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!
Remote Reseach - Brooklyn Historical Society
BHS Collections Accessible Online
- Oral History Collections Online Portal
- Online Image Database
- Online Art and Artifacts Database
- Film, Video and Audio Recordings
- 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:
- Digitized materials used in our TeachArchives exercises
- Digitized materials from the Lefferts Family Papers
- Digitized materials from the Packer Collegiate Institute collection
- In Pursuit of Freedom online exhibition has digitized materials from our collections and from other repositories relating to the history of abolition in Brooklyn.
Other repositories with digitized collections include:
- Brooklyn Public Library
- New York City Municipal Archives: collections include old Kings County records, the Brooklyn Bridge, Ebbets Field, Schools, and more
- New York Public Library
- Museum of the City of New York
- Library of Congress: In addition to maps and photographs, their digitized archival collections include materials relating to Frederick Law Olmstead, Walt Whitman, Leonard Bernstein and others.
- New-York Historical Society
- 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
- Infoshare Online Find demographic data by neighborhood from 1980 to present
- DOITT Map (Beware that building construction dates are often inaccurate)
- NYC Oasis
- NYC Open Data
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.
- Available here through HathiTrust
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:
- New York Public Library’s Brooklyn fire insurance atlases include many that are found in BHS’s collections.
- The Library of Congress has digitized Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Brooklyn
- Department of Finance 1940 Tax Photos from the NYC Municipal Archives
- Department of Finance 1980 Tax Photos from the NYC Municipal Archives
- 80s.nyc shows the 1980s photos in more of a “google maps” format.
The links in the “Photographs” section above will also be useful
Building Ownership, Businesses and Residents
- Kings County Land Conveyance Records for the years 1679 through 1885 are available through familysearch.org when you register for a free account. These are searchable by grantor or grantee name, not by location.
- Department of Finance’s ACRIS site has ownership records from 1966 to present
- Use the Department of Finance’s Digital Tax Map or the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Map to find your building’s tax block and lot number and other useful information.
- The Brooklyn Daily Eagle and other newspapers can also yield information about building owners, businesses or residents. Try searching for an address number and name in quotation marks (for example, “128 Pierrepont”).
- Fulton Street Trade Card Collection consists of 245 late 19th and early 20th century illustrated trade cards, which have been indexed by address.
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
- Usually available by subscription, but also freely available at most public libraries, this site offers fully scanned and searchable federal censuses for all years currently available (through 1940) as well as many other records. During the Covid-19 pandemic, NYPL is offering free access to its cardholders, and records on Ancestry from the National Archives are also freely accessible.
- 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”.
- Detailed search portal for numerous resources on Brooklyn municipal history, directories, cemeteries, police and fire departments, schools, clubs etc.
- This Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints genealogy website has made many genealogy records freely available.
- 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.
- Brooklyn probate records have been digitized and made available online for the years 1866–1923.
- Includes many indexes, such as searchable birth, marriage, and death indexes. Not limited to those of Italian ancestry.
- Genealogy website dedicated to African-related ancestry.
- Online searchable database of all passengers that arrived at Ellis Island immigration port between 1892 and 1957.
- One-step portal for immigration records and genealogy; birth, marriage and death indexes; Electoral District /Assembly District finder for census research.
- 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.
- 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.
- Searches cemeteries and grave records from around the world
- Brooklyn Public Library has digitized numerous school newspapers and made them available on Internet Archive