Michelle Ann Kratts

How to find the history of your Niagara Falls home, Part V: city departments

In If This House Could Talk, Niagara Falls on June 15, 2015 at 10:49 pm

By Michelle Ann Kratts

Niagara Falls City Hall

Niagara Falls City Hall

Located at Niagara Falls City Hall, 745 Main Street, there are three offices that you should visit if you are researching the history of your Niagara Falls home:  the City Assessor’s Office, the Department of Code Enforcement and the City Clerk (for Vital Records).

The City Assessor’s Office carries some records of your home’s history and if you are very lucky…some old photos! Well..not very, very old, but photos, nonetheless.  When I went to inquire about my own house’s records I was brought a file that was filled with a few sheets of paper.  This file includes the Property Record, the Building Record and some photos. The Property Record has some things such as Assessment Valuations, lists of building permits and more.  The Building Record contains information such as the physical properties of your home.  The walls, basement, foundation.  It goes floor by floor.  In this folder I also received two photographs (taken at different times–easy to tell, snow in one and no snow in the other).  These were from the 1970’s and 1980’s.  I have seen other house’s photos and they are also from this time period.  It seems that there were many Niagara Falls houses photographed by the Assessor’s Office around 1978.  My photo says:  April 28, 1978.

photo (15)

You can also search property information online at:

http://www.niagarafalls.oarsystem.com/

When there was nothing more to discover, the kind staff told me that I should also check the Department of Code Enforcement for more information.  So I ran up to the fourth floor (I had never been up there!) and asked if they would have any files on my house.  And they did!  It was actually a most interesting file as it also contained a complaint leveled at a former homeowner and pages dealing with the addition of a stockade fence (1990), “shingling the sides of the house” (1939), and “installing oil burner equipment” (1948).  I was thrilled!  I photographed everything in the file with my camera and then when I told the staff how old my house was they even went so far as to search through the vault in the basement for more–where the older house information is kept.  Unfortunately I didn’t come armed with my home’s previous addresses so they were not able to find anything.  Hopefully, when I return (with the old addresses) I will have better luck.  However, the information that I was given, was very useful information regarding our home.

photo (19)

Another office that you can check out is the City Clerk’s Office.  In New York State you can obtain birth, marriage and death information on the former deceased residents of your home.  For birth records, they must have been on file for at least 75 years or the person must be deceased.  For death records, they must have been on file for at least 50 years.  For marriage records, they must have been on file for at least 50 years and both spouses must be known to be deceased.  This is all different if you are a direct descendant (if the previous owners of your home were your parents, grandparents, etc).  In that case there is no need to follow these rules.

For New York State marriages, you can also check the Family Search genealogy website for their database:

New York, County Marriages, 1847-1848; 1908-1936

This is a wonderful and free resource for Niagara Falls marriages.

This kind of information is good if you are interested in finding out where the people who lived in your house were born, information on their occupations, their parents.

photo (20)

Our next installment will involve “the fun stuff.”  We will discuss the possibility of finding much older photographs of your home, photographs of the people who lived there and much, much more!

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  1. 422 Jefferson Ave, now a vacant lot at 422 Rainbow Blvd. What are the chances of finding a house photo!!

    • You never know! The old newspaper site: http://www.fultonhistory.com might have a picture. Just type the address in the search box. I took a peek but there are so many returns! If you have the time you may want to take a look. Also, if you are local you can check the Assessor’s Office. Is this Elsie? I can also check it out the next time I am at city hall and see if there is a file for this location.

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