Genealogy: Resources Available to You
We offer free public access, through our agency's subscriptions, to Ancestry.com and Heritage Quest at all NARA facilities nationwide. Come to the New York facility to use our computers for your family history research. Our knowledgeable staff can also assist with a multitude of genealogical questions.
The most widely used microfilm and original records for family history research are listed below. Click on a title to read more about any particular type of record.
- Census Records
- Naturalization Records
- Passenger Arrival Records
- Customs Records
- Draft, Military Service, and Pension and Bounty Land Application Files
- Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files
- Freedmen's Bureau and Records Pertaining to African American Families
- Dawes Commission Final Cards of the Five Civilized Tribes
- Vital Records
- Other Historical Resources
For additional genealogical information, visit NARA's Genealogy Main Page.
Our office has microfilm copies of the existing Federal population census schedules, taken every 10 years, for all states and territories 1790-1930 (nearly all of the 1890 schedules were destroyed by fire in 1921), plus certain non-population and other special schedules taken for various years.
For more information, see:
There are Soundex Indexes to the 1880, 1900, and 1920 schedules, and partial Soundex indexes to the 1910 and 1930 schedules.
An explanation of Soundex has been created by NARA's Office of Records Services in Washington, DC (NW). See Soundex Indexing System for more information.
Published indexes for all years
- Print Sources
- Online Databases: " Ancestry and Heritage Quest have online indexes and scanned images of the entire U.S. Federal Census, every 10 years, 1790 - 1930
Other Census Schedules
- Non-Population census schedules for Massachusetts 1850-1880 and Vermont 1850-1870
- Non-Population census schedules for Puerto Rico (1930) and the Virgin Islands (1917 and 1930)
- Population and Agricultural census schedules for Puerto Rico, 1935
- Special census of Union veterans and widows of veterans 1890
- National Archives main pages: Census Records
- National Archives magazine Prologue: Genealogy Notes -- Census
Census Records after 1930
Census Records after 1930 are not available through the National Archives. However, you may be able to access certain records for specific legal reasons through the U.S. Census Bureau. Please see the U.S. Census FactFinder (the section on Access to Closed Records) for more information. We believe you need the U.S. Census Bureau's Form BC-600, which you can download here. For any questions contact the U.S. Census Bureau directly (www.census.gov or call 812-218-3046).
Now you can order copies of naturalization records online
Naturalization records are records of immigrants who applied for American citizenship through the courts.
Please see our researcher page on Naturalization Records, where you can access a complete list of our naturalization holdings and indexes (with online indexes available as indicated). You can also read general information on researching naturalization records (including naturalizations filed in local/non-Federal courts and naturalization records pertaining to women before 1922), and instructions for obtaining copies at our facility and through the mail.
Passenger Arrival Records
Immigration records, also known as "passenger arrival records," can provide genealogical information including:
- a person's nationality, place of birth
- ship name and date of entry to the United States
- age, height, eye and hair color
- place of last residence
- name and address of relatives they are joining in the U.S.
- amount of money they are carrying, etc.
It can be useful to research other genealogy sources to aid your search for passenger arrival records. Naturalization records, for example, particularly after 1906, can contain specific details of a person's legal entry into the U.S. -- the exact date and means (ship name, for example) of arrival. Census records often show year of immigration.
Passenger arrival records in New York
At the New York regional office, we have microfilm copies of the lists for the Port of New York, 1820-1957. See the complete list, and read more about our New York passenger arrival records including links to online indexes and information on obtaining copies.
Other passenger arrival records you can research at the New York office
We have microfilm copies of selected lists for other ports including Baltimore (1954-1957), Boston (1820-1891), Galveston, TX (1896-1951), Philadelphia (1883-1945), and Puerto Rico (1929-1932). We also have selected microfilm pertaining to Miscellaneous Atlantic and Gulf Coast microfilm for the ports of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina (1890-1924), and selected passenger arrival and crew list records for various ports in California, Hawaii, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Ohio, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. Additionally, we have the Germany Hamburg Direct Emigration Index (1855-1899) on microfilm.
We also have microfilm of Canadian Border Crossings (1895 - ca. 1954). For more information on these records, please see Canadian Border Crossing Records, an article in the National Archives magazine Prologue.
Other passenger arrival records nationwide
Please see a complete list of passenger arrival microfilm available at the National Archives. Not all of this microfilm is available at the New York office.
All passenger list microfilm is available at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. Some of the microfilm is also available at NARA's regional facilities, but you should contact the individual offices to check on their passenger list holdings.
For more information, see:
- New York Passenger Arrival Records, 1820 - 1957 web page including links to online indexes and information on obtaining copies.
- Complete list of passenger arrival film for the Port of New York, available at NARA's Northeast Region - New York office
- Complete list of passenger arrival microfilm available at the National Archives
- National Archives online Microfilm Catalog, Immigrant and Passenger Arrivals
- National Archives main pages: Research in Immigration Records
- ARC Gallery: Immigration and Naturalization
- Canadian Border Crossing Records, an article in Prologue
- Boston passenger lists held by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
American seamen from New York and New Jersey are documented in U.S. Customs Service records. Researchers will need to know what ports individual seamen may have shipped out of in order to effectively use these records. To locate crew lists it is usually necessary to know the vessel name and port
These are available for these various 1789 ca. 1950. Please inquire about using these records before visiting, since the records listed above do not exist for every port in all time periods.
Information may include:
- Place of Birth
- Town of Residence
- Physical Description
- Names of Relatives
Specific Types of Records Include:
- Crew Lists
- Shipping Articles (which document payments)
- Records of Seamen's Protection (issues for identification)
- Case files of Deceased and Deserted Seamen
- Marine Hospital Returns of Seamen (not medical records, documents money withheld for dues)
Microfilm copies of the applications for pension and bounty land warrants issued to veterans of the Revolutionary War and military service records of those who served in the war. These records cover all states and include name indexes.
Microfilm copies of War of 1812 Military Bounty Land Warrants; an index to compiled service records of volunteer soldiers who served in the War of 1812; the pension index for veterans of the War of 1812, the "Old Wars", Mexican War, and Indian Wars, as well as a general index to pension applications, submitted between 1861 and 1934, for military service performed up to 1916. These records cover all states.
Microfilm copies of abstracts of service records of naval officers for the period 1798-1893 and indexes to compiled service records of volunteer Union soldiers who served in organizations from each the New York Area include:
- Revolutionary War
- War of 1812
- Civil War
- Naval Records
- Other Records
- Pension Indexes
Additional information can be found at: Military Records at New York.
Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files are a valuable resource for the study of Chinese immigration and Chinese-American travel, trade, and social and family history from the late-19th to mid-20th century.
A typical Chinese Exclusion Act case file contains information such as the subject's name; place and date of birth; physical appearance; occupation; names and relationships of other family members; and family history.
Materials in the files may include:
- Certificates of identity and residency
- INS findings, recommendations, and decisions
- Maps of immigrant family residences and villages in China
- Original marriage certificates
- Individual and family photographs
- Transcripts of INS interrogations and special boards of inquiry
- Witness statements and affidavits
The records are indexed by the individual's name. Please note, Privacy Act restrictions may apply to some cases. For more information go to Chinese Immigration and the Chinese in the United States.
Reference Information Paper 99, 1996: Records in the Regional Archives of the National Archives and Records Administration.
Freedmen's Bureau and Records Pertaining to African American Families
Microfilm copies of records of the Assistant Commissioners of the Freedmen's Bureau in the Southern states as well as the registers of Depositors in the branches of the Freedmen's Savings and Trust Co., 1865-1878 (with index), and the District of Columbia Emancipation records of the Act of 1862.
These records often provide considerable information regarding African American family relations, marriages, births, deaths, occupations, and places of residence.
Materials in the files may include:
- Names of slave owners
- Information concerning black military service
- Plantation conditions
- Property ownership
Additional records include the Compiled Military Service Records of the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiments.
Dawes Commission Final Cards of the Five Civilized Tribes
Microfilm copies of the Final Cards of the Five Civilized Tribes as well as indexes to the Eastern Cherokee Applications.
An act of Congress approved in 1893 established a commission to negotiate agreements with the Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, Seminole, and Cherokee Indian tribes. As part of a process to divide tribal land into plots to be divided among the members of the tribe, the Dawes Commission either accepted or rejected applicants for tribal membership based on whether the tribal government had previously recognized the applicant as a member of the tribe and other legal requirements.
Applicants were categorized as Citizens by Blood, Citizens by Marriage, Minor Citizens by Blood, New Born Citizens by Blood, Freedmen (African Americans formerly enslaved by tribal members), New Born Freedmen, and Minor Freedmen. The Final Cards include both approved and rejected names. Most rolls give the name, age, sex, degree of Indian blood, and roll and census card number of each person.
Birth, marriage, and death records -- so-called vital records -- were never done at the Federal level so we do not have them at the National Archives. Instead, you should research local entities like the county or city of residence. If the individuals in question were in New York City, for example, you should start with the New York City Municipal Archives. Their web site has good information on their holdings and procedures: http://www.nyc.gov/html/records/html/vitalrecords/home.shtml.
However, we do have indexes researchers can use in our research room for some vital records series pertaining to New York City and New York State (outside New York City).
New York City
Researcher note: We offer the following databases for free public use at our facility. The actual records are in the custody of the New York City Municipal Archives. You must contact the Municipal Archives directly for access to these records:
- New York City - Manhattan - Death Index 1891-1948
- New York City - all boroughs - Death index 1912-1919
- New York City - all boroughs - Grooms Index 1908-1936
- Brooklyn and Manhattan - Grooms Index 1895-1897
- Brooklyn, Queens, and Bronx Bride Index up to 1936
New York State Vital Records -- Excludes New York City (Microfiche Indexes)
Researcher note: We have the following indexes on microfiche for free public use at our facility. The actual birth, marriage, and death certificates are in custody of the New York State Department of Health, 800 North Pearl Street, Menands, NY 12204; phone 518-474-3077; website www.health.state.ny.us. You must contact the State Department of Health directly for access to these records:
- Alphabetical/Soundex Index to New York State Birth Records, 1881 - 75 years before current year
- Alphabetical/Soundex Index to New York State Marriage Records, 1881 - 50 years before current year
- Alphabetical/Soundex Index to New York State Death Records, 1881 - 50 years before current year
Other Resources for Vital Records
- National Archives page on researching vital records
- The National Center for Health Statistics pages on locating vital records by State
- State Department's page on Documentation of United States Citizens Born Abroad
- Ancestry is the largest online source for genealogy information including vital records. It is a subscription site, but it is available for free public use at all National Archives research facilities and at many public libraries.
Other Historical Resources
We hold vast quantities of records over and above the microfilmed resources commonly used for genealogical research. Many of these records contain information pertinent to local history. It is highly probable that there are many records pertaining to your community, making these records worthy of further research.
- Copyright dispute cases, relating to many arts
- Bankruptcy case papers, including Depression-era files
- Civil War correspondence letters
Please see our Historical Documents page for more information on how to use these records.
Please see our Guide to Archival Holdings at the National Archives at New York City for a complete list of our holdings.