When researching our ancestors, one of our most important goals is to determine where they lived. This information is key to finding other aspects of their lives, whether they be local or state vital records or newspapers where there might be further information about them.
Most folks limit their search to the obvious repositories, whether online or not, focusing primarily on census records and city directories. There are many other ways to determine specifics about ancestor locations, including their specific addresses. Finding this other information also provides clues that help you to find further information about them.
Many of these listed source types should not stand alone as evidence of their residence, so you might want to check many of these sources to provide corroborating evidence.
Census Records – includes addresses; often written vertically on the left side of the page.
City Directories – by definition include people’s addresses, (includes telephone directories). Don’t forget that they are very useful for business, lodge, association, and church addresses as well.
Mortuary Records – the decedent’s address is included in the document.
Obituaries – some obituaries contain the residence of the deceased.
Marriage Announcements in Newspapers – marriage license announcements include the bride and groom’s addresses. The society pages include parties and visitors, addresses of the event, and some participants.
Marriage Licenses – include the address of the bride and groom. It may be on the marriage certificate as well, but more likely in the ledger or register of marriages or another pertinent log book of the local jurisdiction.
Special Marriage Documents – such as marriage banns, bonds, contracts, consent papers, dowries, etc. are likely to have address information.
Death Certificates – the decedent’s address as well as that of the informants are generally included.
SSDI – The Social Security Death Index contains the county and state where the last benefits were distributed.
Social Security Application – contains the address of the applicant.
Birth Certificates – the parents’ address is included and one is not making a rush to judgment that this same address may be the baby’s first residence as well – at least in most cases.
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.
Draft Cards – the draftee’s address is included and often when asked for a contact person – that person’s address is included.
Naturalization Records – the potential citizen’s address is specified.
Voting Registration and Great Registers – the address of the registered voter is included.
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.
The U.S. Public Records Index is an online 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
Family and Personal Correspondence – letters and postcards to and from family members typically included their residence addresses.
Business Correspondence – letters, receipts, contracts, and even old business cards include addresses.
Cemetery Records – if the ancestor purchased a cemetery plot, it is likely that the cemetery has a record of the person’s address at the time of the purchase.
Military Records – if the person was drafted or enlisted, it is likely that their permanent address and that of the next of kin were recorded in their enlistment papers.
Newspaper Legal Notices and Real Estate Transactions – likely would include the address of your ancestor.
Court Records – most kinds of court records would include the address of your ancestor. Likely candidates are divorces and civil judgments.
Patents and Patent Applications – contain the address of the applicant.
Photographs – most photographs don’t have addresses affixed or handwritten on them, but I have several photos of my ancestors and relatives taken in front of their houses, with the house number prominently displayed. Snapshots were often taken at places that they visited, which were generally handwritten on the back of the photo. Also, sittings for a professional photographer might include the photographer’s name and city, providing more clues.
Miscellaneous Newspaper Articles – may list the address of the subject(s) of the article. Don’t forget classified ads.
Probate Records and Wills – generally contain the address of the people involved.
Maps and Atlases – generally do not have people’s names on them, but they might. A location might be identified as the “Smith Farm” or the “Johnson General Store”. These might be helpful in narrowing down the location, residence, or business of an ancestor.
Tax Records – generally don’t have the person’s address, but they might, especially if the taxation pertains to property holdings of your ancestor.
School Records – enrollment lists might have the student’s address.
Alumni Records and Student Directories – generally include the college student or alumnus’ current address in them.
Veteran’s Benefit or Pension Record – would include the address at the time of enlistment, and possibly their current address where they are receiving benefits. If they were deceased, their beneficiaries’ addresses would be available.
Good Luck and Happy Hunting!