Ancestry.com users can look up vital records of their New York ancestors for free. Credit: Ancestry.com
Genealogy website Ancestry.com has partnered with the New York Municipal Archive to release a collection of New York vital records. The records are from across five boroughs and include more than 80 years of birth, marriage and death records.
Users around the world will be able to search for information on their ancestors in New York and order official copies of documents from the New York Municipal Archive. The collection of nearly 10.5 million records spans from 1878 to 1909 for birth certificates, 1866 to 1939 for marriage records and 1862 to 1949 for death certificates.
Ancestry.com also now hosts an expanded New York Census Collection, which includes the complete 1855 and 1875 New York State censuses. The collections were previously only available on the New York Municipal Archive's website, and the partnership with Ancestry.com has given the site much more exposure. "Teaming up with Ancestry is a very big deal because it pushes out our index to a worldwide audience," said Eileen Flannelly, commissioner of the Department of Records. Flannelly added that one condition the Department of Records made with Ancestry.com was that the index would be free to use; copies of certificates cost $15.
Quinton Atkinson, director of content at Ancestry.com, said the records shed light on a pivotal period in American history. "We know millions of people came to New York City, mostly through Ellis Island, and spent their entire lives in New York City and used the city as a transition location," he said. "They'd come and stay for a few years and slowly move westward, and while they were in New York, some important events happened in their lives — deaths and marriages of family members — so it’s a widely important collection. With 10 million records, that's a significant collection in one of the most important cities for tracing history."
The federal censuses are also useful for amateur genealogists looking for information on their ancestors. Atkinson pointed out that users will be able to not just determine the occupations and former addresses of ancestors, but also find out more about related family members. "You can find a family member in that census and see who was living with them at that time," said Atkinson. "Quite often, family members in the household included nephews, nieces, aunts and uncles who came to the U.S. and stayed with them for a few fears, so if you can identify an ancestor you've hit a goldmine of information."
Atkinson also pointed out that making that information widely available was an important tool for people who can't make the trip to New York to visit the municipal archives in person. Flannelly agreed, saying, "This simplifies things for users: They go to Ancestry, and the site connects them to our website, and in addition to finding a lot of records they now see that we have 400 years of history under our umbrella on our site."
Flannelly said her department has already seen an influx in orders. "We saw a very large spike in our orders, but that’s not a bad complaint," she said. We’re very happy. We had a lot of calls in from overseas — it’s amazing the reach of where we get these orders from."