WPA Historical Records Survey - New York State Research Volumes

This collection contains a variety of volumes from the Historical Records Survey Project. This program functioned under the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. The Historical Records Survey Project was an ambitious attempt at hiring unemployed clergy members, researchers, historians, teachers and lawyers. Its goal, aside from addressing unemployment among people in those fields, was to assemble historical records that were intrinsic to government and vital records from churches. Part of this initiative, was creating inventories of ecclesiastical records of every church in every state. Compiling these documents made these documents available to “students of political, economic, and social history” (i).

Collection Category: Research Aids, Unlocked|Collection Type: Image Browse|Location: All NY Counties

This project was made possible by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and political scientist Dr. Luther H. Evans. The efforts to inventory churches through New York City was sponsored by Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia.

It was President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s belief that bringing together “the records of the past” and preserving them indicates that the nation “must believe in three things.” It must believe in both the past and the future. And, “above all,” its citizens must “learn from the past” in order to “gain judgment for the creation of the future” (iii).

Researchers must note that since these records were transcribed in the 1930s and 1940s, that some of these inventories have not been updated since this period. This collection of inventories should be used as a research guide rather than a list of institutions from which documents can be acquired. If one is looking for a birth or death record at a church in this collection, the document was located there up until that point. Therefore, researchers have to work to find where they may have ended up considering many of these churches are no longer in operation today.

Though the data in each volume will differ, you can generally expect to find information on the following types of records:

  • Vital records
  • Church histories and records
  • Inventories of local records
  • Local histories
  • Societies' histories

The digitized images from these volumes can be browsed, but cannot currently be searched. The images can also be browsed by clicking the links below, which will take you to the beginning of the section you are interested in reading.

Included are:

Church Archives Inventories

Vital Records

County Records

Manuscript Depositories


Suggested citation for this collection:

New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, “WPA Historical Records Survey - New York State Research Volumes” digital images, New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, (www.newyorkfamilyhistory.org), 2019.