Resources of the New York Public Library of Special Interest to Family Researchers

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Milstein Division

The Irma and Paul Milstein Division of U.S. History, Local History & Genealogy, pictured above and located in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, New York City, is the centerpiece of one of the great genealogical resources in the world.  

The vast resources of the NYPL that are of obvious interest to genealogists and family historians exist in the Milstein Divsion and a range of other locations in the NYPL. This page is an introduction. 

The Milstein Division of the NYPL

The Milstein Division collects genealogical material related to New York City, state, and region, but the collection goes far beyond that and is actually national and international in scope. The collection includes books, serials, microforms, vertical files, genealogical charts, photographic and negative collections, postcards documenting United States local views,  pamphlets and other ephemera.  The Milstein Division is located in Room 121 in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue. 

Online Resources

The Milstein Divsion offers basic resources in open stacks and computer terminals at the study tables where patrons may access dozens of subscription databases such as, Fold3 (formerly Footnote), HeritageQuest, ProQuest, and,

Microform Resources

Microform Room 119 facilitates self-service access to the many important microform genealogical resources including some that are not yet online such as New York State Census Records; directories from New York City and other cities and towns throughout the tri-state area; and New York City vital record indexes. 

The Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division of the NYPL

The Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division holds one of the world’s largest, most extensive, and most diverse collections of maps.  An enormous collection of maps of New York City and state is online and is an extraordinarily rich source for genealogical discovery. The reading room, an architectural tour de force, offers open shelf reference books and computer workstations with access to map-related databases. The Map Division is a leader in very advanced use of digital mapping and map research techniques which will powerfully impact genealogy.

Manuscripts and Archives Division of the NYPL

The Manuscripts and Archives Division holds over five linear miles of archival material in over 3,000 collections, including papers, photographs, recordings, film and video, and other types of records. A particular strength of the Division are the 18th - 20th century papers and records of individuals, families, and organizations from the New York region.   A recent addition are the Civil War era records of the United States Sanitary Commission.  A mention of the Records of Fiorello H. LaGuardia, Robert Moses, the Emigrant Savings Bank, and the New York Central Railroad just barely scratches the surface. 

The Rose Reading Room in the Schwarzman Building

Many people going to the Schwarzman Building of the NYPL for its specialized collections forget that the majestic and historic Rose Reading Room contains enormously useful reference material relevant to genealogy and family history. The forty thousand plus reference collections are on open shelves and can be browsed and include standard reference works useful to genealogists and also dictionaries, encyclopedias, biographies, and indexes. This facility has self-service photocopiers, a copy and scanning service, internet access, and several dozen desktop computers. (N.B. The Rose Reading Room is closed for renovation until 2017.) 

Microforms Reading Room

Part of the General Research Division, this room is located in the Schwarzman Building. The collecction of microforms is vast and includes periodicals, monographs, pamphlets, city directories, and much else. The newspaper collection is enormous, and includes many New York City and New York regional and local papers. The NYPL website has exceptionally helpful online finding guides to its newspaper holdings.

Dorot Jewish Division of the NYPL

This division contains a highly important collection of  Hebraica and Judaica.  The collection is global in scope and has strength in Jews in the U.S, and in New York in the age of immigration.

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

The Schomburg Center is a research facility covering the global African and African diasporan experiences. The center is rich in material relating to New York City and state black history, culture, families, neighborhoods, and institutions. The facility offers a General Research and Reference Division, manuscripts, rare books, art in many media, photographs, prints, regordings, and moving images. The Schomburg Center also offers exhibitions and educational programs. The Center is located in Harlem at 515 Malcolm X Boulevard.

Milstein Division