You can find surprising details about a place in the most ordinary of sources, including old maps, photos, phone books, diaries, and obituaries. Trek to your local library or historical society (or to their websites) to look for them.
- Maps of Tompkins County, New York:
- The History Center in Tompkins County
- New York Gen Web
- Tompkins County Public Library
- Tompkins County Clerk’s Office Online Services: At the Clerk’s website, click “Login as Guest” and then click “Accept” on next screen. To find town maps from various dates, type the name of the town you’re looking for in the “Name” search box, select “Map” from the menu at right, and click “Search.”
- Tompkins County GIS Map Library: A range of maps, including municipal topographic maps that show natural features.
- Old photographs; each of the following collections has old photos of Tompkins County places:
- The History Center in Tompkins County has produced a Names on the Land resource guide that lists documents related to place names.
- Tompkins County Public Library is a one-stop shopping place for local history. Check out its “Guide to Non-print and Electronic Genealogy Resources.”
- Families keep track of their histories as well. If a place is named for a family, sometimes family documents can tell you when they came to a place and where they settled.
- Newspapers and phone book publishers also document daily events and local history.
- Cemetery grave markers in Tompkins County record many family names that also grace road signs and other place markers. Search for family names at the following cemetery websites:
- Flora and fauna guides map the distribution of plants and animals that have inspired names of Tompkins County places.
Don’t forget to use your computer’s search engine to find information. Many local records have been digitized and are searchable. In the Google search engine, for example, click on the “More” menu to access digitized books under the “Books” tab.
Keep track of your sources. Write down the title of the map, photo, or book in which you find a name, date, or other key fact. List the author and page number, if applicable. (For more information about how to cite different types of sources, consult the Purdue Online Writing Lab’s MLA Formatting and Style Guide.)
It’s always a good practice to verify a fact in more than one source. (Sometimes you’ll find that sources don’t agree!)