About the Milstein Division of U.S., Local History and Genealogy

The Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy collects publications documenting American history on the national, state, and local levels, including extensive holdings on New York City history. The Division has a renowned collection of family histories and other genealogical collections, with a particular focus on the New York region. Included in the collections are published works from the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society library, photographs, vertical files, postcards, and other visual ephemera.  Its collections and reference services are used each year by thousands of scholars, students, family historians, and researchers.  Learn more about our world-class collections, and follow the activities of the Division through our blog and our twitter account.

Librarians in the Milstein Division have authored an extensive collection of research guides, including  Genealogy : Getting Started at The New York Public Library, and other guides to genealogy and local history

In-Person Research

Researchers can access the majority of our collections by consulting the NYPL Research Catalog, or with the guidance of our staff.  A valid library card is required to request most print materials. ( Apply for a card ) Laptops are welcome as our reading room is Wi-Fi enabled and equipped with ample power outlets.  

  • The Reading Room, rm 121, has 16 computers with databases and the catalog for research only, and a large selection of collection related reference materials on open shelves.
  • There are 2 microfilm computers.
  • Printing  from the databases and scanning from some print materials (with the Librarian's permission) can be done in the reading room; payment is by credit card, and scanning is free. 

Plan Your Visit

We encourage you to plan your research visit. Please note that portions of our collection may be offsite and requesting materials in advance from the Research Catalog will help you make the most of your visit.

Class and Group Visits

Our staff welcomes students and instructors to explore the collections and resources at our landmark 42nd Street building. We work with educators to design class visits that use the Library's remarkable collections to foster creative inquiry, build critical thinking and information literacy skills, and inspire wonder and excitement around the process of research. Learn more. 

Collection Description

The Milstein Division bears the responsibility for maintaining the excellence of a body of materials that has traditionally been one of the strengths of the Research Libraries. As one of the nation's largest publicly accessible and non-membership genealogical collections, the Milstein Division is a national resource. Unlike many other genealogical and local history collections, the Milstein Division acquires materials beyond the local region. Our holdings in town, city, county, and state histories are national in scope, while our historical genealogical materials are international in scope, including foreign language materials in Roman alphabets. The collections are comprised of 1/2 million books, 400,000 photographic images, as well as the published materials and researcher and vertical files from the collections of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society.

The Milstein Division's book and serial collections are supplemented by materials in other formats. Visual resources include photographic and negative collections, primarily of New York City views, and over 100,000 postcards documenting United States local views. A local history ephemera collection of provides primary study materials for the cultural, social, and religious history of the United States. The Milstein Division also collects political campaign ephemera, including broadsides and pamphlets.  The collections and resources available in the Milstein Division complements and supports the unique holdings in the Rare Book and Manuscripts & Archives Division, the Print Collection, and other divisions of the Research Libraries. 

The Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy is endowed through a generous gift from the Paul & Irma Milstein Foundation.