Research: Research Services:

Research Assistance/FAQs

 

Where do I find immigration records and ship passenger lists?

Immigration records and ship passenger records are federal government records. Recent immigration records are held by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Older immigration records, including ship passenger lists, are held by the National Archives.

Where do I find federal census records?

Microfilmed schedules of the US Census of Population 1790-1920 are available at the National Archives and its branches. For further information go to the National Archives web site. Copies of the microfilmed US Census schedules for New York State are available at the New York State Library and at other large research libraries around the state. (Contact each library for information about its holdings.)

Do you have newspapers?

The New York State Archives holds historical records of New York State government. The New York State Library holds a very large collection of newspapers. For more information about that collection visit the State Library's web site.

How can I find information on a missing person?

Every year the State Archives receives dozens of requests, such as the one above, for "the file" on someone. The good news is that the State of New York does not keep "files" on all of its citizens; thus there are none in the Archives. Searchers can try many "person finders" on the internet such as Switchboard or WhoWhere. Also a private investigator, licensed by the Department of State, can be hired. For those persons attempting to trace a person in the armed forces and persons who may have been victims of conflict or disaster, contact the American Red Cross, which has links to the Red Crescent, Magen David Adom and the International Red Cross.

How do I find wills in New York State?

The State Archives has created a probate pathfinder to help researchers determine where to locate New Yorkers' probate records, which include wills, estate inventories, and letters of administration relating to deceased persons' estates.  In addition, the State Archives publication on probate records provides a concise explanation of the records in the State Archives which pre-date 1787, their location and how to access them. The custodian for probate records after 1787 is the Surrogates' Courts in each county. Visit the Unified Court System website to learn about the courts and getting access to their records.

How do I find adoption records in New York State?

Adoption records maintained by the Family Court or the Surrogate's Court are permanently sealed pursuant to the Domestic Relations Law Section 114. The records may be disclosed only by a judge's order "on good cause and on due notice to the adoptive parents and to such additional persons as the court may direct."

For further information regarding access to court records in New York State , contact the New York State Unified Court System, Office of Court Administration. The New York Department of Health maintains an adoption information registry on their web site.

What is the New York State Archives? How do I use it? Where is it?

The New York State Archives is the official repository of New York State Government records having permanent legal and historical value. It has custody of legislative, judicial and executive agency records. Our webpage, research assistance, provides information on our hours, phone, email, locations, and parking.

Calling or emailing ahead of your visit is always advisable if you intend to do research. This will allow the staff to determine the availability of records that you may need. Often records are unavailable for research use because of conservation, microfilming, arrangement and description needs. Many times an appointment will allow a staff specialist to be assigned to assist you, assuring the best possible results from your limited research time. There is no charge of this service and many of the most heavily used records are available on self-service microfilm.

How do I get a copy of my GED high school equivalency diploma?

Contact the

New York State Education Department
GED Testing Unit
89 Washington Avenue
PO Box 7348
Albany, NY 12224-0348
Phone: (518) 474-5906
E-mail: ged@mail.nysed.gov

How can I borrow or purchase microfilm from the New York State Archives?

Microfilm produced by the New York State Archives that does not contain information restricted by law, or that is not in daily use at the Archives, is available for inter-library loan or purchase. The Archives' online catalog indicates which record series are available on microfilm.

Where do I get a copy of a divorce decree?

Divorce records dating since July 1, 1847, are filed in the office of the county clerk where the divorce proceeding occurred. (All records of matrimonial actions, including divorce, separation, and annulment, are available only to the parties or their attorneys until one hundred years after the date of the final court decree.)

Divorce records dating prior to July 1, 1847, are filed either at the New York State Archives (upstate counties) or the New York County Clerk's Office, 31 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007; phone (212) 374-4376 (downstate counties).

Where do I find information about a prison inmate?

The New York State Archives holds numerous records relating to inmates of New York State correctional facilities (prisons and reformatories). For information about prison records in the Archives, consult the Guide to Records of the Department of Correctional Services in the New York State Archives or search the Archives' online catalog. The prison records in the Archives are far from complete, and few of the records are indexed. If you want Archives staff to search for a record relating to an individual inmate in a particular prison, you should supply the date of conviction and/or date of admission to the prison. (The date of conviction may be available from the court where the trial occurred, or from a contemporary newspaper story.) The New York State Archives is acquiring only a two per cent sample of prison inmate case files dating after 1956, because of the huge volume of modern records. Access to all or part of a prison inmate's record may be restricted by law. The NYS Department of Correctional Services maintains an online database about current and recent inmates of correctional facilities.

Do you have city directories?

No, the New York State Archives holds only historical records of New York State government. The New York State Library holds a very large collection of directories for cities in New York State. For more information about that collection, go to the State Library's website, phone (518) 474-5355; or e-mail.

Where do I find naturalization records?

The State Archives has created a naturalization pathfinder to help researchers determine where to locate records of New Yorkers' naturalizations from 1664 to the modern day. Naturalization records are created pursuant to the U.S. Constitution and federal law. If a naturalization proceeding occurred in a state court in New York, the resulting records are in custody of the county clerk's office in the county where the proceeding occurred. Addresses of county clerk's offices are available at the New York State Department of State website.

If the naturalization proceeding occurred in a federal court in New York, the resulting records are found in one of two places: the federal district court clerk's office (newer records), or the National Archives' Northeast Region. For further information about naturalization and related records see our publication on Naturalization and Related Records

Where do I find certificates of incorporation for business firms?

Certificates of incorporation for business firms dating back to 1811 (enactment of the first general incorporation law in New York) are filed at the New York State Department of State. Duplicate copies of certificates of incorporation are filed in the office of the county clerk in the county where the business firm has its principal office.

Certificates of incorporation of defunct state-chartered banks and other banking entities are held by the New York State Archives (record series 14272 Banking Dept. Inactive Institution Files). Until the mid-19th century business corporations were occasionally created by special act of the New York State Legislature. Those acts are published in the annual session laws, available in the New York State Library and other research libraries around the state.