I have begun compiling a bibliography of those works which I believe to be the most useful reference materials for researching New York and New Jersey ancestors. One book that will undoubtedly be included on this list is New York City Municipal Archives An Authorized Guide for Family Historians by Aaron Goodwin, of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. This book is not a guide to the entire holdings of the Archives but instead focuses primarily on those records with genealogical value. For example, The Mayoral Papers, which have tremendous value to the historian, but not necessarily the genealogist, are not covered. But it is worth noting if you discover that one of your New York ancestors worked for the mayor!
The book covers the vital records of New York that one would expect: birth, death, and marriages. But the Archives also has Coroner’s Reports, Almshouse records, cemetery records, farm histories, court records, and much more.
For those performing research to conduct house histories, be sure to check out the photograph collection, which holds images dating back to 1850. Within this collection, you will find the Tax Photo collection, dating 1939-1941. The Department of Finance took pictures of every taxable property in the city. If your ancestor’s house was still standing and being lived in, there should be a picture of it. These images are not yet available online, but they are available on microfilm. You need to know the borough, block number, and lot number to access these records. Close to a million other images have been digitized and are available to view online at http://nycma.lunaimaging.com/luna/servlet.
If you would like to purchase this book, it is available directly from the NYG&B, in hard copy or digital form, for $40. Members receive discounts on all purchases. I would recommend getting the digital form as well as the hard copy, so you can always have it with you. However, the hard copy (which is a softcover book, about 7″ x 10″ and 247 pages) doesn’t weigh much and fits comfortably in my bookbag.
The scope of the holdings is vast and impressive and covers almost 400 years of history, beginning with the earliest records of 1642, when New York was still New Amsterdam. The Municipal Archives, at 31 Chambers Street in Manhattan, is the most extensive such archive in the United States. This guide sure makes navigating all these records a lot easier.