Resources & Links

how to research

There were tens of thousands of vaudeville performers and only a fraction of them found their way into films and publications so there is very little research material available. Most families have ‘cleaned out the attic’ and thrown tons of material away. Or, perhaps worse, they leave it decaying in the attic. Sad to report, but if the family did not preserve a performer’s scrap books or tape record an oral history, it is not likely anyone else did.

Researching a vaudevillian can consume years and considerable money, which is why AVM no longer does it. Your local library’s newspaper archives and show business books and documents are the best place to begin your search.  Ellis Island has a web site and you can search for information there.  You may also search the Links to other organizations at our web site. There are also numerous genealogical websites, some free, although most charge fees.

The following books may prove useful for a starting point.  Also look at our book  reviews and biographies and memoirs offering a more extensive listing of over 170 books for your library.

Vaudeville Old & New by Frank Cullen & Donald McNeilly of AVM, Inc., 2006, Routledge Press
Once Upon a Stage by Charles and Louise Samuels, 1974, NYC, Dodd, Mead
American Vaudeville by Douglas Gilbert, 1940, NYC, Dover
Vaudeville by Joe Laurie, Jr., 1953, NYC, Henry Holt
Encyclopedia of Vaudeville by Anthony Slide, 1994, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT


Searching on the internet can reveal some amazing results or take you down a rabbit hole. Still, it’s a place to start. Here is a list of websites that may prove useful. It is by no means meant to be a complete list. When we started our first website twenty years ago, there were only a few vaudeville related sites. There are now hundreds, if not thousands. We don’t recommend searching on social media sites unless you take serious steps to limit their tracking of your activity as they have proven they cannot safeguard your personal information. Geneology sites can be useful.

American Vaudeville Museum collections are online at two locations:
School of Anthropology Vaudeville Website
The American Vaudeville Museum Archive

The following sites might also prove useful as starting points. Over 200 other books are listed in AVM’s Resources.

New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

Museum of the City of New York

Internet Archive is a non-profit library with an incredible collection of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more. They have scanned copies of the National Vaudeville Association’s annual programmes which feature hundreds of ads of vaudeville performers, primarily in the 1920s. The NVA programmes have no index so you must page through each edition. However, you may be rewarded and find a photo of your relative in one  of the hundreds of display ads in each volume.

Marx Brothers

W. C. Fields

The Jim Show

Eddie Cantor

Classic Images

Al Jolson

Preservation Directory

San Francisco Theatrical Memories

Old Time Vaudeville and Ragtime Show

Independent Classical and Jazz

United States Library of Congress

International Buster Keaton Society

University of Virginia

Harry Houdini

Laurel & Hardy Society

Harold Lloyd website

Charlie Chaplin website

The Vitaphone Project

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