Brooklyn Genealogy Resources

I've pulled together some of the resources that I've found most helpful in my research in Brooklyn, NY. These includes websites, local repositories, and books that have helped in my research. This page will be updated frequently, as I continue to share the most valuable resources I come across. 

Map of Brooklyn Catholic Churches

View Brooklyn Catholic Churches in a larger map

I created this map of Catholic churches in Brooklyn, New York, to assist my own research and hope others can benefit from it as well. Churches founded through 1900 are included, though it will eventually be updated further, I hope. The date the church was founded is included, if known.

This map was compiled using information from the Local Catholic Church and Family History & Genealogical Guide by Ann Mensch as well as the page Roman Catholic Churches of Brooklyn, N.Y. by Tim Desmond.

Brooklyn Genealogy Information Page
The Brooklyn Genealogy page is a fantastic resource full of links, record extracts, maps, historical information, research aides, and more. It should definitely be a stop for anyone researching Brooklyn ancestors.

Brooklyn Public Library
The Brooklyn Public Library has a dedicated Brooklyn Collection at their Grand Army Plaza location, which covers local history and has archival and ephemeral collections. They have the full print run of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle available if you visit in person. They have also digitized the Eagle from 1841-1902, and it's searchable online.

If you want to access the Eagle post-1902, or if you want to access any of a host of other Brooklyn and New York City papers, you need to check out FultonHistory. The search function is a little wacky, but once you get used to it, this site is an absolute treasure trove of information. It currently (8/2013) includes, among others, the following Brooklyn newspapers:
  • Brooklyn NY Daily Eagle (1841-1955)
  • Brooklyn NY Daily Star (1898-1933)
  • Brooklyn NY Daily Union Argus (1877-1883)
  • Brooklyn NY Daily Union (1870-1887)
  • Brooklyn NY Standard Union (1888-1932)
  • Brooklyn NY Union (1883-1886)
  • Brooklyn NY Weekly People (1901-1973)
The site also contains a number of newspapers from Manhattan and the other boroughs of NYC, as well as from Long Island and other areas of New York State, which can contain valuable information about your Brooklyn relatives.

Brooklyn Historical Society
The Brooklyn Historical Society is the Kings County repository that I visit in person most often. Although the exhibits can be fantastic, what you really want to do is visit the Othmer Library. Their opening hours are fairly limited, and have recently been more so due to some extensive construction, so be sure to check the website for the hours. Search the online catalogs for materials before you go, but also be sure to check their vertical files and microfilmed scrapbooks, which aren't indexed anywhere that I know of, and contain materials and clippings you might not be able to find elsewhere. I also highly recommend signing up for their weekly e-mails, particularly if you're local, as you'll learn about all sorts of interesting historical programs going on at the Historical Society, and will get a look at their "Photo of the Week." It's the only e-mail of the sort that I actually make a point of opening and reading each week.

Brooklyn List
NYBROOKLYN-L is an active and interesting list serv, always informative.   I highly suggest checking it out. You can browse the NYBROOKLYN archives to see if the discussions are relevant to your research.

Other local lists I find valuable are NYC-ROOTS-L, and the NY-IRISH-L, if your NYC ancestors were of Irish extraction. 

Brooklyn: An Illustrated History
Brooklyn: An Illustrated History, by Ellen Snyder-Grenier is a fantastic overview of the history of Brooklyn, from its early Dutch days through the 1990s, when the book was written. It's beautifully illustrated with records and vibrant ephemera from repositories and collections all over Brooklyn, which only enhance the book's value as an entertaining and informative resource.

Diocese of Immigrants: The Brooklyn Catholic Experience, 1853-2003
Diocese of Immigrants: The Brooklyn Catholic Experience was put out by the diocese in 2003 to commemorate the diocese's 150th anniversary. The beginning has great information about the founding and expansion of the diocese, which is helpful if you're looking to contextualize your ancestors' religious lives or if you need to figure out where to look for records. The later chapters of the books are most focused on the changing character of a diocese that was founded on 19th century waves of Irish and German immigration and is now thriving on waves of Hispanic and Asian immigrants.

Joseph M. Silinonte
Several of Joseph M. Silinonte's books deserve specific mention here. Although some of his work (census indexes, for example) have been rendered rather less crucial by digitization and online indexes, these are still incredibly valuable resources that describe and index resources that might not otherwise be accessible, particularly to those who aren't local:

Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic that Remains One of Medicine's Great Mysteries
Asleep, by Molly Caldwell Crosby, isn't a resource in the sense that some of these other recommendations are.  It's not a textbook or an index. It's a fascinating medical history that happens to be set primarily in New York City, including Brooklyn, in the first half of the 20th century. The books tells the story - oh so engagingly - of the encephalitis lethargica epidemic that affected many parts of the world in the 1910s and 1920s. Unlike many subjects, where an astounding amount of information is available online, there really seems to be very little about encephalitis lethargica available anywhere other than this book (and the book and movie Awakenings by Oliver Sacks). I first read Asleep because I was interested in learning more about encephalitis lethargica, but I recommend it here not only because it is so well-written and enjoyable a book but because I think it provides an historically accurate window into the flavor and culture of New York City in that era, something that would be welcomed by anyone researching in the time period.

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. This means that if you choose to make a purchase from Amazon after clicking one of these links, I will receive a small portion of your purchase price as a commission. All of these items are recommended solely because of how useful I have found them and/or how beneficial I think they could be to others. I personally make a point of starting my Amazon shopping through the affiliate links of bloggers and friends whenever possible, so that large corporations are not the only beneficiaries of my purchases, and encourage others to do the same, regardless of whether they use my affiliate links or another blogger's. 


SearchShack said...

Saw this great summary after looking at your great discussion on Fulton History. Recommend you add Family Search's New York, Kings County Estate Files, 1866-1923 where I found a wonderful probate record for one of the SHACKFORD's who lived in Brooklyn

Anonymous said...

I noticed that you didn’t have the latest URL for the Brooklyn Genealogy Information Page. Steve Morse has helped Nancy Lutz by hosting the pages. There may be links not working yet.

Thanks for your genealogy work - here and on the NY-Irish list.
Kathleen Paton

Kathleen Scarlett O'Hara Naylor said...

Thanks, Kathleen! I hadn't realized that I never updated this page with the new link. I've fixed it now!

Anonymous said...

The Brooklyn Ancestry site has a bunch of Brooklyn and NY specific information -