New York Maps

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This entry was originally written by Roger D. Joslyn, CG, FUGA, FGBS, FASG for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
the New York Family History Research series.
History of New York
New York Vital Records
Census Records for New York
Background Sources for New York
New York Maps
New York Land Records
New York Probate Records
New York Court Records
New York Tax Records
New York Cemetery Records
New York Church Records
New York Military Records
New York Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
New York Archives, Libraries, and Societies
New York Immigration
New York Naturalization
Ethnic Groups of New York
New York County Resources
Map of New York


The first place to obtain a map is in each county, usually in the county treasurer’s office for a dollar or two. Most maps are large enough to show all county roads, and a further benefit is that most show the towns in different colors, making them easily distinguishable. Many more maps can be found at the courthouse in the county clerk’s or tax offices. They can be useful for locating a specific piece of property; but the further back in time, the fewer maps will be available. A map is sometimes included with a recorded deed. More detailed maps are available for cities, villages, and towns, and a good place to look for these would be local libraries. U.S. topographical maps are useful for locating cemeteries. Excellent map collections are at the New York Public Library, the New York State Library, and the New-York Historical Society.

Numerous county maps are found in county histories and county atlases. For a list of these, see Albert Hazen Wright, A Check List of New York State County Maps Published, 1779–1945 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University, 1965).

On a larger scale, David H. Burr’s An Atlas of the State of New York (New York: David H. Burr, 1829) and Joseph R. Bien’s Atlas of the State of New York (New York: J. Bien & Co., 1895) are useful; the latter work depicts original patent and lot boundaries. For patents (1624–1800), and a series of maps showing county formations and migration routes, consult the excellent Richards Atlas of New York State, 2d ed., edited by Robert J. Rayback (Phoenix, N.Y.: Frank E. Richards, 1965). New York: Atlas of Historical County Boundaries, compiled by Kathryn Ford Thorne and edited by John H. Long (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993) is helpful for following county boundary changes, but be aware of the glaring error for Dutchess County (see The American Genealogist, 69 [1994]: 251-52). Other historical maps of New York are online at www.sunysb.edu/libmap/nymaps.htm.

The New York State Center for Geographic Information, P.O. Box 2062, Albany, NY 12220-0062 www.nysgis.state.ny.us has a good collection of paper and digital maps for sale, and its website is linked to online digital images of the U.S. Geological Survey quadrangle maps.

Accurate maps of historical changes in towns, cities, and villages are few. Useful exceptions are David Kendall Martin, “The Districts of Albany County, New York, 1772–1784,” The NYG&B Newsletter 1 (1990): 9, 12-13, which covers only one section of the province, but with maps that help show that county’s divisions prior to the creation of towns in 1788; and Marjory B. Hinman, The Creation of Broome County, New York (Windsor, N.Y.: the author, 1981), with clear, useful maps of early nineteenth-century town boundaries in Broome and predecessor counties. For New York City, see Harry Macy, Jr., “Before the Five-Borough City: The Old Cities, Towns and Villages That Came Together to Form ‘Greater New York,’” The NYG&B Newsletter 9 (1998): 3-6.

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