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Genealogy & Local History

Olean Public Library welcomes researchers of all skill levels to use its local history and genealogy collections. Most materials are readily accessible in the local history reference section (non-circulating); other items, including yearbooks and unique local publications, can be requested from the archives.

For patrons visiting in person, library staff are available to answer questions, instruct in microfilm machine use, and assist with Ancestry Library Edition, which is available free to all library visitors. Printing and photocopies are $.15 per page. For patrons unable to visit in person, we look forward to assisting you by phone at 716-372-0200 or by email at genealogy@oleanlibrary.org. Browse through the categories below to learn more about our in-house collections and to find links to digitized collections.




Census records provide information such as names of family members, ages, occupations and place of birth. The Federal census is taken every 10 years since 1790. Censuses are only released every 72 years due to privacy issues. Most of the 1890 census was destroyed in a fire. The NY State Census was taken every 10 years from 1825 to 1875, one in 1892 and then every 10 years from 1905-1925. Census records are also available on Ancestry Library Edition and FamilySearch.org.
County Year(s)
Cattaraugus, Allegany 1820-1880, 1900-1930
Clinton, Dutchess, Montgomery, Niagara, Orange, Sullivan, Washington 1810
Chautauqua, Chenango, Clinton, Cortland, Franklin, Greene, Kings, Orange 1820
Albany, Broome 1830

Olean High School Yearbooks

Note: Some years are missing

Yearbooks can provide pictures and give clues to a person’s personallity through clubs, activities, quotes and comments.  Relatives and friends may also be found.

The library holds most Olean High School yearbooks from 1922-present. You can help us complete our collections by donating unwanted Congress yearbooks to the library.

Olean High School’s digital collection of Congress covers 1921-Present.

Year(s) Year(s)
1922 1977-1996
1925-1969 1998-2016
1971 2018-2020
The Library is currently missing years: 1970, 1972, 1976, 1997, 2017, 2021, 2022

City Directories

Note: Some years are missing

City Directories provide information such as names of family members living in a household, occupations, addresses and phone numbers
Year(s) Year(s)
1874-1875 1947, 1948
1882 1950
1884-1885 1952-1967
1886-1887 1969-1981
1887-1892 1983-1986
1930-1945 1988-Current

Olean City Directories Online

Searchable PDFs contain the full text to eighteen Jamestown, NY, city directories from 1875 to 1916 and eighteen Olean, NY, city directories from 1882 to 1916.

*This project was funded through a member project grant from the regional Bibliographic Data Bases and Interlibrary Resources Sharing Program (RBDB) awarded to the Western New York Library Resources Council by the New York State Education Department

Olean Newspapers (Available on Microfilm)

Newspapers are good sources of information for births, deaths, marriages, and historical articles

Papers on Microfilm

Olean JournalSeptember 1852-May 1856
Olean HeraldSeptember 1881-November 1925
January 1929-December 1931
Olean TimesOctober 1860-July 1861
January 1884-December 1931
Olean Times Herald1932-Present

The NYS Historic Newspapers project provides free online access to a wide range of newspapers chosen to reflect New York’s unique history.  The earliest newspapers in the library’s collection have been digitized and uploaded to the NYS Historic Newspaper website as a result of funding from  the Regional Bibliographic Data Bases and Interlibrary Resources Sharing Program (RBDB) awarded to the Western New York Library Resources Council by the New York State Education Department.  Digitizing and providing online access to these newspapers allows patrons from all over the world to freely access this information.

When citing a newspaper article from the NYSHN Project it is recommended that you use standard APA format for a newspaper article, with the addition of the retrieved URL.

The basic format is as follows:  Author, A. A. (Year, Month Day). Title of Article. Title of Newspaper. Retrieved from http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/REST-OF-URL.

An example would be: Sackett, H. (2007, December 29-30). Cape Cod-based airline wants to fly here. Adirondack Daily Enterprise. Retrieved from http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn86033360/2007-12-29/ed-1/seq-1/.

Sandpumpings – Part literary, part history magazine published by the students of Olean High School—featured interviews and articles of local historical interest and literary pieces. This digital collection features eleven issues dated 1976-1983.The Sandpumpings series is a valuable local history resource that receives many requests for reprints. Digitizing and providing online access to Sandpumpings as part of New York Heritage Digital Collections allows patrons from all over the world to freely access this information. This project was funded through a member project grant from the Regional Bibliographic Data Bases and Interlibrary Resources Sharing Program (RBDB) awarded to the Western New York Library Resources Council by the New York State Education Department.
Ancestry® Library Edition, powered by Ancestry.com, delivers billions of records in census data, vital records, directories, photos, and more. Ancestry Library Edition brings the world’s most popular consumer online genealogy resource to your library. It’s an unprecedented online collection of individuals from North America, the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, and more. Answers await everyone—whether professional or hobbyist, expert or novice, genealogist or historian—inside the more than 7,000 available databases. Here, you can unlock the story of you with sources like censuses, vital records, immigration records, family histories, military records, court and legal documents, directories, photos, maps, and more. Note: this service is available only on computers inside the library.
Ancestry.com New York – Several New York repositories have formed a partnership with Ancestry.com to digitize family history records and make them available online for free.

Research Request

The Reference staff will do limited genealogical research for patrons who are unable to visit the library in person by searching the Olean newspapers on microfilm for obituaries. There is no limit to the number of names you may submit to us. We prefer to have an exact date of death; however, month and year are acceptable. We will search the census records on microfilm that the library owns if an exact page number can be given. As our staff time is limited, the library will charge $15.00 for the first hour of research; $9.00 for each hour thereafter. This fee includes photocopying and postage. The minimum fee for any genealogy research will be $15.00. Patrons making genealogy requests must provide the library with a list of requested names (as full as possible) and death dates, a check or money order for the minimum fee ($15.00), a return mailing address and an upwards limit of how much they are willing to spend if the research requested takes more than one hour. Research results will not be made available until payment is made in full. No refunds will be issued should we not be able to locate the information requested. While we cannot guarantee that we can answer your specific question, our search will be thorough, and we will do our best to help you. If you wish us to begin a search for you, please send a check or money order payable to the Olean Public Library. Because we have many other similar research requests, we ask for your patience if our response is not as timely as you would wish. For a research request, please  fill out the following RESEARCH REQUEST FORM. and either mail or e-mail it with your check or money order to the following address: Olean Public Library ATTN: REFERENCE 134 N 2ND ST OLEAN, NY 14760-2583 genealogy@oleanlibrary.org

Other Resources:

  • New York Heritage – Online New York State history resources. Includes some city directories, newspapers, maps, scrapbooks, and yearbooks.
  • New York State Archives – Indexes to vital records, war service, land records, court records, and records of some correctional and custodial institutions.
  • Painted Hills – Online genealogy society for local counties. Includes cemetery listings, census records, veteran information and local history.
  • USGenWeb Project – Includes query boards, listings of local sources for records, county and state histories, online genealogy books, research tips, maps, and links to helpful internet resources.