The genealogical impact of New York cannot be underestimated. A very high percentage of all the immigrants who came to America either settled in or passed through New York on their way to living in America. This fact alone makes New York State a prime area for broad interest among genealogists. There is probably no way to completely enumerate all of the genealogically significant records available in the entire state without writing an entire book and even if that were to be done, the book would almost instantly be out-of-date.
However, there are some of the major genealogical resources that can be highlighted and that should not be overlooked. There are already a number of lists of such resources available. The FamilySearch.org Research Wiki has a rather long list in an article appropriately entitled, "New York Online Genealogy Records. "
Ancestry.com has an extensive list of genealogical records from New York State. If you look at the Ancestry Card Catalog and filter the results for New York records, you will find over 10,000 collections of records with information about people in New York.
In addition, Findmypast.com also contains significant collections of records from New York. The list goes on for pages in the A-Z list of this website's record sets.
In fact, almost every large online database of genealogy records will likely contain valuable records from New York State and some of those records will probably be unique.
The New York State Archives has another huge online collection of records. There is really no adequate way to determine the total number of records online in any of these large collections and in any event, the numbers would increase almost daily.
Here is a screenshot of the directory for the online collections from the New York State Archives.
Don't be cheated out of finding the information you are seeking by making superficial, general name searches of all these records. Although name searches are helpful, it is always a better to carefully search each collection of records that could potentially contain information about your ancestors.
For example, my own Tanner ancestors moved from Rhode Island to New York in the late 1700s. A good example of the need to study the records carefully is the analysis done by my daughter on TheAncestorFiles blog in a series of articles. These articles include the following two articles:
- "Finding John Tanner among the Country Roads and Farms of Greenwich, New York"
- "William Tanner Lives Again: A Summary of the Tanner Genealogy in 2014"
It is important, in the context of looking at records for New York State online, to remember that many of those records are in the U.S. National Archives. For example, here is a screenshot of the New York currently existing National Archives Records Projects just for New York State records.
Many of these ongoing projects involve the digitization of the records and eventually, these records will make their way online. In addition, many of the National Archive's records are already online in the larger online collections on FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com, and Fold3.com.
It is always important to remember that digitization projects are ongoing and there are huge collections of records that are not yet digitized and must be researched in person. For example, here is a description of the records in the New York City, Department of Records.
Established in 1977, the Department of Records and Information Services preserves and provides public access to historical and contemporary records and information about New York City government through the Municipal Archives, the Municipal Library, and the Visitor Center. The Municipal Records Management Division operates records storage facilities in two locations with a combined capacity of 700,000 cubic feet, and provides records management services to fifty City agencies, ten courts, and the five district attorneys’ offices. Records services include scheduling, off-site storage and retrieval, and overall guidance on management of records in all media. The Grants Administration Unit assists mayoral agencies in obtaining and managing grants from the New York State Archives’ Local Government Records Management Improvement Fund.The potential number of records left to be digitized and made available online is truly astronomical.
No research into the online records of New York State should ignore the NYGenWeb website.
This series will continue. Stay tuned.