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October is American Archives Month – Researching your house

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

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.

posted: , by Cindy Dykes
tags: About the Library | Library Collections | Adults | Art & Culture | Genealogy | Portland History
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