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.
New York Courts 1653-1895
1653-1674 Courts of Schouts and Schepens
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.
This was just a New York City court and
handled all civil matters: civil suits, apprenticeships and
Mayor's Court Records 1733-1742
microfilm # 1021265 items 3-4.
Mayor's Court Select Cases
1674-1784 microfilm # 1697371 item 6.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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)
was a federal appellate court.