Blogs

Percy L. Julian

Nytimes

He’s one of the most influential chemists this country has ever known. He’s a self made millionaire and humanitarian.  Yet, many people have never heard of him. Percy Lavon Julian is THE MAN when it comes to the chemical synthesis of plant-based drugs. He was the first to synthesis Physostigmine. He synthesized the human hormones progesterone and testosterone from plant sterols. His work led to the creation of cortisone, even birth control pills! These are just a few of his contributions to the world of medicine. What he does with a yam is incredible! But don’t take our word for it, find out for yourself.

Further Exploration:  http://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/whatischemistry/landmarks/julian.html

Available at Multnomah County Library:  Forgotten Genius (DVD)

Gerald A. Lawson

Gerald A Lawson Photo: museumofplay

If you play Playstation or Xbox or any other gaming console and enjoy video games, you have Gerald A. Lawson to thank. A self-taught engineer who never graduates from college, Lawson is the founding father of the modern-day video game. He creates the first home gaming system with interchangeable game cartridges.  Lawson met Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak pre-Apple. In fact, regarding Jobs and Wozniak, Lawson is quoted as saying, “I was not impressed with them—either one of them, actually.” This is one amazing story. Discover more.

Further Exploration: Tech Times

Available at Multnomah County Library: African American Firsts in Science & Technology by Webster, Raymond B.

 

Molly Williams

 the44diaries

Molly Williams is the first recorded woman firefighter. Her story goes a little something like this. The year is 1815. A slave for a New York merchant, Molly works as a cook in the Oceanus Engine Company in New York City. At the Oceanus firehouse, she is known as volunteer 11. Molly works with as much dedication and strength as any of the men firefighters. Her dedication and strength are put to the test during a horrible blizzard. Want to know more? Get the book at Multnomah County Library! And if you like this story, read about Dinae Mines.

Further Exploration: www.aaffmuseum.org

Available at Multnomah County Library: Molly, by Golly: The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Fire Fighter by Ochiltree, Diane 

Garrett Morgan

Garrett Morgan Photo: Atlantafreespeech

He had a knack for fixing things. He improved the function of sewing machines and owned a sewing machine store, a tailoring shop and a country club. He invented and patented the three-position traffic light (still in use today) and the safety hood, later known as the gas mask. He and his brother used the safety hood to save the lives of city workers from a poison-filled tunnel. The U.S. Army saved the lives of many soldiers using Morgan’s safety hood. It doesn’t end there. He started a newspaper called the Cleveland Call to address racial injustice. Oh, his formal education didn’t extend beyond elementary school. That’s right, Morgan didn’t attend school beyond 6th grade!

Further Exploration: http://blackinventor.com/garrett-morgan/

Available at Multnomah County Library: Scientists, Healers and Inventors by Hudson, Wade

 


 

 

Portland, Oregon

Historical Black Debutante

Photo: Oregon Historical Society

Source: www.portlandmonthlymag.com

This theme wouldn't be complete without focusing on Portland's Black Community. Despite living under the harsh burden of discrimination, racism, exclusionary laws etc. Portland's Black community continued to grow and thrive. In 1883, The Northern Pacific Railways brings jobs and more African Americans to the region leading the way for a burgeoning Black, middle class. At this time, most of Portland's Black community reside in NW Portland. The community has four churches, The Rutherford Haberdashery and many Black owned Businesses. Some years later, the community has grown to include three Black newspapers, a hotel, postal clerk, shoe clerk, attorneys, stenographers, a dentist and a doctor! it's an amazing history! Check it out here, here, and here!

And don't miss Our Story: Portland through an African American Lens. This celebration of Black life in Oregon contains photos and primary source documents.

Further Exploration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWC-8hvP7aY

Available at Multnomah County Library: African Americans of Portland by Oregon Black Pioneers and The Ebony Princesses of the Portland Rose Festival 1967-1982 by Morris, Lenora C.

Septima Poinsette Clark

 

Septima Poinsette Clark

Photo Credit: www.brothermalcolm.net

Source:  www.blackpast.org

Septima Poinsette Clark was an advocate and educator of civics education long before it became popular.  As a teacher and member of the NAACP, she pushed issues of education and equal rights. When the State of South Carolina placed a ban on NAACP membership, Septima refused to obey and lost her job and pension as a result. She, along with her cousin, started the first citizenship school to educate Black citizens in reading and writing, election procedures and government. Her name may not be so familiar, but those in the fight for Civil Rights knew exactly who she was! In fact, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledged her when receiving his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize award.

 

Further Exploration: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/clark-septima-poinsette-1898-1987

Available at Multnomah County: Lighting the Way by Schiff, Karenna Gore

 

Black Wall Street Memorial

Source: http://www.daveyd.com/blackwallpolitic.html

The year is 1921 and Tulsa, Oklahoma is booming!  As one of the most affluent Black communities in the country, Tulsa boasts of 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores, jewelry stores, 2 movie theaters and 2 newspapers. There’s a postal substation, a branch of the Y.M.C.A, a hospital, bank, post office, libraries, schools, law offices, private airplanes and bus systems.

 

Further Exploration: http://www.okhistory.org/research/forms/freport.pdf

Available at Multnomah County: Reconstructing the Dreamland by Brophy, Alfred L.

Hiram Rhodes Revels

Congressman Hiram Rhodes Revel 1827-1901

Hiram Rhodes Revels was the first Black American to serve in the U.S. Congress. Revels served from 1869 to 1871. A Republican from Mississippi, Revels was born free to free parents and attended school during a time when educating Black children was illegal. During the Civil War he recruited Black regiments. He was a preacher, educator and civil rights advocate.

Further exploration: http://history.house.gov/People/Listing/R/REVELS,-Hiram-Rhodes-%28R000166%29/

Available at Multnomah County Library: Black Faces, Black Interests: The Representation of African Americans in Congress by Swain, Carol M.

Siqueiros Mural

I came back from my yearly trip to Mexico recently: it’s always refreshing to walk around the city of Cuernavaca where I’m from, visiting historical sites as I do year after year. This city is privileged to host the work of two great Mexican muralists. Diego Rivera painted the history of the city at El Palacio de Cortés or the Palace of Cortés and David Alfaro Siqueiros’ mural ”The March of Humanity” is found at La Tallera cultural center. If you want to know more about this kind art, follow me!

Muralism was practiced long ago when indigenous groups painted their ideas and important events in big displays on the sides of ceremonial and burial buildings. The splendid Maya murals of Bonampak are a simple example of this kind of art.

This artistic manifestation gained more importance in Mexico during the 20th century. The first murals were created in 1921 and the last were created in 1955, when murals lost the essence of an articulated artistic movement. There were several artists who brought a diversity of aesthetics and political influences; at times the artists' were severely criticized and censured, and even destroyed, as happened with one Diego Revera's murals at the Rockefeller Center in New York.

The movement is characterized by the artists' great need to express the social and political events of their times using huge platforms. In the murals, Mexicans have the opportunity to appreciate the content of their own reality and identity. The Mexican Revolution, political radicalism as an international proposal, agrarian reform, and oil expropriation inspired nationalistic artists who presented the reality of a Mexican society so devastated by these events. A group of muralist artists created the movement using the walls of important public buildings as canvases, to exalt the art and rescue indigenous and popular traditions. The three great figures of this artistic era were Jose Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros.

Would you like to learn more about this great art movement? Take a look at the video lecture on Maya murals below, or explore my list for further reading.

 

Rivera's mural

 

The Splendid Maya Murals of Bonampak, Mexico, with Prof. Mary Miller

 

 

African Americans in the Civil War

United States Black Regiment Photo:Wikipedia

 

 

Have you heard of African American troops who fought in the Civil War? The 1863 Militia Act created the Bureau of Colored Troops to ensure participation of African American men in the Union Army and Navy. All-Black regiments were formed in Massachusetts, South Carolina and elsewhere. Keep in mind, although fighting for the Union, Black and white regiments were segregated. In all, an estimated 180,000 African American men fought in the Union Army and 20,000 served in the Union Navy.

Available at Multnomah County Library: Black, Blue & Gray: African Americans in the Civil War by Haskins, James and Slaves to Soldiers by Black, Wallace B.

 

 

Annie Burton

Annie Burton Photo: Duhaime

 

Annie Burton was born in Clayton, Alabama, in 1858. Her mother was a slave who ran away after being whipped. This is one of many childhood memories. As an adult, Annie moves to Boston where she marries and becomes a maid. She never forgets what life was like during slavery. In 1909, she authors Memories of Childhood’s Slavery Days. This book has been converted from physical to digital format and is available for free on the web.

 

Available at Multnomah County Library: Six Women’s Slave Narratives by Andrews, William L

 

I love a good romance and I recently discovered a fun romance series written for adult learners. It led me to explore the world of books for adults learning to read.

Are you looking for books for teens or adults who need simpler texts? If you search the catalog using the phrase “readers for new literates,you’ll get a long list of books at different reading levels.  If you’re looking for levels, choose a title. For instance, when I clicked on the title Water for Life, I looked for “Series that include this title” and then I could link to all the books in the Penguin active reading series or just the Penguin active reading level 2.

You can find  versions of English and American classics or modern fiction. You can find biographies, true crime, and a book written in both Somali and EnglishWe have horror stories as well as romance. 

Back to that romance series. All of the books in the series feature photographs which add a lot of meaning to the stories about long time love and new love. My personal favorite is The Big Goof:  Jan loves Bill. Will Bill love Jan? It makes me laugh every time I read it. Everyone I’ve shared it with has noticed different things in the photos which deepened the story. 

If you’d like a customized list of books, you can ask us at My LibrarianWe’re happy to help you find good reading. Here’s a list I made that features books and poetry for a romance fan. Let’s champion reading together! Thanks.


 


 

Obituary
What are obituaries?
Obituaries are short biographies written about someone who has died recently. An obituary may also be called a death notice, funeral notice, or may be in a list of names in a column labeled “Deaths.” When an obituary is first published, it is intended to inform friends, family, colleagues, and the community about a death and often include the schedule and location of the funeral service and burial. Long after the death of an individual, obituaries can be a source of biographical details and family information. 
 
Why do people search for obituaries?
People search for obituaries for all sorts of reasons. Obituaries can provide useful information for many kinds of research: genealogy, house history, neighborhood or other local history, research about famous or notable people, and even to look up an old classmate to see if they’ll make it to the next class reunion. 
 
Not everyone has an obituary
Keep in mind that obituaries are optional--not everyone has an obituary. Unless an individual was a well-known community member, written about by newspaper staff, it is up to the family and friends of the deceased to place an obituary or death notice. Most of the time, there is a fee associated with placing an obituary or death notice in a local newspaper, and that may stop some families from submitting one. Also, some families choose privacy and use other methods to notify friends and family of a death. 
 
Where are obituaries published? 
Often, an obituary will be in the local newspaper where the deceased most recently lived, but it may also appear in the newspaper where they previously lived, or a national newspaper if the person was a prominent figure. Since family and friends are in charge of placing an obituary, there may be other places to look for a notice. For example, an alumni association newsletter or a publication related to an organization or hobby that the individual was involved with may publish a remembrance. These days, obituaries may be published on newspaper websites, on a funeral home’s website, or may be found by searching websites that compile obituaries from a variety of online sources. 
 
Finding obituaries at the library
The Multnomah County Library has several resources that include obituaries, both contemporary and historical, most of which require your library card and password to access.
 
  • Heritage Hub (formerly known as America's Obituaries and Death Notices) : Includes obituaries and death notices from a selection of newspapers from across the United States. It’s most useful for more recent obituaries and death notices, though some sources go back to the late 1980s, beyond what a web-based search can do. 
  • The Oregonian Historical (1861-1987) and The Oregonian (1987-present): Both sources have local obituaries and death notices that combine to cover the time period 1861 to today. 
  • Oregon Journal (1902-1982) :  This was the daily afternoon paper (The Oregonian was the morning paper). Only a few people got an obituary in both, so if you don't find one in the Oregonian, check here.
  • Historic Oregon Newspapers: Digital scans of newspapers from around Oregon from as early as 1846 through 2022. Many of these newspapers are from small towns and new titles are being added every year. 
  • Chronicling America: An archive of selected newspapers from many states, covering the years 1777-1963.
  • New York Times Historical (1851-2009) and New York Times (1980-present): These two resources cover the dates 1851 to the present and are good sources for obituaries of people of national and international prominence. 
  • Los Angeles Times: Full text of the Los Angeles Times newspaper from 1985 to today’s newspaper. 
  • America's News (Newsbank): Like Newspaper Source, this contains selected newspapers from across the country. A good source for regional and small newspapers, though we may only have access to a limited date range. 
  • Newspaper Source: Like NewsBank, this contains a range of newspapers from across the country as well as a handful of international sources. It does not include obituaries of non-famous people.
  • Global Newsstream : International papers, some going back to the 1980's. Contains news in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, Russian, Arabic and other languages. A possible source for obituaries for people famous outside of the US.

Looking for an Oregon obituary?
My colleague Emily-Jane has written a blog post about tracking down Oregon obituaries called Where is that Oregon Obituary? It's chock full of ideas about where to search for an obituary or death notice for Oregon residents. 
 
Obituary research can be challenging, but is almost always fun and rewarding. Even if you don’t find an obituary for an individual, you’ll often learn something valuable along the way. 
 

We love to help with your genealogy, house history, missing person, and all other types of research. If you get stuck or just want some help getting started, please contact us! Come to any branch in person or Ask the Librarian!


 

Original text by Kate S.; revised and updated by Lara P. 7/20/22

 

In addition to all the free e-books you can enjoy from the library, there are several web sites that provide access to out of copyright or open source e-books and you can access them any time without your library card.

 

Project Gutenberg provides access to over 45,000 free e-books that you can download for offline reading in either ePUB or Kindle formats, or simple read online through any internet browser. They've digitized all the books themselves, including titles from Jane Austen, Mark Twain, William Shakespeare and many many more.

 

 

 

The Internet Archive and Open Library offers over 6,000,000 public domain e-books, including over 500,000 eBooks for users with print disabilities. You first have to register with the Open Library web site, but then you can "borrow" and read as many e-books as you like.  Featured authors include Charles Dickens, F. Scott Fitzgerald and many modern authors, too!

 

 

Open Culture features access to 600+ e-books and so much more, including audiobooks, free online courses and movies.

 

 

 

HathiTrust is a partnership of academic and research institutions that offers millions of titles digitized from research libraries around the world.  You can browse through the collection and read e-books in both desktop and mobile browsers.

 

 

Google Books allows for full text searching and browsing through millions of books and magazines that have been digitized by Google.

 

 

 

 

Books Should Be Free has e-books and audiobooks from the public domain in English and many other languages. Titles work on Android, iOS, and Kindle.

 

 

Free e-books in other languages can be found at these sites:

 

The International Children's Digital Library contains nearly 5,000 children's book titles in 59 different languages. It also features a kid-friendly search interface, with facets like book cover color and what type of characters the book features.

 

 

 

For Spanish titles, try El Libro Total, which features Spanish classics and Latin American works.

 

 

 

For free French downloadable audiobooks, look no further than AudioCite.

 

 

VietMessenger features Vietnamese ebooks from many genres. Simply register with the web site and download away.

So you've been trying to use primary sources in your research. Maybe you found some great historical documents or speeches. But now you'd like to include some historical images and articles. Read on! (If you need more background about primary sources, start with our blog post Help! I Need to Find Primary Sources!)

There are many places to find historical newspaper and magazine articles. The Historical Oregonian has local newspaper articles from 1861-1987. You’ll also find all the advertisements, photographs, and other images that appeared in the newspaper’s pages. This allows readers to see what life was really like in a certain time period, from world events to the cost of groceries. 

Image of old newspaper
 The New York Times Historical is another good source for U.S. and international news articles. The National Geographic Virtual Library has articles, maps, images and ads from National Geographic magazine, covering the years 1888-1994. All three of these resources require a Multnomah County library card number and PIN.

If your library card’s gone missing, you can find articles from other newspapers in Oregon by searching Historic Oregon Newspapers or newspapers from around the country at the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America site.

One thing to keep in mind when looking for primary sources: these materials come from different time periods, and they reflect the attitudes and language used at the time.  Articles, images and advertisements from the past may use stereotypes or words that are now considered offensive.  And sometimes primary sources may use out-of-date words: cars may be called automobiles or glasses may be referred to as spectacles, for example.

Still have questions? Contact a librarian for help!

Have you been told to use primary sources in your research? Read on for some suggestions!

What are primary sources, anyway?
Revolutionary war map

A primary source is one which was created during the time period being studied. Examples could include documents, speeches/interviews, images, articles (written during the time period), and even artifacts. So, if you are studying the Holocaust, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is considered a primary source. Someone researching the Civil War could use Matthew Brady’s battlefield photographs. And President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” speech is a great primary source for those studying the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Where can I find them?

A great place to begin your search is the digital collections of the Library of Congress, which contain documents, audio recordings, images, videos and maps. Here you can listen to former slaves tell their stories, watch video clips from the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, or view maps from the American Revolution.

The National Archives also has a large collection of primary source materials for students and educators. They are arranged by time period and are keyword searchable. Would you like to see President Kennedy’s academic record at Harvard? Or view a handwritten copy of the Oregon Treaty that set the boundary between the U.S. and Canada?  You’ll find them here.

The Masterfile Premier database contains the text of thousands of primary source documents. To find them, once you are in the database, click on the Advanced Search link. Then enter your search terms in the box at the top, and make sure to choose Primary Source Document in the Publication Type box before you click on Search. You'll need your library card number and password to search Masterfile Premier.

For historic photos, a great place to look is the LIFE Magazine archive (no library card required), which spans the time period from the 1860s and 1970s.

Are you looking for primary sources specifically about Oregon history? The Oregon Digital library searches the collections of libraries around the state to find both documents and images. The Oregon State Archives also has some web exhibits about Oregon history that incorporate primary resources; topics range from the creation of the Oregon constitution to Oregonians’ experiences in World War II.

Still have questions? Check out our blog post on Finding Primary Source Articles or contact a librarian for more help!

Greek and Roman history are subjects that continue to captivate our interests. A large part of this has to do with how much they influence our daily lives in literature, architecture, recreation, government, philosophy, and much, much more.

Even though there are remnants in today’s life, in comparison, life is very different than it used to be. Hour-long baths, arranged marriages, and having your father manage all your business until you are 25-years-old, are just some of the things that were customary then.  Would you be ready for public speaking or to lead an army when you turn 17 like this young adult living in Rome in 73 A.D.?

A glimpse of teenage life in ancient Rome - Ray Laurence

Life was exciting living in the Roman Empire with gladiators, chariot races, and exotic bath houses. It was a time that gave us great leaders such as Augustus, Nero, Julius Caesar, and Claudius. If you were a Roman leader, who would you most resemble?

There are some similarities to what life was like in Greece and Rome, but still, things were varied. Life could be very different even in places as close as Athens and Sparta. Depending on where you were born, and whether you were a boy or a girl, you could have a very different experience from those youth close by. Play this game from The British Museum that allows you compare the lives of both men and women from these two Greek cities, and learn more about daily life in ancient Greece. Be sure to take the Greek “house challenge” to see where you would find men and women hanging out, and doing what, under the same roof.


This is part three of a multi-part series on researching past residents of your Portland-area house:


In the other two installments of this series, I talked about how to use old Portland city directories to find names of people who lived in your house in the past, and about how to find the address your house had before Portland's city-wide address system revision in the early 1930s.

Now we're going to talk about finding past residents of houses that are not in Portland, or that did not used to be in Portland

As I have pointed out, Portland has grown a lot over the last hundred or so years!  Many neighborhoods that now seem like they've been in the city forever were actually annexed fairly recently, for example:

  • If you live in Montavilla, or Richmond, or Foster-Powell or any of the other close-in east-side neighborhoods between 42nd and 92nd, your house wasn't in Portland until sometime between 1900 and 1910.
  • If you live in St. Johns, your neighborhood was its own incorporated city before it joined Portland in 1915.
  • If you live in Multnomah or the neighborhoods to its south and west, your house wasn't inside Portland city limits until the 1940s at the earliest.
  • If you live east of 92nd Ave., or in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood in SE, or the Cully neighborhood in NE, your neighborhood was annexed in the 1980s.

The Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability has a really helpful map of historical annexations to the City of Portland (pdf) which you can consult for more detail.

The historical Portland city directories mostly contain listings only for people and businesses that were, at the time the directory was published, within Portland city limits.  This presents a problem if your house is in Parkrose or Collins View or one of the other neighborhoods that joined Portland after a lot of houses were already built.  So, is it possible to find out who lived in your house in those early, pre-annexation years?

And what if your house is in Maywood Park or Gresham or Fairview or somewhere else near to but outside of Portland?  Is there any way to find out past residents of houses outside of Portland?

The answer to both questions is a qualified "yes."  Yes, it's possible, but, it can be kind of a challenge!  Because each neighborhood or city is different, I can't provide comprehensive instructions for each and every situation, but here are some general tricks you can try:

Other city directories.  The library has many, many city directories for towns and cities around Oregon.  They are often useful, but not always: some smaller-town directories were only published in scattered years, and some have listings by name only, with no by-address section in the back.  R.L. Polk & Co.'s Gresham directories (they began publication with the 1962 edition, pictured at right) are a good example of a smaller-city directory that does include a cross-reference-by-address section in the back.  To consult the Oregon city directory collection, visit the Literature and History room on the third floor at Central Library in downtown Portland.  The librarian on duty can get you started.

Rural directories.  A company called Tscheu Publishing produced a wide variety of rural directories for Oregon localities, which might be useful if your house was in a rural or suburban unincorporated area when it was new.  Most of Tscheu's rural directories contain maps of "rural routes" that were used in lieu of addresses for rural mail delivery, and you may be able to use these maps as a way to look for residents based on the location of rural route boxes.   Tscheu published this series from the late 1950s to the late 1970s, and as with the other non-Portland directories coverage (both for date and for location) is a little spotty.  The Tscheu directories are also located in the Literature and History room at Central Library – ask the librarian on duty there to help you find one for your area.

Search the library's Historical Oregonian (1861-1987) database for your house's address to see if you can find news articles, rental or real estate advertisements, or funeral notices from early issues of the Oregonian daily newspaper that reference your house.  Please note: this can be a tricky database to search!  A comprehensive search for your house's address may require several steps (general tips on searching the Historical Oregonian for mentions of your address are in part two of this series - scroll down to the bottom of the page), and it might help to add the name of your town or neighborhood as well.  Remember, you are searching the words that appeared in the newspaper, so think about what words a homeowner might have included in a classified ad, or about what words a journalist might have used in a local news story.  If you have an questions about using Historical Oregonian (1861-1987) or if you'd like a librarian's help getting started, don't hesitate to contact us.

Contact your local library.  If you live in Clackamas or Washington county, your local library may have more resources to help!  They are the experts about their cities and neighborhoods. Get in touch with your librarians through Washington County Cooperative Library Services or Libraries In Clackamas County.

Search for early owners.  If you can't find a list of residents, you might be willing to settle for a list of owners - who, let's face it, do often live in the houses they own!  You should be able to find a list of everyone who has ever owned your house (including people who owned the land before your house was built), by combing through the property records at your county assessor or recorder's office.  This research can be quite a bit of work – and you'll need to visit the assessor or recorder's office in person – but if you're diligent you should be able to find property records all the way back to the 1850s or 1860s.  If your house is in Multnomah County, you can find records at the Public Records Access room at the Multnomah County Division of Assessment, Recording & Taxation. To research previous owners of property in Clackamas County, visit the Recording Division of the Clackamas County Clerk's office; for Washington County records, go to the Recording Division of the Washington County Assessment & Taxation Division.

And, one wrinkle to consider: old addresses! If your house was in an unincorporated area when it was built, but is in a city now, it is quite possible that it has had a couple of different addresses over time.  If you'd like help gumshoeing that mystery, definitely get in touch with a librarian and we'll get you started.


There you have it, all the basics for finding out who lived in your house in years past!  To get a refresher on using city directories to find out who lived in your Portland house from 1934 to the present, take a look at part one of this series.  Or, re-read part two, in which I discuss basic tools for finding your Portland house's pre-1930s address, and for tracking down pre-1930s residents.

Have fun researching the history of your house; and as always, be sure to ask your friendly librarian any time you have questions, or whenever you'd like help with a research project!


 

 

Can you imagine saying goodbye to almost everyone you know, leaving behind most of your possessions, and traveling 2,000 miles across the country to live in a place you'd never seen? Almost 500,000 people did just this, packing mostly supplies they would need for the journey into covered wagons, and traveling along the Oregon Trail.

The trail started in Missouri, and then went through what is now Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon. History Globe shows an 1843 map of the trail, featuring "Unorganized Territory" (land with no government) and "Oregon Country" (what is now Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and part of Montana and Wyoming). The map will make more sense when you click on the  "modern map" link! The Trail Tour section of the website provides information and images about various stopping points along the trail.

History comes alive when we learn about events through people and their stories. The Oregon Territory and its Pioneers is a gold mine for learning about these stories and what life was like on the trail. The website itself is a pioneer on the Internet, started in 1989. It looks much different than websites that you are used to browsing, but don't let that that keep you from exploring. It is packed with great information. Take a look at the section called "The Journey'" to learn about daily life along the trail. Oregon Trail 101 features some amazing pictures of wagon trains and emigrants. Check out Emigrant Diaries and Journals to learn what people who traveled the trail thought about their experience.

The Oregon and California Trails Association is another great resource for learning about the people who crossed the Oregon Trail. The People and Stories section of the website shares emigrant profiles and trail stories.

Want to take a break from your research and play a game? Actually, you don't have to! The Oregon Trail lets you research while you are playing a game. See how you would have fared on the trail and learn about some of the hardships that those who crossed it faced. This game has been around since the 1980's, so check in with your teacher and family to see if they played the game when they were your age. You can either play the early version of the game online, or download an app. Besides the game, the website shares information about daily life along the trail.

Want to learn more about the Oregon Trail? Just ask a librarian !


This is part two of a multi-part series on researching past residents of your Portland-area house:


House history researchers are often interested in learning who lived in their houses in the past.  In the first post in this series, we explored using city directories to find past residents of Portland houses.  But that only works reliably for 1934-present, because nearly every building in the whole city got a completely new address (and sometimes a new street name) in the early 1930s.  So, what if you want to go back further and find out who lived in your house in 1933, or earlier?  You have come to the right place!  To get started, here's a little background on old and new addresses in Portland:

Portland's 1930s address system revision

House numbering crews at work (photo from the Oregonian 16 July 1933)
The city grew enormously around the turn of the century and each newly-added bit of land had its own street naming conventions and address numbering system.  It was rather chaotic!  In the spring of 1931, the city finally decided to act.  That summer, five-man crews began walking the entire city and assigning new addresses to every building.  Many street names were changed too.  The crews finished their work in July 1933. 

This is how we got the familiar "five quadrants" that we use today: NW, N, NE, SW, and SE.  If your house was built before 1933 and you want to find its early residents, you will need to know the original address.

Finding your house's pre-1933 address

Old and new addresses on 24th St./Ave. in NE Portland (from the Crane Directory of Street and Name Changes)
There are several different ways to track down a pre-1933 address, but the simplest is to look in the Directory of Street and Name Changes published by the Crane Direct Mail Service.  The library has two copies, both at Central Library. Ask at the reference desk in the Literature & History room on the third floor, and the librarian on duty can show you how to use it.

Here's the information the Directory of Street and Name Changes shows for the Magadanz and Schuman family houses that we looked at in the 1934 city directory, in our last blog post:

The Magedanz family house's pre-1930s address was 1075 E 24th St. N (in pink, on the left). The renumbering crews gave it the new address 5115 NE 24th Ave.

Old and new addresses on Market St. in SW Portland (from the Crane Directory of Street and Name Changes)
The Schumans' house was 555 Market St (in white, below and to the left).  After it was changed sometime in 1931 or 1932, it became 1737 SW Market St.

The Directory of Street and Name Changes was published in the 1930s, and meant as a tool for people who had to live through this rather disruptive change.  It shows address changes for buildings that were within the city limits at the time (remember, Portland was much smaller in the 30s than it is now -- check the Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability’s map of historical annexations to the City of Portland (pdf) to see when your neighborhood joined the city).  But, if your house was built before 1933, and it was within the city limits in the early 1930s, it should be included in this cross-reference directory.

Using pre-1930s addresses

Okay, what if you know your Portland house's pre-1930s address, and you'd like to find out who lived there in those early years?  If you want to know who lived in your house in 1930, 1931, 1932, or 1933, look at the Polk's Portland (Oregon) City Directories for those years – they each have a pink section in the back which lists residents by address.  General tips on using city directories are in part one of the Who lived in my house? series.  If you're looking in 1930 or 1931, use the house's older address; if you're looking in 1932 or 1933, you might have to check both the old and the new address, because some neighborhoods had their addresses changed earlier than others.

Finding out who lived in your house in 1929 and earlier

What if you want to find out who lived in your house before 1930?  That can be a challenge, because city directories for 1864-1929 don't have a section in the back with listings by address!

Here are some things to try:

Look for the names of your house's 1930 residents in directories from earlier years.  Maybe they lived there the whole time!

Check to see if the city issued plumbing or sewer permits when your house was built or modified – these sometimes list the owner's name. You can see some early permits by looking for your house in the city's property information database PortlandMaps – type in your address, then click on the "Property" tab, then on the "Historic permits" tab.  (Portland's Development Service Center has more complete historical permit records, so visit their office in downtown Portland if you'd like to dig deeper.)

Search the library's Historical Oregonian (1861-1987) database for your house's pre-1930s address to see if you can find news articles, rental or real estate advertisements, or funeral notices from early issues of the Oregonian daily newspaper that reference your house.  The Historical Oregonian can be a tricky database to search, so here are some tips:

If you are only interested in a limited range of dates, set your search to those dates by clicking on the "Dates and Eras" tab and typing in the years you need.  For example, if your house was built in 1913, you might limit your search to 1913-1932, the approximate date the new Portland address system was finalized.

Type your house's pre-1930s address in with quotation marks around it, like this:

"example street"

If your street had a directional before the 1930s (e.g. "East Pine St.," "E. 9th St. N," or "52nd Ave. SE"), be sure to include it in your search.  Try different variations:

"925 E Pine"
"925 East Pine"

"126 19th St. North"
"126 19 N"
"126 19th N"
"126 19th Street N"
"126 19th Street North"

"52 Ave. SE"
"52nd Avenue SE"
"Fifty Second Avenue South East"


Now you have some basic tools for finding your house's pre-1930s address, and for tracking down residents from the early 30s and before!  To get a refresher on using city directories to find out who lived in your house from 1934 to the present, take a look at part one of this series, and stay tuned for the next installment: Who lived in my house? Houses that are (or were) outside Portland.

Have fun researching the history of your house; and as always, be sure to ask your friendly librarian any time you have questions, or whenever you'd like help with a research project!


 

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