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Town, county, state, and federal officials are required to keep records about roads and other named places, luckily for us. There are many documents that you can search to find information about place names.

  • Deeds:
    • Tompkins County Clerk’s Office Online Services
      • Click “Login as Guest” and then “Accept” on the next screen. Search for a place name or a family name in the “Name” search box to find related property ownership documents. Deeds sometimes tell you old road names that aren’t used any more.
  • Assessment records:
    • Tompkins County Assessment Office
      • If you are researching a newer street name, the property assessment records have recent information about a property. You can search by street name and then view recent deed histories, ownership information, and sometimes survey maps of individual properties on a particular street. Through these records, it’s possible to find examples of one owner subdividing a bigger lot into smaller ones. In this case, it’s likely that this person was the developer of the street and perhaps its namer.
  • Town and county minutes:
    • Tompkins County Shared Services Electronic Record Repository
      • Most municipalities in Tompkins County have their recent town board minutes and other public records digitized and linked on the town website or on this Tompkins County repository. Once you click to the Shared Services site, select “TompkinsCountyPublic” from the Repository pull-down menu. For public town records, select the public version with “public” at the end of the name, e.g. “EnfieldPublic.” You can sometimes find discussions of road naming and of roads being transferred from a private developer to town ownership in town board minutes. Recently digitized county records also discuss county roads and infrastructure.
  • State and federal census records; these records provide valuable information about families and where they lived in Tompkins County:

Remember to keep track of your sources. Write down the repository, volume, author information, and page number in which you find a name, date, or other key fact. (For more information about how to cite different types of research, consult the Purdue Online Writing Lab’s Research and Citation Resources 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!)

BACK: “An Easy Guide to Place Name Research”