Spared From the Shredder (for Now): ‘Priceless’ Bank Records of Old New York

The New York Times has published an interesting article by Jim Dwyer concerning the preservation of valuable records from New York City. A a shredding truck was about to shred a rare, powerful trove of the history of working-class New York: the archives of the Bowery Savings Bank, which was founded in 1834 for the benefit of its depositors. These records could be valuable to genealogists, historians, property title search professionals, and probably many others. The papers were among the materials being cleaned out of the basement of a Capital One branch in Brooklyn that is closing next month.

At what seemed to have been the last minute, the records were given a stay of destruction, apparently when archivists and others began appealing to Capital One.

You can read the story at:

My thanks to newsletter reader James Henderson for telling me about this story.


Many decades ago another Brooklyn savings bank, after having completed a conversion to computerized record-keeping, decided to destroy a similar stash of old account ledgers going all the way back to the founding of the bank in the 1800s. My Dad, who worked in the bank at the time, was appalled. He tried to convince the bank executives of the historical value of these old records that went all the way back to the founding of the bank in the 1800s, but they refused to listen and ordered him to get on with the destruction. As Dad was pulling the old books off the shelves for loading onto the truck that would take them to the incinerator, one of them fell open in front of him and his eyes fell on a familiar signature, and he ealized he was looking at the entry recording the opening of his own father’s savings account. Dad quickly ripped the page out of the ledger and brought it home with him that night. It’s still in the possession of the family, today.


Who should I contact to ask that these records be saved and/or if they will digitized? My great-grand-parents were Italian immigrants who lived in Brooklyn in the 1880’s until the 1893. But I suspect that me great-grand father Antonio ‘Tony’ De Luca, a mason/stonecutter, travelled between NY and Italy several times and I suspect he has worked as far as in Tarrytown NY. The ledgers would help me put him on a time line… and prove/disprove my theory. Italian records are so rare; this might be my best shot at finding something. Is there a petition to sign as pass around? —- Sophia PRADAL


    The NY Times article indicates a number of institutions have stepped up to provide temporary storage space. It would be wonderful if these documents could eventually become part of the New York Public Library’s Digital Archives as has already happened with the Emigrant Savings Bank’s archives. Perhaps MyHeritage might be interested in helping to digitize them?


Seems to me that Josh Taylor & the NY Genealogical & Biographical Soc. should step up here and give these records a home.


    I don’t think the NYGBS has space for them. They had to downsize their own collection when they sold their long time headquarters building a few years back. A lot of their stuff was taken in by the NYPL at that time.


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