Historical Maps of Staten Island

Here are a few historical maps that I’ve found useful:

But the crown jewel is Mapping Staten Island, an interactive experience that lets you choose from over 25 maps and overlay them on landmarks. This lets you see how the development of the island proceeded over time, and because you can focus one spot regardless of which map you choose, you can identify whether town or village boundaries changed over time, resulting in a change of Post Office or address.

On Pinterest, the New York Public Library has posted Farm Maps of Staten Island (1874)  compiled and drawn by F. W. Beers.

Do you know of other useful maps that aren’t included here? Let us know!

From Farm to City: Staten Island 1661-2012

The Staten Island Museum will present From Farm to City,  the local legacy exhibit inspired by the Museum of the City of New York’s current exhibition, From Farm to City: Staten Island 1661-2012, which was a co-presentation of the Museum of the City of New York, Staten Island Historical Society at Historic Richmond Town, and the Staten Island Museum.

Opening in the fall of 2014, this iteration will be a graphic and digital history timeline of the Island reaching back to the earliest inhabitants – the Lenape Indians – and proceed forward into the modern age with subjects such as notable individuals, occurrences, communities, architecture, industry, and politics.

How Staten Island Got Its Name

It’s like this… Henry Hudson, the English explorer who convinced the Dutch government to finance his trip to the New World in 1609, was finally approaching land after months at sea. Henry, who despite his European heritage had an unexplainable Brooklyn accent, was notified of a land sighting by his men. Looking through the primitive eyeglass of the day, he said with excitement, “Is dat an Eyelandt?!!!”

No. Just kidding.

First inhabited by the Lenape Indians in the 16th century, the Indians referred to the island as “Aquehonga”, and as “Monacnong”, which translates as “Enhanted Woods”. (And, we totally get that, because Staten Island today still has more green space than any other part of New York City.)

In 1609, when Hudson arrived, he named it “Staaten Eylandt” after the Staten-Generaal, the Dutch parliament which had financed his voyage to the New World. And that is the name that stuck, although Anglicized, of course, to “Staten Island”.

The Dutch, who successfully settled Manhattan, didn’t make a lot of progress in settling Staten Island, and it was the British who later firmly established it. In 1683, King Charles of England rechristened the island “Richmond County”, after King James II of England, who also was Duke of Richmond.

When Staten Island became part of the Greater New York City in 1898, it became the “Borough of Richmond”. In 1975, the city changed this to make “Borough of Staten Island” its official name. The Borough of Staten Island actually includes more than just Staten Island itself; today the boundaries of the borough also encompass Prall’s Island, Island of Meadows, and part of Shooter’s Island. At one time, Ward’s Island was also part of the County, but it is now part of Manhattan.

If you are doing genealogy, I think the proper citation is therefore “Staten Island, Richmond County, New York”. Or, if you have a town/neighborhood name, then “Town, Staten Island, Richnond County, New York.” Other opinions welcome!

Historical Place and Street Names

Place Names and Nicknames Previous to 1898

First published in Ira K. Morris’ book, Memorial History of Staten Island,  this list of colloquial designations for locations on Staten Island prior to 1898 is useful for helping identify the present day location or equivalent.  It’s pretty comprehensive, but the list is specific to the era prior to the publication date, so it’s not going to include changes in the vernacular since then.

Street Name Changes

If you’ve identified the street your ancestors lived on, but can’t find it on a contemporary map, the street name may have been changed. Steve Morse’s website has a table of Staten Island Street Name Changes from 1900 to 1930.