When Searched By a Genealogy Researcher, Business Info Can Boom

Family histories are often told through the businesses the family members owned. How best to find these
details? Business directories are a great place to begin. With the FAO Schwarz toy store, business directory listings
go back as far as 1870. That’s when Mr. Frederick August Otto Schwarz moved to New York from Baltimore.

When the genealogy researcher wants to find an ancestor’s business, business directories are a great help. Recently it was announced that the fabled toy store F.A.O Schwarz plans to close its Fifth Avenue doors. With that in mind, this genealogist is going to look at the ways that business brings new information to the family history search.

Many a genealogy researcher has searched for family business histories as a way to add to the ancestral story. Businesses add a big boom to document the lives of family tree members and help get a better picture of the family history time line.

F.A.O. Schwarz is 145 years old now. Sounds like a very old ancestor, no? The genealogy researcher will know that many businesses were and are still named for their owners.

The toy store owner was listed in the 1800s in business directories.

The toy store owner was listed in the 1800s in business directories.

If a company has a relative’s name, the genealogist should know automatically that this may lead to more documentation–unless your family name is Burger King. Well, the MacDonald family members certainly have early company records.  And so do so many other American and worldwide business and family entities.

Online, the genealogy researcher will find information that shows Frederick August Otto Schwarz  (b. October 18, 1836, d. May 17, 1911) was born in Herford, Westphalia, a German province, to Frederick Schwarz, a jeweler, and Frederica Rothe Schwarz.

Schwarz immigrated to the United States in 1856 and settled in Baltimore, where he had two older brothers. He joined his brothers’ business as an apprentice. In 1862, after six years he became a partner in the business. In 1862, Schwarz married Caroline Clausen of New York City.

He then moved to New York and opened a store in New York City in 1870. This genealogy researcher found that Goulding’s Business Directory for New York City has listings for Frederick AO Schwarz at 765 Broadway. The directories have many years of listings and all are found on line, easily. One may also go to the hard copies of business directory volumes that are in the New York Public Library holdings.

Business directories are available locally and nationally. There are a number of publishers of these volumes. In New York City, Goulding’s was one of them. Trow’s was another. Keep searching and you’ll find so many!

The genealogist will find many online and digitized so you can just scroll through them on screen. Local libraries, such as the New York Public Library in New York City or even the Ridgewood Public Library in Ridgewood, New Jersey, have archives that a genealogist may use to find business directories going way back in the local area.

Listings in many business directories will help the genealogist find F.A.O. and his company of Schwarz Brothers. Which brothers? The relevant census often can confirm for the genealogist both an ancestor’s profession and family members.

The genealogist can track the business history through business directories and later on, through local phone books. We can see that in 1876, F.A.O. opened a second shop in New York City. Locations changed and increased with the current famous Fifth Avenue location coming in 1986. (A business directory also listed him in 1941 at 243 S Contr Rd. 745 5th West Palm Beach!)

There will be more, although the Schwarz family is long gone from the operation. Who knows which ancestor of the founder might want to do family history research? When that person is ready, he or she should contact the professional genealogy researchers at RecordClick. When you hire a genealogist at RecordClick, you get the full story, all the locations and an exciting picture of what was and what is continuing.