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House History at The Buffalo History Museum

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In question & answer format, this presentation introduces the most frequently-consulted sources for establishing the history of a house or building. Learn how you can determine the date built, who built it, and more.

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House History at The Buffalo History Museum

  1. 1. House History Research: Frequently Asked Questions Research Library Cynthia Van Ness, MLS Director of Library & Archives #BuffaloHistory
  2. 2. How to visit us  1 Museum Court  North of Rt.198 off Elmwood Ave.  Free parking & bike rack  On #20 bus line
  3. 3. Our Building Designed by George Cary in 1901, for the Pan-American Exposition, a National Historic Landmark since 1987
  4. 4. Admission  Free to Museum members & US veterans  Students & seniors: $5.00  $10.00 for all others
  5. 5. Library Hours  Wednesdays through Saturdays  1-5 pm  Plus 6-8 pm on Wednesday evenings  No appointments necessary
  6. 6. Library Collections at a Glance  Collecting since 1862  20,000+ books  200,000 photographs  3,000 manuscript collections  6,000 microfilms  Vertical/Pamphlet file  Clippings file  About 10,000 maps, plans, prints & drawings
  7. 7. Professionally Staffed  A genuine librarian is on duty during all public service hours  Ready to assist with house research!
  8. 8. A Few Rules  Library materials may not be borrowed or removed from room  Purses, backpacks, briefcases, etc., are stored in our new cube lockers  Please bring valid photo ID to use manuscript material  Most oversized flat material is stored off site. Retrievals are scheduled once a week.
  9. 9. Touch Screen Sign-In We ask for name, address, phone or email, and what you’re researching today
  10. 10. Please, No Food or Drink
  11. 11. Please take calls outside the Library
  12. 12. Pencils only, please
  13. 13. Technology on Site  Free Wifi, laptops & tablets welcome  One online catalog/internet workstation  Photocopying done by staff if size & condition permit, $.25/page
  14. 14. Technology on Site  Two microfilm reader-printers, $.25/page  One microfilm scanner, courtesy of the Western NY Genealogical Society  Bring a USB flash drive
  15. 15. We have lots of these!
  16. 16. Questions We’ll Try to Answer 1. How do I get started? 2. When was my street built? 3. When was my house built? 4. Who designed my house? 5. Who lived in my house? 6. Is any of this stuff online?
  17. 17. Architectural Research Sources Major Architectural History Sources Research Library The Buffalo History Museum 1 Museum Court Buffalo, NY 14216 library@buffalohistory.org October 2016 www.buffalohistory.org A. When built? B. 1st owner? C. Designer? D. Occupants? E. Appearance? 1 Architect's Records, Plans, Drawings We have mostly public buildings; very few houses X X X X 2 Atlases Published roughly once per decade, 1850-1960 X 3 Buffalo City Directories Address section in back starts in 1930 X 4 Buffalo Common Council Proceedings Use these to find building permits X X 5 Census Records Addresses are recorded starting in 1880 X 6 Obituaries & Death Notices Our card file has about 99,000 names X 7 Photographs We have about 30,000 house & building photos X 8 Social Directories These are limited to upper-income households X X 9 Suburban Directories Hardly any were published before the 1950s X 10 Your Deed or Abstract of Title Might help you find a building permit X http://tinyurl.com/TBHM-ArchGrid
  18. 18. Gentle reminder about historical research
  19. 19. Architectural History Sources  Buffalo Atlases  Erie County Atlases  Directories—city, social  Buffalo Common Council Proceedings  Photographs  Obituaries  Census Records  Business Records from Architectural Firms
  20. 20. 1. How do I get started?  Bring your deed or Abstract of Title if you have one
  21. 21. Abstract of Title  Often acquired as part of the closing  Might go all the way back to the Holland Land Company, ca. 1804 Example from our collection: Mss. A2013-02 Will, Abstract of Title, and Survey of Cyrus P. Lee
  22. 22. True or False?  Millard Fillmore lived in my house. It says so on my deed.  False  My house was built in 1804. It says so on my deed.  False
  23. 23. 2. When Was My Street Built?  Index to Records… City of Buffalo, 1896  F 129 .B8 I42 1896
  24. 24. Sample Page from Index to Records  Lists every tiny little bureaucratic action taken on every City street up to 1896  Includes canals, railroads, gas companies, etc.
  25. 25. 3. When Was My House Built?  City directories  Social directories  Buffalo Common Council proceedings  Atlases
  26. 26. Buffalo City Directories  Published annually, with some gaps  We have 1828 to 2001 in hard copy  Online versions are collected at: BuffaloResearch.com/onlinedirectories.html
  27. 27. Sample City Directory Page  Look up the names on your deed  Last name, first name, occupation, address  Women rarely listed until the 1920s  Children omitted until around age 18  No photocopying from directories
  28. 28. Special Section in City Directories  Reverse address section: look your street and see each business or resident  This feature began in 1929
  29. 29. Social Directories  Dau’s Buffalo Blue Book  Buffalo Address Book & Family Directories  Omitted immigrant & working class neighborhoods such as the East side
  30. 30. Buffalo Address Book & Family Directories  Good starting point!  Ideal for West side houses  Published 1880-1916  Has an address section like the city directories  On microfilm & online  http://tinyurl.com/BHM- addressbooks
  31. 31. Buffalo Address Book & Family Directories Online at: http://tinyurl.com/ BHM- addressbooks
  32. 32. Dau’s Buffalo Blue Book  Published 1898-1940  Has an address section  In hard copy only  Not digitized or online 1903
  33. 33. Suburban Directories  Erie County & Suburban: 1927, 1929, 1931, 1949, 1959-2001  Very little village, town, or rural coverage prior to 1959  Not digitized or online
  34. 34. Your tax dollars at work Buffalo Common Council Proceedings
  35. 35. Buffalo Common Council Proceedings  Include building permits!  1832-1899 on microfilm  1854-1996 hard copy  Permits are listed by name 1832-1907  Permits are listed by address starting in 1908
  36. 36. Buffalo Common Council Proceedings  Over 25 editions are online here: https://goo.gl/pyTcu6
  37. 37. Buffalo Atlases These may help narrow down a date range for when your house was built
  38. 38. 1866 Emslie Atlas  Only at TBHM, not online  6 vols. arranged by ward  Shows land owner names more than building footprints
  39. 39. 1868 Buffalo Sanborn Atlas  Shows individual buildings  Shows only the downtown core  Only at TBHM, not online  More Buffalo Sanborns, 1880-1950
  40. 40. 1872 Hopkins Atlas  First atlas to show individual buildings for entire city of Buffalo  Online at http://tinyurl.com/Buff1872a and http://tinyurl.com/Buff1872b
  41. 41. 1884 Hopkins Atlas  Shows individual buildings  Not digitized or online
  42. 42. 1894 American Atlas  Online at http://tinyurl.com/Buff1894
  43. 43. 1894 American Atlas  City of Buffalo  Three volumes  Online at: http://tinyurl.com/Buff1894
  44. 44. Erie County Atlases
  45. 45. 1866 Stone & Stewart Atlas  Erie County  Shows property owner names  Shows buildings as tiny black squares  Online at http://tinyurl.com/Erie1866
  46. 46. 1880 Beers Atlas  Erie County  Shows property owner names  Shows individual buildings as tiny black squares  Online at http://tinyurl.com/Erie1880a  http://tinyurl.com/Erie1880b
  47. 47. 1909 New Century Atlas  Erie County  Shows property owner names  Shows buildings as little black squares  Online at http://tinyurl.com/Erie1909
  48. 48. 4. Who Designed My House?  Not every dwelling is the work of a private architect  Inexpensive house plans have been available by mail–order since before the Civil War  Plus there popular house types (think ranch house!) that are designed & built by developers
  49. 49. 5. Who Lived In My House?  Get out your deed, if you have one  City Directories  Social Directories  Census Records  Obituaries
  50. 50. Census Records
  51. 51. Erie County 1810-1930  Arranged geographically  Ours are on microfilm  Names everyone in the household, 1850-1930  But addresses are not listed until 1880
  52. 52. 1940 Census is online  Released to the public in 2012  Go to National Archives website:  http://1940census.archives.gov/
  53. 53. Federal Census Indexes  1790-1850 New York State  1850 Black Rock  1860 Erie County & Upstate NY  1890 NY State Veterans  In print, not online
  54. 54. Obituaries Sometimes they are the only available biographical information about an individual
  55. 55. Obituary Index 1811-2001  Check the names on your deed  99,000 names in a card file  Name, date of death, occupation  Newspaper where obituary is found  Does not list everyone who ever lived or died here  Not digitized or online
  56. 56. Newspapers  Buffalo’s first newspaper began in 1811  We have local newspapers 1811 to the present on microfilm
  57. 57. 6. What Did My House Look Like?  Pictures & Photographs  Plans & Drawings
  58. 58. Pictures & Photographs  Only at TBHM, not online  About 30,000 house & building pictures  Houses are in A-Z order by street name  Most date from1870-1970  We do not have every single house or building in Buffalo
  59. 59. Using Our Photographs  Photocopies are $.25, black & white only  Museum-quality reproductions available by special order  We scan only for publication, exhibition, or academic use  Rate sheet is downloadable from our website  May not be put online without our permission
  60. 60. Records from Architectural Firms I have good news and bad news.
  61. 61. Plans & Drawings  The bad news is…  Most architectural firms, like most businesses, come and go without their records being saved
  62. 62. Plans & Drawings  The good news: We have drawings and/or business records from:  George Cary, pre-1945  Esenwein & Johnson, 1882-1942  Green & Wicks / James, Meadows & Howard, 1893-1971  Duane Lyman, 1923-1975  North & Shelgren, 1909-1994  John A. Ort, 1950-1967
  63. 63. Plans & Drawings  The bad news is that they are almost all are for schools, churches, hospitals & other public buildings  The few house drawings are for upscale residences  So, 99% of the time, we do not have your house plans
  64. 64. Is Any of This Stuff Online?
  65. 65. www.buffalohistory.org  Click on Research Library under our slide show
  66. 66. FRANK, Our Online Catalog http://tinyurl.com/frank-catalog Lists over 28,000 books & other text-based works
  67. 67. Buffalo Architecture Index  2,400 buildings and their architects in address order. Online at http://tinyurl.com/TBHM-ArchitectureGrid
  68. 68. Buffalo Architecture Map  1,200 addresses Google-mapped and color-coded by architect. At the Library’s Online Collections page.
  69. 69. BuffaloResearch.com  Built in Buffalo  Buffalo Maps  Buffalo Directories  An on-my-own-time project
  70. 70. TBHM on Tagpacker.com  Browse our bookmarks! 1200+ links sorted into categories or tags  https://tagpacker.com/user/buffalo.history.museum. research.library
  71. 71. New Picture Store!  Our new online storefront offers museum-quality reproductions for home or office décor  BuffaloHistoryStore.org
  72. 72. Sanborn Maps at BECPL  www.buffalolib.org  Click on Research  Enter library card # at top of page  Scroll down to Sanborn Maps
  73. 73. Bonus search trick  Open Google Books: http://books.google.com  Search on your address like this, using quotation marks:  “123 Main” Buffalo
  74. 74. One question we can’t answer  “Did something bad happen in my house?”  Crime stories are usually indexed by the names of victims, not by address
  75. 75. Questions?  library@buffalohistory.org  (716) 873-9644 x 306  For best results, call Wednesdays through Saturdays, 1-5 pm  www.buffalohistory.org  Hashtag this: #BuffaloHistory Research Library Buffalo History Museum 1 Museum Court Buffalo, NY 14216

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