City Directory Blues – Some Alternate Sources for Locating Your Ancestors

Finding where your ancestors lived is essential to genealogy research.  Knowing their place of residence will help find records pertaining to them.  City directories are a main resource used to locate ancestors, but what if directories do not exist for the time period you need or for the area where they may have lived?  The following resources are available in the Grosvenor Room and may help locate your ancestors:

Atlases – Some atlases show property owners.  Atlases are generally not indexed by name, but you can browse a town to see if an ancestor is listed.  The example to the left shows a section of Akron.  It names property owners and shows building locations.  A list of our Buffalo and Erie County atlases is available here.

Federal and State Census Records – Federal and New York State censuses recorded the city/town of residence.   The U.S. Federal Census 1880-1930 and the New York State Census 1905-1925 recorded an individual’s street name and house number.  The 1855 New York State Census recorded how many years an individual lived in their current city/town.  A list of federal and state census records available in the Grosvenor Room is available here.

Land and Property Transactions – The Library has some land and property transaction abstracts.  These usually have name indexes and list the date the property was purchased and the location of the land.  A select list of our Western New York property resources is in the guide located here.

Voters Lists – Buffalo and Erie County voters lists are available in the Buffalo Collection.  Registered voters are organized by street address within their ward and election district.  Alphabetic name indexes are not included, but browsing smaller towns is usually feasible.

  • Buffalo F127.E6 A12 – Official List of Registered Voters: Towns of Erie County.  Most years are owned 1926-1971.
  • Buffalo F129.B8 B37 – Official List of Registered Voters City of Buffalo.  Most years are owned 1919-1961.

Alumni Directories – If you know where your ancestor went to high school or college, alumni directories may be available.  These resources often give the city where alumni were living at the time the directory was published.  They sometimes list specific addresses.  The example given here lists not only the graduate’s current place of residence, but also a previous address as well as other important genealogical information.  Click here for a list of our yearbooks and alumni directories.

Image Source Alumni Directory: Buffalo LD7501 .B947 – Buffalo Female Academy: Twenty-fifth Anniversary, 1851-1876.  Buffalo, NY: A.L. Freeman & Co., 1876. Page 94.

Image Source Atlas: Folio F 127.E6 S7 1866 – New Topographical Atlas of Erie County, New York.  Philadelphia: Stone & Stewart, 1866. Page 69.

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