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Repository Tour


Brooklyn Historical Society Library

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NY-NJ-CT town histories, some privately published, organized alphabetically by town name (MN)

This series highlights local repositories and underutilized resources that may be of interest to GSBC Members. If you have a repository or library you would like to see included in this series, please send your suggestions to GSBCArchivist@iCloud.com


The Long Island Historical Society was founded in the 1863 to discover, procure, and preserve materials and records related to the natural, civil, literary, and ecclesiastical history of Long Island. In the mid-twentieth century, the Society redefined their mission to one focused exclusively on the complex and ever-changing history of Brooklyn and renamed itself the Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS). Located in a stunning, ornate Queen Anne style building in bucolic Brooklyn Heights, NYC, the BHS is a museum and library with a renewed mission. In the past decade, the building underwent an extensive restoration: preserving the beautiful interiors while adding modern amenities and a new exhibition gallery space. The Society has also reconnected with the Brooklyn community via social events, lectures, and selling Brooklyn-produced items in their gift shop. The result is a modern facility inside a breathtaking building that has retained their world-class collection of records and artifacts — and makes them easily accessible to researchers.

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The BHS Othmer Library (BHS)

From the BHS website: “The Othmer Library at BHS houses world-renowned special collections and archives and is one of the most comprehensive collection of materials related to Brooklyn’s history and culture. Its holdings include more than 33,000 books, 1,600 archival collections, 1,200 oral history interviews, 50,000 photographs, 2,000 maps, 8,000 artifacts, and 300 paintings which document the commercial, residential, community, and civic development of the borough… including manuscripts, personal and family papers, business records, newspapers and other periodicals, books and pamphlets, maps and atlases, artifacts, paintings, photographs, films, oral histories, and genealogies.”


What are the Must-see Resources for Genealogists?

  • Family Histories — The BHS Othmer Library holds thousands of published volumes on local families. Some of the titles are commercially published, others privately published, and some are even bound from loose papers and may be the only surviving copy of the work. The collection of family genealogies spans nearly half of the Library’s lower-level stacks and most titles are listed in the catalog on the BHS’ website. (During my visit to BHS, I undertook some research for my brother-in-law’s Brownejohn-Lott tree. Within fifteen minutes, I had found about eight titles on this family and easily found the information he needed for an elusive ancestor in a privately-published book.)
  • Ecclesiastical Histories — Before governments started keeping consolidated records in the late 1800s, births, marriages, and deaths in the community were recorded by houses of worship. The BHS holds an excellent collection of early church histories and records for Long Island and Brooklyn, including some original manuscript materials, and the collection takes up about one-fifth of the first floor stacks.

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    Brooklyn Land Conveyances cards (BHS and MN)

  • Brooklyn Land Conveyance Collection — This collection of transcripts documents Brooklyn land transfers from the late-seventeenth century through to 1896. These abstracts show seller (grantor) and buyer (grantee) information and in many cases these abstracts are the only records for these early land transactions that have survived. The collection is not publicly accessible and staff will retrieve the folder for the property you require. (Please note that these are abstracts, not the actual deeds.) www.brooklynhistory.org/library/wp/ brooklyn-land-conveyances/
  • Long Island Star / Brooklyn Evening Star (1809-1863) — One of the earliest newspapers in Brooklyn, the BHS Library has the entire run on microfilm as well as a card index for abstracted marriage and death notices, 1809-1845.

Can I research online?

The BHS has a very user-friendly description of their genealogical holdings on their website as well as a BHS-specific online catalog, called ‘Emma,’ and an online image collection and gallery.

  • www.brooklynhistory.org/library/genealogy.html
  • www.brooklynhistory.org/library/search.html

What are the hours, fees, and other information?

  • The BHS Othmer Library is located at:
    Brooklyn Historical Society
    128 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201
    at the corner of Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights
  • For comprehensive driving directions or transportation options, see www.brooklynhistory.org/visitor/visitors.html
    • Street parking is practically non-existent. Plan ahead by researching nearby parking garages (which are always cheaper than a NYC parking ticket or tow) or use mass transportation.
    • The BHS is a few blocks walk from the N/R, 2/3, 4/5 subways.
  • The library is open to the public on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 1 to 5 pm. Note that the library is closed most Saturdays in August, see website for hours.
  • An elevator serves all floors and the staff will assist patrons who cannot access the library stacks.
  • The Library is the main repository for the collection and is climate-controlled to provide a optimum environment for the materials.
  • Suggested contribution: $10 adults; $6 teachers and seniors; free to members, students with valid school IDs, and children under 12.
  • All large bags and ink pens must be checked upon entering the Library. Cubbies and a coat rack are available for your use.

Brooklyn Heights is a wonderful, walkable historic community. Explore, shop, take in the skyline from the Promenade, or find a cafe for lunch — your visit can be a great day out for you and your family.


How can someone contact a research specialist?

During normal operating hours, BHS staff are always available to help you develop a research strategy or identify useful sources. Contact the BHS Library staff at library@brooklynhistory.org or 347-381-3708.

GSBC and RPL Presentations (Free!) and Special Events

Jan
27
Mon
7:00 pm The Orphan Train Era (1853–1929) @ Ridgewood Public Library
The Orphan Train Era (1853–1929) @ Ridgewood Public Library
Jan 27 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
The Orphan Train Era (1853–1929) @ Ridgewood Public Library
GSBC General Meeting Monday, 27 January 2020, 7pm Ridgewood Public Library Auditorium Tom Riley The Orphan Train Era (1853–1929) Join the GSBC as we welcome Tom Riley for the first of two talks for 2020.[...]
Feb
8
Sat
2:00 pm Encore Presentation! The Making ... @ Ridgewood Public Library Auditorium
Encore Presentation! The Making ... @ Ridgewood Public Library Auditorium
Feb 8 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Encore Presentation! The Making of a Village—Ridgewood Grows Up @ Ridgewood Public Library Auditorium
Saturday, February 8th @ 2pm Ridgewood Public Library Auditorium The Making of a Village: Ridgewood Grows Up Co-sponsored with the Ridgewood Historical Society Encore Presentation! The Making of a Village—Ridgewood Grows Up Encore presentation date![...]
Feb
24
Mon
7:00 pm The Great Hunger in Ireland (184... @ Ridgewood Public Library
The Great Hunger in Ireland (184... @ Ridgewood Public Library
Feb 24 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
The Great Hunger in Ireland (1845–1852) @ Ridgewood Public Library
GSBC General Meeting Monday, 24 February 2020, 7pm Ridgewood Public Library Auditorium Tom Riley The Great Hunger in Ireland (1845–1852) Join the GSBC as we welcome Tom Riley for the second of two talks. Free[...]
Mar
9
Mon
7:00 pm The History of the Irish in New ... @ Ridgewood Public Library
The History of the Irish in New ... @ Ridgewood Public Library
Mar 9 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
The History of the Irish in New Jersey @ Ridgewood Public Library
Monday, 9th March @ 7pm Ridgewood Public Library Belcher Auditorium Dr. Alan Delozier, Seton Hall University Sponsored by the Bolger Heritage Center, Ridgewood Public Library The History of the Irish in New Jersey This program will[...]
Mar
23
Mon
7:00 pm That Other DNA Test—Understandin... @ Ridgewood Public Library
That Other DNA Test—Understandin... @ Ridgewood Public Library
Mar 23 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
That Other DNA Test—Understanding and Using Y-DNA @ Ridgewood Public Library
GSBC General Meeting Monday, 23 March 2020, 7pm Ridgewood Public Library Auditorium Skip Duett That Other DNA Test—Understanding and Using Y-DNA Learn the basics of the science and how to apply Y-DNA to help identify[...]
Apr
11
Sat
2:00 pm Historical Highlights of New Jer... @ Ridgewood Public Library
Historical Highlights of New Jer... @ Ridgewood Public Library
Apr 11 @ 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Historical Highlights of New Jersey Counties @ Ridgewood Public Library
Saturday, 11 April @ 2pm Belcher Auditorium, Ridgewood Public Library Historian Phil Jaeger Sponsored by the Bolger Heritage Center, Ridgewood Public Library Historical Highlights of New Jersey Counties Historian Phil Jaeger focuses on historical highlights[...]

GSBC-RPL Classes ($5/$10)

Jan
30
Thu
6:30 pm Tech Class: Internet Genealogy @ Ridgewood Public Library Tech Room
Tech Class: Internet Genealogy @ Ridgewood Public Library Tech Room
Jan 30 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Tech Class: Internet Genealogy @ Ridgewood Public Library Tech Room
Thursday, January 30, 6:30pm Ridgewood Public Library, Tech Lab Instructor: Steve Gabai   Tech Class: Internet Genealogy Using the Internet to find records, family information and known and unknown relatives. Steven Gabai of the Genealogical[...]
Feb
13
Thu
7:00 pm Tech Class: Spreadsheets & Genea... @ Ridgewood Public Library
Tech Class: Spreadsheets & Genea... @ Ridgewood Public Library
Feb 13 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Tech Class: Spreadsheets & Genealogy @ Ridgewood Public Library | Ridgewood | New Jersey | United States
Tech Class: Spreadsheets & Genealogy Thursday, 13 February 2020, 7pm Ridgewood Public Library Computer Lab Instructor: Fred Voss Being organized is critical to being a successful genealogist. Some people find spreadsheets to be a valuable[...]
Mar
2
Mon
7:00 pm Tech Class: Genealogy on the Mov... @ Ridgewood Public Library
Tech Class: Genealogy on the Mov... @ Ridgewood Public Library
Mar 2 @ 7:00 pm – 8:15 pm
Tech Class: Genealogy on the Move, There's an App for That! @ Ridgewood Public Library
Tech Class: Genealogy on the Move, There’s an App for That! Ridgewood Public Library Tech Room Monday, 2 March, 7pm Instructor: Barbara Ellman   The changes in computing and in genealogical research provide us with[...]
Apr
9
Thu
10:00 am Tech Class: Using Land Records @ Ridgewood Public Library
Tech Class: Using Land Records @ Ridgewood Public Library
Apr 9 @ 10:00 am – 11:30 am
Tech Class: Using Land Records @ Ridgewood Public Library
Tech Class: Using Land Records Ridgewood Public Library Tech Room Thursday, 9 April @ 10am Instructor: Peggy Norris How to find and use land records to tell your family story. Deeds reveal a lot about[...]