More than 10 million New York City birth, death and marriage records spanning nearly a century -- from 1866 to 1948 -- go online Thursday in a partnership between Ancestry.com and the New York City Department of Records/Municipal Archives.
The data highlights the city's importance as an immigration portal to America, and is expected to be a boon to people researching their family history, officials said.
"Having this particular collection online at Ancestry.com is so important to us because of the importance of New York City itself as an immigration hub," said Quinton Atkinson, director of content at Ancestry.com, the online family history resource. "We know that millions of people came through New York City."
Though Ancestry.com has records from every state and U.S. territory, "New York City and New York State as a whole has to be one of the most important states and cities to provide records for," Atkinson said.
In addition to the city archives available beginning Thursday, Ancestry.com also announced it has added to its New York State Census Collection to include the census of 1855, 1875 and 1905. It earlier put online the 1892, 1915 and 1925 New York State Census.
The New York City records, available for free, can be accessed at Ancestry.com/NewYork, where users can browse through not only the 10 million-plus birth, death and marriage records, but gain entry to the vast collection of the city's Municipal Archives, said Eileen Flannelly, commissioner of the Department of Records.
Flannelly said the partnership with Ancestry.com was a "win-win," enabling millions of people from around the country and the world who can't get to the department's location at 31 Chambers St., across from City Hall, or know about its website -- nyc.gov/html/records -- to explore 221,000 cubic feet of records that cover "400 years of history."
"This, for us, is huge," Flannelly said. She added that part of the department's "mission is to make our records widely and easily accessible."
Flannelly and Atkinson acknowledged the work of volunteers from local genealogical societies who input the century-old city data to create the computerized indexes now on Ancestry.com -- something Don Eckerle of Kings Park, vice president of the German Genealogy Group, said volunteers from the German group and the Italian Genealogical Group, among others, have been doing "for over the past 10 years."
Eckerle, a founding member of the German Genealogy Group and its database administrator, called the city's vital records "very, very important" for connecting people to past generations, providing key names of long-dead grandparents, say, or the hometown of an immigrant, that can aid in further research in the immigrant's country of birth.