Where oh where are the originals?

When I first started doing genealogy in the late 80's I was given a copy of a will for my 4th great-grandfather. Notes written on the copy indicate that the will came from the Historical Documents Collection at Queens College. From what I can read of the title it appears to be Albany Court of Pro___ Wills, no. AG44. At the Queens College Library website you find the following statement "The Library no longer holds the Queens College Historical Document Collection" they further state "The library has no records of the current location of any items formerly held in this collection." There is also a link to the New York State Archives.

Just recently FamilySearch uploaded a collection, New York, Probate Records, 1629-1971. This collection is browse only. Eventually I found the will and the FHL film number 481439. Going to the catalogue the authors are listed as New York Surrogate's Court (Albany County) and Albany County (New York) Clerk of the Court of Appeals. In the notes section is the following "Microfilm of original records at the Queens College Library in Flushing, New York."

The New York State Archives has a research tool, "Probate Record Pathfinder" following this tool brings you to a link J0038-82 with the note, Arranged alphabetically by testator, then numerically by file number. This description follows the number on the copy I have and the images from FamilySearch. The first image is of a file folder with the following Gilchrist, Alexander of Argyle Charlotte Co. 29 July 1784 AG44.

Following the link at the NYS Archives viewing the details the title is Probated wills, 1665-1815, New York (State) Court of Probates. Pages 34.5 cu. ft. The catalog record lists copies 11 microfilms.

Comparing the number of microfilms in the FHL collection and the state archives and the descriptions of each. It appears that at least part of the Historical Documents Collection from Queens College is now housed at the NYS Archives.

For my citation I am planning on using the FHL microfilm, the scans are better than the copy of the original I have. Since it took many hours to figure out what happened to this collection I think it is important to make some kind of note in the citation as to where the originals are currently located and that the Historical Document Collection no longer exists. I have been unable to determine the date that the collection at Queens College was dismantled.

Have I determined where the original documents are located? Do I need more evidence that I have located the originals?

Ann Gilchrest 

Submitted byEEon Sun, 01/13/2013 - 18:17

Ann, you certainly seem to have done a thorough job of birddogging that missing collection. In direct response to your last paragraph, only someone who is familiar with both sets of records could tell you if they are one and the same. Let's post a query on EE's Facebook page and see if any of the 1300+ "fans" includes someone who is familiar with this set.

In the meanwhile, EE agrees with your decision to cite the FHL images, given that they represent a better quality than what you inherited.

Submitted byldegraziaon Sun, 01/13/2013 - 18:41


My dear friend, Harry Macy, Jr., FASG, wrote a number of helpful articles for The NYG&B Newsletter, one of which is called "New York Probate Records Before 1787." Harry updated the article in June 2011 and it is now posted (along with many other helpful articles written by Harry and others) in the members' section of the NYG&B website (www.newyorkfamilyhistory.org). The article and its companion article covering post-1787 records are excellent resources for researchers interested in this confusing set of records. In one part Harry writes:

“In the 1960s and 70s, many records held by the New York County Surrogate's Court and the Court of Appeals in Albany were transferred to the Historic Documents Collection at Queens College, Flushing, New York, and much of the microfilming of those records by the GSU was done at that repository. In 1982 and 1985 most of the records were moved from Queens to the State Archives in Albany, where they are now preserved (a few records went to New York City repositories).”

So it seems you have found the originals. And Harry has answered your question about the date the collection was broken up and moved.

With best wishes,





Submitted byagilchreston Sun, 01/13/2013 - 21:47

In reply to by ldegrazia


Thank you! I have downloaded your friends excellent article. Not only do I know when the collection was dismantled but I have a great history of the early probate records for New York.