What Is Urban Genealogy?
Buildings have a long life – generally longer than ours. And long life breeds so many questions. For whom was my building built? When? For what purpose? Who was the architect who designed it? Has it changed? Why? Who’s lived there over the decades? Was it famous – written about or photographed? What did it used to look like?
These questions can’t always be answered. But if your building lives in New York, then you’re in luck – because New York boasts more historic resources for tracking the life of your building than any other city.
New York City: A Researcher’s Paradise
New York City has extraordinary resources for hunting down information about building histories. The new Urban Genealogy web site – still under construction – is designed as an introduction to using those resources. The “Links” page will direct you to basic research web sites. The “Introduction to On-Line Research” will get you started. For a more exhaustive treatment, including listings of resources with contact information and web sites, detailed explanations on understanding the relevant documents, and instructions on visiting and using the relevant repositories, you can take the annual research seminar offered at the Municipal Art Society.
Message for Traditional Genealogists
Many genealogists, having tracked down information about their family members and ancestors, are beginning to investigate the buildings where those people once lived. If that’s you, you’ll be pleased to discover that many of the research skills you’ve developed as a genealogist can be used to track down building information. The records and information sources, however, can be different, and you’ll need to acquire new skills as well. But that’s all part of the fun.
If you’re ready to tackle the buildings of your family’s past, and if those buildings are or were in the five boroughs of New York City, you are in luck – as in so many other fields, New York City has an abundance of riches in documents and information.
On this site, you’ll find basic information about building and property records in New York City. Learning by doing is definitely the name of the game.