9 Great Resources for Researching New York History

New York City has a rich history unlike any other in the United States. Over the past 25 years, various websites have sprung up that host fascinating material for in-depth research.

For example, suppose we were looking for information on a small New York company that had a storefront on Broadway. Let’s also say it was the 1880s, just a few years before the 1894 debut of one of the city’s most famous songs, “The Sidewalks of New York.”

In no time, you may be able to find old memorabilia for sale, newspaper archives, print advertisements, photographs, discussions, and even information about the lives of the people who ran the store.

Here are nine research resources that can help you delve into New York’s history.

eBay

The eBay auction website is home to a wide variety of memorabilia and historical documents, including rare books and periodicals from centuries past. (Be careful, though, as some of the old books might hit you in the face with a musty smell.)

Journals.com

One of the best resources for researching New York history is Newspapers.com. The website hosts the archives of over 23,700 newspapers. Advertising and daily news from past centuries can often help to find out more about the subject you are researching.

google books

Imagine if you wanted to instantly search the text of almost any book written in the last centuries. Google Books offers that and more. While some books cataloged by the online library may require an entire purchase to read the pages, Google Books also sometimes offers free previews of pages that show your search results. This powerful resource can help find detailed information on historical topics. (We recommend using the desktop version of Google Books to more easily filter the specific years you want to search.)

Online Library Collections

The New York Public Library’s Digital Collections and Brooklyn Public Library’s Digital Collections websites both host unique documentation, photographs, and illustrations from New York’s history.

Museums

New York City is so big that there are too many great museums to name. However, for starters, we recommend the New-York Historical Society Museum & Website, the South Street Seaport Museum, and the Museum of the City of New York.

Facebook groups

Some Facebook groups can be very helpful in researching New York history. For example, the Family and Photo Search group has helpful members who are happy to answer your questions on historical topics.

City directories

The New York Public Library houses archived city directories dating back to 1786. These invaluable, information-filled books provide names, occupations, business addresses, and home addresses. For some people, these directories may be the only thing that can prove they ever existed.

Ancestry.com

When people think of Ancestry.com, they probably think of finding their own family history. However, Ancestry.com is also a powerful resource for researching New York history. Census records, birth records, death records, immigration records, newspaper archives, and other useful data are all hosted on the website. The website also allows you to search some past city directories by name and address, which is not currently available on library websites.

Historical civil status registers

The New York City government allows free searching of birth certificates, death certificates, and marriage records for the years between 1855 and 1949. We recommend that you choose to search by last name to find more quickly the results.

These nine resources are just a sample of the vast amount of research material online that can be used to explore New York City history. Some of these websites can also be used to search for other major cities. These other cities also have their own digital collections for libraries, municipal directories and museums.

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