Family History Research

Trace a family through addresses

on June 13, 2010

I have found one thing extremely helpful for both my sanity and research during the last 14 years and that thing is a street address. Recording a street address for everyone in my tree has helped me at times to prove the person with the misspelled name on X document is my person; or helped me to search records, especially census, where I cannot find them using regular searching techniques.

Where do I find all of these addresses? Census records; birth, marriage and death records; voter registrations; Naturalization documents; Passport Applications; military records; the newspaper.

The newspaper has been a wonderful source of information to prove or disprove someone is actually the person I am looking for. In the Chicago area in the 1940’s in particular, where I have been researching, the newspaper articles typically include a street address with the name of the person they mention in the article. This is a terrific resource especially between Census years if you are trying to track a family.

My record keeping for addresses in my Family Tree Maker database is held in a field called RESIDENCE and for description I put SEE NOTES. Of course I have multiple fields of RESIDENCE that list CENSUS information. But this entry is specific to record multiple addresses.

I list the year of the record, the type of record, and the address. If an address is smudged or difficult to decipher, I put a question mark next to it with a note. This list of addresses is for my great, great grandfather Joseph Kokoska.

1882 – Birth of Frank – 412 W. 17th Street, Chicago, Cook, IL

1884 – Birth of Emilie- 84 Clayton Street, Chicago, Cook, IL

1886 – Birth of Charles – 691 May St, Chicago, Cook, IL

1891 – City Directory – lab 988 Van Horn St., Chicago, Cook Co., IL

1892 10/7 –Naturalized – 988 Van Horn St, Chicago, IL

1892 10/25 – voter reg – 832 W. 18th St, Chicago, IL

1900 – Census & city directory – 988 W. 18th Place, Chicago, IL

1910 – Census – 2122 W. 18th Place, Chicago, IL

In 1909 Chicago converted street names and numbers. The family lived in the same house, just converted address.

1930 – Census – 2122 W. 18th Place, Chicago, IL

Owned home for $3,000.

1943 – Died – 2122 W. 18th Pl, Chicago, IL

Another way I keep track of the family and their movements, including their children, is to create an Excel file of addresses. Below is one example of a file I created for my Kokoska family.

I initially created this after making a similar layout on some of those large white sticky pages used in meetings.  While the paper was nice to make notes and write down questions, I needed a nicer way to visually see all my information. The reason I started this file is because I had some trouble locating several 1920 Census records and needed to search by Chicago Ward based on address. Mapping this out in Excel helped me to visually understand the family movements and help keep me focused on what I was doing, and sometimes locate another family member in the process.

The Excel file also raised other questions such as why were so many of Majdalena and Joseph Kokoska’s grandchildren born in their home, when it appears the parents of those grandchildren lived elsewhere? Was it a Bohemian custom for the girls to come home to give birth so their mothers and the midwives could deliver the child? Did they just happen to be visiting when they went into labor? I need to delve into Bohemian birthing customs for the turn of the century to have that question answered.

The file also shows how close, both in proximity and relationship, families were at the turn of the century and a few decades after. By plotting on a Chicago street map, all these addresses for my Kokoska family, I would find that they lived within a few blocks of each other or “across the alley”.  Children grew up visiting their grandparents daily and fully experiencing that relationship, unlike today when so many families are spread out by cities, states and even other countries. The file shows a totally different lifestyle then than we experience today.

The last big thing the file shows, especially when plotted out on a map is the movement from the city to the suburbs. Visually on the Excel sheet you can see this both by address and date. Compare this data with data from that time period about Bohemian enclaves and you will see a similar pattern by date. The group began moving out of the city as they became more affluent. If I had the data to map out to present day I would see another mass “migration” from the close suburbs of Chicago to the far suburbs of Chicago by the 1970’s.

Recording one simple detail, a street address, can prove to be so useful, the more one researches. That simple detail can also lead to more questions. But isn’t that the fun of genealogy? The detective work one must do?

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4 responses to “Trace a family through addresses

  1. Another tip to add. Many county government web sites provide property information under the office of County Assessor. You can often find information on the current value of the property, how much it sold for, name of current owner and very often, a photograph of the house. I’ve discovered quite a few former residences of family members this way.

  2. Laura says:

    LOVE the spreadsheet! I track those moves in FTM the same way you do, but your spreadsheet displays multiple families at a glance. Using tabs for more lines keeps all your research in one easily retrievable place. Brilliant! Thank you so much for sharing your ideas!

    • Thanks for your comment! The spreadsheet made it so much easier to “see” everything that was happening. I’m sure it will come in handy the more I start writing the history as there will be much more to “see” as I look deeper.

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by HudsonCty Geneal Soc, Leslie Ann. Leslie Ann said: Tracing a family through addresses ==> http://bit.ly/b5MFVs #genealogy #familyhistory [...]

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