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New York State: Local History & Genealogy Resource Guide

Courthouse Records

County level research is essential in the pursuit of family and local history. The list below highlights the most common county courthouse records used by genealogists, but there are many more record sets available. Use the guides below and explore the specific resources for the counties of interest to assure that you locate all pertinent documents.

When requesting courthouse records, inquire about both docket books and paper files. Often both types of material exist for each record. While the two formats may merely repeat the data, one may be easier to read than the other. And, in many cases, there are further details, unique notations, over-sized pages such as maps, and so on, that are filed in only the docket book or in only the paper file. Seeing both will provide a more complete review of the record.

Timeline for County Courthouse Records

Birth Records

(Also see the Vital Records section of this guide.)

Civil Lawsuits
  • Generally maintained by: County Clerk's office
Coroner's Inquests
  • Generally maintained by: County Clerk's office
Criminal Court
  • Generally maintained by: County Clerk's office
Death Records
  • State Level: 1880 to present
    Neither maiden name nor marital status is shown for deaths; age at death is given only from 1940 forward.
  • Below state level, records vary by locality. For New York City, see the Vital Records section of this guide.

Note: A state law in effect from 1847 to 1853 mandated the keeping of vital records, with only spotty success. Those that survive may be kept by town or county clerks, or in historical societies. Others were published in Tree Talks (a publication of the Central New York Genealogical Society, available at FamilySearch External), or in the Cemetery, Church, and Town Records books published by the New York State Daughters of the American Revolution External.

Also Note: The New York State censuses of 1825, 1835, 1845 recorded statistics of births and deaths for each household. The 1855 census records deaths, but without names. The 1865 and 1875 censuses include deaths.

(Also see the Vital Records section of this guide.)

  • New York State: County Clerk’s office
  • New York City, Colonial times to ~1830: Secretary of State Deeds, on microfilm at State Archives
Divorce Records

(Also see the Vital Records section of this guide.)

Marriage Records
  • Copies, 1908-1935: County Clerk

(Also see the Vital Records section of this guide.)

  • Surrogate's Court of the relevant county
Will and Probate
  • Before 1787, see Published Courthouse Records below.
  • 1787 and since: the Surrogate's Court of the relevant county
  • Cases involving minors and incompetents before 1847: Court of Chancery

Online Resources for Courthouse Records

The subscription resources marked with a padlock are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress. If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.

Using Ancestry Library Editionfor New York

Begin your search through Ancestry's vast collections, by viewing the list designated as New York State records External.

Using FamilySearch for New York

FamilySearch provides useful state and county wikis that make excellent starting points for research. The New York State Wiki External includes links to each of its 67 counties.

FamilySearch has digitized many of its microfilms containing county courthouse records. Not all records have been indexed yet, so search engine results may NOT show you the full range of FamilySearch data. You must browse the FamilySearch catalog External listings for each county to view the full set of records available. The vast amount of accessible original records is well worth your time to explore.

There is no fee to use FamilySearch, but you must create a free, personal account to access the databases and digital records.

Published Courthouse Records

Below are selected print publications for statewide courthouse records. The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.

To locate additional published materials, go to the Print Resources section of this guide for search tips on locating published county courthouse records, abstracts, and indexes that may aide you in locating original records at the county level.