New York Biographical Index

This is an index to biographical information appearing in thousands of books, monographs, and journals related to various aspects of New York State history.  

Researchers can use this database to search 580,000 names from thousands of sources—many rare and potentially overlooked—for biographical sketches of their ancestors. Many of these sources have not been previously indexed.  

Titles include hundreds of county, city, and town histories. Also included are the histories of political, social, religious, economic, military, fraternal, educational organizations, and trade journals.  

The original index was created by Gunther E. Pohl, F.G.B.S., who served as Chief of the U.S. History, Local History and Genealogy Division of the New York Public Library and NYG&B Trustee Librarian from 1982-1992.  

This exceptional database of genealogical, historical, and biographical information covers several centuries and is now available digitally for the first time ever. 

Watch a free Collection Close-Ups webinar recording for this collection, in which the NYG&B team explains what you can find and how you can search it.

Collection Category: Biographies, Unlocked|Collection Type: Indexed|Location: All NY Counties

Former Chief Librarian of the Local History and Genealogy Department of the New York Public Library, Gunther Pohl spent fifty years compiling this index. 

Recognizing early the value of a comprehensive source that would facilitate research in New York State history, genealogies, and biographies, Mr. Pohl gathered biographical data from thousands of books, journals, periodicals, and monographs that were previously not indexed.  

A dedicated and experienced researcher, Mr. Pohl gave much of his spare time to develop a resource that would open up significant new avenues for the research of others.  

A project that began on 3×5-inch slips of paper has now been fully converted to an electronic and accessible form. 

How to Use This Index

Search the index by name to uncover relevant biographical entries, and use the index entry to locate the publication and its entry.  

Researchers should refer to this table to fully understand all of the data available:  

Index Field


Last Name

Subject's last name

First Name

Subject's first name

Middle Name

Subject's middle name


Subject's title


Year of the event. The event type was not always noted in the index. Usually a birth or death.


Location of the event. The event type was not always noted in the index. Usually a birth or death.

Event Type

The event (related to location and year, but not always noted)

Publication Title

Title of the publication the information was found in

Publication Author/Creator

Name of the publication's author

Publication Details

Additional information about the publication

Other Publication Details

Additional information about the publication

Page or Reference

Where in the publication the information was found. 

Next Steps

If you locate a person of interest in this index, the next step is to locate the publication to obtain the full information. Read our article about finding historical books online for specific steps and tips.