A family history researcher knows his or her business: It’s the digging, finding, looking and sniffing out details in historic, sometimes dusty, files. But do you really have all the details on your family’s business? And I mean business. Businesses like the hardware store, the hotel, the restaurant, the dress shop in the small town or big city. And how would you find such ancestor search tidbits?
Here’s one: My maternal grandfather was a pharmacist in upstate New York. Sure, we have the jagged edged pictures in black and white of my mom and her siblings in front of the big store sign. Yet, like any devoted family history researcher, I want more from my genealogy search in New York!
That’s where historic business directories come in handy for the family history researcher. These compendia provide lots of info. There are street addresses, names of business, and, sometimes, pictures and a description of the owner. Before telephone books, directories were sources for information. Towns and cities all over the world had them. They came in the form of Gazettes, Directories, and listings of families living in an area.
For a genealogy search in New York, family history researchers will find that telephone books were first printed in the late 1870s. But before that city directories were printed between 1786 and 1934. These are helpful for genealogy searches in New York.
Such directories were printed all over the world. I found my Polish great grandfather’s name, business name and street address in a Polish business directory from 1920. That info was a big family history research hit! When I posted it on my family’s Facebook group, each member of our Facebook group became an instant family history researcher– from afar–with this new info. And it makes me, the official family history researcher, giddy. This RecordClick genealogist loves to find such hidden gems for my huge, worldwide family tree.
The first common day listing of all local businesses was in England in 1588. It was called The Companyes of all the Craftes or Mysteries of London. The Treasury of the Receipt of the Exchequer compiled it as a way to have all the local businesses on record in the event of war preparations.
Doing family history research in the United States of America, one will find that the first directory to include a business in the United States of America seems to have been in the 1700s. Genealogical searches in Maryland will turn up this list of the families in Baltimore from 1752. It listed mostly men who were the property holders of that time. Yet, the directory does list two women–one of whom was a midwife.
Handy for reference then and for family history researchers now, the American city directories began to appear more frequently after the American Revolution. Why? One reason was that they presented a way for citizens of the new country to declare themselves by name.
More information on all of these directories can be found at the New York City Public Library Main Branch at 42nd Street. This amazing resource is great for finding the actual documents for a genealogical search in New York. Some of the NYPL’s vast collection has been digitized and is available on line. (This RecordClick family history researcher found over 3000 entries from all over the world when I searched there.) For domestic genealogical searches in the United States of America, the New York Public Library’s extensive collection does include local directories from all over America.
Images of businesses are also in the NYPL collection. There are images from directories as well as advertisements and other sources. Many of these buildings are no longer standing so this image collection takes on greater importance for family history researchers doing genealogical searches in New York. It gives a picture to the family business stories.
There are also additional collections of business listings for genealogical searches in New York at New York University and the Brooklyn Library. The Library of Congress, as well, has a historic business collection. This collection includes stock offerings and corporate information that may be excellent in an ancestor search.
Many states and other major cities have these historic business directories on site as well as online for the family history researcher. Trade Associations for professions such as the legal, medical, architectural and educational fields may also have historic directory archives.
If an ancestor worked at a business or if your family actually had a business, the family history researchers at RecordClick will help you document it, learn more and recover images. Whether you want to do the family business genealogical search in New York or anywhere else, our professional genealogists will mind and mine your business.