Obtaining Photos of your Ancestral Home

New York City genealogists are luckier than most. In the 1930’s and 40’s, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) photographed nearly every single building in the five boroughs. This was done for tax assessment purposes at the time, but fortunately, the city Archives Dept. recognized the historical value of these photos and has carefully maintained, and restored where necessary, these images.

If you have the address of the home where your ancestors lived — easily obtained from census records (1930 or even earlier) — you can order a print of the image of the home on line. (The address, of course, appears on the left hand side of the census page, written vertically, and the house number will appear on the horizontal line where a family enumeration starts.)

To identify the exact photo you want from the collection, you can view the microfilm of the images available at the St. George, Staten Island, Library, and obtain the block and lot number, to save a few dollars.  Or you can simply order the image on line by inputting the address, and let the city identify the block and lot for an additional $5 fee.  For those of doing Staten Island genealogy long distance, that’s the best option.

Note that the building must have existed at the time the photos were taken in order to be included in the collection–but for the older buildings, it is possible you can get an image of the residence your ancestors lived in,  in 1880. 

Order photos of Staten Island homes online here.

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3 thoughts on “Obtaining Photos of your Ancestral Home

  1. I’m looking for a record of my mother (Eleanor Holmes’) birth place on Cortlandt St on Staten Island in 1923. She was born in one of those old homes to a mother I am yet still trying to identify. Her father was John Holmes and her sisters names were Lillian and Pearl. I really am trying to find out the name of my Grandmother on my mom’s side

    • Hi Jane,
      What have you tried so far? A quick search of the 1930 gives me two girls named Eleanor of the right age, last names Shutter and McCarthy.

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