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How to Use the HistoryForge Database

Visit and in the top right corner select "Buildings" or "People." Then select "Filters" beneath the page title. Add in information to narrow your search (eg. a last name to find a person, or street name to find a building). At this time we've only digitized records for inhabitants in the City of Ithaca between 1900-1930. Be aware that the census records in the first half of the century were entirely written by hand and some census spellings may differ from your records, also many street names and numbers have changed the last 80 years, so exact address matches might not always exist.

Mapping your results. When you click "Map It" your search results will appear on a modern Google Map. To see the same results on historical maps, pull down Top Map menu and choose a map layer. Many of these are still under construction or are restricted to certain areas. The 1910 Sanborn map is completely digitized. You can add a second layer (for example the City Engineering Maps) by adding a "Bottom Map" and use the opacity slider to explore several of the map layers at once. You can also get Google's satellite view from the tab in the upper left corner. 

We have an amazing group of transcribers who have entered almost 45,000 records --the complete censuses of Ithaca for 1900 and 1910, and partial censuses for 1920 (30%) and 1930 (55%). With more volunteers we can make even better progress and extend our coverage to 1890/92 and 1940. Please consider volunteering to help digitize more maps and records for HistoryForge.

Contact with any questions or feedback. 


Do you have pictures of buildings in Ithaca from the 20th century? Share them with HistoryForge and add to our database!

Portrait of Martha Van Rensselaer. One of the first full-time faculty members of Cornell University, and co-founder of the School of Home Economics. Find her in the census from 1930 on HistoryForge.

HistoryForge Database Search Examples

Searching for People

HistoryForge has records for all the people in the US Census for 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930 in the city of Ithaca, NY. This information has been transcribed by local volunteers from the original census records which allows you to search on all the information. 

The US Census for 1900-1930 contained the following general questions about individuals and their household: Street address, whether the home was owned or rented, the name of each individual in the household, their age, sex, race, marital status, place of birth, immigration year and status, and profession and industry

Possible Searches:

Searching the Built Environment:

Look for a specific address  within the Ithaca city limits as of 1910 - Downtown, Northside, Southside, Fall Creek, East Hill, and lower South Hill. Or if you know the type of business and the general area but not exact number, you can explore the Sanborn maps which include notations for different types of businesses in the city limits.

Possible Searches:

  • Work places and industries. Some of the annotations include: Gro (Grocer), Sal (Saloon), D.G. (Dry Goods), Bakery, Barber, Billiards, Books, Meat, Fish, and Tailor.
  • You can also search certain building materials, such as buildings constructed of brick, by adding a filter to your search.

Search by Profession or Employer:

Do you know the profession of a family member or historic figure but aren't sure of their full name? Try searching their profession through HistoryForge. 

Industry and profession searches can be challenging because the census did not use a standard terminology for various professions. "Railroad" has been entered six different ways, Similarly for Cornell. In the 1910 census of Ithaca there were 200 people listed working at the "University" and 164 at the "College."  (This meant the Cornell Agricultural College in 1910--not Ithaca College which had not yet been renamed). 

Possible Searches:

Blacksmiths in Ithaca in 1900 displayed on the 1898 City Engineer's Map - HistoryForge Database 2020.

The HistoryForge project has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom.

The HistoryForge: Mapping Census Data to Visualize Local History grant was awarded in 2022-2024 through NEH's Digital Humanities Advancement Grant program. The project was also selected to receive funding through NEH's A More Perfect Union initiative.

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