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Discovering the New York Public Library Digital Collections

Discovering the New York Public Library Digital Collections
You don’t need to live in New York City to benefit from the New York Public Library (NYPL). Their Digital Collection’s scope extends beyond the City and encompasses resources from the  entire world. Like other digital collections, NYPL includes books, magazines, postcards, maps, and images. The following are just a few examples of why the NYPL Digital Collection should be on your list of online repositories to explore.

New York Specific Resources

Let’s start by pointing out the New York-specific resources in the Digital Collection. From the homepage of the Digital Collection you can select Collections About New York City to view:

  • New York City Directories
  • Atlas of New York
  • Photographs Taken by the Inspectors of New York City Tenement
  • Staten Island Post Cards


Maps & Atlases

Their Maps & Atlases collection includes historical geographical references for the world including:

  • Atasses of the United States
  • Maps of Asia
  • Maps of Africa


Beyond the Homepage

You can peruse the collection for the spotlighted collections found on the homepage but don’t forget to browse All Collections or search for a specific collection or item by keyword. That will provide you a more comprehensive look at their now over 921,000 items. To learn more about navigating the collection see their Platform page.


By browning all collections you’ll find genealogically important materials such as:

  • Yizkor Book Collection (documents history of communities destroyed in the Holocaust) 
  • Simms’ Blue Book and National Negro Business and Professional Directory 
  • Puerto Rican Slave Documents 
  • The Asmonean (First English language Jewish weekly newspaper in the US) 

Don’t forget the importance of social history materials that help you understand your ancestor’s time and era such as:

Many of the collections on NYPL Digital Collections are in the public domain and simply needed to be cited in order for you to use them for your genealogy. To learn more about public domain items and usage rights for the collection see their About page at

What Will You Find?

Rich discoveries can be made in unexpected places and the NYPL Digital Collection is one of those. It would be impossible to highlight all of the world’s resources contained in this online repository but do yourself a favor and take some time to browse the collection and find what might be of use to your research.

Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.



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