If research efforts to find your ancestor’s New York birth record have been unsuccessful, you already know that this can be a difficult task due to the lack of availability of state vital records prior to 1880.
Finding evidence of an ancestor’s birth not only potentially confirms the date and location of the event, but may also identify parents, and lead to further research of prior generations.
It’s important to understand that finding evidence of a birth is not exclusively found through a birth certificate. Your research goal should always be to find documentation that verifies the birth event, not just to find a specific document.
Using New York State Census Records
Searching 19th century New York State census records can be the first step in accomplishing your goal, by identifying the county in which your ancestor was born. Determining an ancestor’s county of birth can lead to a more streamlined research approach. Once you identify your ancestor’s county of birth, you can then concentrate on genealogy resources available for that specific county.
New York State conducted censuses every ten years, starting in 1825. Most importantly, the 1855, 1865 and 1875 censuses requested information about a person’s county of birth, if they were born in New York State.
An example from one of my past projects is a woman named Martha Rebecca Wood. One of the research goals was to identify Martha’s parents. Through prior research, it was discovered that Martha was born c. 1835 in New York, and throughout her life, she resided in both Warren and Saratoga counties with her husband Edward Jesse Wood.
1875 New York State Census
By pin pointing Martha’s county of birth through New York State census records, additional research methods including cluster research were used to attempt to identify her parents. Through this more direct, focused research on Saratoga County, Martha’s parents were identified as Lorenzo and Martha Frazier.
Additional hint: The 1865 New York State census asked questions about military service. This can be helpful for male ancestors. Knowing if your male ancestor served in the military can potentially lead to finding military pension records, which in some cases can provide information on their birth or the identity of their parents.
- The following New York State census record collections are accessible for free through the website FamilySearch.org:
Do you have any suggestions or recommendations for searching for evidence of a New York ancestor’s birthplace? If so, feel free to leave a comment below!
If you have any questions about family history research or would like to consult with me about a project, just click the contact button below to send an inquiry.