Historical Research Process

Research

In the fall of 2012, the Orphan Building Research Team began its historical fiction project using primary and secondary resources. The team worked backwards and forward, switching between resources to track Fred’s history from 1900 through 2015. Historical books and websites were of vital importance to set a realistic framework of Buffalo, New York in the Twentieth Century.

Discovering the facts regarding the original construction of Fred’s apartment building and the changes made over eleven decades was a challenge.  This six-year project began with copies of two original pictures of the apartment building in the 1940’s and 1950’s. The new pictures we took from 2006 through 2012 made us fearful that Fred may not survive subsequent damage to his structural integrity. The research further identified all the businesses that were located on the first floor of the building.

The research priority was to identify the tenants who actually lived in the building, including tracking the number of years they lived there. Our research team discovered a wealth of demographic information, including tenant ages, ethnicity, and occupations. Each fictitious character emerged from my imagination. Actual historical events inside and outside America were identified to allow this author to recreate realistic events for each character and their families.  Our research consisted of a multitude of historical resources.  We extend a special thank you to the Church of Latter Day Saints Family History Center and their welcoming staff for their excellent assistance and guidance.

Our appreciation further extends to the staffs of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library and Grosvenor Library for teaching us how to find and use all of the important resources we needed. They included The Polk City Directories, Buffalo Address Books, Sanborn Fire Insurance Atlases, Ordnance Survey Maps, Children’s Aid Annual Reports, Deed and Property Records including local history files, Federal and State Census Reports, Child and Family Service Records, New York State Death Records, and local newspaper archives.

We appreciate and thank the Buffalo History Museum’s staff for the use of their directories and excellent photograph collections.  Another valuable resource was the Intensive Level History and Black Rock Tax Assessment Records, located in the City of Buffalo Inactive Records Center.  Their staff was extremely helpful in teaching us how to interpret Fred’s records.

The D’Youville College Archives took us back in time starting in 1908.  Their records helped me to learn what it was like for young women attending college over a century ago.

Many historical books were reviewed several times, helping this author learn about Buffalo’s early history. They included three books written by Mark Goldman: The Challenge in Buffalo, New York 1990, City on the Edge, Buffalo New York 1900-2007, and High Hopes: The Rise and Decline of Buffalo, 1993.  They were significant to understanding the roots of Buffalo. America’s Crossroads:  Buffalo’s Canal Street/Dante Place; The Making of a City, authored by Michael N. Vogel and Paul E. Redding and  edited by Edward J. Patton and Elizabeth Foy, was a  valuable and constant resource regarding life in the Canal District in the 1900’s and its effect on new  immigrants to America. Additional books included: Strangers in the Land of Paradise: The Creation of an African American Community, Buffalo, NY 1900-1940 written by Lillian S. Williams in 1999, Children of the Settlement Houses, written by Caroline Arnold in 1998; and Immigrant Kids, by Russell Freedman, originally published in 1980. David H. Kelly: The D’Youville College Family Album: 100 years of Teaching and Caring 2008 by D’Youville College.

Significant historical websites provided us with a wealth of information and included The Ancestry Library, The Library of Congress, Canadian Genealogy, Western New York Heritage Press, The Buffalonian, Buffalo Research, Buffalo History Index, Buffalo Architecture, and the Circle Association’s African American History of Western New York State 1900-1935.

An extended thank you to the multiple individuals we interviewed regarding their childhood memories.  They were instrumental in helping characters come alive on the pages of this novel.

Sanborn Map-Plans 1900