Is your house turning 100 years old? Are you curious what it looked like in years past? Who lived there? Who the neighbors were? The Portland Room and Archives have several resources that can help you answer these questions.
The Portland City Directories in the Portland Room date back to 1823, but most useful are the ones that date from 1882, as they include an alphabetical listing of streets along with the heads of household at each address. The directories also have an alphabetical listing of heads of households that include their home address, and often their work address and occupation. Once you have the head of household name, you can go to the census records [available through Ancestry.com (in-library) or HeritageQuest.com] and see who else resided with them, as well as obtain biographical information on those residents.
The Portland Room has two digitized maps, the 1882 Goodwin Atlas and the 1914 Richards Atlas, that show streets, addresses, footprints of buildings and what the buildings are made of, as well as a print copy of 1957 Sanborn fire insurance map.
If you home is in a historic district, it may appear in the “Portland Historic Resources Inventory” compiled by Earle Shettleworth and John E. Pancoast (1975). If your house is part of this inventory, the address and name of the house is given, as well as date built, architectural style, and what it was built of. Occasionally pictures can be found, as well as the architect’s name.
24 Monroe St., in 1957 from the Portland Room photo Archives
A great source of photos are the 1924 Portland Tax Records available online through Maine Memory Network. Newspaper articles may also be a source of pictures or articles written about your house. Articles appearing in the Portland newspapers from 1945-1992 are indexed.
The Portland Room also had several books on how to trace the history of your home. So come on in and we will help you find the resources that will help you tell your house’s story.
October is American Archives Month. Portland Public Library’s Portland Room and Archives is a rich resource for researching family genealogies, house histories, historical research of businesses and industries in Maine as well as other historical topics. Each week in October the Portland Room will feature some of the resources that can be used in researching these areas.
Genealogy Research: Interested in where you are in your family tree, or in those that came before you? In addition to the genealogical databases PPL subscribes to, such as Ancestry.com and Heritage Quest, we have vital records (records of birth, marriages, and deaths) on microfilm from pre-1892 – 1955. There are also some print versions of vital records for some individual Maine towns. Ancestry.com and Heritage Quest also have census records, which are invaluable for tracing family members back in time. Resources for passenger lists are also available through Ancestry.com, but the Portland Room also has some passenger lists in print format.
The Portland City Directories are also great resources for tracing your family. In addition to listing residents, the directories are searchable by street. Sometimes the date of death appears, and often the residents’ occupations and the location of where they worked is present.
There are also town and county histories as well as some published family histories in the Portland Room. We also have indices for the burial records at the Eastern and Western cemeteries.
A final favorite is searching obituary and death notices through the microfilmed copies of the Portland newspapers.
From census records and city directories to passenger lists and military records, Ancestry.com contains an abundance of information. Sometimes, though, that abundance can be overwhelming. The Ancestry.com Learning Center can help. Five-minute YouTube video tutorials offer help on topics such as using agricultural schedules to better understand ancestors who were farmers and finding clues in cemetery inscriptions. Free Research Guides provide guidance on conducting African American family research and offer tips on how to make sense of all the information contained in census records. There are dozens of these videos and guides available for you to peruse – one of them just might have the answer to a question that has been hounding you!