Since this is a census year, it seems apropos to talk about how census records can aid you in researching the history of a home. The federal government has been collecting census data every ten years since 1790. Throughout the decades, various pieces of information were secured by the census taker. The website www.census.gov contains an overview of the census records, including the questions asked during each census year.
The census record can help you pinpoint who lived in your home during the year the census data was collected.
To illustrate how this can be beneficial, I’ll give you a recent example in my research of a local house. I have worked my way backwards through the deeds and know who owned the house from the present back to 1985 when Rose Fitzgerald sold it. I had no idea when she bought the house, so I looked through city directories. She and her husband were listed at this home in the directories all the way back to 1938. I began looking for her and her husband in deed indexes backwards from 1938, hoping to be able to determine when they bought the home. I had no luck.Time for a new approach.
I found a different person’s name residing in the house in 1922 using a reverse city directory (this is a directory that lists the addresses in the back of the book, and the names of the residents in the front – helpful when you know the address but not the name). With the new name in hand, I looked at the 1920 census and found the person listed at the address I was researching. Luckily, the 1920 census is one that asked if the person rented or owned the dwelling. My person was listed as an owner. Now I have a new name to take back to the deed’s office, and I can begin looking for him in 1920. You can see how using the census not only enabled me to find a new name to research, but also shaved several years off the time period I need to look through.
Census records are available for research at most major libraries, and online primarily through subscription services. These records are one more tool for you to utilize in your search for who walked your halls before you.