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Posts from the Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy

Remembering Manhattan's Little Syria

Centered on Washington Street and Rector Street on the west side of Lower Manhattan, was once a neighborhood known as Little Syria. Located near the now-gone Washington Market and just south of the current location of the World Trade Center, it was a vibrant neighborhood characterized by store signs in Arabic, men and women in cultural clothing including veils and fezzes, and food such as Baklava in the cafes.Read More ›

Emigrant City: Two Stories

The recently digitized ledgers contain details of 6,400 mortgages held by customers at the bank, between 1851 and 1921, information that, until now, was available only on microfilm.Read More ›

How to Research Dutch Ancestors

Primarily focusing on library collections, this guide presents a select list of materials useful for researching Dutch ancestors in New Netherland and colonial New York. Find information on research strategies, family histories, early directories, church records, Dutch genealogy periodicals, and more.Read More ›

Books We Know by Heart

Reading a book aloud to a child is one of life’s sweetest pleasures, and children sometimes ask to repeat the experience with the same book over and over. And over. And over.Read More ›

Down the Rabbit Hole

Lewis Carroll’s creative masterpiece turns 150 this fall, and NYPL is celebrating with a major exhibition—and, of course, with book recommendations.Read More ›

Blue Pencil in the Blue Room: City Tabloids, Old Laws, and the Painted Ladies

This past month in New York City, political issues have surrounded the Painted Ladies of Times Square like googly-eyed tourists with cameras on selfie sticks. The uproar fittingly abides the municipal brouhaha over the last 100 years that has possessed the behavioral pressure cooker of Times Square. 'Twas ever thus.Read More ›

5 Ways to Research Your Italian Heritage Without Leaving Home

Over four million Italians entered the United States between 1880-1930. Are your ancestors among them? Get started now exploring your Italian roots.Read More ›

Sea Blazers and Early Scriveners: The First Guidebooks to New York City

The first guidebooks to New York City were written by the navigators, explorers, crewmen, trail-makers, and settlers who sailed west from Europe across the Atlantic Ocean in the 16th and 17th centuries. Read More ›

Occupying Ellis Island: Protests In the Years Between Immigration Station and National Park

Ellis Island is powerfully symbolic in American culture. For many it marks the beginning of their American identity. For Native Americans and African Americans, it became a powerful place to stage a protest in the 1970s.Read More ›

Independence Day Booths: Fourth of July Feasting in 19th Century New York

Ready for Fourth of July barbeques? Of course you’ll be having some pickled oysters, egg nog, and lobster, right? If you think these are some interesting cuisine choices for Independence Day festivities, 19th century New Yorkers would disagree.Read More ›

Names Have Meaning: A Research Guide for Baby Names and Family Names

Like any word in the dictionary, a person’s name has meaning. The study of names is called onomastics or onomatology. Onomastics covers the naming of all things, including place names (toponyms) and personal names (anthroponyms). Given names, often called first names, and surnames, often called last names, usually derive from words with distinct origins.Read More ›

Researching New York City Neighborhoods

Redefined by the city’s growth, changing populations, and the plans of real estate developers, New York City neighborhoods are ever-evolving entities. They can be researched through our collections—useful materials include neighborhood and borough-specific histories, NYC guidebooks, city agency reports, local newspapers, clippings, statistical data, and maps.Read More ›

Subway Construction: Then and Now

Recent photos, compared side by side with photographs of the construction of New York’s first subway, which opened in 1904, provide stark contrasts. They are evidence of an industry drastically changed: the methods of construction used, the condition and expressions of the workers, and the scale of the projects differ in striking ways.Read More ›

The Internet Loves Digital Collections: April 2015

What was the most viewed image on NYPL's Digital Collections platform in April 2015?Read More ›

The Arm That Clutched the Torch: The Statue of Liberty’s Campaign for a Pedestal

France proposed to bestow the Statue of Liberty to the United States, while Americans were asked to fundraise for its pedestal. The plan to raise money? Her arm went on tour.Read More ›

Why Is New York City Called the Big Apple?

New York is a city of nicknames. The City That Never Sleeps, Empire City, The City So Nice They Named It Twice… and of course Gotham, which we’ve covered before. Today let’s just look at the Big Apple.Read More ›

Lawmen and Badmen: The Tin Star of the Old West

In the early American West, the lawman might be a U.S. marshal, appointed by the Attorney General, or he might be a local sheriff elected to office by the townfolk. The distinction often makes no difference in old Western movies, but is an optimum detail in the pursuit of genealogy and local history research in the Milstein Division, where reference librarians must wrangle between the local, county, state, and federal levels in order to rope in relevant resources for patron requests.Read More ›

Bill Barvin's Location Photography

William "Bill" Barvin worked for over two decades as a location manager and scout for television and film, taking thousands of photos during the course of his career of New York and New Jersey streets, apartments, storefronts, and rooftops; bars, clubs, restaurants, and theaters; hotels, hospitals, laundromats, and churches.Read More ›

20 Reasons Why You Should Write Your Family History

If you have done any family history research, such as looking for records on and or conducting interviews with older family members, you may have pondered writing about your genealogy research. Here are 20 reasons why you should cease pondering and start writing.Read More ›

Jersey Genealogy: A Research Guide Using Local History Collections

Perhaps familiar to New Yorkers as a garden state of smokestacks, or surrogate playing field for the Jets and Giants, or otherworld of childhood memory, New Jersey bucks understanding from without and blinkers perspective from within. If your genealogy research leads you to New Jersey, find help with this guide.Read More ›
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