You're living or visiting someplace new in Watertown, NY. How exciting! But now what?
Your first step is to determine the year your home was built. You can do this by visiting the City of Watertown’s Property Search website.
Keep in mind that Property Search function is finicky. Librarians find that they have the best luck searching for the homeowner’s exact last name or just the street name without the word ‘street.’ For example, when searching for the library’s address, 229 Washington Street, enter only the word ‘Washington’ in the Street Name field. Then hit Search and explore the results! The Year Built is listed under the Inventory section.
Was your home built before 1908? If it was, did you know your home once had another address?! City administration found that there wasn’t enough room to build new homes within the address structure that they had – the numbers were too close together. A new address structure was designed and enacted in 1908. To find out what your home’s new address number was, consult the 1908 Watertown City Directory.
City directories are generally divided in half and list information by both a person’s last name as well as by the street address. The address that your home currently uses today is listed in brackets alongside the old address in the street address section only.
Using the rest of the library’s digital and physical collections of Watertown City Directories, you can trace the individuals who may have lived in your home since it was built.
The digitized directories are available via the New York Heritage Digital Collections database. Other years are kept in the Reference area of the library and are accessible anytime the library is open. Be sure to check the correct address if you are searching information from before 1908! This resource can be used for free from anywhere and does not require a library card for access.
From here there are a number of different ways to research those who lived in the home before you:
NYS Historic Newspapers allows you to search for names and addresses without visiting the library! This resource is free to use and does not require a library card. Keep in mind this database does not have current newspaper articles.
Our online Watertown Daily Times collections allow you to search for names and addresses without visiting the library! This resource is free to use and but it does require a library card to log in. This searchable link will search articles from 1988 to present; years before 1988 are on microfilm at the library.
Fulton History allows you to search for names and addresses without visiting the library! This resource is free to use and does not require a library card. The newspapers covered by this database are very hit and miss.
Old Houses of the North Country allows you to search for addresses without visiting the library! This resource is free to use and does not require a library card. This database features a series of newspaper articles; the homes are not limited to Watertown.
The National Register of Historic Places allows you to search for addresses without visiting the library! This resource is free to use and does not require a library card. While not every home is listed in this database, those that are have a wealth of information included. Use the ‘Searchable Table’ function.
The library has a collection of Family Files that are kept within the Genealogy Department. These files are free to use and do not require a library card. The files are mostly full of newspaper obituaries that volunteers have clipped over the years.
The library has a subscription to Ancestry.com that all patrons are welcome to access. You can search for individuals and their family members here. This resource is free to use and does not require a library card if used in the Reference Department. This resource may not be used from home.
The library has a collection of Watertown Daily Times and New York Times microfilm that can be accessed using library equipment. This resource is free to use and does not require a library card. Certain years of the Watertown Daily Times do not have an index – consult library staff for instructions on how to search.