Digitize New York

The NYG&B’s Digitize New York initiative seeks to empower and educate communities across New York State in the preservation of at-risk historical documents.

Many historical societies, churches, and town hall offices as well as researchers hold at-risk documents that they are unable to digitize because of lack of staff or financial resources. To help preserve important records and improve access for people conducting New York family history research, it is imperative that these records are digitized and made available online.

Original church records split apart
A frayed church volume digitally preserved by the NYG&B

The NYG&B is partnering with organizations across New York State to preserve their at-risk historical documents and make them more accessible. Organizations can either submit their records for preservation at the NYG&B’s Digitization Center or request a digitization kit that empowers them to preserve and upload records at their own sites. With generous support from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, the NYG&B first piloted this project through outreach and preservation efforts in Central New York. For example:

  • The account journals of Dr. Amaziah Church Sherwood and Orlande Beebe Sherwood were sent to the NYG&B from Tompkins County for preservation. The former graduated from Geneva Medical School in 1841, and worked as a physician in Cayutaville, Newfield, and Enfield, New York, until his death in 1860. Orlando Sherwood, Amaziah's son, was a medic in the Civil War and served the Cayutaville community after graduating from medical school. In these 19th century handwritten journals, both doctors kept patient names and their accounts. Using its on-site CopiBook OS A2 Scanner, the NYG&B digitized and uploaded books one, two, and three. The first book includes handwritten records of 150 patient names and fees/expenditures, the second book is a proper account ledger, and the third book is a medical journal.
  • The Town of Sterling in Cayuga County is rich in American Revolutionary War history, and the NYG&B partnered with the town to digitize its census and tax records. Using a digitization kit provided by the NYG&B, the town was able to scan its records on-site with the help of local volunteers recruited by the NYG&B. To date, the 1845 census records, tax records from 1852 to 1880, and school records from 1829 to 1859 are now online. Additional volumes will continue to be added as they become available.

As a result of the success of these preservation efforts, the NYG&B is expanding the initiative beyond Central New York and assisting organizations from across the State to digitize and share at-risk records. If your organization has at-risk records and would like to participate, please submit a project application request. For further questions, see our Frequently Asked Questions or contact DigitizeNY@nygbs.org.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible to apply for Digitize New York?

Any organization (e.g., historical society, church, town records office) that possesses records related to New York State. Individuals with New York-related records are also encouraged to apply.

Is there a cost to digitize a project under Digitize New York?

The NYG&B does not charge a fee for digitizing materials at our Digitization Center or for providing organizations with their own digitization kits. For organizations that request them, digitization kits are loaned to them at no cost.

How is this project funded?

The NYG&B is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. This project is funded by grants and donations, including funding from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation. If you or your organization are interested in supporting this project, please contact projects@nygbs.org.

Grove cemetery volume split
Cemetery records with broken binding

Can I send my documents to the NYG&B for preservation directly?

Yes! If you are permitted to temporarily remove documents from their home, we will digitize them at our Digitization Center located at our headquarters in New York City.

What happens after I send my scanned images to the NYG&B?

Our team will examine your images and prepare them for processing using our LIMB editing software. We will then determine how best to integrate them into our online collections.

What is in an NYG&B digitization kit?

Digitization kits contain everything an organization needs to do on-site scanning, including a laptop computer, a Hover Cam camera, a monitor, and all the accessories included. Along with the materials, the NYG&B will provide training on how to use the kit, both by video and Zoom calls.

Who holds copyright after the documents are made available on the NYG&B’s website?

Your organization retains the copyright to all of your original materials. The NYG&B typically retains the rights to use the digital images.

Will my collection be made available to NYG&B members only?

As part of our agreement with an organization, the NYG&B will make digitized materials available as part of our online collections. Organizations can decide whether they want to make digitized records further accessible, which can include adding them to their own online collections.

If I’ve sent my records to the NYG&B’s Digitization Center for preservation, what happens to the physical records after the project has been completed?

Your records will be returned to you when the image capture phase is completed. The NYG&B is able to help re-home documents by request.

How is your project different from records found on sites like Ancestry and FamilySearch?

Digitize New York focuses on local record sets in need of preservation that have never before been digitized and are unlikely to have been preserved online elsewhere.

How can I participate with the NYG&B on a preservation project?

If you would like to participate in this initiative, please submit a project application request. For further questions, please contact DigitizeNY@nygbs.org.