How To Research Your Buffalo, NY House

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Two librarians show you the basic sources owned by the Buffalo History Museum and the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library for researching houses and buildings in Buffalo, NY. Prepared for the Preservation Plus conference, Sept. 2012.

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  • Years covered varies from location to location Maps can be downloaded or printed for personal use
  • Both print and database include an index of streets and addresses Detail on maps includes: Building footprints Addresses Characteristics of buildings Building use Business type Some business names Some business layouts Names public buildings Images are in black and white only
  • Building types: houses, mansions, cottages, villas, farm houses and buildings, city and suburban, public buildings, commercial buildings, churches
  • 1850 forward name every person in a household Other information usually recorded State or country of birth and of parent’s Occupation Ethnicity Age Immigration and/or naturalization information Literacy and language spoken Other information
  • 1855 forward name every person in the household Other information usually recorded State or country of birth Occupation Ethnicity Age Immigration and/or naturalization information Other information
  • Street addresses will be broken up, depending on district boundaries and the route the census taker took
  • Cards on individuals; Homes by address/name; Streets; Buildings; Architects; Neighborhoods
  • As I mentioned earlier one of the things indexed in the Local History File is our scrapbook collection. Our collection contains about 400 books. The books include local newspaper clippings and are arranged by subject. Most were compiled as a Works Progress Administration project. Date Range - Most clippings cover the 1930 – 1975 time period , but some go back as early as the turn of the century.
  • No index of bad/unusual events by address. You’ll have to research the properties and those who lived there in most cases.
  • How To Research Your Buffalo, NY House

    1. 1. How to Research Your HouseCynthia Van Ness, MLSRhonda Konig, MLS
    2. 2. PresentersCynthia Van Ness, MLS Rhonda Konig, MLS• Director of Library & • Grosvenor Room Archives Librarian• library@bechs.org • www.buffalolib.org/• Wed-Sat, 1-5 pm content/contact-us
    3. 3. Today’s Format• When was my house built?• Who designed my house?• What did my house originally look like?• Who lived in my house?• Is any of this stuff online?
    4. 4. Who Has What?• Buffalo & Erie County • Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society Public Library Purple Means Both Libraries Own It
    5. 5. When Was My House Built?• Maps & Atlases• Permits in Common Council Proceedings• City & Social Directories• Census
    6. 6. Maps & Atlases• Sanborn Maps
    7. 7. 1868 Buffalo Sanborn Atlas• Shows individual buildings• Shows only the downtown core• Other Buffalo Sanborns, 1880- 1950
    8. 8. Sanborn Maps - Print•Very detailed property maps•Cover built-up areas of cities/towns only•1880-1986 Buffalo – Various maps, representingabout one per decade
    9. 9. Digital Sanborn Maps• For use in-library or at home with a BECPL card• Covers many New York State cities and towns Buffalo (1889-1951) and Erie County
    10. 10. Digital Sanborn Maps
    11. 11. 1866 Emslie Atlas• 6 volumes• Shows parcel owners more than buildings
    12. 12. 1872 Hopkins Atlas• First atlas to show individual buildings for the entire city of Buffalo
    13. 13. 1884 Hopkins Atlas• Shows individual buildings for the entire city of Buffalo
    14. 14. 1894 American Atlas• Shows individual buildings for the entire city of Buffalo• Three volumes
    15. 15. 1894 American Atlas Key
    16. 16. 1866 Stone & Stewart Atlas• Erie County• Shows property owner names• Shows buildings as tiny black squares• Gives only a street map for Buffalo
    17. 17. 1880 Beers Atlas• Erie County• Shows property owner names• Shows buildings as tiny black squares
    18. 18. 1909 New Century Atlas• Erie County• Shows property owner names• Shows buildings as little black squares
    19. 19. 1915 Buffalo Suburban• Includes Amherst, Blasdell, Cheektowaga, Grand Island, Lackawanna, Tonawanda, West Seneca, Woodlawn• Shows individual buildings
    20. 20. Buffalo Common Council Proceedings• Building permits for City of Buffalo!• 1832-1899 on microfilm• 1854-1996 hard copy• Permits indexed by name until 1907, then by address 1893
    21. 21. Buffalo City Directories 1828 to present• Last name, first name, occupation, address• Women rarely included until the 1920s• Children omitted until around age 18• Digitized volumes at BuffaloResearch.com 1869
    22. 22. Who Designed My House?• This cannot always be determined• Not every house was designed by a private architect• Commercial Plan Books• Architectural Plans & Drawings
    23. 23. Commercial Plan Books• Your house may have been designed using general building plans• Date back to the mid- 1700s• Cover a variety of building types• Find out what was typical by looking for a book published in the time period your house was built.
    24. 24. Architectural Plans & Drawings• George Cary (bulk 1890-1940)• Esenwein & Johnson (bulk 1898-1940)• Green & Wicks/James, Meadows & Howard (bulk 1909-1970)• Duane Lyman (bulk 1952-1963)• John A. Ort (bulk 1959-1964)
    25. 25. Architectural Plans & Drawings• Virtually all are large public buildings such as churches, offices, schools, hospitals• Very few private residences; a few mansions• So, 99% of the time, we do not have your house plans• All are stored off-site; allow at least a week to retrieve
    26. 26. What Did My House Look Like?• Photographs
    27. 27. Our Photograph Collection• At least 7,000 house & building photos• Most date from around 1880-1980• Nearly all are black & white• Nearly all are exterior views• Some streets are better documented than others• In-person visit needed to see them
    28. 28. Who Lived in My House?• City directories• Censuses• Obituaries• Databases• Local History File• Scrapbooks
    29. 29. Buffalo City Directories 1828 to present• Last name, first name, occupation, address• Women rarely included until the 1920s• Children omitted until around age 18• Digitized volumes at BuffaloResearch.com 1869
    30. 30. Buffalo Address Book & Family Directories• 1883-1916• Had an address section• Selective & biased• Omitted immigrants & the working class, and the East side• Ideal for West side addresses
    31. 31. Buffalo Address Book & Family Directories• BECPL has hard copy volumes• BECHS has microfilm• Digitized at NewYorkHeritage.org
    32. 32. Suburban Directories• Erie County & Suburban: 1927, 1929, 1931, 1949, 1959-present• Little or no village, town, or rural coverage prior to 1959
    33. 33. Telephone Directories• BECPL has 1881 to present, including microfilm• BECHS has 1900 to present in hard copy• Remember, not every household could afford a telephone
    34. 34. U.S. Federal Census• U.S. Federal Census, 1790- 1940• Erie County, 1810-1930• Every 10 years, 72 year waiting period• 1940 – digital only - http://1940census.archives.gov/• 1880 first year that specific addresses are recorded
    35. 35. State Census Records• New York State Census• Most are every 10 years from 1815-1925• Erie County – records only from 1855 to 1925 survived• 1892 first year to record specific address
    36. 36. Census Record Organization• Records are arranged by state, then county, then city/town, then ward and/or district• Can’t search by exact address – Browse the district that your address falls into• Buffalo ward and district maps, for some years
    37. 37. Ancestry Library Edition• US Federal Census 1790-1940, every name index• Available in-library at any BECPL location
    38. 38. Ancestry Library Edition• New York State Censuses• Whole state 1892, 1915, 1925• Also – Select Erie County towns 1855, 1865, 1875 [not Buffalo]
    39. 39. HeritageQuest Online• US Federal Census 1790-1930• Head-of-household index only• Indexed only for these years: 1790-1820, 1860-1920, 1930 (partial)• Browse page by page years not indexed• Available in-library at any BECPL location and from home with a BECPL card
    40. 40. Local History File • Card Index • Select Buffalo newspapers, magazines, & books • Scrapbooks & vertical files • 1930s-1982 • Buffalo & Erie County: • People, places, things, history
    41. 41. Local History File
    42. 42. Scrapbooks • 400 • Newspaper clippings • 1930-1975 • Arranged by subject • WPA Project
    43. 43. Scrapbooks • Local Biographies • Homes • Streets • Businesses • Hotels/Taverns • Public Buildings • Guide by Subject
    44. 44. My House Is Giving Me a Vibe. Did Something …Happen in My House?• Local History File, look under these sections: – Fires – lists fires by date, mostly businesses – Homes by address – lists some fires and rarely crimes – Murders – are listed by name of the victim and sometimes the criminal – Other topics: Crimes and Criminals, Prohibition, Accidents
    45. 45. My House Is Giving Me a Vibe. Did Something …Happen in My House?• Fire Department Reports – BECPL 1885-1997 [gaps] – BECHS - 1940-1945, 1962, 1965-1966 – List fires for the year, addresses, and owners’ names. – From 1885 to 1997, almost every volume lists firefighters who died that year, including on the job. – From 1989 to 1997, there is a list of civilian fire deaths by address. No civilian names are given.
    46. 46. My House Is Giving Me a Vibe. Did Something …Happen in My House?• Police Department Reports, 1881-1956 [gaps] – BECPL 1881-1956 [gaps] – BECHS 1873-1971, with gaps – Include narrative descriptions of murders by precinct. – Names involved, their place of residence and the place of murder. – List policemen killed in action.
    47. 47. My House Is Giving Me a Vibe. Did Something …Happen in My House?• Map of the Retail Places of Business in the District Covered by The Christian Homestead Ass’n of Buffalo, Map 1893• Marks the followingtypes of establishments inthe Canal Street area: - “Houses of Ill-Fame” - Saloons - Free theatre saloons
    48. 48. Is Any of This Stuff Online?• www.BuffaloResearch.com/built.html• http://tinyURL.com/BECHS006• www.buffalolib.org/content/grosvenor/guides- publications• www.buffalolib.org/content/grosvenor/genealogy/ genealogy-databases
    49. 49. Is Any of This Stuff Online?• www.BuffaloResearch.com/built.html
    50. 50. Is Any of This Stuff Online? http://tinyURL.com/BECHS006A spreadsheet of 1,100 addresses witharchitect, client & date built – and the source
    51. 51. Is Any of This Stuff Online?www.buffalolib.org/content/grosvenor/guides-publications
    52. 52. Is Any of This Stuff Online?http://www.buffalolib.org/content/grosvenor/genealogy/genealogy-databases
    53. 53. What Libraries Do Not Have• Building Permit Index• Deeds & Property Transactions• Tax Records• Wills & Estate Papers• Vital Records
    54. 54. What Libraries Do Not Have • Building Permit Card Index, in “the vault” of the Permits & Inspections Dept., City Hall • Ask nicely and you may be admitted
    55. 55. Questions?Cynthia Van Ness, MLS Rhonda Konig, MLS• Director of Library & • Grosvenor Room Archives Librarian• library@bechs.org • www.buffalolib.org/• Wed-Sat, 1-5 pm content/contact-us

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