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It is inevitable that genealogical research will lead you to the courthouse. New York has had many different courts throughout it's history. This will help clear up the confusion as to which court handled what matters for each time period. I have also included available records from the LDS where applicable.

Important: If you are searching for probate records, please see my probate page for information regarding the whereabouts of the records.

New York Courts 1653-1895
1653-1674 Courts of Schouts and Schepens These were Dutch courts with jurisdiction over criminal and civil matters. They were replaced by the Mayor's Court.

1665-1683 Court of Assizes This was the highest court in New York City to hear criminal and civil cases. It worked alongside the Court of Quarter Sessions in hearing probate matters. Appeals could only be made to the King.

General Court of Assizes Records October 6, 1680 - October 6, 1682 microfilm # 845302 item 5.

1665-1895 Courts of General Quarter Sessions of Peace These were situated at the county level and handled the following criminal cases: desertions, vice, apprenticeship disputes, bastardy, etc. They also heard probate from 1665-1683. From 1691 on, it heard only criminal cases. It was replaced in 1896 by the county courts.

Court of General Sessions Minute Books 1683-1731 microfilm # 497558 item 1.

Court of General Sessions Minutes 1705-1714, 1722-1742 microfilm # 1021265 items 3-4.

1674-1784 Mayor's Court This was just a New York City court and handled all civil matters: civil suits, apprenticeships and naturalizations.

Mayor's Court Records 1733-1742 microfilm # 1021265 items 3-4.

Mayor's Court Select Cases 1674-1784 microfilm # 1697371 item 6.

Mayor's Court Docket of Judgments 1796-1819 microfilm # 1021272.

Mayor's Court Minutes 1674-1821 microfilm # 1021714 - 1021744.

1691-1847 Courts of Common Pleas They existed in each city and county and handled all civil matters: marriages, naturalizations, name changes, probate, lunacy, tavern licenses, child support & custody, etc. They also handled appeals from justices of the peace. It was replaced by the county court. In New York City, it was abolished in 1895 and replaced by the supreme court.

Court of Common Pleas Assignment Docket 1860-1917 microfilm # 1017468 - 1017476.

Court of Common Pleas Index to Records 1821-1895 microfilm # 1204619 - 1205033.

1683-1895 Court of Oyer & Terminer & General Gaol Delivery This was a county court that handled capital crimes such as murder and treason.

Court of Oyer & Terminer Minutes 1716-1717 microfilm # 1021265 items 1-2.

1664-present Small Cause Courts and Justice's Courts These courts are presided over by a justice of the peace. They perform marriages, issue summons for debts and rule on minor civil suits.

Local Courts
Minutes of the Town of Newtown 1656-1690 microfiche #6104134 New York Courts 1686-present
1686-1778 Prerogative Courts These were county courts with jurisdiction over marriages and estates. It was replaced in 1778 by the Court of Probate.

1691-present Supreme Court A county court with jurisdiction over all matters. It handles domestic relations, divorce proceedings, naturalizations and crime. Since 1847, it has heard appeals from the Surrogate Court. The county clerk is also the clerk of the Supreme Court.

Queens County Supreme Court in Equity Register 1823-1827 microfilm #481399

Supreme Court Index to Certifications of Incorporation 1818-1920 microfilm # 1204950 - 1204975.
NOTE: Index is alphabetical by company name.

Supreme Court Index to Commissions & Depositions 1800-1910 microfilm # 1205034 - 1205036.
NOTE: Index is alphabetical by plaintiff.

Supreme Court Index to Remittitur 1851-1910 microfilm # 1024945 - 1204948.

Supreme Court Index to Special Proceedings 1847-1910 microfilm # 1205117 - 1205134; 1205307 - 1205309.
NOTE: Index is alphabetical by plaintiff.

Supreme Court Minutes of Judicature April 4, 1693 - April 1, 1701 microfilm # 845302 item 5.

Supreme Court Assignment Bureau Records 1860-1917 microfilm # 1017480 - 1017496.
NOTE: Includes surname index.

Supreme Court General Minutes 1855-1895 microfilm # 1021255 - 1021263.

Supreme Court Minute Books 1704-1847 microfilm # 1018632 - 1018650.

Supreme Court Trial Term 1939-1942 microfilm # 590415.

Supreme Court Special Proceedings 1851-1910 microfilm # 1021266 - 1021271.

Street Records of New York City 1815-1843 microfilm # 501157.
NOTE: These records are from the Albany Supreme Court.

Chamberlain Bonds 1752-1821 microfilm # 501158.
NOTE: These records are from the Albany Supreme Court. This microfilm includes an index.

1778-1823 Court of Probate Handled all probate matters from 1778-1787.

1787-present Surrogate Courts A county court with jurisdiction over probate, some adoptions and guardianship.

Queens County Surrogate Court, Guardianship Records 1803-1888, index 1803-1920 starting:
Index, Guardianship Letters microfilm #930543 item 5

Queens County Surrogate Court, Unfinished Guardianship Papers 1853-1865 microfilm #941406 item 1

1821-present Circuit Courts These are county courts that handle foreclosures, name changes, marriages, estate divisions, naturalizations, probate suits, seizure and recovery of goods.

1823-1847 Court of Chancery This court had statewide jurisdiction over foreclosures, land title disputes, sale of estates in dower, naturalizations, marriage disputes, divorce, guardianship and child custody. The Court of Probate was merged into this court. The Chancery also had appellate jurisdiction over the Surrogate Courts. After 1847, all matters pertaining to equity were given to the Supreme Court.

Queens County Clerk's Minutes, Court of Chancery 1846-1847 microfilm #481398

Orders in Chancery, Queens County Chancery Court 1701-1802 starting:
1701-1702, 1705-1708, 1720-1735 microfilm #481384

Index to Chancery Decrees Vol 1 1764-1847 microfilm # 101477.

Index to Vice Chancery Decrees Vol 2 1823-1854 microfilm # 1017477.

Chancery Court Index to Records 1700-1848 microfilm # 1204888 - 1204905.

Chancery Court Index to Records A-Z 1787-1910 microfilm # 1021238 - 1021254.

Chancery Court Minutes 1711-1847 microfilm # 590388 - 590415.

1847-present County Courts These are the major trial courts with jurisdiction over criminal matters, minor equity cases and some appeals.

The Municipal Archives has a collection of District Attorney's files, including indictments, case files and docket books. They are available for New York County (including New York City) from 1790-1966 and Kings County from 1940-1945. The Archives will not search these for you. It is recommended you view them at the Archives.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York This was a federal court that handled records for the War of 1812, admiralty cases, Act of 1800 bankruptcy and judgement cases.

U.S. Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York Another federal court that handled appellate, judgement, equity and criminal cases.

U.S. Court of Appeals (formerly the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals 1891-1948) This was a federal appellate court.

Miscellaneous Indexes and Records

The following are records available from the LDS. They cover a variety of courts.

Index to Parchments 1686-1847 microfilm # 1204976 - 1204982.

Miscellaneous Filed Papers Index 1812-1934 microfilm # 1002909 - 1002925.

Miscellaneous Court & Civil Records 1767-1889 microfilm # 497581 - 497591.

If the LDS doesn't have the records or indexes you need for an active court, you will have to contact the clerk of the court.

Repository Holdings
The Bronx Historical Society has the following legal records:
Bronx District Attorney's Office Record Collection
New York Police Department Blotters - Bronx Precincts 1865-1950s
New York Fire Department Journals - Bronx Companies 1874-1913, 1913 on (various years)
Bronx Grand Jurors Association Records

The Municipal Archives has the following holdings:
General Sessions, Police and Magistrate's Courts of New York City 1684-1940
District Attorney Records: New York City 1790-1966, Brooklyn 1940-1945

Holdings at the New York State Archives SARA

Trial Transcripts from New York County Criminal Courts 1883-1927 Record Group B0815
This record group contains Appeals to Higher courts, Majority-Court of General Sessions 1886-1927, some New York Supreme Court 1896-1922 and some Court of Oyer & Terminer 1886-1895.
NOTE: SARA will produce copies of individual reels on request for the cost of duplication.
The Library of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY, has these films available for public use. Both SARA and John Jay have paper indexes to these cases, indexed by defendent, judge, attorney, charges filed and case number.

New York County Court of General Sessions of the Peace, Records on Appeal, Remitted from the Supreme Court General Term, Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department or the Court of Appeals 1884-1916 Record Group J0016
NOTE: This record group contains court documents, testimony, documentary exhibits and signed orders of the appellate court indiciating decision. It is arranged by case number. There is no index.

Records & Briefs 1896-1935 Record Group J2004
NOTE: This record group is for criminal & civil cases in Brooklyn. Some files are restricted. There is no index.

Admission Registers for Prisoners to be Executed 1891-1946 Record Group B0147
Log of Actions Relating to Inmates Awaiting Excecution 1892-1907 Record Group B1212
Log of Actions Relating to Inmates Scheduled for Execution 1915-1967 Record Group B1244
NOTE: These record groups taken together form a chronological summary of all prisoners received at Sing Sing (Ossining) and sentenced to death. Pre-1907 records include brief information on the prisoner. Post-1907 records include a summary of personal & criminal history.

Case Files of Inmates Sentenced to Electrocution 1939-1963 Record Group B0145
NOTE: Contains personal, medical & legal documents on prisoners sentenced to death. Includes warrant of execution, admission form, parole investigative report, correspondence, medical reports, etc. Portions of these records are restricted.

Name Index to Executive Pardons, Respites, Commutations, Restorations of Citizenship & Certificates of Good Conduct 1799-1987 Record Group B1201
NOTE: These records index the following record groups:

Executive Pardons 1799-1846, 1856-1931 Record Group B0042
NOTE: Pardons granted by the governor. Includes name, court where convicted, crime, sentence and date of pardon.

Executive Orders for Commutations, Pardons, Restorations of Citizenship & Respites 1840-1920, 1924-1929 Record Group B0049
NOTE: Orders issued by the Secretary of State. Includes name, crime, place of trial, date of sentence, place of imprisonment, etc. Not indexed. Records are in poor condition and access is restricted.

Respites & Commutations 1854-1931 Record Group B0048
NOTE: Partly indexed.

Executive Restoration of Citizenship Rights 1869-1931 Record Group B0046
NOTE: Granted by the governor at his discretion. Includes name, crime, sentence, prison and date of restoration.

Executive Pardons, Respites, Commutations, Restoration of Citizenship Rights & Certificates of Good Conduct 1931-1993 Record Group 13253

Lists of Convicts Discharged by Expiration of Sentence or Pardon 1819-1837, 1848-1853, 1873, 1876, 1880-1891 Record Group B0043
NOTE: Pertains to convicts discharged from state prisons. Arranged by prison name. Includes name, date of discharge & summary of crime, conviction, sentence and personal characteristics. The records are fragile and access is restricted.

Letter Book of Official Correspondence & Proclamations 1787-1795, 1802-1804 Record Group A3189
NOTE: Letter & documents of Governor George Clinton. Includes delays of execution.

Ledgers of Governors' Actions & Decisions 1856-1906 Record Group A0622
NOTE: Data on official actions of governors. Includes applications for pardon and commutations. Includes name, date and term of sentence, crime, county and prisoner.

Online Resources
A listing of New York residents who took part in the legal proceedings against Governor Lord Cornbury in 1702 is now online.

Genealogy Quest offers Crime & Punishment, for records on individuals on both sides of the law.

You can now search the following court records online:
NY State Court of Appeals decisions July 2000-present; NY State Supreme Court, Queens County decisions 1999-2000 and 2001-2002.

The Westchester County Archives has an online database of court records 1778-1885; incorporation records 1876-1926 and incorporation records personal name index 1848-1906.

The Brooklyn Information Page has court news from the Daily Star for the Surrogate Court of Queen's County for Jan.-Mar. 1907.

Lloyd Duhaime's online law dictionary presents legal terms in simple language.

Please see my contact page for court address.


June 2001