New York Church Records

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This entry was originally written by Roger D. Joslyn, CG, FUGA, FGBS, FASG for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
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the New York Family History Research series.
History of New York
New York Vital Records
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Particularly useful as vital records substitutes among the surviving New York church records are those of the Dutch Reformed, Lutheran, Anglican, and Quaker groups. For a general background about colonial New York churches, consult Ecclesiastical Records, State of New York, 7 vols. (Albany, N.Y.: James B. Lyon, 1901'05, 1916). Volume 7 is an index.

For the records themselves, see Guide to Vital Statistics Records in New York State Churches (Exclusive of New York City), 2 vols. (Albany, N.Y.: Historical Records Survey, 1942), and Guide to Vital Statistics Records in the City of New York, Boroughs of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Richmond. Churches, 5 vols. (New York: Historical Records Survey, 1942). There are also several volumes arranged by denomination. These guides, although dated, are still useful for learning what existed and where. An excellent modern guide is Richard Haberstroh, The German Churches of Metropolitan New York: A Research Guide (New York: The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, 2000).

The largest collection of New York church records is probably that of the Daughters of the American Revolution in the State of New York Cemetery, Church, and Town Records (see New York Cemetery Records). Scattered volumes may be found in local libraries for the area in which a particular church is located. To determine what records have been covered, consult the Revised Master Index (see New York Cemetery Records). A card catalog at the New York State Library indexes this collection by county and thereunder by town, village, or other municipality.

Another large collection was commissioned by the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society and is known by the name of its editor, Royden Woodward Vosburgh. Its 101 volumes cover mostly Dutch, German-Lutheran, and Presbyterian records, but not all are indexed. Besides the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, these volumes are available at the Connecticut State Library and on microfilm at the New York Public Library, the Family History Library, and in other libraries (see 'The Vosburgh Collection of New York Church Records,' The NYG&B Newsletter 9 [1998]: 53-55). Arthur C. M. Kelly and Jean D. Worden have published abstracted church records including some that were also done by Vosburgh.

For western and central New York there is a collection of microfilmed church records compiled by the Study Center for Early Religious Life in Western New York at Ithaca College; the study center is now defunct, but the collection is available at the Department of Manuscripts and University Archives, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-5310. A published list of the records is available.

Quakers are treated in John Cox, Jr., 'Quaker Records in New York,' The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record 45 (1914): 263-69, 366-73. Some Quaker records are published such as those for New York City and Long Island in volume 3 of William Wade Hinshaw's Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy (1940; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1969, 1991), and Shirley V. Anson and Laura M. Jenkins, comps., Quaker History and Genealogy of the Marlborough Monthly Meeting, Ulster County, N.Y. 1804'1900+ (Baltimore: Gateway Press, 1980). See also Loren V. Fay, ed., Quaker Census of 1828 (Rhinebeck, N.Y.: Kinship, 1989). Original and full copies of New York state Quaker records from 1663, formerly in New York City, are now at the Friends Historical Library, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA 19081, and many microfilms and abstracts are at the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (see Suzanne McVetty, 'Records of the Society of Friends (Quakers), New York Yearly Meeting,' The NYG&B Newsletter, 8 [1977]: 27-31, and the subsequent '1998 Additions to the NYG&BS Microfilm Collection,' also in the Newsletter, 9 [1998]: 50-52). A 'Map of the Meetings constituting New-York Yearly Meeting of Friends,' 12, by Dr. Shadrach Ricketson, is found facing page 263 in volume 45 of The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record (1914).

A very helpful guide for Jewish genealogical sources in the New York City area is Genealogical Resources in New York (see Background Sources for New York). Harry Macy, Jr. has authored several helpful articles on New York City church records in The NYG&B Newsletter.

Many church records, mostly early and particularly for Long Island, New York City, and the Hudson River Valley, have been published in The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, with a large collection of unpublished records maintained by the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society and by other repositories with manuscript collections.