Fall Family Sleuthing

Fall Family Sleuthing

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By Jan Larraine Cox 

As we enter another fall season, we are hopefully edging closer to safe holidays with family members. Looking into family history and finding where our ancestors lived and worked can be an amusing and gratifying autumn activity for all to share and enjoy around the dinner table this year. 

My mother traveled with my dad’s cousin to the Cleveland Public Library and the courthouse in the early 1990s to research the family records on both the maternal and paternal sides. From the information she amassed came four thick books full of documents and photos which elucidated our ancestors’ lives, occupations and interests.  

Start Your Fall Family Sleuthing

A good place to start is the main public library and courthouse in the city where your family member lived, but other sources are the following: 

  1. Start at the library to look for old directories. City directories are good for providing addresses and phone numbers. Professional organizations and social clubs often publish member directories. 
  1. Your ancestors who were in military service in the 1900s were often listed in military directories in alphabetical order by last name. Their military occupation and home address at the time may be included, especially if pensions were mailed.  
  1. Old newspapers are a great source, as they give clues as to who was entertaining or traveling out of town. Genealogist Karen Fortin calls those old newspapers the Facebook of their day. 
  1. Obituary and public notices can help your search as addresses may be provided in case there were any outstanding debts to track down for payment.     
  1. Court records can also provide addresses if the relative ever served on a jury. Also, since 1880, street names have been named in the census reports every 10 years. 
  1. Travel records for citizens going abroad are available if the relative ever applied for a passport or Visa.  
  1. Your family papers may turn out to be a treasure trove for your address search. For example, postcards mailed to a specific location. Documents mailed in the original envelope may still display the address. And photos taken in front of a house may include that house number.   
  1. You may discover that the family saved mortgage receipts once paid and proudly saved the deed to their finally paid-off home. The price from the 1800s will surprise you! 
  1. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, many extended family members lived close by so they could easily stay in close touch. Once you determine the addresses, you can be on your way to verifying through Google Maps the family neighborhood they were so proud to establish. Your sleuthing will pay off! 

Genealogist Karen Fortin has been making presentations throughout the Florida Gulf Coast on uncovering the sources that will lead to family history clues and answers. These presentations are available on YouTube under her name. For more information, visit www.youtube.com/myclearwater and search for Karen Fortin’s videos to get you started on this fall activity.


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