The Founding of the NYG&B


On this date 150 years ago, the founding of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society began. A century and a half later, the Society has grown into the largest and oldest genealogy society in the state of New York and has helped hundreds of thousands of researchers discover more about their New York ancestor and heritage.

We're proud to present a series of articles related to the founding of the NYG&B and biographical sketches of the earliest members of the society. These articles are authored by Dr. Stanton Biddle, who is a longtime volunteer and has exhaustively researched the early history and members of the NYG&B as part of a recent project. The narratives he has created and information he has discovered provide a much-needed chronicle of the society's history, and will be preserved and treasured for many years to come. Below is the first introductory article in the series - enjoy! 

On the evening of February 27, 1869, Dr. David Parsons Holton and his wife Frances welcomed a group of gentlemen to their home at 124 West 54th Street in Manhattan for the purpose of discussing the possibility of establishing a Society for the State of New York on the order of the New England Historic-Genealogical Society. 

The Rev. E.F. Slafter of Boston, Corresponding Secretary of the New England Society, presented a statement on the plan, progress and condition of his society. 

The New York group consisted of five members: Seymour Augustus Baker, D.D., William Frederic Holcombe, M.D., David Parsons Holton, M.D., Henry Reed Stiles, M.D., and Henry’s brother Samuel Edward Stiles, M.D.  Four were physicians and one a minister. 

All shared a common interest in genealogy and biography.  Several had recently published works in the area and may have been drawn together by that experience.

After deciding to form a New York Society, the men drew up a certificate of incorporation and filed it with the office of the New York Secretary of State on March 16. 

The five who attended the February 27th meeting signed the certificate and were joined by three others, Seth Hastings Grant, Edward Chauncey Marshall, and Samuel Smith Purple, M.D.  The stated general purpose of the new Society was to promote genealogical and biographical science. 

The particular business and objects of the society were to discover, procure, preserve and perpetuate whatever might relate to genealogy and biography, and more particularly to the genealogies and biographies of families, persons and citizens associated and identified with the State of New York.  Nine trustees were designated for the new organization, the eight who signed the certificate plus Francis S. Hoffman.  In addition to the March 16 filing with the Secretary of State, on March 20 the certificate was filed with the Clerk of New York County and on March 25th with the Supreme Court. 

A code of By-Laws was prepared and adopted on April 17, 1869 and on April 24th the first regular meeting of the Board of Trustees was held.  The original New York Genealogical and Biographical Society Board of Trustees consisted of seven of the eight who signed the Certificate of Incorporation plus Ledyard Bill and Francis Hoffman.  Edward Chauncey Marshall was a founding member but never served on the Board.    

The NYG&B seal, represented in a retored stained-glass window from
the old NYG&B Library on 57th Street in Manhattan. 

Original nine Trustees elected at first meeting, April 24, 1869:

  • Seymour Augustus Baker, D.D.
  • Ledyard Bill
  • Seth Hastings Grant
  • Francis S. Hoffman
  • William Frederic Holcombe, M.D.
  • David Parsons Holton, M.D.
  • Samuel Smith Purple, M.D.
  • Henry Reed Stiles, M.D.
  • Samuel Edward Stiles, M.D.

Original Officers elected at the first meeting, April 24, 1869:

  • President - Henry Reed Stiles. M.D.
  • 1st Vice President - David Parsons Holton, M.D.
  • 2nd Vice President - Seymour A. Baker, M.D.
  • Corresponding Secretary and Librarian - William Frederic Holcombe, M.D.
  • Recording Secretary – Samuel Edward Stiles
  • Treasurer – Samuel Smith Purple, M.D

Regular meetings of the Society, the Trustees, and the Executive Committee were held weekly at the home of Dr. Holcombe, 54 East 25rh Street until July 7th when the first quarterly meeting was assembled at Mott Memorial Hall at 64 Madison Avenue. Meetings continued to be held at Mott Memorial Hall until May 1, 1888, when the Society moved to the Berkeley Lyceum Building at 19 West 41st Street. 

In January 1890 the Society moved again into the new Berkeley Lyceum Building at 23 West 44th Street.  In the spring of 1896 the Society purchased a new home at 226 West 58th Street, a four-story and basement brown-stone building. A fireproof library building was built on adjacent grounds. On December 11, 1929 the society dedicated the next new building at 124 East 58th Street.  In 2008 that building was sold and the Society purchased new space on the 7th Floor in the Bar Building at 36 West 44th Street.




Fascinating! I’d love to know more, and look forward to reading it!

Congrats on “our “ anniversary. Keep it up. I love being a part of the family.