New York gave us some of the world’s
most interesting people—your ancestors.

In 1609, Henry Hudson changed the world when he explored the river valley between Albany and New York City. The river named for him became an important waterway. At the mouth of it stood Ellis Island, the immigration port that welcomed more than 12 million immigrants to America. Now, on the 400th anniversary of Hudson's discovery, we're combining some of the most significant records from New York history into one easily accessible page celebrating the people who made this state so fascinating.

Brooklyn Bridge Promenade, New York, c1904


Search for your ancestors in New York records.

Our collections include immigration records from Ellis Island, vital records from the Dutch, English and American periods and so much more. Now search all of our New York collections at once.

e.g. “Newsie” or “New York paper boy” Browse New York Collections

Recently added collections:

U.S. Census Mortality Schedules, 1850–1880: Find New York residents who died
the year before a census.
Naturalization Records Indexes, 1906–1966: A New York ancestor’s index card may lead you to a treasure trove of family history information. City Directories for Seven Cities: Albany, Buffalo, New York City, Niagara, Rochester, Watertown and White Plains.
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New York: From present to past

Italian explorer Giuseppe Verrazzano enters New York Harbor, the area where the Hudson River flows into the Atlantic Ocean. He mistakes the river for a lake.


On a Dutch-funded voyage, English explorer Henry Hudson explores the Hudson River Valley, mapping the area between Albany and New York City. In the same year, French explorer Samuel de Champlain surveys Lake Champlain.

Dutch fur traders colonize the Hudson River Valley under the auspices of the Dutch West India Company. They build Fort Orange near Albany in 1614 and Fort Amsterdam on Manhattan Island in 1625.


Peter Minuit buys Manhattan from a Lenape Native American tribe. The island is renamed New Amsterdam, and Minuit becomes the first Director–General of the Dutch colony of New Netherland.


At the end of the Second Anglo-Dutch War, the Dutch cede New Netherland to the British. It becomes the Province of New York, encompassing part or all of the territory of seven future U.S. states.

King's College, which will later become Columbia University, is founded by royal charter in Manhattan. It is the sixth college established in Colonial America.


In the Battle of Long Island, the largest battle of the Revolutionary War, George Washington's Continental Army narrowly escapes annihilation by retreating to New Jersey. The British Army will use New York City as its base for the rest of the war.

New York ratifies the United States Constitution, becoming the eleventh state in the union.

Albany, the oldest surviving European settlement from the Colonial era, becomes the capital of the state of New York.


George Washington is inaugurated as the first President of the United States in New York City. The following year Philadelphia will replace New York as the nation's capital.


Inventor Robert Fulton launches the world's first commercial steamboat line, with service between Albany and New York City.

The Erie Canal is completed, connecting the Hudson River and the Atlantic Ocean with the Great Lakes. The canal transforms trade and migration patterns and makes New York the center of commerce in North America.

On July 4, all remaining slaves in New York receive their freedom. The state legislature began the process of gradual emancipation in 1781, when it voted to free black men who served in the Continental Army.


Central Park is completed, preserving 843 acres of public green space in the heart of Manhattan. It will be the most visited urban park in the United States.


The Brooklyn Bridge, spanning the East River between Brooklyn and Manhattan, opens. It will be the world’s longest suspension bridge until 1903.


The Statue of Liberty, a gift from the government of France to the people of the United States, is dedicated in New York Harbor.


The Ellis Island Immigration Depot opens in New York Harbor. Over the next 62 years, more than 12 million immigrants will enter the United States through Ellis Island.


The New York State Capitol is completed in Albany. Modeled on the Renaissance-style Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) in Paris, the new Capitol is the most expensive public building of its time.

The New York City Subway begins operation. It will become one of the most extensive public transportation systems in the world.


The Empire State Building in Midtown Manhattan is completed. The Art Deco skyscraper will be the world’s tallest building for four decades.


The World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan is dedicated. Although its twin towers are soon surpassed in height by Chicago's Sears Tower, they become iconic features of the New York City skyline. They will be destroyed by terrorists in 2001.


Take a detailed journey back in time through events that shaped New York's history. Read the article

Famous New Yorkers:

Henry Hudson

The name of the English navigator who explored New York for the Dutch East Indies Company graces a river, a bay, a strait and two counties.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

After representing New York in the U.S. Senate and serving as the state's 44th governor, he became the 32nd President of the United States.

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New York Stories

Alton Woodman: This New York resident searched for the story of his father. He found the source of his strength. Watch video

John & Washington Roebling: An immigrant and his war hero son took on the most ambitious construction project of the 19th century. Read more

Olmsted & Vaux: They designed Central Park and reshaped New York's landscape, changing the lives of New York City residents forever. Read more

Jacob Riis: He pioneered social reform and improved the lives of generations of immigrants living on New York City's Lower East Side. Read more

Have a New York success story?

Have a family history success story from one of our New York collections? We'd love to hear it. Tell us about it on our blog.

Learn more about:

The Big Stew
Find out what life was like for New York's German, Irish, Jewish and Italian immigrants. Read the article

Footsteps of Ellis Island's Immigrants
The journey wasn't over when the ship docked. What was the passage through Ellis Island really like?
Read the article
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Using Immigration Records
Passenger lists can tell you when your ancestors arrived in America—and much, much more. Visit the site