Our History

The Rochester Historical Society, the brainchild of anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan, was established in 1860 only to languish as the Civil War loomed over Rochester and the nation. In 1887, Mrs. Caroline Perkins, philanthropist and wife of businessman Gilman H. Perkins, revived the Society and led it to local prominence. For decades the Society has collected and preserved what today amounts to over 200,000 objects and documents.

In 2000, the Rochester Historical Society began a new era with the hiring of its first professional staff. Today our staff of three, an active Board of Directors, and many dedicated volunteers continue the Society’s mission to collect, preserve, and interpret our city and region’s past, for the education and enjoyment of the entire community.

We are Rochester’s story keeper.

Our Staff

Christy Lou Zuhlke
Administration
membership {at} rochesterhistory(.)org;
William Keeler
Librarian & Archivist
librarian@rochesterhistory.org

Our Board

Patrick M. Malgieri
President
Scott Turner
Vice President
William Coppard
Treasurer
Rebecca Edwards, Ph.D.
Secretary
Elizabeth “Libby” Clay Alva H. Angle
Christopher Carter Jeremy Wolk
Alinda Drury Michael Brown
Carolyn Vacca, Ph.D. Matt Haag

How can you help me to research my Rochester roots?
How can I find birth, marriage, and death records for city and county residents?
How can you help me to research the history of my Rochester home?
How can I determine if my property qualifies as a historic landmark?
What resources do you offer school children?
I don’t live in the Rochester area. Can I hire RHS to do my research?



How can you help me to research my Rochester roots?
Call (585) 428-8470 for an appointment as we are closed and getting ready to move. This way we can gather as many materials as possible for you in advance of your visit.
The Rochester Historical Society has a wide variety of resources to help you research your Rochester roots. Unique to RHS is the Rochester Pioneer Registry, which consists of genealogical files of over 13,000 descendants of Rochester’s first inhabitants. In addition, RHS houses all Rochester City Directories published from 1827 to 1986. City Directories are rich historical and genealogical resources that include:

  • adult residents’ occupations as well as their home and work addresses
  • a business directory organized by industry type
  • a full section of business advertisements
  • listings of city officials, schools and colleges, houses of worship, charitable organizations, hospitals, private clubs, banks and insurance agencies, and other organizations providing for citizens’ basic needs
  • demographic information and population figures
  • a street index

We also work closely with the Local History & Genealogy Division of Rundel Public Library. A grant from the Gleason Foundation has enabled the library to digitize and make available in PDF format Rochester City Directories from 1827 to 1930. You may find these links on the Local History & Genealogy page of the Monroe County Library System website.
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How can I find birth, marriage, and death records for city and county residents?
We recommend that you visit the Monroe County GenWeb website, which offers detailed information on which vital records are available and where to find them.
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How can you help me to research the history of my Rochester home?
We suggest that you begin by consulting the Landmark Society of Western New York’s excellent online Historic Building Research Guide, which is tailored to our city and region. When you are ready to get started, we are happy to help you locate documents and sources available including surveyor’s maps, neighborhood and town histories, and city and house directories. In addition, we own a substantial collection of photographs documenting the development of particular streets, from main thoroughfares to small side streets.
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How can I determine if my property qualifies as a historic landmark?
Designation as a national, state, county, or city landmark requires an application on your part. To learn the distinctions among these several types of landmarks, how to apply for each, and the implications of each designated status, we recommend you read the Landmark Society of Western New York’s comprehensive online article “Is My House a Landmark?”
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What resources do you offer school children?
We are in the midst of developing programs and resources targeted to primary and secondary school students, their teachers, and homeschoolers. In the meantime, RHS welcomes inquiries from teachers regarding how we might help you to accomplish your curricular goals. For more information, please contact us at programs@rochesterhistory.org or at (585) 428-8470.
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I don’t live in the Rochester area. Can I hire RHS to do my research?
We are happy to assist you in any research concerning the history of our city and region. Research provided as a service by RHS is charged at the rate of $30/hr. This rate does not include photocopying, print reproduction, or other charges that must be incurred as part of your research. For more information, please contact William Keeler at librarian@rochesterhistory.org or at (585) 428-8470.
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