12 Ways to Find Your Ancestor’s Address

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For my direct ancestors, I have made a concerted effort to record as many of their residence addresses as possible. The task would be much too daunting for everyone in my tree, but for the direct ones it is manageable, and for me desirable.

For 1800’s documents it is much more difficult to get the actual “mailing address”. In rural communities, addresses did not exist. And home delivery didn’t start until the mid-1860’s and then only for towns with a population greater than 10,000. It was only the movement to more urban and later suburban living that required that addresses be assigned to residences.

One of the reasons I enjoy finding addresses is beyond just documenting ancestors’ events and movements. I have a lot of photographs that were taken in the 1930’s and later in front of a house – where the house number is displayed. So tracking their addresses helps me date the photo.

It is a fun bit of research and is like a puzzle, so is quite interesting to attempt to find an address for as many years of their lives as possible.

There are many different places where someone’s address is recorded. And I am referring to what we now call a residence address, not just the city and county. Here is a list of documents and artifacts that I have used:

  1. Census Records – this is the most obvious.
  2. City Directories – also obvious (includes telephone directories).
  3. Mortuary Records – the decedent’s address is included in the document.
  4. Obituaries and other newspaper articles – some obituaries contain the residence of the deceased; and other newspaper articles such as marriage license announcements also include the potential bride and groom’s address. Other articles – for example the society pages include descriptions of parties and visitors. These often include the address of the hostess/host. And addresses are frequently included in many other articles as well.
  5. Death Certificates – the decedent’s address as well as that of the informants are generally included.
  6. Birth Certificates – the parents address is included and one is not making a rush to judgment that this same address may be the babies first residence as well – at least in most cases.
  7. Immigration and Travel Records – post 1900 the address of the traveler is included in travel records and the address of where the immigrant is “going” is included in immigration records.
  8. Draft Cards – the draftee’s address is included and often when asked for a contact person – that person’s address is included.
  9. Naturalization Records – the potential citizen’s address is specified.
  10. Voting Registration and Great Registers – the address of the registered voter is included.
  11. Land, deed and property records – After 1860, it is likely that a physical address may be associated with the deed. Later property records include the address.
  12. The U.S. Public Records Index is a compilation that includes addresses from Public Records from as early as 1950. Although these provide clues, their accuracy is often questionable, but worth the effort if you have little success elsewhere. I have purposely not included the “People Finder” online sites that one has to pay for to get the “dirty details” about living people.

If you know of others, please indicate so in the comments!


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3 Comments

  1. This is a great list for finding ancestors’ addresses. Another source would be an ancestor’s letters or correspondence. Those researchers fortunate to have pieces of family history can have fun tracking an ancestor’s places of residence.

    1. Thanks Lisa. That is a great addition to the list. I have many old letters that indeed have addresses on them. Thanks!

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