indian Title in the State of New York by the New York Commissioners of Indian Affairs (filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1973)
  • Searching in New York: A Reference Guide to Public and Private Records by Kate Burke (ISC Publications, 1987)

Return to the main New York page

From the Family Tree Sourcebook
Also available: the State Research Guide Book, State Research Guides CD and The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy.

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