Have you ever rented or bought an apartment in New York, only to find out later that it was infested with bedbugs, ghosts, or satanic neighbors who want to impregnate you with the devil’s child? Don’t say the New York Public Library didn’t try to warn you.
NYPL.org has put together a pretty comprehensive list of resources to help you find out the history of your property. Sure, it involves checking out a lot of books, like Henry Stiles 1869 classic, A History of the City of Brooklyn: Including the Old Town and Village of Brooklyn, the Town of Bushwick, and the Village and City of Williamsburg or I.N. Phelps-Stokes’ The Iconography of Manhattan Island, 1498-1909 and doing the heavy legwork yourself, but what’s that compared to the peace of mind you’ll knowing that your brownstone wasn’t built on an Indian burial ground?
For more recent information on your abode, the site also has sections on how to find out who currently owns your building, what changes have been made over the years, and for the really paranoid, who used to live in your apartment (and what happened to them). Just make sure you have your building’s ED number, which is what census takers use to identify your home over the years. The hard part comes when you find out that the ED number changes randomly every 12 months, but a website called One Step will help you with that as well. Then all you need is to go to the library, check out some microfiche on the obituaries around that time, and find out if anyone happened to keel over under mysterious circumstances in your home, explaining that transparent roommate in a top-hat and monocle who shows up at midnight and has a shit-fit every time he sees a microwave.