Monday, October 8, 2012

The New York City Municipal Archives

Located at 31 Chambers Street in Manhattan, the New York City Municipal Archives is open to the public Monday through Friday. Their hours are posted on their website:

Founded in 1950, the archives preserves and makes available the records of New York City dating from the early 17th century to the present. It holds approximately 160,000 cubic feet of records. The collections include office records, manuscript material, still and moving images of the city, maps, blueprints, census, city directories, and most notably, vital records; an essential resource for patrons conducting family history research based in New York City. 

I have used the Archives several times because like many Americans when my ancestors emigrated to the United States they arrived in NYC. Whether it was for a short time or for the remainder of their lives, many of them lived in one of the five boroughs; Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, or the Bronx. 

To begin your search of vital records in the New York City Municipal Archives I would recommend that first you go through the indexes which you can do through the comfort of your own internet connection. The two genealogical groups have worked together to make these important indexes available to everyone; the German Genealogy Group and the Italian Genealogical Group

By going to either of those sites you can search the vital records indexes which will provide you with the very important certificate number. Having that certificate number for the record you want will expedite your request significantly. You can make your request with or without the  certificate number online through the Municipal Archives website: for a reasonable price of $18.50 (with shipping).

You can also download a form and mail in your request.

However, if you have a long list of individuals to search for you might be best off going in person. Many people do not realize that they can go and observe these records for free. 

When I go to the Municipal Archives I go for a whole day. I leave my home early in the morning via the Long Island Railroad. I take the subway downtown and spend hours going through microfilm looking at certificates. I simply can not afford to purchase a copy for every record I want to look at. And sometimes I just want to look; perhaps I'm not 100% sure this person in the index is indeed my relative. I have an awful lot of Smiths in my genealogy. If you're taking a guess that document records details of your ancestors life, just a guess is not worth $18.50 to me. At the Archives you can just look and take notes. If you're there and you find a record you want a photocopy of they only charge you $11 on site.

The New York City Municipal Archives has provided me with a wealth of information. It is a wonderful research facility. And the work the German Genealogy Group and the Italian Genealogical Group has been an invaluable resource. I can not praise them enough.

However, your genealogical research should start at home...

...I'll preach about that in my next post.

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