Brooklyn Public Library just made New York history buffs very happy - Brooklyn


Jul. 14, 2015 1:45 pm

Brooklyn Public Library just made New York history buffs very happy

Now easily searchable online: 107 years of city directories and telephone books. It sure beats microfilm.

The entryway of the central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.

(Photo by Brady Dale)

If family histories or just digging into old documents is your thing, then oh man the Brooklyn Public Library has some good news for you.

The library announced this month that it has digitized 107 years of city directories and telephone books, spanning 1856-1967, all easily perusable online.

The phone books, and in the pre-telephone era, city directories, contain valuable information such as names, addresses, and sometimes occupations, BPL Manager of Special Collections Ivy Marvel, explained.

“You can find Walt Whitman’s home address from when he lived in Brooklyn,” she said. “The local business ads are great, and you can look up your home and find out who was living there a century ago.”

BPL microfilm

This 1915 ad had the jump on Amazon. (Screenshot)

The tomes had previously been on microfilm, which is lacking when it comes to user experience, Marvel said in an interview with Brooklyn.

She said the library gets several requests a week to do genealogical work from people all over the country and world.

On microfilm it’s getting the reels, feeding it into a machine, and you have to physically be here [at the library],” she explained. “The directories have been a high-demand resource and now we’ve opened it up so you don’t have to be at the location to get the information anymore.”

Finally you need not argue about the boundaries of neighborhoods anymore. This 1962 map clearly shows where Williamsburg ends.

Finally you need not argue about the boundaries of neighborhoods anymore. (Screenshot)

The phone books and directories are being uploaded to the Internet Archive, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that attempts to upload as much of the world’s analog work as possible.


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