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Tips for Locating Primary and Contemporary Source Documentation for New York State on the Internet

If you’re applying for a historic marker grant in New York State, the following list of websites may be helpful during your research. These sites contain digitized copies of original documents and are acceptable as primary source. Please note that images provided with applications may be scans, photocopies or photographs; email attachments are accepted. Please underline, highlight or otherwise indicate relevant text.

  • 19th Century African American Voting Rights, Citizen Action, American Indians in Colonial New York, Women’s Rights in Early New York, Van Rensselaer Manor Papers, and Canal records – and other New York State primary records are digitized and available for viewing at the NY State Archives website.
  • Directories – New York Heritage digital collections has Buffalo City Directories from 1832 through 1868 available online. Jamestown and Olean city directories from 1875-1916 can also be found on the New York Heritage website. The Brooklyn Library has a great collection of digitized Brooklyn directories from 1856-1908 available for free on its website. Directories from the City of Rochester can be found online at the Monroe County Library website. and also have a good selection of directories online; these are pay sites but are available for free at many local libraries. In addition, this website lists where Historical Directories can be found online.
  • Early church records, directories, biographical sketches … members of the Legislature of the State of New York, Society of Friends Joint Committee on Indian Affairs – are available online at the New York State Public Library.
  •  Early Western New York church records – available on microfilm from the Kroch Library Rare Books & Manuscripts Collection at Cornell University Library in their Study Center for Early Religious Life in Western New York collection. Some of these may be borrowed by your public library through Inter Library Loan. For a list of available records click here.
  • Freedman’s Bank records – 55 volumes containing signatures of and personal identification data about depositors in 29 branch offices of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company, 1865-1874 is available through Heritage Quest. This is a pay site, but is available for free at many local libraries.
  • Historical documents inventory – a database of documents available in NYS repositories is available online.
  • Laws of the State of New York, or Statutes of the State of New York – many are available through Google Books. Type in the phrase “Laws of New York” or “Statutes of New York” and the year you are interested in. Also, the New York State Library has the Laws of New York State in digitized form for the years 1802, 1807, 1829, 1827-1892 and 1909.
  • Maps – a collection of digitized early maps are available online at the New York State Public Library website, and at the Library of Congress. The NY State Archives also has a digitized collection of survey maps. The New York Heritage digital collection has Chemung County Atlases online. A collection of Holland Land Company maps is available through the New York Heritage digital collections. Western New York County Atlases are available on the New York Heritage site.
  • NY State Census Records – for 1855, 1865, 1875, 1892, 1905, 1915, and 1925 available at Follow above instructions to get to the Historical Record Collections for New York State.  All but 1865 are indexed.
  • NY State Land Records/Deeds – digitized microfilm available for browsing at Go to Search, scroll down to “Browse by Location,” choose United States, click on New York in left toolbar, choose “New York, Land Records, 1630-1975,” choose “Browse through 8,129,310 images,” choose county.
  • NY State newspapers – are available free, online at, at the Northern New York Library Network website, and through which may be available via your local library. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle is available free online. The Library of Congress has NY newspapers available free online. The New York Times Archive is available free online. Cornell University Library has a digitized collection of the Cornell Daily Sun dating from 1880-1981, and a digitized collection of the Friend of Man an early anti-slavery and other reform movement newspaper from 1836-1842. New York Heritage digital collections has the Buffalo Express from June 4, 1869 – June 9, 1871 online. Westfield local newspapers are also available online through New York Heritage as well as Youngstown newspapers.
  • NY State probate records – digitized microfilm available for browsing at – follow above instructions, choose “New York Probate Records, 1629-1971,” choose “Browse through 14,045,812 images,” choose county. Please note, Queens County, Kings County and Orange County Probate Records/Estate Records are separate entries.
  • Revolutionary War pension and bounty-land warrant application files – are available at Heritage Quest, a pay site but is available for free at many local libraries.
  • Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War records – are available at (many are free of charge).
  • US Congressional Serial Set began with the 15th Congress (1817), and includes Private Relief Actions, Memorials and Petitions. The collection also includes contents from the American State Papers, with documents from 1789-1969 is available through Heritage Quest.
  • US Federal Census Records – the 1880 (transcription only; not acceptable as a primary source) and 1940 US Federal Census Records are available at free of charge. 1790 through 1940 US Federal Census Records are also available on, but a fee applies. Heritage Quest, which is often available free of charge through your public library, has the complete 1790 through 1940 census records, but most are not indexed, so you will have to browse through county and township/city.
  • Cornell University Digital Archives – includes the Samuel J. May Anti-Slavery Collection, The Samuel May Anti-Slavery Manuscript Collection, the Johnson Family Papers Collection, the Records of the Albany Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1678-1755, and many others can be found online at Cornell Library.
  • New York Heritage Digital Collections a diverse and eclectic collection of digitized records from around New York State, can be found free, online New York Heritage.
  • Access to NYS Records on for free, through the New York State Archives – instructions can be found on the Archives website.
  • A great place to start your online search – is Cyndi’s List, available free online.