Discovering the history of houses or apartment buildings is one of the best uses of the White Plains Collection. Whether it’s discovering architectural changes or getting to know your historical predecessors, you are sure to come away with some stories. Below are some of the resources in the White Plains Collection that can help you learn the story behind your home.
Real Estate Record: Published by the Westchester Record Company, the digitized version of the Record we have runs from 1905 to 1931. It is composed of listings of real estate transactions, short articles on building and development news, and legal notices. Because it is full text searchable, you can browse by address or personal name. Some of the language in it is technical (survey measurements and abbreviations are used instead of street numbers), but it doesn’t take long to get a hang of interpreting it. The Real Estate Record is available for in-house use at the library anytime we are open.
Atlases & Maps: Atlases contain useful information like the names of property or building owners, past residents, town or city boundaries, and the historical layout of roads and other transportation infrastructure. Most of our atlases designate the materials a building was made out of, as well as basic details of the layout like entrances and exits. We also have reproductions of 18th century maps, road maps from the 20th century, and municipal or governmental land use maps. Use of the atlases may be limited, as some of the atlases are damaged or fragile.
City Directories: We have a large amount of city directories covering 1888 through 1967, with some years missing. A full listing of the available years and the towns they cover is on this website under “City Directories” on the left. While they are not completely accurate or necessarily authoritative, the information they contain can fill in gaps and open new avenues of inquiry. The best listings include employment information and the addresses of businesses owned by a given person. City directories from 1930-on have reverse look-ups, which makes getting started on research easy!
Ancestry.com: Many people have used Ancestry in their personal genealogical searches before even considering the library as a resource. Ancestry is a great place to establish basic, reliably-sourced information about people, and the library has on-site only access for the public. However, Ancestry does not have the enormous amount of unique, idiosyncratic sources we hold in the White Plains Collection.
Other White Plains Collection Sources: We have a large set (over 100) biography scrapbooks created by librarians from about 1950 until the mid-1980s. There is a card index for the scrapbooks, so you can search it for any names you come across when looking for information on people who lived at your address. Our newspaper index is a bountiful source of good references for articles on a fairly broad range of subjects. And if the people you’re researching went to White Plains High School, there’s a good chance a photo of them exists somewhere in the Oracle yearbooks.
The featured image is 11 Vermont Avenue in John Rosch’s 1902 Picturesque White Plains. It’s possible there are vintage photographs of your house or apartment building in the White Plains Collection!