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Family History and Genealogy Research - Center for Brooklyn History

The Othmer Library contains a wealth of materials pertaining to genealogy and family research in Brooklyn and Long Island. This research guide gives an overview of the diverse resources available at BHS, as well as at institutions across New York City.

Anders Goldfarb photographs of Coney Island (v1992.48.43)

The Othmer Library contains a wealth of materials pertaining to genealogy and family research in Brooklyn and Long Island. This research guide gives an overview of the diverse resources available at BHS, as well as at institutions across New York City.

Brooklyn and Manhattan Directories

Before phone books, city directories listed resident names and addresses; some directories also listed profession, work address, and race. Our holdings ranging from 1796 to 1913.

Eardeley NYS Wills Names Index & Eardeley Manuscripts on Microfilm

William Applebie Daniel Eardeley (1870–1935) was a prolific genealogist hailing from Brooklyn, NY. Over the course of his career he amassed an extensive collection of genealogical information concerning families from all parts of the state of New York. The Brooklyn Historical Society has made Eardeley’s collection available to researchers on microfilm.

The Eardeley Collection consists of two components, the Manuscript Collection and the New York State Abstracts of Wills. The Manuscript Collection contains 14 reels of Eardeley’s handwritten notes, which he copied from original documentation in institutions across the state. The reels are arranged alphabetically by family last name. Each family file may contain any number of pages; some files consist of only 1 page while others number over 200 pages. Consequently, the scope of information included in each family file varies, but generally ranges from a family member’s date of birth/death, town of residence, and names and dates of birth/death of the deceased’s spouse and children, to titles of inheritance and copies of wills and deeds. The date range covered by the collection is quite extensive, reaching as far back as the time of New York’s founding up to the early twentieth century. The Manuscript Collection is accompanied by a printed index listing each family last name in alphabetical order and the corresponding reel on which the family file can be found. An alphabetical listing of family names included in the collection is available here.

The New York State Abstracts of Wills is comprised of 11 reels organized alphabetically by county name. The reels consist of abstracts of wills, administrations and guardianships compiled by Eardeley during the period 1929–1933, which he copied from original estate proceedings in the counties of New York.  The abstracts generally cover the years 1787–1835, and each county file can range from several hundred pages to over a thousand pages.  In addition, Eardeley indexed on 3×5 cards all the names in his abstracts, i.e., those of the descendants, executors, administrators, petitioners, guardians, witnesses, named beneficiaries and minor children.  This index is available on a collection of 7 microfilm reels and is arranged alphabetically by last name.  Each 3×5 card contains an individual’s name, date of death (if applicable), town of residence, and page number on which the indexed person can be found within the corresponding county file.

The Eardeley Genealogy Collection is a valuable resource for researchers seeking genealogical information on individuals across the state of New York from the time of its founding up to the early twentieth century.

Brooklyn & Long Island Scrapbooks

This collection consists of newspaper clippings from the 1860s to the 1960s gathered from local Brooklyn and Long Island newspapers. All articles are viewable on microfiche and searchable by a subject card index.

Long-Island Star

One of the earliest newspapers to run in Brooklyn, the Long-Island Star was published from 1809 to 1863. A digitized version of the newspaper is available here. The Othmer Library also holds a card index of marriage and death notices abstracted from the Long-Island Star and Brooklyn Evening Star for the years 1809–45.

Historic Brooklyn Atlases

The BHS’ collection of atlases range from 1855 to 1929. Most of our atlases are bound fire insurance maps, which show Brooklyn block by block.  The buildings are color-coded according to what they are made of (e.g. pink indicates brick or stone, yellow indicates wood). Larger businesses are identified as well as churches, schools, cemeteries, and parks. While the atlases serve a multitude of purposes, they are particularly helpful when trying to determine the age of a building. They are also helpful in determining addresses, which often changed pre-1900, and they also list block and lot numbers.  A full list of the atlas collection is available here.

Vital Statistics

While the library does not have birth, marriage, or death certificates, we do have a variety of transcriptions compiled by genealogists.  Search BobCat, our online catalog, to find the titles in the library. Below are some suggested search terms:

Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) – Statistics, vital
Kings County (N.Y.) – Statistics, vital
Long Island (N.Y.) – Statistics, vital
Flatlands (New York, N.Y.) – Statistics, vital
Bushwick (New York, N.Y.) – Statistics, vital
Flatbush (New York, N.Y.) – Statistics, vital
Gravesend (New York, N.Y.) – Statistics, vital
Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.) – Statistics, vital
Register of births, etc.—New York (State) – Long Island
Marriage records – New York (State) – Long Island
Wills – New York (State) – Indexes
Wills – New York (State) – Kings County
Probate records – New York (State) – Indexes

Census Materials

Search BobCat, our online catalog, to find the types of census materials we have. Below are some suggested search terms:
Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) – Census
Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) – Genealogy

Family Histories

We have a large collection of bound histories of specific families. To find them, search BobCat, our online catalog. To find out whether we have a history for a particular family, do a subject search using the surname plus “family” (e.g. “Call family”).

Genealogy Reference Materials

To find genealogy reference guides, do a subject search for genealogy on BobCat, our online catalog. You can also browse the results from a general search on the term genealogy to see whether there is a more specific subject within genealogy that interests you (e.g. the indexes we have for genealogical periodical, “genealogy – periodical” would lead to what books we have).

Archives & Manuscript Collections Genealogy Materials

In addition to genealogical materials within the general library collections, we have many relevant materials within the archives and manuscripts. These can range from collections of family papers with information about several generations of one family to the research files of a specific genealogist. To begin your search of the finding aids for our archives and manuscript collections, please visit our online finding aids search portal.

Additional Family & Genealogy Resources

Lucille Fornasieri Gold photographs (v2008.013.73)

While the Othmer Library holds many genealogy resources, additional and supplemental research can be done outside of the library. To aid researchers interested in genealogy research related to Brooklyn, Long Island, and New York, we have complied the list of resources below.


Irma and Paul Milstein Division of U.S. History, Local History and Genealogy
Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, Room 121
New York, NY 10018-2788
[email protected]

Library catalogs, handbooks and guides, New York City vital records, indexes, passenger lists, census records, naturalization petitions indexes, U.S. military sources, Daughters of the American Revolution and Loyalist sources, Irish sources, regional records, newspapers and indexes, city and telephone directories, family histories, periodicals, selected electronic resources for genealogy in the library, photographic collections.

Brooklyn Collection
Grand Army Plaza
Brooklyn, NY 11238

Includes books, maps, photographs, city and telephone directories, ephemera and yearbooks. BPL has digitized and made available online the full run of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (1841–1955), and a portion of its collection of Brooklyn city directories (1856–1967).

The Archives at Queens Library
89-11 Merrick Boulevard
Jamaica, NY 11432

Local history and genealogy with a focus on Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Brooklyn College Local History Research Collection

For a subject outline of this collection, which includes Brooklyn library and archives materials dating from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries, go here.

Record Repositories

Department of Records and Information Services
31 Chambers Street, Room 103
New York, NY 10007
Information and online application forms for obtaining birth, marriage, and death records for the five boroughs.  Collections also include tax photographs, naturalization papers, business files, court records, mayors’ papers, City Council records, Board of Education records, etc.

Kings County Surrogate’s Court
2 Johnson Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
If an ancestor had a will probated in Kings County, you can find it on the bottom floor of the Surrogate’s Court, Room 109.

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
One Bowling Green, third Floor
New York, NY 10004
Toll-free: 1-866-840-1752
New York location: 212-401-1620
[email protected]

Repository of federal records, including military, citizenship, criminal court, and bankruptcy petitions. NARA also provides a useful online guide to genealogy research.

Kings County Civil Court
141 Livingston Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Archives – Basement 007
Repository for civil court filings, such as name change petitions.

Genealogy-Related Websites

Brooklyn Genealogy Information Page
Detailed search portal for numerous resources on Brooklyn municipal history, directories, cemeteries, police and fire departments, schools, clubs etc.

Online Census Records
The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints genealogy website has made census records freely available.

New York City Vital Records Index and the Municipal Archives have collaborated to make available indexes of over 10 million New York City birth, marriage, and death records (1866–1948).

In addition, the website German Genealogy Group provides a detailed database search of numerous vital records information. Despite the name, the website is not exclusive to those of German ancestry.

Kings County Estate Files (1866-1923)
Brooklyn probate records have been digitized and made available online for the years 1866–1923.

Available by subscription, but also freely available at most public libraries, this site offers fully scanned and searchable federal censuses for all years currently available.

Italian Genealogical Group
Includes many indexes, such as searchable birth, marriage, and death indexes. Not limited to those of Italian ancestry.

Genealogy website dedicated to African-related ancestry.

Castle Garden
Online searchable database of all passengers that arrived at Castle Garden immigration port between 1820 and 1892.

Ellis Garden Passenger Search
Online searchable database of all passengers that arrived at Ellis Island immigration port between 1892 and 1957.

Stephen P. Morse
One-step portal for immigration records and genealogy; birth, marriage and death indexes; Electoral District /Assembly District finder for census research.

Green-Wood Cemetery Burial Search
Created in 1838, Green-Wood Cemetery is Brooklyn’s largest and one of America’s first rural cemeteries.  This online searchable database lets you find out when and where your ancestors were buried there.

National Archives Personnel Records Center
This division of the National Archives holds the personnel records for civilian and military employees who worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during its tenure as a naval facility. The website explains how to request these records.