New York State Library
NYSL Facebook page NYSL Instagram account NYSL Twitter account

Surnames - A Pathfinder

Searching the family surname can be a good way to determine if part of your family tree has already been constructed. The New York State Library has many tools which will help you search for surnames.

Surname card file (Genealogy Area) - This indexes genealogies owned by the New York State Library in a variety of formats: books, articles, pamphlets, manuscripts, Bible records and segments of larger works. Genealogies in book form that were acquired by the Library after 1980 are not indexed in the card file. Use the online catalog instead.

Excelsior Information Online - The State Library's online catalog has information about books and microform genealogies in the Library's collection. Enter the surname (try various spellings) and the word "family." Click "Search Everything."

Periodical Indexes - Family genealogies printed as articles in genealogical magazines can be accessed through genealogical periodical indexes. Look up the surname. Copy the journal title, issue, date and pages where the genealogy appears and then check Excelsior to see if the State Library owns the journal. Type the title of the journal and click "Title." If you cannot obtain a copy of the article at the State Library or directly from another library, you may wish to submit an interlibrary loan request at your local library. To do this, you will need the article's author and title, the title of the journal, the issue, date and pages. You also need the title, volume number and page of the index where you found the information. The following indexes may be helpful:

Genealogical Periodical Annual Index. Annual. (Located on Microform Area table: MA,016.9291,qG326). Indexes genealogical periodicals from 1962 to the present.

Index to Genealogical Periodicals. One volume covering up to the year 1931, (R,929,J17i) plus a three-volume set (R,929,J17iab), which indexes genealogical periodicals through 1952.

Periodical Source Index. Annual. (Located on Microform Area table: MA,016.9292,qP445,88-19931). Provides a comprehensive place, subject and surname index to some 1,600 genealogical and local history periodicals.

Periodical Source INdex (PERSI) on FindMyPast. This index contains all the information in the Periodical Source Index in paper. The index is free but to see the images requires a subscription.

Other Indexes to Surnames

American Biographical Index. 6 vol. (Located on the Biography Reference Table: RT,920.07,A512,90-34534,1993). Indexes the microfiche collection, American Biographical Archives, which is located in the Microform Area. The American Biographical Archives is a collection of biographical material from a variety of sources. It provides information about 280,000 persons, many of which are of local or limited fame.

American Genealogical-Biographical Index to American Genealogical, Biographical and Local History Materials. (R,929,A51bi). Indexes a large number of genealogies which do not contain an index to their contents. Abbreviations are explained in the volumes designated with orange dots (volumes 1,10,34,54,70,110,134).

Biography and Genealogy Master Index. 2nd ed., Annual Supplements. (Located on the Biography Reference Table: RT,920.073,qB615,75-16836,1980). A consolidated index to more than 3,200,000 biographical sketches in over 350 current and retrospective biographical dictionaries. Also available online from InfoTrac.

New Project Genealogical Data Card File (Located in the Genealogy Area). This indexes genealogical forms submitted for DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) membership application. Be sure to copy the volume and page. The DAR Genealogical Data: New Project volumes are located in the DAR area.

The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society: Master Index, 113 Years, 1870-1982. (R,929,qN54). 4 vols. Indexes volumes 1-40 of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. The entry format displays: volume/page (e.g. 18/104).

Genealogical Collections in Other Libraries

The following sources list genealogical material owned by other libraries with major genealogy collections.

New York Public Library. Local History and Genealogical Division. Dictionary Catalog. (R,016.9,qN532). Contains entries for material cataloged in the Local History and Genealogical Section of the New York Public Library through 1971. Additions since January 1972 have been included in the Dictionary Catalog of the Research Libraries.

Newberry Library. Genealogical Index. (R,929,fN561). 4 v. 1960. (Located with genealogy folios). Contains references to over half a million surnames found in genealogical and historical works in the Newberry Library, Chicago. The index was begun in 1896 and continued until the First World War.

Family Associations

Contacting family associations can be helpful in genealogical investigations. Consult Family Associations, Societies and Reunions (R,929.106073,qF198) and related works.

Last Updated: February 8, 2024