Subject Guides

Local History Resources

A guide to local history resources in Binghamton University Libraries' Special Collection

Guide Contents

Local History Subject Librarian

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Jeremy Dibbell
Special Collections, Bartle Library

The following table lists types of historical documents and the information each may be able to provide when researching the history of buildings, homes, or individuals.

Information obtained from the National Register of Historic Places Bulletin Researching a Historic Property

History of a Building or House History of an Individual

Abstract of title for property

  • Summary of relevant deeds, mortgages, wills, litigation, tax sales
  • Names of owners
  • Dates when property changed hands
  • Descriptions of legal boundaries 

 Architectural/construction drawings

  • Architect/builder
  • Plans
  • Materials
  • Built dates and alterations
  • General construction information

 Building Permits

  • Name of Architect
  • Existence of architectural drawings
  • Client
  • Contractor
  • Cost and date of work
  • Alterations

 City Directories

  • Address of property
  • Advertisements associated with property, if it is a business
  • What property is used for (retail, commercial, industrial, residential)
  • Helpful in determining when a property was built


  • Ownership or title of property
  • Property value (noticeable change in value could indicate construction, additions, change in makeup of neighborhood, and change in fortunes of the community)

Maps and Plats

  • Dating of property and any additions
  • Location of property
  • Property boundaries
  • Uses
  • Outbuildings
  • Utilities, grade levels, types of construction, and the height of buildings
  • Type of building material 


  • Local building efforts and housing developments
  • Advertisement showing housing development site with lot layouts; owner name and type and address of business
  • Description of architecture
  • Name of architect
  • Use of the building or property
  • Location of the property 

 Photographs and Postcards

  • Architectural features
  • Alterations made to the property
  • Associated and nearby structures

Tax Records

  • Property value
  • Improvements to property
  • Name of property owner

Cemetery Records

  • Family relationships
  • Birth and death dates

Census Records

  • Name of person
  • Personal Description (Sex, color/race, age at last birthday, marital status)
  • Nativity (birthplace of individual)
  • Citizenship (year immigrated to U.S., naturalized)
  • Language spoken
  • Occupation (trade or profession; general nature of business, industry, establishment; whether employer, employee, self employed)
  • Education level
  • Home data (own or rent; does family own a farm)
  • Value of home

Church Records

  • Birth
  • Death
  • Baptism
  • Marriages

City Directories

  • Street Guide
  • Business Directory
  • Advertisements with index of advertisers
  • Alphabetical List of Residents
    • Name of person
    • Address of person
    • Occupation/employer
    • Residential status (renter or owner)
    • Who is head of household
    • Lists spouse and children
  • NY State, County and City Governments
  • Churches and Religious organizations
  • Clubs, Societies, Fraternal orders
  • Hospitals, homes, etc.
  • City maps
  • Insurance companies
  • Newspapers
  • Railroads
  • School
  • Often include other municipalities at end of book (Endicott, Johnson City, Union)

Family or Personal Papers (letters, diaries, photographs, ledgers, bibles)

  • Family relationships
  • Information about significant events or persons

Genealogical Records

  • Biographies of individuals
  • Family histories
  • Photographs

Interviews and Oral Histories

  • Personal recollections about life, occupation, family, property, people

Military Records

  • Pension records, addresses, and status
  • Personal information

Newspapers - Society pages contain information about:

  • Local social events
  • Ceremonies
  • Meetings
  • Weddings announcements and weddings
  • Births
  • Obituaries