Genealogy & Local History in Buffalo, NY
|Frequently Asked Questions|
|How Do I Find ________ Online|
So, you've tried every search engine in the land, with no luck. Time to admit the possibility that what you're looking for isn't on the Net. Your ancestors are not online unless someone first found them on paper and put them online. For more information about what isn't online, apart from piecemeal individual efforts, see:
Here are some places to identify offline sources:
And what is online? Well, folks, that's what this entire site is about! What is online for genealogy in Western NY are mostly small-scale transcribing and indexing efforts by private individuals, and when I discover them, I link to them. So explore the rest of the our pages to see what is online.
To sum up: The past will
online--usually for a price.
|How Do I Get Started?|
Here's a great table that tells you what kind of records yield what kind of ancestral information. For example, if you want to find someone's birthplace, your best bet is vital records, church records, and censuses. See:
though more successful route, is to go to the
largest library in your area and ask for a how-to book on genealogy.
You will learn more from one manual than you will from any number of
hours surfing the Net. Or visit the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter
Day Saints (LDS) Family History
Center in your
These centers are
free to the public and sometimes hold orientation sessions.
How-To Tutorials at Cyndi's List.
|How Do I Get Copies of Newspaper Birth Notices?|
Most people with this question are doing adoption searches. I am sorry to report that the news is discouraging. I'm no expert on the subject, so I could be mistaken. I believe that publishing birth notices is a modern practice, something that local newspapers rarely did before World War I and sometimes not before World War II. I suspect that before the Baby Boom period, the newspapers mainly reported "society" births and not those of everyday women.
I do know that birth notice columns were not necessarily published on a predictable basis. The Buffalo News, our only daily paper, used to publish birth notices at their own convenience, not on any set schedule, and babies could be anywhere from 3-6 months old by the time their names appear. Buffalo City Hall stopped releasing baby names to newspapers in 2006, so there are no longer birth notice columns in the Buffalo News.
And now, the
news for adoption researchers: I have not seen birth notices from every
local paper, from every decade, but what I have seen is this: the only
babies listed are those born to MARRIED couples. As you know, the major
reason young women gave up a child for adoption was that they
unmarried. Whether by choice or by law, the names of babies
surrendered for adoption were not released to newspapers. Who
would advertise an event that everyone tried so hard to conceal?
If you still
to search local papers, the New York State Newspaper Project has
generously compiled a list of Erie
available on microfilm. See also the
page of Newspapers in the
NY State Library,
has a paper that
a local library does not.
|What About School Records?|
The Buffalo & Erie County Public Library's Grosvenor Room has a very incomplete collection of local high school and college yearbooks. A list is available in the Department, or you can try a key word search in the Library's online catalog. School yearbooks are not loaned out. The Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society has a much smaller collection of local yearbooks.
Though I am often asked, I have never seen an elementary school yearbook for any Buffalo public, private, or parochial school. I once had email testimony from a retired gentleman who says that decades ago, his Buffalo grade school, which had a printing program, made up a yearbook. If this is the case, that yearbook was the exception, not the rule.
I've been told that the Buffalo Public School District saves certain records for only fifty years, but I cannot tell you what kind of records those might be. I dropped a line to them to verify this and never got a response.
I can tell you that official school records (as in who attended which school, what grades they got, etc.) are not found at the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library or at the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society. Instead, contact the proper school district:
|What About Funeral Home Records?|
To determine if the funeral home is still in business, see Buffalo Talks, an online phone book. Scroll down to "Funeral Directors." There are over 400 funeral directors listed here.
There is no set rule or pattern about defunct funeral home records. Nancy Archdekin, a member of the Western New York Genealogical Society, reports:"I did some searching for the Driscoll Funeral Home a few years ago and finally ended up in contact with the Erie-Niagara Funeral Directors Association at 390 Ellicott Square, Buffalo, NY 14203. They told me that there are several things that could happen with the old funeral home records:
|How Do I Borrow Books from Buffalo Area (or other) Libraries?|
Say you've done a search on WorldCat.and you discover that one of Buffalo's public or academic libraries owns a book of interest to you. If you live outside of Erie County, print out a record of the book and take this information to your local librarian. He or she can then issue an interlibrary loan request.
Don't bother contacting far-away libraries to request books, because no public library will ship books out of town to the homes of private individuals. (How would they get them back?) They will only tell you to have your local librarian send an interlibrary loan request.
|How Do I Get Copies of Cemetery Records?|
Erie County has had an estimated 150 burial grounds and cemeteries since Europeans began arriving 200 years ago. For many, no records survive. The Cnetral Library and the Historical Society have some local cemetery records on microfilm. I am told that most of these same microfilms are available through the LDS Family History Centers. See also Erie County Cemeteries Past and Present for those internment lists that are online.
Links page has a
variety of cemetery links, including addresses of existing cemeteries
in Erie County.
|Where Are Passenger Lists for People Arriving in Buffalo?|
To quote Chris Andrle, former Erie County GenWeb Coordinator:
"No customs or immigration passenger lists exist for Buffalo. Most immigrants to Buffalo arrived via New York City and should be found in the New York City Passenger lists. Because of Niagara Falls, there is no direct water route from Europe to Buffalo, therefore, all immigrants arriving at the Port of Buffalo had to first land at another U.S. or Canadian port. Some immigrants simply walked over one of the Niagara River bridges from Canada."
To better understand those border crossing records, see Everton's online tutorial, United States - Canadian Border Crossing Records.
See also this page describing Manifests of Alien Arrivals at Buffalo, Lewiston, Niagara Falls, and Rochester, New York, 1902-1954 on 165 rolls of microfilm at the National Archives
thousands of immigrants traveled to Buffalo on the Erie Canal.
According to the New York State Archives, except for the years
1827-1829, no passengers' names were recorded by canal boat
operators. Those 1827-1829 lists can be found in the New York State
to record group A1057).
See also record group A1079--Passenger
list and freight account
book of steamboat "Red Jacket," 1838-1839.
|How Do I Research Buffalo Ancestors From Out of Town?|
|What About Employment Records from Defunct Businesses?|
Until about 1970, Buffalo was one of the major manufacturing cities in the country. We made everything from candy to aircraft. This is no longer the case, and I'll wager that of all the factories listed in the Buffalo City Directory in 1950, maybe 5% are still in business today. It is likely that the company your ancestor worked for no longer exists.
In my years as local history librarian, I have never seen published employment records from any defunct Buffalo firm. Perhaps these are private by law, as are medical records. I learned in the May/June 2000 issue of Family Chronicle, in a good article called "Researching the Workplace," by Xenia Stanford, that in most cases, businesses are not required to keep personnel records longer than 7 years and, of course, that companies are not required to share their records with outsiders, except those required by law, and even some of those filings are considered private.
doubt you will ever find lists of employees of defunct businesses, you
can still learn a little or a lot about those companies. To learn
what's out there, visit my Made in Buffalo:
How To Research
|This Page Didn't Answer My Question|
are additional helpful sites:
|Can You Look Up My Ancestor for Me?|
This one is easy to answer. In a word, no. The whole point of this website is to enable you to to look up your own ancestors, using offline and online sources. I am unable to undertake any personal research.
|Can I Put Old Articles, Etc. on My Website?|
Many of you have old maps, newspaper clippings, books, pamphlets, magazine articles, and so on, that you'd like to put online at your genealogy or local history website. But you're not sure about copyright law. I'm not an attorney and I cannot answer these questions authoritatively.
But I can point you to the following site, which indicates when it is safe to reproduce old publications online.
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