Monday, November 21, 2016

Family History Tips-Part 10

Other Often-Ignored Information in Ancestral Records—Addresses

by Brenna Corbit, Technical Services Librarian

When having difficulty verifying ancestral lines or searching for a missing link, I often find answers in street addresses. After ascertaining an individual, such as in a census schedule, always take note of all available information, including the street address; usually, non-urban residents do not have house numbers. See if there are matches in other records. I like using city directories to see if I can find others living at the same address. I also look at historical street atlases for a better picture of a neighborhood. 

Our ancestral families and their distant relatives often lived in close proximity—remember that other family members and relations are valuable clues. Moreover, if your ancestors rented, they often change residences but usually in the same area, a good reason to compare city directory addresses and historical atlases. Some of these atlases use overlays, which are quite helpful because many streets change names or disappear altogether. 

Most of the following sources are available on and As for historical atlases, a good place to start is Also, search the internet for historic atlases of individual cities. For example, Philadelphia has excellent resources at Many libraries and historical societies have local historical atlases, too.

Where to find addresses in records? Addresses appear in many places, such as newspaper articles, but the most reliable sources include the following:

  • U. S. Census 1880 to 1940: City street names are written in the left hand margins. Be careful of the various columns of numbers that follow. Look at the column headings to determine house numbers.
  • City Directories: Ancestry’s database OCR (optical character recognition) search of “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995” is notorious for not finding information. Instead, manually searching the digital image sets is best when OCR fails. But when it does work, addresses are sometimes searchable, making it possible to find others without same last names living at the same address. Be aware that some addresses are apartments. Moreover, when searching digital directories on other websites, some web browsers are better than others in terms of OCR.
  • Military Draft Registrations: Civil War, WWI and WWII registration forms often requested the registrant’s address.
  • Birth Records: Civil birth records and certificates often include street addresses. Be aware that the place of birth may not always be the home. Try to verify information with other records, such as censuses or city directories.
  • Marriage License Applications: Civil applications which started in the late 1800s often included the applicants’ addresses. Do not confuse these forms with marriage certificates, which only give the date and location of the marriage. Some applications have an attached certificate. Be careful of this if ordering from a courthouse.
  • Death Certificates: Like civil birth records, addresses are often included, but the place of death may differ from the deceased’s residence. 
  • Naturalization Records: These records consist of various forms, which requested address information. Often, Ancestry’s database searches usually hit in the middle of an individual’s set of records, so be sure to look left and right of the digital image frames.
  • Ship Manifests: Passenger lists from the late 1800s to mid-1900s often give various addresses, one for the passenger’s next of kin in the old country and one for the passenger’s final destination. Take careful note of the names associated with these addresses because the relationships are often stated. Be aware that some manifests consist of two pages, so be sure to look at the next page in the digital images.

The ship’s manifest in the image above is from Ellis Island, New York dated 14 December 1909. It is a two-page treasure trove of information. Portions of the page are highlighted to show the addresses.

Roman Zebula’s (A) nearest friend or relation in the old country is Thomas Zebula (B) who lives in the village of Glodin Beas. His final destination is Reading, Pa (C); the person and address of who he is meeting is his brother-in-law Jan Gil (D) living at 527 S. 6th Street, Reading, Pa.

All of this information coincides perfectly with other names and addresses.

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