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Image of women in a large room, sitting at desks with telephones.

Employees at N.Y. Telephone Co.

Women employees at N.Y. Telephone Co. telephone training school, circa 1925, gelatin silver print, V1973.5.806; Brooklyn photograph and illustration collection, ARC.202; Brooklyn Historical Society.

This guide is intended to help with remote research while Brooklyn Historical Society and its library and archives are temporarily closed. If you still have questions, please email library and collections staff at [email protected] We’re here to help!

BHS Collections Accessible Online

  • Finding Aids Search Portal: While the collections described here are not themselves available online, online finding aids (guides) often contain helpful contextual information about people, places, and business.

Digitized primary sources and online exhibitions

While Brooklyn Historical Society’s manuscript and archival collections are largely undigitized, there are a few notable exceptions:

Other repositories with digitized collections include:

Newspapers

  • The Long Island Star (and other titles of the same newspaper)
  • The Brooklyn Daily Eagle and Brooklyn Life
  • fultonsearch.org has many Brooklyn newspapers, and other New York state newspapers, available for free.
    During the Covid-19 outbreak, New York Public Library has made available to its library card holders some excellent newspaper resources that are normally only available at certain branches. These resources include newspapers.com and Readex Databases including America’s Historical Newspapers. Find more information here.

Data and Reference Sources

Digitized Books

Henry Stiles’ three-volume work, A History of the City of Brooklyn: Including the Old Town and Village of Brooklyn, the Town of Bushwick, and the Village and City of Williamsburg (1867 – 1870) contains lots of detailed information about individuals, farms, businesses, streets, and more through the mid-19th century.

I.N. Phelps-Stokes’s six volume The Iconography of Manhattan Island, 1498-1909 is an invaluable text that includes information not just about Manhattan, but about Long Island and Brooklyn as well.

Eugene Armbruster’s The Eastern District is an excellent resource for the history of Bushwick, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint, and especially helpful in understanding street name changes.

House, Property And Neighborhood History

Fire Insurance Atlases

Brooklyn Historical Society’s Fire Insurance Atlases are one of our most frequently used resources. During our closure, here are two alternative resources:

Maps

Photographs

Building Ownership, Businesses and Residents

Architectural and Structural Information

  • Department of Buildings’ Buildings Information System provides block and lot numbers, certificates of occupancy, work orders, building violations, landmark status, etc. However, be aware that many of the scanned certificates have been incorrectly matched with the addresses; make sure to read the certificate closely to see if it is indeed related to your block and lot.
  • The Real Estate Record from Columbia University provides sales, mortgage, conveyance, and other data about buildings in and around New York City from 1868 to 1922.
  • New York Real Estate Brochure Collection from Columbia University consists of over 9,200 advertising brochures, floor plans, price lists, and related materials that document residential and commercial real estate development in the five boroughs of New York and outlying vicinities from the 1920s to the 1970s.
  • Landmark Designation Reports: If your neighborhood is landmarked, you will find lots of helpful research on the history of the architecture and land ownership here.

Family History Research

Ancestry

Brooklyn Directories, 1856 – 1967

  • These residential and classified directories were digitized by Brooklyn Public Library and are available online through the Internet Archive. Early directories sometimes indicate the person’s home address with the initial “h”.

Brooklyn Genealogy Information Page

  • Detailed search portal for numerous resources on Brooklyn municipal history, directories, cemeteries, police and fire departments, schools, clubs etc.

Familysearch.org

  • This Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints genealogy website has made many genealogy records freely available.

New York City Vital Records Index

  • Ancestry.com and the Municipal Archives have collaborated to make available indexes of over 10 million New York City birth, marriage, and death records (1866–1948).
  • In addition, the website German Genealogy Group provides a detailed database search of numerous vital records information. Despite the name, the website is not exclusive to those of German ancestry.

Kings County Estate Files (1866-1923)

  • Brooklyn probate records have been digitized and made available online for the years 1866–1923.

Italian Genealogical Group

  • Includes many indexes, such as searchable birth, marriage, and death indexes. Not limited to those of Italian ancestry.

AfriGeneas

  • Genealogy website dedicated to African-related ancestry.

Ellis Garden Passenger Search

  • Online searchable database of all passengers that arrived at Ellis Island immigration port between 1892 and 1957.

Stephen P. Morse

  • One-step portal for immigration records and genealogy; birth, marriage and death indexes; Electoral District /Assembly District finder for census research.

Green-Wood Cemetery Burial Search

  • Created in 1838, Green-Wood Cemetery is Brooklyn’s largest and one of America’s first rural cemeteries.  This online searchable database lets you find out when and where your ancestors were buried there.

National Archives Personnel Records Center

  • This division of the National Archives holds the personnel records for civilian and military employees who worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during its tenure as a naval facility. The website explains how to request these records.

Find A Grave

  • Searches cemeteries and grave records from around the world

Brooklyn School Newspaper Collection

  • Brooklyn Public Library has digitized numerous school newspapers and made them available on Internet Archive