Resources To Be Found "Only In New York"

Posted By Linda Cantor
Genealogists have gotten used to doing research on-line, but there is still important genealogical research that requires that you visit archives and repositories in person.  Below are just a few of the New York City repositories that require such an in-person visit.

County Clerk’s Office, Division of Old Records
Address: 31 Chambers Street, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10007
Phone: (212) 374-4376. 
In this building, which also houses the New York City Municipal Archives, you will find a variety of records such as the following:
  • Name changes from 1874 to 1934.
  • Court records for the Court of Chancery, 1754-1847 and New York State Supreme Court, various records from 1754-1940.
  • Records of business names including certificates of incorporation, 1804-1946 (includes synagogues and landsmanshaftn), limited partnerships, and registered business names.
  • Matrimonial records for New York County for 1784-1940, including divorce, separation, and annulment cases. 
These records are for New York County (Manhattan) only and there are various finding aids – index cards as well as a partial computer index.  Some of these records can provide good genealogical information such as family names, dates and places of birth, addresses (especially useful for census research), occupational information, and records of family businesses and troubles.
Index Card – Division of Old Records

Surrogate’s Court 
There are separate courts, one for each borough (county) – where you will find wills and indexes, records of probate, and letters of administration and estate taxes.  
  • Bronx County Surrogate’s Court, 851 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY 10451.
  • Kings County Surrogate’s Court, 2 Johnson Street (Supreme Court Bldg), Brooklyn, NY 11201.
  • Queens County Clerk’s Office and Surrogate’s Court, Supreme Court Building, 88-11 Sutphin Boulevard, Jamaica, NY  11435.
  • New York County Surrogate’s Court, 31 Chambers Street, 4th floor, New York, NY  10007.
  • Richmond County Clerk’s Office and Surrogate’s Court, County Court House, 18 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, NY 10301. 
The holdings and finding aids vary from office to office.  Wills can provide the names and addresses of heirs and prospective heirs as well as financial information about the deceased and occasionally will contain a death certificate.  Keep in mind that you did not have to be rich to have a probated will – many “average” people did have one.

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Center for Jewish History 

Address: 15 W.16th Street, New York, NY 10011
Phone: (212) 294-6080

This resource has a treasure trove of records that you will not find anyplace else.  You can peruse their on-line catalog, but need to be there in person to look at the records.  You can find things such as:
  • Landsmanshaftn records for more than 1,000 organizations.
  • Workmen’s Circle Records
  • HIAS case files
  • European community records from hundreds of communities in Eastern Europe.
  • Bund records (the Bund was a Jewish political party and labor organization)
  • Photo and sound collections of Yiddish life in Eastern Europe.
  • American Yiddish music and theater.
  • Holocaust Collection including Displaced Persons (DP) camp records, Warsaw, Lodz, Vilna ghetto documents, and eyewitness accounts. 
This is just a partial list that gives you a flavor of what you can find at this unique repository.  An example of a document from Lithuania is the following which is a birth affidavit from Uzpaliai, Lithuania. 
Birth Affidavit from Uzpaliai, Lithuania
 “We the undersigned, Binyamin Tsibul and Avraham Lanosky give witness that Eliyohu, the son of Israel Slonomsky was born in the city of Ushpol, the County of Utena, 1900, the 2nd day of May.” (Uzpaliai Document 3923 from the Archives of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York, Record Group 2, Collection of Lithuanian Jewish Communities.)
There are many more such sources that require personal visits to repositories, but this should give you a taste of what is available, if you decide to venture away from your computer and visit those repositories.  You can see a complete list of archives and repositories in New York City, with addresses and hours, by going to the web site of the the New York Jewish Genealogical Society and clicking on New York Area Resources.
****Note: For further information about New York Vital Records, read the JewishGen InfoFile available here.

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