OK...thanks again to everyone for their input. I totally missed the link to the old catalog search! I am blown away by the amount of items in there for early 1800s in New York City. Its incredibly exciting for me.
There are dozens of items in there that sound extremely relevant:https://familysearch.org/eng/library/fhlcatalog/supermainfra...
I've been researching on Ancestry.com for the past 2 years and assumed that if it was microfilmed, they already had the database. In other words, I had the impression that there was ancestry.com or just paper. Truly, I did not know what I did not know.
If you kind folks here don't mind, I have a few follow-on questions before I dive into all this:
1) It's hard to create microfiche from paper records, but its easy to create digital pictures (not records, just pictures) from microfiche. Are you all telling me that I actually have to go read the microfiche at my local FHC? Am I wrong, or is that going to take 100s of hours?
2) What if some of these have already been digitized somewhere else, how would I know? What if they have already been converted into records? The volume of information here is frankly overwhelming (and I am a computer-guy!) and I just want to be as efficient as I can be.
3) What about paper records that haven't been put onto microfiche yet. Is there a family history "TO DO" list somewhere that I can see? Seeing all this stuff makes me wonder what else I am missing.
4) Some of these catalog items are just a few rolls of 35mm film. It should cost about $125 to digitize the catalog entry. Will they let me do that? I'll give the electronic version back to them for free...