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House History Research:
Frequently Asked Questions
Research Library
Cynthia Van Ness, MLS
Director of Library & Archives
#BuffaloHistory
How to visit us
 1 Museum Court
 North of Rt.198
off Elmwood Ave.
 Free parking &
bike rack
 On #20 bus line
Our Building
Designed by George Cary in 1901, for the Pan-American
Exposition, a National Historic Landmark since 1987
Admission
 Free to Museum members & US veterans
 Students & seniors: $5.00
 $10.00 for all others
Library Hours
 Wednesdays through Saturdays
 1-5 pm
 Plus 6-8 pm on Wednesday evenings
 No appointments necessary
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
Professionally Staffed
 A genuine librarian is on
duty during all public
service hours
 Ready to assist with house
research!
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.
Touch Screen Sign-In
We ask for name,
address, phone or email,
and what you’re
researching today
Please, No Food or Drink
Please take calls outside the Library
Pencils only, please
Technology on Site
 Free Wifi, laptops & tablets welcome
 One online catalog/internet workstation
 Photocopying done by staff if size & condition
permit, $.25/page
Technology on Site
 Two microfilm reader-printers, $.25/page
 One microfilm scanner, courtesy of the Western
NY Genealogical Society
 Bring a USB flash drive
We have lots of these!
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?
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
Gentle reminder about historical
research
Architectural History Sources
 Buffalo Atlases
 Erie County Atlases
 Directories—city, social
 Buffalo Common Council Proceedings
 Photographs
 Obituaries
 Census Records
 Business Records from Architectural Firms
1. How do I get started?
 Bring your deed or Abstract of Title if you have one
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
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
2. When Was My Street Built?
 Index to Records…
City of Buffalo, 1896
 F 129 .B8 I42 1896
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.
3. When Was My House Built?
 City directories
 Social directories
 Buffalo Common Council proceedings
 Atlases
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
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
Special Section in City Directories
 Reverse address section:
look your street and see
each business or
resident
 This feature began in
1929
Social Directories
 Dau’s Buffalo Blue Book
 Buffalo Address Book &
Family Directories
 Omitted immigrant &
working class
neighborhoods such as the
East side
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
Buffalo Address Book & Family
Directories
Online at:
http://tinyurl.com/
BHM-
addressbooks
Dau’s Buffalo Blue Book
 Published 1898-1940
 Has an address section
 In hard copy only
 Not digitized or online
1903
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
Your tax dollars at work
Buffalo Common Council Proceedings
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
Buffalo Common Council Proceedings
 Over 25 editions are
online here:
https://goo.gl/pyTcu6
Buffalo Atlases
These may help narrow down a date range for
when your house was built
1866 Emslie Atlas
 Only at TBHM, not
online
 6 vols. arranged by ward
 Shows land owner names
more than building
footprints
1868 Buffalo Sanborn Atlas
 Shows individual
buildings
 Shows only the
downtown core
 Only at TBHM, not
online
 More Buffalo Sanborns,
1880-1950
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
1884 Hopkins Atlas
 Shows individual
buildings
 Not digitized or online
1894 American Atlas
 Online at http://tinyurl.com/Buff1894
1894 American Atlas
 City of Buffalo
 Three volumes
 Online at:
http://tinyurl.com/Buff1894
Erie County Atlases
1866 Stone & Stewart Atlas
 Erie County
 Shows property owner names
 Shows buildings as tiny black
squares
 Online at
http://tinyurl.com/Erie1866
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
1909 New Century Atlas
 Erie County
 Shows property owner names
 Shows buildings as little
black squares
 Online at
http://tinyurl.com/Erie1909
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
5. Who Lived In My House?
 Get out your deed, if you have one
 City Directories
 Social Directories
 Census Records
 Obituaries
Census Records
Erie County 1810-1930
 Arranged geographically
 Ours are on microfilm
 Names everyone in the household, 1850-1930
 But addresses are not listed until 1880
1940 Census is online
 Released to the public in 2012
 Go to National Archives website:
 http://1940census.archives.gov/
Federal Census Indexes
 1790-1850 New York State
 1850 Black Rock
 1860 Erie County & Upstate NY
 1890 NY State Veterans
 In print, not online
Obituaries
Sometimes they are the only available biographical
information about an individual
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
Newspapers
 Buffalo’s first
newspaper began in
1811
 We have local
newspapers 1811 to the
present on microfilm
6. What Did My House Look Like?
 Pictures & Photographs
 Plans & Drawings
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
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
Records from Architectural Firms
I have good news and bad news.
Plans & Drawings
 The bad news is…
 Most architectural firms, like most businesses,
come and go without their records being saved
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
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
Is Any of This Stuff Online?
www.buffalohistory.org
 Click on Research
Library under our
slide show
FRANK, Our Online Catalog
http://tinyurl.com/frank-catalog
Lists over 28,000 books & other text-based works
Buffalo Architecture Index
 2,400 buildings and their architects in address order.
Online at http://tinyurl.com/TBHM-ArchitectureGrid
Buffalo Architecture Map
 1,200 addresses Google-mapped and color-coded by
architect. At the Library’s Online Collections page.
BuffaloResearch.com
 Built in Buffalo
 Buffalo Maps
 Buffalo Directories
 An on-my-own-time
project
TBHM on Tagpacker.com
 Browse our bookmarks! 1200+ links sorted into
categories or tags
 https://tagpacker.com/user/buffalo.history.museum.
research.library
New Picture Store!
 Our new online storefront offers museum-quality
reproductions for home or office décor
 BuffaloHistoryStore.org
Sanborn Maps at BECPL
 www.buffalolib.org
 Click on Research
 Enter library card # at
top of page
 Scroll down to
Sanborn Maps
Bonus search trick
 Open Google Books: http://books.google.com
 Search on your address like this, using quotation
marks:
 “123 Main” Buffalo
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
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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House History at The Buffalo History Museum

  • 1. House History Research: Frequently Asked Questions Research Library Cynthia Van Ness, MLS Director of Library & Archives #BuffaloHistory
  • 2. How to visit us  1 Museum Court  North of Rt.198 off Elmwood Ave.  Free parking & bike rack  On #20 bus line
  • 3. Our Building Designed by George Cary in 1901, for the Pan-American Exposition, a National Historic Landmark since 1987
  • 4. Admission  Free to Museum members & US veterans  Students & seniors: $5.00  $10.00 for all others
  • 5. Library Hours  Wednesdays through Saturdays  1-5 pm  Plus 6-8 pm on Wednesday evenings  No appointments necessary
  • 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. Professionally Staffed  A genuine librarian is on duty during all public service hours  Ready to assist with house research!
  • 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. Touch Screen Sign-In We ask for name, address, phone or email, and what you’re researching today
  • 10. Please, No Food or Drink
  • 11. Please take calls outside the Library
  • 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. 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. We have lots of these!
  • 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. 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. Gentle reminder about historical research
  • 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. 1. How do I get started?  Bring your deed or Abstract of Title if you have one
  • 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. 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. 2. When Was My Street Built?  Index to Records… City of Buffalo, 1896  F 129 .B8 I42 1896
  • 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. 3. When Was My House Built?  City directories  Social directories  Buffalo Common Council proceedings  Atlases
  • 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. 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. Special Section in City Directories  Reverse address section: look your street and see each business or resident  This feature began in 1929
  • 29. Social Directories  Dau’s Buffalo Blue Book  Buffalo Address Book & Family Directories  Omitted immigrant & working class neighborhoods such as the East side
  • 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. Buffalo Address Book & Family Directories Online at: http://tinyurl.com/ BHM- addressbooks
  • 32. Dau’s Buffalo Blue Book  Published 1898-1940  Has an address section  In hard copy only  Not digitized or online 1903
  • 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. Your tax dollars at work Buffalo Common Council Proceedings
  • 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. Buffalo Common Council Proceedings  Over 25 editions are online here: https://goo.gl/pyTcu6
  • 37. Buffalo Atlases These may help narrow down a date range for when your house was built
  • 38. 1866 Emslie Atlas  Only at TBHM, not online  6 vols. arranged by ward  Shows land owner names more than building footprints
  • 39. 1868 Buffalo Sanborn Atlas  Shows individual buildings  Shows only the downtown core  Only at TBHM, not online  More Buffalo Sanborns, 1880-1950
  • 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. 1884 Hopkins Atlas  Shows individual buildings  Not digitized or online
  • 42. 1894 American Atlas  Online at http://tinyurl.com/Buff1894
  • 43. 1894 American Atlas  City of Buffalo  Three volumes  Online at: http://tinyurl.com/Buff1894
  • 45. 1866 Stone & Stewart Atlas  Erie County  Shows property owner names  Shows buildings as tiny black squares  Online at http://tinyurl.com/Erie1866
  • 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. 1909 New Century Atlas  Erie County  Shows property owner names  Shows buildings as little black squares  Online at http://tinyurl.com/Erie1909
  • 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. 5. Who Lived In My House?  Get out your deed, if you have one  City Directories  Social Directories  Census Records  Obituaries
  • 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. 1940 Census is online  Released to the public in 2012  Go to National Archives website:  http://1940census.archives.gov/
  • 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. Obituaries Sometimes they are the only available biographical information about an individual
  • 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. Newspapers  Buffalo’s first newspaper began in 1811  We have local newspapers 1811 to the present on microfilm
  • 57. 6. What Did My House Look Like?  Pictures & Photographs  Plans & Drawings
  • 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. 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. Records from Architectural Firms I have good news and bad news.
  • 61. Plans & Drawings  The bad news is…  Most architectural firms, like most businesses, come and go without their records being saved
  • 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. 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. Is Any of This Stuff Online?
  • 65. www.buffalohistory.org  Click on Research Library under our slide show
  • 66. FRANK, Our Online Catalog http://tinyurl.com/frank-catalog Lists over 28,000 books & other text-based works
  • 67. Buffalo Architecture Index  2,400 buildings and their architects in address order. Online at http://tinyurl.com/TBHM-ArchitectureGrid
  • 68. Buffalo Architecture Map  1,200 addresses Google-mapped and color-coded by architect. At the Library’s Online Collections page.
  • 69. BuffaloResearch.com  Built in Buffalo  Buffalo Maps  Buffalo Directories  An on-my-own-time project
  • 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. New Picture Store!  Our new online storefront offers museum-quality reproductions for home or office décor  BuffaloHistoryStore.org
  • 72. Sanborn Maps at BECPL  www.buffalolib.org  Click on Research  Enter library card # at top of page  Scroll down to Sanborn Maps
  • 73. Bonus search trick  Open Google Books: http://books.google.com  Search on your address like this, using quotation marks:  “123 Main” Buffalo
  • 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. 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