New York Family History Research Guide & Gazetteer: Book Review

This is a resource that I don’t think I’ve ever seen mentioned, but it is a true treasure if you have deep New York roots.

The New York Family History Research & Guide Gazetteer, Revised Edition (2017) was published by the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society.

It is a two-part set which I bought several years ago at RootsTech. Part One is 275 pages packed with information about New York research, while Part Two is a massive 850-page tome. That’s 1125 pages (!!!) all about New York research.

Table of Contents – Part One

Introduction – How to Use This Book
A Chronological Snapshot of New York History and Family History, 1609-1945

Chapter 1: Colonial Era
Chapter 2: Vital Records
Chapter 3: Census Records
Chapter 4: Immigration, Migration, and Naturalization
Chapter 5: Court Records
Chapter 6: Probate Records
Chapter 7: Land Records and Maps
Chapter 8: Military Records
Chapter 9: Cemetery Records
Chapter 10: Business, Institutional, and Organizational Records
Chapter 11: City Directories and Other Directories
Chapter 12: Newspapers and Periodicals
Chapter 13: Tax Records
Chapter 14: Peoples of New York
Chapter 15: Religious Records of New York
Chapter 16: National and Statewide Repositories & Resources
Chapter 17: Reference Shelf for New York Research

Table of Contents – Part Two

Introduction to Part Two – This includes a table of former New York counties and county names and a key to the gazetteers.

Individual County Guides – Each guide includes:  Cover Page with Maps, a Gazetteer of Past and Present Place Names, Repositories and Resources, a Selected Bibliography and Further Reading, and Additional Online Resources.
New York City
Individual Borough Guides
Long Island Resources
Index of Place Names in the Gazetteers

The Tables of Contents pretty much speak for themselves, but this set had to have been in the works for several years. There are many well-known names from the genealogy world who served as contributing authors and advisors. There was even a review committee that gave its final stamp of approval, all of whom are acknowledged. Hundreds of people contributed to this all-in-one resource for New York genealogical research.

New York isn’t the most genealogically-friendly place to research, between a dearth of vital records and laws that can make record requests quite expensive.  The situation has improved slightly with FamilySearch’s collections of New York records.

However, like with New England records, many unique record sets and repositories are found at the local level.

This two-volume set will tell you anything you ever needed to know about New York research, regardless of the locality. I loved the table of New York State’s Foreign-born Population by Selected Place of Birth 1860-2000. The Selected Bibliography and Further Reading pages for African-American research was over two full pages long. Need to find Catholic records? There is a table listing contacts and holdings details for Archival Resources in the Catholic Archdioceses of New York. There is even a section on Eastern Rite Catholics (yes, my Carpatho-Rusyn cousins). Want to find out which counties have state censuses available? There’s a table for that, too.

Those are just a few of the tidbits from Part One.

Individual County Guides in Part Two are even more valuable. I chose Albany County to check out since my Loyalist Astle and Stewart families lived there, as did the early Stufflebeans on Dave’s side of the family.

The section on Albany County is ten pages long. It appears that most other county entries also total about ten pages. One thing I immediately noticed is that when I looked in the county resources for individual towns, I was directed to another county when the town is in a different county today. Therefore, when I looked at Claverack in Albany County, there is a note to look in Columbia County, as county lines have changed through the centuries.

This is really helpful because if that note was omitted, I would be wandering around looking for Claverack. While researchers need to be aware that county lines might have changed, that note saved me a research step of checking online to find out Claverack’s county today.

These two paperback volumes weigh a ton – around 4 1/2 or 5 lbs. I remember telling the vendor to mail the books to me, regardless of the postage cost.

I can’t say enough positive things about this massive work.

That leads me to the good and bad news about this fabulous publication. It is available from the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society online store. The cost is $79.95, but it is only available as a PDF download. Hard copies are no longer available.

I am really thankful that I bought the books when I did. If, like me, you prefer to have the book in your hand to turn the pages, copies can be purchased on everyone’s favorite online shopping spot. However, the books are VERY pricey. The original 2015 set ranged in price from $150 to $987 (which is totally ridiculous!) when I last checked. There were NO copies of the 2017 Revised Edition for sale at that time.

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