New York City historical vital records

Abstract

This collection consists of historical vital records created and/or maintained by the City of New York, and historical vital records created and/or maintained by municipalities that were once located within the boundaries of the present-day City of New York that were dissolved or annexed prior to January 1, 1898. These former towns were located in Kings, Queens, Richmond, and Westchester counties. Types of records in this collection are primarily birth, marriage, and death registers, certificates, and indexes, and marriage licenses, 1760-1949 (with gaps). A large portion of the collection has been digitized and can be accessed on the New York City Historical Vital Records website.

Extent

1 cubic feet (to be determined; total extent of the collection is forthcoming)

Dates

1760-1949, bulk 1847-1949



Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research. Patrons are required to use digitized or microfilmed copies of original materials for those items for which it is available. Digitized birth and death certificates and marriage certificates and licenses can be accessed on the New York City Historical Vital Records website. See the individual series and subseries note for specific access information. Advance notice is required for using original material. Please contact us for more information or to make a research appointment.

Physical Location

Materials are stored onsite at 31 Chambers Street in Manhattan and at 147 41st Street in Brooklyn.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The historical vital records collection consists of records that were transferred to the New York City Municipal Archives (NYCMA) between 1957-2019. NYCMA received records from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (and its predecessor agencies), the New York City Clerk, the Kings County Clerk, and St. Francis College (Brooklyn, New York).

Alternate Forms Available

Many of the records in this collection have been digitized or microfilmed. Digitized birth and death certificates and marriage certificates and licenses can be accessed on the New York City Historical Vital Records website. There is also some digitized material, other than birth and death certificates and marriage certificates and licenses, that can be accessed on the New York City Municipal Archives Digital Collections website. See the individual series or subseries notes for specific information on what is available online or via microfilm.

Processing Information

This collection has not been traditionally processed. To create the guide to this collection (finding aid), accession records and inventories were consulted, and microfilm and digitized copies of material in this collection were viewed. As the existence, extent, dates, and other information pertaining to vital records in the NYCMA holdings, the finding aid will be updated accordingly. The finding aid was created by Patricia Glowinski in 2022.
Introduction

The New York City historical vital records collection consists of records held by the New York City Municipal Archives that were created and/or maintained by City of New York agencies, and by municipalities that were once located in the present-day boundaries of the City of New York. These former municipalities were in Kings, Queens, Richmond, and Westchester counties but were dissolved or annexed prior to January 1, 1898 when modern-day New York City was established. Types of records represented in this collection include birth, marriage, and death registers, certificates, and indexes; marriage licenses; manumission, indentures, and apprenticeship records; and a small quantity of other kinds of vital records. The birth, manumission, indenture, and apprenticeship records of enslaved people provide documentation of people who have been systematically left out of “traditional” vital record keeping practices, and hopefully will be useful to genealogists, family history researchers, and those studying slavery in New York City and State. The material in this collection dates from 1760-1949 (with gaps), with the bulk of materials dating from 1847-1949.

When conducting genealogical and family history research in New York City and State, keep in mind that in New York State there are two separate vital records systems, one for New York State, and another for New York City. Furthermore, some municipalities decided to keep their own vital records independent of governmental or legal requirements. Prior to the creation of these modern vital record keeping systems, there were few record keeping practices that were created, adhered to, or enforced. Knowing the time period and geographic location an ancestor may have lived is key to locating vital records.

A vital record is “a record that documents significant life events, including births, deaths, marriages, and divorces.” (1)

Vital statistics are “public records required by law that document significant life events, such as births, deaths, marriages, divorces, and public health events.” (2)

A civil register is “A record of births, marriages, deaths, and other major events in citizens' lives.” (3)

The Lenape, over 10,000 BP

Apart from the vital records held by the New York City Municipal Archives (NYCMA) that may include records documenting Lenape descendants, the NYCMA does not hold Lenape-created documentation of important life events of their diaspora. Researchers can contact the Lenape descendant nations and tribes themselves such as the Delaware Tribe of Indians (Oklahoma); the Delaware Nation (Oklahoma); the Mohican Nation Stockbridge-Munsee Band (Wisconsin); the Delaware Nation at Moraviantown (Ontario); and the Munsee-Delaware Nation (Ontario).

The Dutch Colonial Era, 1614-1664 and English Colonial Era, 1665-1783

The NYCMA does not have traditional vital records from the Dutch and English colonial period, but it does have two collections that could serve as substitutes for vital records.

In the Netherlands, there were no formal Dutch laws requiring the creation of vital records (civil registration) until 1811. (4) Prior to 1811, life events such as births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, and burials were recorded in church records both in the Netherlands and in its colonies. (5) The New Amsterdam Records, 1647-1862 (MSS-0040), is a small collection (4 cubic feet) consisting of court minutes and administrative records that contain some banns of matrimony and indentures of apprentices. Some of the New Amsterdam Records have been digitized and can be reviewed here.

In 1665, after the English conquest of New Netherland, England enacted the Duke of York’s Laws for the Government of the Colony of New York (“Duke’s Laws”) that included the law, “Births, Marriages and Burials to be Registered.” The law mandated a minister or town clerk in every parish to record births, marriages, and burials in that parish in a book provided for the registry. Though this law was generally not followed (and it was repealed in 1683), some records were created due to the law. The Old Town Records, circa 1630-1898 (MSS 0004), consist of records created and maintained by municipalities that were located in Kings, Queens, Richmond, and Westchester counties until their dissolvement, annexation, or consolidation into what is now modern-day New York City. Although the majority of these records date from the 1840s-1890s, there are some records from the Dutch and English colonial era that document significant life events such as the volume of Kings County marriages, circa 1630-1700, and there may be others. For example, town or court minutes can contain information about life events such as births, marriages, deaths, and burials even when not explicitly labelled or titled as such. (6)

Early America and New York State, 1784-1846

From the period just after the American Revolution and into the 1840s, civil registration of vital records was generally not required in New York State or New York City. For this reason, NYCMA holds only a small amount of vital records from this period.

Death and burial records are some of the earliest vital records held by the New York City Municipal Archives. In July of 1795, yellow fever swept across New York City. In order to track the epidemic a register was created to record who had died that summer. In 1802, the New York City Board of Health began recording deaths and/or burials, but only sporadically. NYCMA holds New York City death registers from 1802-1804, 1808, 1812-1887. These early death records are in Subgroup 3, Series 3.3.

NYCMA holds birth, manumission, apprenticeship, and indenture records documenting people who were enslaved and living in Kings and Westchester counties. Although some of these records date from the 1760s-1780s, most date from 1799-1828 and are related to two New York State laws regarding the gradual manumission of enslaved people in the state—the Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery of 1799, and the Act Relative to Slaves and Servants of 1817. Both laws preceded the 1827 law abolishing slavery in the State of New York. These records are in Subgroup 4.

Although original marriage records held by the NYCMA chiefly begin in the late 1840s, there are microfilm copies of marriage records dating from 1829-1866 for the City of New York. These records are in Subgroup 2, Series 2.3.

New York State and New York City, 1847-1949

Most of the vital records held by the New York City Municipal Archives date from 1847-1949. During this time several laws were passed in the New York State Legislature requiring the creation of birth, marriage, and death records by municipalities in the state. These laws transformed vital record keeping practices in New York City and in municipalities whose vital records are now held by the NYCMA, most notably laws passed in 1847, 1866, 1870, 1880, 1881, and 1913. The year 1866, when the New York State Legislature created the New York City Metropolitan Board of Health, marks the beginning of birth, marriage, and death certificates issued in the City of New York and in the City of Brooklyn (though Brooklyn had begun issuing death certificates in 1862).

Though the birth records held by the NYCMA date from circa 1760s-1909, most are from 1866-1909. There are birth registers, birth certificates, special and delayed birth certificates, and a small number of birth record indexes. Localities represented in the birth records include the City of New York/New York County, municipalities once located in Kings, Queens, Richmond, and Westchester counties, and the five boroughs of New York City that were created on January 1, 1898. Many of the birth records have been microfilmed and/or digitized. Birth records after 1909 are maintained by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The marriage records date from 1829-1949 with the bulk of the records dating from 1866-1949. Included are marriage registers, marriage certificates, delayed marriage certificates, marriage licenses, marriage contracts, chapel certificates, and marriage record indexes. Localities represented in the marriage records include the City of New York/New York County, municipalities once located in Kings, Queens, Richmond, and Westchester counties, and the five boroughs of New York City that were created on January 1, 1898. Many of the marriage records have been microfilmed and/or digitized. Marriage records after 1949 are maintained by the New York City Clerk.

Most of the death records date from 1866-1948, though the earliest death records date back to 1795. The death records are primarily death registers and death certificates, but there are also some death record indexes, a tenement house record of deaths in Manhattan, registers documenting deaths from yellow fever and cholera, permits to remove dead bodies, and a list of deaths and interments. Localities represented in the death records include the City of New York/New York County, municipalities once located in Kings, Queens, Richmond, and Westchester counties, and the five boroughs of New York City that were created on January 1, 1898. Many of the marriage records have been microfilmed and/or digitized. Death records after 1948 are maintained by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The New York City Municipal Archives also holds two small collections of vital records that are not specific to the past or present boundaries of New York City. These are the maritime birth, death, and marriage registrations, 1901-1948, and the death registers for United States soldiers serving in Cuba and Puerto Rico, 1898-1900.

Sources

  1. Society of American Archivists, Dictionary of Archives Terminology, “Vital record,” https://dictionary.archivists.org/entry/vital-record.html
  2. Society of American Archivists, Dictionary of Archives Terminology, “Vital statistics,” https://dictionary.archivists.org/entry/vital-statistics.html
  3. Society of American Archivists, Dictionary of Archives Terminology, “Civil register," https://dictionary.archivists.org/entry/civil-register.html
  4. Hoitink, Yvette. Dutch Genealogy, “Civil Registration,” https://www.dutchgenealogy.nl/civil-registration/
  5. Hoitink, Yvette. Dutch Genealogy, “Church Records,” https://www.dutchgenealogy.nl/church-records
  6. New Netherland Institute, “New Netherland Family History, Using New Netherland Documents to Explore Your Ancestry, Vital Records,” https://www.newnetherlandinstitute.org/history-and-heritage/digital-exhibitions/family-history/vital-records/
Introduction

This is a brief outline of vital record keeping laws and practices that have shaped the vital records collection held by the New York City Municipal Archives (NYCMA), the localities these records were created and maintained in, and historical occurrences (such as laws that were passed) that have affected the people who have lived here, or wanted to live here. Ultimately these historical vital records tell the story of colonialism, which, by nature, is about domination and violence, possession and dispossession. They also tell the story of immigration, migration, enslavement, and the forced removal of people.

Before the colonization of what would become the contiguous United States, the Indigenous population was estimated to have been between five and fifteen million people. By 1890, the Indigenous population in the United States was around 250, 000 people. Of the 2.4 billion acres that comprise the current-day United States that were once under Indigenous control prior to colonization, Indigenous people control only around two percent today. By comparison, in 1790, the year of the first decennial census in the United States, the population was just under four million people. Approximately 700,000 of those people were enslaved. (Prior to 1900, the decennial census did not include Indigenous people). By 1890, the United States population was roughly 62,979,000, and by 2020, over 330 million people. In New York State, the population was just over 340,000 in 1790, just under six million in 1890, and around twenty million in 2020. New York City’s population went from just over 33,000 in 1790, to around 1.5 million in 1890, and over 8.8 million people in 2020.

The majority of the historical vital records held by the NYCMA center European descended people, providing documentation for their legal, governmental, health, and other knowledge systems. People of Indigenous, African, and Asian descent are not well-represented in the NYCMA historical vital records, particularly prior to 1910. It does not mean that these people were not present, but rather surfaces racist and discriminatory practices that excluded many people from aspects of life afforded to those of European descent.

The Lenape, over 10,000 BP-to present

The Lenape’s ancestral homelands, Lënapehòkink, is a vast area stretching along the Atlantic coast and sweeping inland that includes what today is eastern Pennsylvania, southeastern New York, western Connecticut, and all of New Jersey and Delaware. Modern-day cities that are located within Lënapehòkink include New York City; Philadelphia; Wilmington, Delaware; Trenton, New Jersey; Newark, New Jersey; and every municipality along the Hudson River from New York City to Saugerties, New York. The Lenape have lived in what is now modern-day New York City for over ten thousand years. Their traditional knowledge systems and ways of passing down that knowledge, including significant life events, were (and are) different from the people who colonized Lënapehòkink. These include oral traditions such as storytelling and the creation of artifacts that relay information. Today, Lenape descendant people such as the Delaware Tribe of Indians, the Delaware Nation, the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians, the Delaware Nation at Moraviantown, and the Munsee-Delaware Nation practice both traditional and modern knowledge keeping systems.

The Dutch Colonial Era, 1614-1664 and English Colonia Era, 1665-1783

Forthcoming…

Early America and New York State, 1783-1846

Forthcoming…

New York State and New York City, 1847-1949

Forthcoming…

Localities and municipalities represented in the New York City historical vital records

Definitions

In New York State, official records are generated by counties, cities, towns, and villages. These localities have specific definitions in the State of New York.

County—The definition and purpose of counties have changed since the original twelve counties of New York Colony were established in 1683. Originally serving to carry out specific functions at the local level on behalf of the larger colony under English rule, county government has increasingly become more defined in structure and jurisdiction since New York became a state in 1788. Counties are subject to County Law that defines the structure, administrative organization, and power and duties of county government.

City—A city is a municipality incorporated by the New York State Legislature that has its own charter that defines its organization and its powers. There is no size/population requirement to become a city.

Town—A town is a municipality incorporated by the New York State Legislature that is subject to Town Law. Town Law defines the structure, organization, provision of services, and powers and duties of towns. It also divides towns into two classes, first class and second class, based on population. The designated class defines the town’s organization. A town may include villages that are subordinate to it.

Village—A village is a municipality incorporated by the New York State Legislature that is subject to Village Law. Village Law, originally established in 1847, defines the structure, organization, powers, and duties of villages. A village can be subordinate to a town.

Borough—In New York State, a borough is a municipal corporation established in the 1898 New York City Charter and adopted by the New York State Legislature. Each borough has a governmental administration with limited powers and is subordinate to the municipal government of the City of New York. Since 1914, each borough is coterminous with an individual county—Borough of the Bronx/Bronx County; Borough of Brooklyn/Kings County; Borough of Manhattan/New York County; Borough of Queens/Queens County; Borough of Staten Island (formerly the Borough of Richmond)/Richmond County.

Localities and Municipalities

Lënapehòkink

Lënapehòkink, the ancestral homeland of the Lenape, is a vast area stretching along the Atlantic coast and sweeping inland that includes what today is eastern Pennsylvania, southeastern New York, western Connecticut, and all of New Jersey and Delaware. Modern-day cities that are located within Lënapehòkink include New York City; Philadelphia; Wilmington, Delaware; Trenton, New Jersey; Newark, New Jersey; and every municipality along the Hudson River from New York City to Saugerties, New York. The Lenape have lived in this area for over 10,000 BP (years before present). As a result of the European colonization of Lënapehòkink beginning in the early 1600s, the Lenape’s ancestral homelands were ceded—primarily (if not totally) by fraud, theft, or violent force—first to the Dutch and English, then to the United States.

Bronx County

Bronx County is located in Lënapehòkink, the ancestral homelands of the Lenape. The area of New York City that now comprises Bronx County/Borough of the Bronx was once part of Westchester County and New York County/New York City prior to 1898. In 1874, the Westchester County towns west of the Bronx River— Kingsbridge, West Farms, and Morrisania—were annexed to New York City. In 1895, much of the territory east of the Bronx River, including the Town of Westchester, was also annexed to New York City. On January 1, 1898, the modern-day City of New York was created by consolidating all of Kings County, New York County, western Queens County, and Richmond County. At this time the five boroughs—the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Richmond (later Staten Island)—were also established. The newly created Borough of the Bronx consisted of the areas of Westchester County that had been annexed to New York City. On January 1, 1914, Bronx County, coterminous with the Borough of the Bronx, was established by the New York State Legislature.

Borough of the Bronx

The Borough of Bronx was created by the New York State Legislature on January 1, 1898 as one of the five boroughs of the consolidated City of New York. The areas of Westchester County that were annexed to New York County, comprising New York City's 23rd and 24th wards, became the Borough of the Bronx. In 1914, Bronx County was established by the New York State Legislature and is coterminous with the Borough of the Bronx. Is the fourth largest borough in area (land only) comprising approximately 42 square miles and is the fourth most populous borough with approximately 1,472,000 inhabitants.

Kings County

Kings County is located in Lënapehòkink, the ancestral homelands of the Lenape. Following the establishment of the Dutch colony of New Netherland in 1614, Dutch and English settlers began to settle in what would become Kings County in the 1630s and established villages (dorps in Dutch) including Boswijck (Bushwick), Breuckelen (Brooklyn), Gravesend, Midwout/Vlackebos (Flatbush), Nieuw Amersfoort (Flatlands), and Nyack (Nieuw Utrecht/New Utrecht). With the takeover of New Netherland by England in 1664, the area became part of the West Riding of Yorkshire. On November 1, 1683 Yorkshire was eliminated and the three ridings (North, East, and West) were converted into Kings, New York, Queens, Richmond, Suffolk, and Westchester counties, six of the original twelve counties of the Province of New York. After the end of the American Revolution in 1783, and the ratification of the State of New York in 1788, it remained Kings County under American rule. In 1788, the State of New York recognized the towns of Brooklyn, Bushwick, Flatbush, Flatlands, Gravesend, and New Utrecht. In 1834, the Town and Village of Brooklyn were incorporated as the City of Brooklyn. In the 1840s and 1850s, other towns and cities were established including the Town of Williamsburgh (1840) that was then incorporated as a city in 1851, and the Town of New Lots (1852). In 1854, the City of Brooklyn annexed the City of Williamsburgh and the Town of Bushwick and continued to annex all the other towns in Kings County by 1896. With the last annexation in 1896 of the Town of Flatlands, the City of Brooklyn became coterminous with Kings County. On January 1, 1898, the modern-day City of New York was created by consolidating all of Kings County, New York County, western Queens County, and Richmond County, thus dissolving the City of Brooklyn. At this time the five boroughs—the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Richmond (later Staten Island)—were also established, and Kings County became coterminous with the Borough of Brooklyn.

Village, Town, and City of Brooklyn

The area of Lënapehòkink that would become the village (dorp) of Breuckelen, was first settled by Europeans in the late 1630s. It was recognized as the Town of Brooklyn by England in 1664, and under American rule was also recognized as a town in 1788. The Village and Town of Brooklyn were incorporated as the City of Brooklyn in 1834. Between 1834 and 1896, the City of Brooklyn annexed the surrounding towns in Kings County, including the towns of Bushwick, Flatlands, Flatbush, Gravesend, New Lots, New Utrecht, and Williamsburgh, becoming coterminous with Kings County. Today, it is the Borough of Brooklyn.

Town of Flatbush

The village (dorp) of Midwout and/or Vlackebos was granted a patent in 1652 by the Dutch. Its modern name, Flatbush, comes from the Dutch word "vlackebos" meaning wooded plains, which described the area's physical features. In 1664, it was recognized as a town by England, now called Flatbush, and it received a patent in 1667. In 1788, the State of New York recognized the Town of Flatbush. It was dissolved in 1894 when it was annexed to the City of Brooklyn, becoming its 29th ward. The town also served as the County seat from circa 1685 to 1832. Today, Flatlands is a neighborhood in central Brooklyn.

Town of Flatlands

Dutch colonists began to settle in what would become the Town of Flatlands in 1636. In the 1640s these settlements combined to create the village (dorp) of Nieuw Amersfoort. England recognized it as a town in 1664, now called Flatlands, and it received a patent in 1667. The Town of Flatlands was recognized by the State of New York in 1788. It remained a town for over one hundred years until it was annexed to the City of Brooklyn in 1896, becoming its 32nd ward. Today, Flatlands is a neighborhood in southeast Brooklyn.

Town of Gravesend

Gravesend was established in 1643 by an English woman, Lady Deborah Moody, fleeing religious persecution. She was granted a patent to settle the area, concurrently inhabited by the Lenape, by the New Netherland government in 1645. In 1664, it was recognized as a town by England, and again recognized as a town by the State of New York in 1788, following the American Revolution and ratification of New York. In 1894, the Town of Gravesend was annexed to the City of Brooklyn, becoming its 31st ward. Today, Gravesend is a neighborhood in south-central Brooklyn.

Town of New Lots

The Town of New Lots was established in 1852, formed out of the Town of Flatbush. Under Dutch colonization, the area, called Ostwout (meaning East Woods), was settled in 1670 by Dutch farmers who had moved there from Flatbush. They called their community New Lots to distinguish it from the old lots they had left behind. In 1886, the City of Brooklyn annexed the Town of New Lots and the town was dissolved, becoming the 26th ward of the City of Brooklyn. Today, New Lots is a subsection of the East New York neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Town of New Utrecht

The area of Lënapehòkink that would become the Town of New Utrecht was first settled by Anthony Jansen (or Janszoon) van Salee and his wife Grietse Reyniers in the late 1630s. In 1657, the settlement of Utrecht was established, and it was later recognized as the Town of New Utrecht by England in 1664. Under American rule it was recognized as a town in 1788 by the State of New York. It was dissolved in 1894 when it was annexed to the City of Brooklyn, becoming its 30th ward. Today, New Utrecht is a neighborhood in southwest Brooklyn.

Borough of Brooklyn

The Borough of Brooklyn was created on January 1, 1898 as one of the five boroughs of the consolidated City of New York and is coterminous with Kings County. As of 2022, it is the second largest borough in area (land only) comprising approximately 70.8 square miles and is the most populous borough with over 2,736,000 inhabitants.

New York County

New York County is located in Lënapehòkink, the ancestral homelands of the Lenape. The first non-Indigenous person to settle in the part of Lënapehòkink that would become New York County was Jan Rodrigues (or Juan Rodriguez) who arrived on the Dutch ship Jonge Tobias in 1613 on which he had been working as a crewman and translator. Rodrigues, of African and most likely Portuguese descent, settled on Manhattan Island for some time, becoming the first free black resident of Manhattan.

Following the establishment of the Dutch colony of New Netherland in 1614, Europeans began to settle on present-day Governors Island in 1624 and the next year, in 1625, the Dutch West India Company (DWIC) established Fort Amsterdam on the southern tip of Manhattan. In 1626 more Europeans arrived to settle at Fort Amsterdam (some from Fort Orange that would become modern-day Albany, New York), primarily as workers for the DWIC, as well as eleven men of African or African-European descent who were enslaved by the DWIC to build the infrastructure of Fort Amsterdam.

In 1653, the city of New Amsterdam was established by charter, and five years later, Nieuw Haarlem was chartered as a village. As these localities were established, the Lenape continued to live in Lënapehòkink. With the takeover of New Netherland by England in 1664, the area became part of the North Riding of Yorkshire. In 1665, the City of New York was created by charter and Nieuw Haarlem became New Harlem by patent from England. As these localities were established, the Lenape continued to live in Lënapehòkink. On November 1, 1683 Yorkshire was eliminated and the three ridings (North, East, and West) were converted into Kings, New York, Queens, Richmond, Suffolk, and Westchester counties, six of the original twelve counties of the Province of New York.

After the end of the American Revolution in 1783, and the ratification of the State of New York in 1788, it remained New York County under American rule. In 1874, the Westchester County towns of Kingsbridge, West Farms, and Morrisania were annexed to New York County/New York City. In 1895, much of the territory east of the Bronx River, including the Town of Westchester, was also annexed. Also annexed to New York County/City were North Brother Island from Long Island City (1881) and Rikers Island from the Town of Newtown (1884). On January 1, 1898, the modern-day City of New York was created by consolidating all of Kings County, New York County, western Queens County, and Richmond County. At this time the five boroughs—the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Richmond (later Staten Island)—were also established. At this time, New York County was split into two boroughs, Manhattan, consisting of the island of Manhattan and the neighborhood of Marble Hill, and the Bronx consisting of the annexed areas of Westchester County, North Brother Island, and Rikers Island. New York County is coterminous with the Borough of Manhattan.

City of New York

The modern-day City of New York’s history dates back to 1609 when the first non-Indigenous people sailed into what is now called New York Harbor and along the Hudson River where they encountered the Lenape who had been living in the area for over 10,000 years. Although this 1609 voyage of the United East India Company’s ship the Halve Maen (Half Moon) captained by Henry Hudson for the Dutch did not find a western passage to China, it did find an area full of natural resources that would soon be colonized to exploit these resources for monetary gain. In 1613, Jan Rodrigues became the first non-Indigenous person to reside on the island of Manhattan, which today still bears a version of its Lenape name. Colonization of Manhattan began between 1624-1626, when a small group of Walloons were recruited to settle in the area (on today’s Governors Island in 1624), followed by the establishment of Fort Amsterdam on the southern tip of Manhattan by the Dutch West India Company (DWIC) in 1625, and in 1626 with the arrival of more European settlers and eleven men of African or African-European descent enslaved by the DWIC to build the infrastructure of Fort Amsterdam. Fort Amsterdam became the first permanent settlement and seat of the New Netherland government.

Between 1624-1653, more settlers arrived at Fort Amsterdam as it grew into a busy trading center. In 1653, the settlement received municipal rights, officially becoming the city of New Amsterdam. As the city continued to grow in population and size, contested land rights led to fights, battles, and wars between colonists and indigenous peoples. In 1654, the first known Jews to settle in New Amsterdam arrived, adding to an already diverse population. In a time of peace between the Dutch and English governments following the first Anglo-Dutch war over trade and their overseas colonies, the English peacefully captured New Amsterdam in 1664, renamed it New York, and made it the capital of the Province of New York. In 1665, the City of New York was incorporated. The Dutch briefly recaptured New York from 1673-1674, renaming it New Orange, but in 1674 it returned to English rule as once again the City of New York.

In the Dongan Charter of 1686, the ward system was created in New York City, with six wards— North, East, West, South, Dock, and Out. The wards served as small political and administrative units with elected political officials. During the American Revolutionary War, the British occupied the City of New York from 1776-1783. After the end of the American Revolution in 1783, New York City became the nation’s capital from 1789-1790. In 1791, the ward system was changed to a numbered system and the number of wards grew as the city grew. Ultimately the city would grow to twenty-four wards until the system was ended in 1938.

In 1874, the Westchester County towns of Kingsbridge, West Farms, and Morrisania were annexed to New York County/New York City. The city grew again with the annexation of North Brother Island from Long Island City in 1881, Rikers Island from the Town of Newtown in 1884, and much of the territory east of the Bronx River, including the Town of Westchester, in 1895. These annexed areas would later become part of the Borough of the Bronx when on January 1, 1898 when the modern-day City of New York was created, and the five boroughs were established. As of 2022, New York City is the eleventh largest city in the world by population with approximately 18,819,000 people.

Borough of Manhattan

The Borough of Manhattan was created on January 1, 1898 as one of the five boroughs of the consolidated City of New York and is coterminous with New York County. As of 2022, it is the smallest borough in area (land only) comprising approximately 22.8 square miles and is the third most populous borough with over 1,694,000 inhabitants.

Queens County

Queens County is located in Lënapehòkink, the ancestral homelands of the Lenape. Following the establishment of the Dutch colony of New Netherland in 1614, Dutch and English settlers began to settle in what would become Queens County in the 1630s and villages were established including Hempstead (Heemstede) in 1644, Flushing (Vlissengen) in 1645, Newtown (Middleburg) in 1652, Oyster Bay in 1653, and Jamaica (Rustdorp) in 1656. With the takeover of New Netherland by England in 1664, the area became part of the North Riding of Yorkshire except for Newtown that was part of the West Riding. On November 1, 1683, Yorkshire was eliminated and the three ridings (North, East, and West) were converted into Kings, New York, Queens, Richmond, Suffolk, and Westchester counties, six of the original twelve counties of the Province of New York. After the end of the American Revolution in 1783, and the ratification of the State of New York in 1788, it remained Queens County under American rule. In 1788, the State of New York recognized the towns of Flushing, Hempstead (now part of Nassau County), Jamaica, Newtown, North Hempstead (now part of Nassau County), and Oyster Bay (now part of Nassau County). Long Island City was created from the Town of Newtown in 1870. On January 1, 1898, the modern-day City of New York was created by consolidating all of Kings County, New York County, western Queens County, and Richmond County. At this time the five boroughs—the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Richmond (later Staten Island)—were also established, and towns of Flushing, Jamaica, Newtown, and Long Island City were dissolved, becoming wards in the Borough of Queens. In 1899, Queens County was divided in two counties, Queens County comprising the western part of the original county, and Nassau County comprising the eastern part. Today, Queens County is coterminous with the Borough of Queens.

Village of College Point

The Village of College Point was incorporated in 1867 and was subordinate to the Town of Flushing. Formerly called Lawrence Neck and Tew’s Neck, among other names, it was renamed College Point after St. Paul’s College, an Episcopal seminary that was located on a tip of land along the East River. It was dissolved in 1898. Today there is a neighborhood called College Point in Queens.

Village of Far Rockaway

The Village of Far Rockaway was incorporated in 1888 and was subordinate to the Town of Hempstead. It was dissolved in 1899 when it became part of Queens County. Today there is a neighborhood called Far Rockaway in Queens, bordering Nassau County, that is part of the larger area known as the Rockaways.

Town of Flushing

The Town of Flushing was originally an English settlement, called Vissengen by the Dutch and Flushing by the English, established with a patent granted by the government of New Netherland in 1645. It was recognized as a town by the State of New York in 1788 and was dissolved in 1898 becoming ward 3 of the Borough of Queens. Today there is a neighborhood called Flushing in Queens.

Village of Flushing

The Village of Whitestone was incorporated in 1813 and was subordinate to the Town of Flushing. It was dissolved in 1898.

Town of Jamaica

The Town of Jamaica was originally an English settlement established with a patent granted by the government of New Netherland in 1656. It became part of the English colony of New York in 1664. After the American revolution, it was recognized as a town by the State of New York in 1778 and was dissolved in 1898 becoming ward 3 of the Borough of Queens. Today there is a neighborhood called Jamaica in Queens.

Village of Jamaica

The Village of Jamaica was incorporated in 1814 and was subordinate to the Town of Jamaica. It was dissolved in 1898.

Long Island City

Long Island City was established in 1870, formed out of part of the Town of Newtown. It included the Village of Astoria and several hamlets (an unincorporated community). In 1898 it was dissolved, becoming ward 1 of the Borough of Queens.

Town of Newtown

The Town of Newtown was created in 1664 by combining the Town of Hastings and nearby settlements. Prior to that, earlier settlements included Mespat (1642) and Middleburg (1652) which was renamed Hastings in 1662. The Town of Newtown was recognized as a town by the State of New York in 1788. In 1897 it was renamed Elmhurst. It was dissolved in 1898 becoming ward 2 of the Borough of Queens. Today, there is a neighborhood called Elmhurst, Queens.

Village of Richmond Hill

Established in 1867 by attorney Albon P. Man and landscape architect Edward Richmond, the Village of Richmond Hill was incorporated in 1894 and was subordinate to the Town of Jamaica. Dissolved in 1898, today there is a neighborhood called Richmond Hill in Queens.

Village of Rockaway

The Village of Rockaway (or Rockaway Beach) was incorporated in 1897 and was subordinate to the Town of Hempstead. It was dissolved in 1899 when it became part of Queens County. Today there is a neighborhood called Rockaway Beach in Queens that is part of the larger area known as the Rockaways.

Village of Whitestone

The Village of Whitestone was incorporated in 1869 and was subordinate to the Town of Flushing. It was briefly called Clintonville and Cookie Hill. Dissolved in 1898, today there is a neighborhood called Whitestone in Queens.

Borough of Queens

The Borough of Queens was created on January 1, 1898 as one of the five boroughs of the consolidated City of New York and is coterminous with Queens County. As of 2022, it is the largest borough in area (land only) comprising approximately 109 square miles and is the second most populous borough with approximately 2,405,000 inhabitants.

Richmond County

Richmond County is located in Lënapehòkink, the ancestral homelands of the Lenape. Following the establishment of the Dutch colony of New Netherland in 1614, European settlers made several attempts to settle in what would become Richmond County in the 1630s and 1640s, but they were not successful for very long. It wasn't until 1661 that the first permanent non-Indigenous settlement was established. With the takeover of New Netherland by England in 1664, the area became part of the West Riding of Yorkshire. On November 1, 1683 Yorkshire was eliminated and the three ridings (North, East, and West) were converted into Kings, New York, Queens, Richmond, Suffolk, and Westchester counties, six of the original twelve counties of the Province of New York. Richmond County was divided into four judicial precincts—North, South, West, and the Manor (Castleton). From 1776-1783 Richmond County was occupied by the British. After the end of the American Revolution in 1783, and the ratification of the State of New York in 1788, it remained Richmond County under American rule. In 1788, the State of New York established the towns of Northfield, Southfield, Westfield, and Castleton. The Town of Middleton was created in 1860 out of the towns of Northfield and Southfield. On January 1, 1898, the modern-day City of New York was created by consolidating all of Kings County, New York County, western Queens County, and Richmond County, thus dissolving the towns in Richmond County. At this time the five boroughs—the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Richmond—were also established, and Richmond County became coterminous with the Borough of Richmond. The borough was renamed Staten Island in 1975.

Town of Castleton

The Town of Castleton was recognized as a town by the State of New York in 1788. Prior to that, under English colonial rule, it was part of the West Riding of Yorkshire (Shire of York) beginning in 1664 and in 1683 it was established as The Manor, one of the four judicial precincts in Richmond County. The Town of Castleton was dissolved in 1898 and became ward 1 of the Borough of Richmond.

Village of New Brighton

The Village of New Brighton was incorporated in 1866 and reincorporated in 1872 when it was enlarged. The village was part of the Town of Castleton. Both municipalities were dissolved when the Borough of Richmond was created on January 1, 1898.

Village of Edgewater

The Village of Edgewater was incorporated in 1866 and was subordinate to the Town of Middletown. It was reincorporated in 1870 and was dissolved in 1895.

Town of Middletown

The Town of Middletown formed from the towns of Castletown and Southfield in 1860. It was dissolved in 1898 and became ward 2 of the Borough of Richmond.

Town of Northfield

The Town of Northfield was recognized as a town by the State of New York in 1788. Prior to that, under English colonial rule, it was part of the West Riding of Yorkshire (Shire of York) beginning in 1664 and in 1683 it was established as the North Precinct, one of the four judicial precincts in Richmond County. The Town of Northfield was dissolved in 1898 and became ward 4 of the Borough of Richmond.

Village of Port Richmond

The Village of Port Richmond was incorporated in 1866 and was subordinate to the Town of Northfield. It was dissolved in 1898.

Town of Southfield

The Town of Southfield was recognized as a town by the State of New York in 1788. Prior to that, under English colonial rule, it was part of the West Riding of Yorkshire (Shire of York) beginning in 1664 and in 1683 it was established as the South Precinct, one of the four judicial precincts in Richmond County. The Town of Southfield was dissolved in 1898 and became ward 3 of the Borough of Richmond.

Village of Tottenville

The Village of Tottenville was incorporated in 1869 and was subordinate to the Town of Westfield. It was reincorporated in 1894 and dissolved in 1898.

Town of Westfield

The Town of Westfield was recognized as a town by the State of New York in 1788. Prior to that, under English colonial rule, it was part of the West Riding of Yorkshire (Shire of York) beginning in 1664 and in 1683 it was established as the West Precinct, one of the four judicial precincts in Richmond County. The Town of Westfield was dissolved in 1898 and became ward 5 of the Borough of Richmond.

Borough of Richmond/Borough of Staten Island

The Borough of Richmond was created on January 1, 1898 as one of the five boroughs of the consolidated City of New York and it is coterminous with Richmond County. It is the third largest borough in area (land only) comprising approximately 58.5 square miles and is the least populous borough with approximately 496,000 inhabitants. In 1975, it was renamed the Borough of Staten Island, but the county name was not changed.

Westchester County

Westchester County is located in Lënapehòkink, the ancestral homelands of the Lenape. Following the establishment of the Dutch colony of New Netherland in 1614, Dutch settlers began arriving in what would become Westchester County in the 1620s, followed by English settlers in the 1640s. With the takeover of New Netherland by England in 1664, the area became part of the North Riding of Yorkshire. On November 1, 1683 Yorkshire was eliminated and the three ridings (North, East, and West) were converted into Kings, New York, Queens, Richmond, Suffolk, and Westchester counties, six of the original twelve counties of the Province of New York. After the end of the American Revolution in 1783, and the ratification of the State of New York in 1788, it remained Westchester County under American rule and was divided into over twenty towns. In 1874, the towns of Kingsbridge, West Farms, and Morrisania, located in southwest Westchester County, were annexed to New York County/New York City, with Morrisania becoming the 23rd ward of New York City, and Kingsbridge and West Farms the 24th ward. In 1895, the Town of Westchester and the southern part of the towns of Eastchester and Pelham were also annexed to New York County, and were added to the 24th ward. On January 1, 1898, the annexed areas of Westchester County became the Borough of the Bronx, part of the modern-day City of New York. In 1914, Bronx County, coterminous with the Borough of the Bronx, was established. As of 2022, Westchester County, located north of Bronx County, covers 450 square miles and contains six cities, nineteen towns, and twenty-three villages.

Town of Morrisania

The name of the Town of Morrisania incorporated the surname of Lewis Morris who received a land patent in 1676 from England. There were two towns named Morrisania, the first was established in 1788 until it became part of the Town of Westchester in 1791. The second was established in 1855 and remained a town until it was annexed to New York County in 1874, becoming the 23rd ward of New York City. With the establishment of modern-day New York City on January 1, 1898, the areas of Westchester County that were annexed to New York County/New York City, including Morrisania, became the Borough of the Bronx.

Village of South Mount Vernon/Village of Wakefield

The Village of South Mount Vernon was incorporated in 1889 and was subordinate to the Town of Eastchester. It was renamed the Village of Wakefield in 1894 and was dissolved in 1895.

Town of Westchester

The Town of Westchester was recognized as a town by England in 1664 when it took over New Netherland from the Dutch and established the Colony of New York. Prior to that, under Dutch colonization, there had been various settlements including Vreelandt, Oostdrop or Easttown, and Westchester Village. After the end of the American Revolution in 1783, and the ratification of the State of New York in 1788, the Town of Westchester was recognized as a town by the State of New York in 1788. In 1791, the original Town of Morrisania (1788-1791), was annexed to the Town of Westchester. It remained a town for over one hundred years until it was annexed to New York County in 1895, becoming part of the 24th ward of New York City. With the establishment of modern-day New York City on January 1, 1898, the areas of Westchester County that were annexed to New York County/New York City, including the Town of Westchester, became the Borough of the Bronx.

Sources

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The New York City historical vital records are arranged into the five subgroups: Birth Records; Marriage Records; Death Records; Vital Records Documenting Enslaved People and Children Born to Enslaved Women; and Other Vital Records. Each subgroup is further arranged into series and subseries when applicable.

Series Outline

  1. Birth Records
  2. Marriage Records
  3. Death Records
  4. Vital Records Documenting Enslaved People and Children Born to Enslaved Women
  5. Other Vital Records
Title
Guide to the New York City historical vital records, 1760-1949, bulk 1847-1949
Status
In Progress
Author
Patricia Glowinski
Date
2022 February
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
eng