Showing posts with label City directory. Show all posts
Showing posts with label City directory. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Don't Just Cite Your Sources--Interrogate 'Em!

New York City directory listing for great-great uncle Joseph Jacob
Found a record? Cite your source. But that's not the end of the story.

Don't move on until you understand what, exactly, that source represents.

How was the information gathered, when, and why? What you learn by interrogating your sources may very well change your analysis of the evidence and how it reflects your ancestor's life.

City Directories Fill the Gap

A case in point: Old city directories, which I absolutely love because they can fill in the gaps between the years covered by U.S. and state census records. Many times (but not always) you can find city directories for FREE.

I use HeritageQuest Online (accessed online for free, with my local library card) when searching for ancestors in different cities.

If, like me, you're searching for ancestors in New York City, you can also browse the dozens of city directories posted for free by the New York City Public Library. I actually like to browse because it allows me to look for creative spellings, not rely only on indexing.

Date the Directory

Dates really count. Here, for instance, is one of the front pages from the New York City directory dated 1894.

You would think that means only 1894, right?

Nope. As shown here, the directory's contents actually end with people who were in the city as late as July 1, 1895.

In other words, your ancestor might have moved to the city in early 1895 and would still be listed in the 1894 directory. Or might have moved out in January, 1895, but could be listed in the 1894 directory anyway.

Note the underlined sentence saying that "names received too late for regular insertion are on preceding page." That means you need to check beyond the regular alphabetical listings to see whether your ancestor was included in the "late" names missing from the alpha listings.

Finding Great-Great Uncle Joseph Jacob(s) in 1886-1889

Today I was doing more research into my great-grandma's brother, Joseph Jacobs (1864-1918). Sometimes he's listed as Joe Jacobs, sometimes as Joseph Jacob, and other permutations.

I had previously found his naturalization index card, which shows him as a capmaker living at 49 Clinton Street on October 25, 1888. I also knew he was living at 49 Clinton Street when he married on March 2, 1890.

But when searching the New York City directory for 1888, I found Joseph the capmaker living at 103 Allen Street, "house rear" (see image at top), not on Clinton Street. Both addresses are on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, within walking distance of each other in a neighborhood filled with immigrants.

Digging deeper into the1888 city directory's date, here's what I found.

NYC directory for 1888 ends on May 1, 1888

It appears that great-great-uncle Joe was living on Allen Street sometime before May 1, 1888. Then he moved to Clinton Street later in the year. I checked the 1889 New York City directory (labeled as covering the year ending May 1, 1889) and found Joe on Clinton Street, as expected. 

Finally, I checked the 1886 New York City directory (for year ending May 1, 1887) and found Joseph Jacobs, caps, on Allen Street, as he had been earlier.

Every time I use a city directory, I'll have to check the time period covered. Otherwise, I may place an ancestor in the right place but at the wrong time.

PS: The NY Public Library has a helpful page about what to look at in city directories--see here.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Grandpa's Siblings: Researching Holes in Their Stories

My paternal grandfather, Isaac Burk (1882-1943), was born in Gargzdai, Lithuania, and had at least five siblings. Based on old photos in the family, there was probably a much younger brother who remained in Lithuania when Isaac and his siblings Max, Jennie, Meyer, and Nellie came to America and older brother Abraham came to Canada.

As part of my genealogy go-over, I'm reviewing the holes in their stories and doing more research to fill in. Today, I'm looking at Max (originally Matel) Birk (1892-1953), the youngest of siblings who left Lithuania.

Burke, Berk, Burk, Birk, Berg, Block

Grandpa Isaac (who died long before I was born) spelled his surname Burk. The other siblings went by variations: Abraham went by Burke or Berk, Max went by Birk, Meyer went by Berg, Nellie went by Block, and Jennie went by Birk. No wonder genealogists go a little batty. Yes, I know these fit the Soundex category for Burk, but I also have to spell creatively where Soundex isn't an option.

The Search Is On!

The July, 1906 passenger list for the S.S. Ryndam out of Rotterdam shows Max being met by his brother Isaac Burk (my grandpa) in New York City. That's where the paper trail evaporates for a while.

I already found Max's WWI draft registration form, shown at top. He was a jeweler in Chicago in 1917, living at 3525 W. 12 St. He was naturalized in Chicago in 1923, I know from his naturalization papers, and then living at 3525 Roosevelt Dr.

But when did Max arrive in Chicago? When did he return to New York City, where he was married in 1936? The search is on for the missing years. So far, no luck finding Max in New York City directories, but that's another avenue I'll pursue shortly.

Census and City Directories

After no luck finding Max/Matel in the US Census for 1910 and 1920 (in Family Search and in Ancestry, plus Heritage Quest as well), I struck out looking for Max in the 1905 and 1915 New York State Census. These searches were via indexing, so shortly I'll try browsing the Census near where his siblings lived in NYC during those Census periods. He may have been mis-indexed and only by browsing will I find him, if he's in NY.

Heritage Quest has lots of city directories, but not from Chicago. That's why I used my Connecticut State Library card for remote access to Fold3 for free, from home, to look at Chicago city directories for the early 1900s. 

I found Max in the 1923 Chicago directory, a jeweler, right where he should be in the listings for Birk (see below), at the same address as on his naturalization papers. He's not in the 1915-6-7 Chicago directories, however. I'm still looking in the Chicago directories via Ancestry for a variation on Max's surname.

Max was living in Chicago in 1920, at 2525 W. 12th Street, according to his naturalization papers. My next step is to browse the 1920 census for Chicago in that area, and to look for additional Chicago directories from the 1920s to see when he stops appearing. UPDATE: Browsing Census images on HeritageQuest is going to take time, since the address could be in one of several wards.  I made a note of EDs and wards so I can stop and pick up in the same place along the way.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

FREE: City Directories on HeritageQuest

Did you know you can access city directories via HeritageQuest Online, for free? In Vermont, Los Angeles, New York City, and in many other areas, all you need to access the HeritageQuest genealogy databases from home is a public library card.

In my previous post, I discussed how I used city directories to solve a family mystery. HeritageQuest has lots of town and city directories . . . ready to be searched or browsed from your own keyboard, in your bunny slippers, at any hour.

Does your local library offer HeritageQuest?

Check your local library's website or ask your friendly neighborhood librarian about how to access HeritageQuest from home. Usually all you need is a library card number.

Once you log in, go to the "Search" section of the HeritageQuest site (as shown at left).

There you'll see several choices of databases to search--including, as shown at top, the many city directories.

Now you'll have three choices of databases: "people," "publications," and "city directories" (see image at right).

Search name and family member

Click on "city directories" to search by name, with a family member (which sometimes helps), indicate gender, and indicate residence year.

Dates can be approximate--the results usually cover a range of years. Go ahead and click, it's free with your library card. You never know who you will find (or, as in the case of the family mystery I was researching, who you will not find).


This is a brief excerpt from my how-to presentation, Getting the Most Out of HeritageQuest Online. For more about my talks, please click here.

As of September, 2019, HeritageQuest is NOT available in Connecticut, due to budget problems, unfortunately.

Monday, February 4, 2019

City Directories: Who's There? Who's Missing?

City directories were published frequently, making them an important source of info during years that fall between the Census. There's some element of luck--are directories available for the town or city where an ancestor lived? Are the directories available for the years being researched? But when the answer to both questions is yes, directories are fabulous for showing who was there, at that time and place. Equally important, a directory can indicate who is NOT there.

I just used directories to help solve a long-standing family history mystery. It all started with the complicated marital affairs of my husband's grandfather, James Edgar Wood. As I wrote yesterday, he married Mary Slatter in 1898, and when she died in 1925, he married Alice Hopperton Unger. In the spring of 1928, James divorced Alice. Later that year, James married Carolina "Carrie" Foltz Cragg (an in-law of his nephew).

Looking for Carrie Wood's Listing  

What became of Carrie? She wasn't with James when he died. In fact, his death cert says he was widowed, and lists his deceased wife as Mary (the first wife). The informant was James's oldest son, who presumably was aware of at least one of the two marriages after Mary Slatter Wood's death. Like I said, it was complicated. Anyway...

My next stop was the Census, where Carrie was shown with James in 1930 in Jackson, Michigan, the same city where they were married in 1928.

Next, I looked at the city directories for Jackson, Michigan. Carrie was listed with James up to the year 1933. See the entry, at top, for that year.

But Carrie was missing from James's listing in 1935 in Jackson. Where did she go?

The wonderful cousin who's our long-time Wood genealogist suggested I look in Toledo (where James was born and where one of Carrie's grown children lived) or Cleveland (that's where James died). I found no Carrie Wood in the Toledo city directory, not even in the household of her daughter and son-in-law, who were listed in the directories. Then I tried something different.

Breakthrough Via Carrie's Grown Children

I looked at Carrie's other two children in the 1930s. One was married in 1935 in Jackson, MI. His actual marriage license was available and when I looked closely, I noticed one of the witnesses was . . . Carrie, his mom! There was her address--in Toledo, living with a daughter. Carrie was missing from the Toledo city directory, but she was noted on her son's marriage license in Jackson, where she must have gone for the wedding.

Now I returned to Family Search and looked for the death of Carolina Wood in Toledo, Ohio, between 1935 and 1939. I chose 1939 as the end date because that was when James died.

Immediately, up popped the death certificate for Caroline Wood. She had been diagnosed with cancer in 1933 and died in October, 1935, in Toledo.

This is definitely the correct Carrie because her daughter is the informant and lists Carrie's father's name, country of birth, and so on. The details are a good match, except for the name being "Caroline" instead of "Carolina." Carrie's address at the time of her death was the same as that of her daughter, the informant. So when Carrie became ill, it seems she went to live with her daughter, who took care of her until her death.

And to think it was Carrie's absence from the Jackson city directories after 1933 that provided a crucial clue in the trail of research that led to finding her final resting place in Woodlawn Cemetery, Toledo.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Was Hubby's Memory Correct? How I Did the Research

Earlier this year, I wrote a family history booklet telling the story of my husband's Slatter and Wood families, and a second booklet telling the story of his McClure and Steiner families.

For the holidays, I'm preparing a briefer family history booklet, focused on the Wood family in World War II. I want to show the younger generation how the family's history is intertwined with local, national, and world history. So I'm writing about Edgar James Wood and his wife, Marian Jane McClure Wood, and their children (hubby included), during the 1940s.

First, I asked my husband and his siblings about their memories of that period. Although he was very young, hubby distinctly remembers the family sitting around the console radio on Sunday, the 7th of December, and hearing the news about the bombing of Pearl Harbor.* It's vivid in his mind because his parents were so upset by the news. And he remembers this happening in the living room of the family home at 1142 Cleveland Heights Blvd. in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

Was hubby's memory correct? I wondered because I had these facts at hand (and mapped the addresses as shown above):
  • At the time of the 1940 Census, the Wood family lived at 13015 Edmondton Ave. in Cleveland. This was a $45/month rental, several blocks away from where Marian's parents lived.
  • In late November, 1942, the Wood family signed an agreement to purchase the Cleveland Heights Blvd. house. This was a few miles east of the rental where they lived in 1940.
  • Edgar Wood had told his son, during a 1983 interview, about giving up the rental and buying the home--but he never specified any dates.

To find out whether the Wood family actually lived on Cleveland Heights Blvd. in December, 1941, I needed another source--something from after the Census and before the purchase of the house on Cleveland Heights Blvd.

Lucky, lucky me. I dug deep into Ancestry's city directory catalog and found it has the 1941 Cleveland city directory!

Browsing the directory by street address, I checked who was living at the Edmondton Ave. address. The entry for that address showed as "vacant." The Wood family was NOT living there in 1941.

Then I checked who was living at the Cleveland Heights Blvd. address. And as you can see at left, the occupant was "Wood, Edgar J." In other words, my wonderful husband's memory was completely correct. He and his family had moved into their home by the time of Pearl Harbor.

This prompted me to reread the 1983 interview with my late father-in-law. He said he had been notified that his rental on Edmonton Ave. was going to be sold. So he and his wife Marian went shopping for a home, but he didn't mention any dates.

A realtor showed them the Cleveland Heights Blvd home, which had stood empty for a few years due to the Depression. Ed and Marian liked it but could only afford it if they began paying on a "land contract," with monthly payments going toward a downpayment qualifying them for a mortgage.

He stated that within about a year, they had paid in enough to obtain a regular mortgage and register the deed, which is dated late November, 1942. This was more confirmation of what the directory entries indicate: the family moved in before December, 1941.

Writing this family story about WWII forced me to double-check memories against the city directory and another family member's memories. In the process, I gained a better understanding of the family's financial situation during that time. And, of course, hubby's family will have yet another colorful booklet to enjoy, complete with maps and photos and sources, before the new year begins.

*If you want to hear some radio broadcasts from that day, check out the Internet Archive here.