Guide to the Research Collections



The 39,000 volumes of genealogy include materials on heraldry, as well as vital records and city directories. Bibliographies, indexes, and general reference works for all nationalities are present, with particularly rich collections of individual and collective English and American genealogical works. European resources are strongest in collective genealogies, although individual genealogies for prominent continental families are included. Genealogical textbooks, guidebooks, manuals, and books of popular instruction are an outstanding feature of the resources. Numerous dictionaries in English and the major Western European languages deal with the origin and meaning of given names and surnames.1

The collection is strong in volumes on the peerage and royal lineages; there is an excellent run of the Almanach de Gotha from 1777. Other Gotha publications are well represented, as are Burke's Peerage, Burke's Landed Gentry, and G. E. Cokayne's Complete Peerage and similar works relating to European nobility. There is an excellent historical collection of publications, yearbooks, and proceedings of American patriotic societies such as the Sons of the Revolution, Daughters of the American Revolution, and

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others. The Local History and Genealogy Division has been a depository since 1961 for materials from the New York State Daughters of the American Revolution concerning cemetery, town, and family records, a collection which in 1969 consisted of more than 450 typescript volumes.

Among significant library publications in the field of genealogy are Harold Lancour, A Bibliography of Ship Passenger Lists, 1538-1825 (1937); revised and enlarged by Richard J. Wolfe, with a list of passenger arrival records in the National Archives by Frank E. Bridgers (1963; third edition, second, corrected printing, 1966); George F. Black, The Surnames of Scotland; Their Origin, Meaning, and History (1946; reprinted 1962 and 1971); and Lester J. Cappon, American Genealogical Periodicals; a Bibliography with a Chronological Finding-List (1962; second printing, with geographical finding-list, 1964).

Notable Accessions

The strength of the collections is based upon important gifts which have come to the Research Libraries over the years in addition to their continuing purchases. In 1896 the purchase of the W.P. Robinson collection of American town and family histories (3,221 volumes and 921 pamphlets) formed one of the cornerstones of the holdings. By 1900 a separate catalog for materials on local history and genealogy was located in the Lenox Library, and the books were shelved in a separate area. The Cleveland Dodge gift of some 400 British genealogies and town and county histories came in 1909. In 1916 the widow of Professor Frank Dempster Sherman gave a large collection of materials relating to the Sherman genealogies.2 The John Malcolm Bullock gift of a collection relating to Scottish genealogy and local history was added in 1920. In the early 1950s the Research Libraries purchased the Washburn collection consisting of the office files of Mabel R.T. Washburn and the National Historical Society, Inc. The material includes many unpublished genealogies. In 1958 the most extensive genealogy devoted to one family, that of the Palmers in the United States, was deposited by Nellie Morse Palmer, who had assisted her husband Horace Wilbur Palmer in the preparation of this work in 17 bound volumes totaling 8,220 pages.

Rare Books and Manuscripts

Among rare early genealogies in the Rare Book Division is the Memoirs of Capt. Roger Clap (1731), which contains a short account of the author and his family, qualifying it as the first printed American genealogy. Another early American work is A Genealogy of the Family of Mr. Samuel Stebbins, by Luke Stebbins, (1771).

A body of material in the Manuscripts and Archives Division relates to the American Loyalists during the period of the Revolution. Most important of the items are 60 volumes of transcripts of the original manuscripts, books, and papers of the Commission of Enquiry into the Losses and Services of the American Loyalists (1783-90) preserved with the Audit Office Records in the Public Record Office of England. A microfilm copy is available for public use. The George H. Budke papers in the division contain early records of the history of Rockland and Orange Counties, New York, and the adjoining Bergen County, New Jersey, including much genealogical material.

Typescripts of tombstone inscriptions, indexes of wills, lists of church members, records of marriages, and similar unpublished materials in the Local History and Genealogy Division form a primary source of genealogical information. For example, Gertrude A. Barber's compilations and indexes of New York State records are listed on more than 100 cards in the division catalog. Additional transcripts are the work of Kenneth E. Hasbrouck working in New York State, and Francis F. Spies working in Vermont, New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey, as well as the aforementioned New York State DAR collections.

Vital Records

Every effort is made to collect the printed or typescript indexes to vital records pertaining to births, marriages, and deaths in the various states of the United States. A printed series worthy of special mention is the index to vital records of New York City, issued by the city, which commenced in 1888. The library receives these indexes with the understanding that the volumes covering births and deaths will be used only for historical and genealogical purposes. The records of marriages, which included only the name of the groom, is no longer published; the last volume was for 1936. Various vital records for the period 1795-1866 are available in the Municipal Archives and Records Center, which was formerly a part of the New York Public Library.

City Directories

The collection of United States city directories through 1869 numbers approximately 1,300 and is of exceptional strength and completeness. Films of the New York City directories are available for public use. A good collection of city directories for the period after 1870 is kept in the Research Libraries Annex at 521 West 43rd Street. The General Research and Humanities Division administers a representative group of current United States city directories, which are held in the Main Reading Room.