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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!


 


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


If you’re interested in your house’s history, chances are you want to know more about the people who lived there before you moved in.  The good news is, it is usually both easy and fun to find out who lived in your house!   In this post, I'll show you how you can use historical city directories to find information about who lived in houses that are in the city of Portland. 

UPDATE: This post will show you how to find the names of people who lived in your house from 1934 to now. Portland had a massive, citywide address system revision in the 1930s, so finding earlier residents requires an extra step -- finding out your house's pre-1930s address!  We'll deal with that challenge in part two of this series, Who lived in my house? Portland addresses 1933 and earlier.

If your house was within Portland city limits when it was built, or during the time period you want to research, its residents will probably be listed in the Portland city directories.   If you’re not sure when your neighborhood became part of Portland, take a look at the Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability’s map of historical annexations to the City of Portland (pdf).

City directories are a little bit like telephone books, except that they date back way earlier (the first Portland city directory was published by the Polk Company in 1864!).  To look at the library's extensive collection of city directories, visit the Literature & History room on the third floor at Central Library.  The librarian on duty will be happy to help you get started – but here's a bit about how to go about using these valuable resources:

City directories often contain more information about people than phone books do.  In addition to a home address, most people’s city directory listings state their job or occupation, and some include their employer’s name.  Usually only heads of household are listed in city directories, but you’ll see their spouses or (in the case of women who are widows) deceased spouses noted in parentheses.

1934 city directory listing for Lida Schuman
On the right is a listing from the 1934 Polk's Portland (Oregon) City Directory showing that Lida Schuman, widow of Louis L. Schuman, lived in, and probably owned the house at 1737 SW Market St.  (There is an abbreviations code at the beginning of the directory which tells us that "h" means "householder," most likely another way of saying that the person listed both lived in and owned the house.)

Let's look at another one:

1934 city directory listings for the Magedanz family
This listing (also from 1934) tells us that Gustav R. Magedanz, who worked at a business called Pigott & Magedanz, lived with his wife Martha, at 5115 NE 24th Ave.  There is an "h" next to their address too, so they probably owned the house.

A little bit below Gustav and Martha, there are a couple of other people named Magedanz who share the same address: Marvin Magedanz, a millworker; and Norman A. Magedanz, an attendant at Pigott & Magedanz.  These are very likely relatives of Gustav and Martha – maybe their sons or brothers?  Both of their entries have an "r" before the address.  According to the abbreviations list at the beginning of the directory, this "r" means "roomer or resides." Usually this is an indication that the person or family in the listing rents their house or apartment, rather than owning it.  (Marvin and Norman lived in what appears to be their family home, so they may have paid rent, or perhaps not.)

1934 city directory listing for Pigott & Magedanz
Pigott & Magedanz has a listing too (shown at right), which tells us that Gustav R. Magedanz and his partner Thomas A. Pigott operated a gas station at 1035 SW 6th Ave., in downtown Portland. 

Sharp eyes will note, though, that the listings above are alphabetical by name, not by address!  When you are looking for the past residents of your house, you probably don't know their names, right?  Never fear, Portland city directories published in 1930 and after have a special cross-reference section in the back that you can use to see who lived at a particular address. 

1934 city directory listings by address, SW Market St.
Here’s what the by-address listings in the back of the 1934 directory look like – the top excerpt on the left shows Lida Schuman's house at 1737 SW Market St.

1934 city directory listings by address, NE 24th Ave.
And the one below it shows Magedanz family house at 5115 NE 24th.  In both by-address listings, you can see the cross streets at each corner, which can be quite helpful when you're searching for a specific property.

The listings by address don't show as much detail as the listings in the alphabetical-by-name section, but they do sometimes have a little donut symbol to the right of the householder's name.  This means that the person reported that they owned their house.


Now you have a grasp of some of the basics of using city directories to find out who used to live in your Portland house, in 1934 and later!  To learn more about finding past residents of your house before 1934, take alook at the next installment in this series: Who lived in my house? Portland addresses 1933 and earlier.

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!


 

You can find out a lot about how your house might have looked when it was new by leafing through magazines from the period your house was built.

"Shelter" magazines (magazines that focus on interior decorating, gardening, architecture, and related subjects) from the period your house was built are great sources for information, especially if you are willing to browse through them carefully.  Here are a few to try:

  • Better Homes and Gardens (July 1925-present) 
  • House & Garden (1904-2007)  Like a lot of magazines, House & Garden has changed its name over time. Issues from 1904-1993 were called House & Garden; from 1996-1997 it was called Conde Nast House & Garden, and then from 1998-2007 the name was House & Garden again.
  • House Beautiful (1897-present) 
  • Sunset (1898-present)  Sunset was one of the first magazines to celebrate ranch-style houses, and their annual "Idea House" building project has generated dozens of creative and dynamic house designs over the years.

You might also be interested in magazines about historically accurate renovation.  The best-known of these is Old-House Journal (1975-present), and it can be a treasure-trove!  The early issues focus more on 19th century houses, but as the magazine has matured it has come to include renovation and do-it-yourself advice and articles on the history of houses from the early 1800s through the 1960s. 

Some other house renovation and old house style magazines you might find useful are: Old-House Interiors, American Bungalow, and Atomic Ranch.

All of these magazines are available for you to browse at Central Library, on the second floor, in the Periodicals Room.  Ask the friendly librarians in the Periodicals Room to help you locate the specific issues or date range you need!

Questions? Ask the Librarian!

book and e-book
You’ve written something, and it’s time to publish! Self-publishing isn’t what it used to be - expensive, sneered at as a "vanity" project, and often ignored by booksellers. Now you can bring your writing into physical form relatively cheaply, and it can be as glossy and perfect-bound as you like, or if you prefer, hand-stitched and hand-painted. With print-on-demand (POD) services,  you can have one beautiful book printed for a family member or friend, or you can print many to distribute to bookstores. It can also be an e-book - many authors are finding great success with self-published e-books. With a self-published e-book, you can have the satisfaction of getting your book into the hands of readers quickly, via many platforms, and even for free or very low cost. The avenues to self-publishing are diverse!

Because there are so many options, you’ll want to inform yourself as best you can. Things to consider include:

  • Do you want your book to have an ISBN?
  • How do you plan to market your book?
  • Who is the intended audience for your book?

Check out our booklist featuring books about self-publishing. Many of the books on this list discuss these questions, among others, that you should consider as you plan your self-publishing project.

What follows are just a few of the many resources available for you to choose from as you consider your self-publishing process.

If you'd like to be able to hold a print book in your hands, print-on-demand (POD) publishing might be for you. Some popular POD printers include CreateSpace (owned by Amazon.com), Ingram Spark (owned by Ingram, a major book distributor) Lulu, and Blurb. Many POD publishers offer e-book publishing, too. 

If you choose to self-publish an e-book, you might consider using the popular self-publishing services Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)Draft2Digital, or Smashwords

The services listed above are only a few of many available, and the landscape of these services and what they offer changes frequently. These services, whether for print or e-book publishing, vary in terms of rights that you reserve as an author, costs you may incur, the commission they keep from the sales of your books, the support they provide with formatting and design, among other things. Read up on the differences! Please let us know if we can help. 

There some local resources that might be relevant to your project, too: 

  • Portland’s Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) is a membership organization with resources and workshops related to printing and book-making. They also have certificate programs in creative nonfiction/fiction, poetry, and comics/graphic novels.
  •  

If you’re interested in making contact with a local publisher or association, you might find the following organization useful:

  • Publishers Association of the West, which is a large professional association that provides links to its publisher members and associate members, listed by service - printers and editorial services, for example.

For advice and news, the Alliance of Independent Authors has an advice blog about self-publishing.

Are you interested in having your e-book available in the library? OverDrive is a service that many libraries, including Multnomah County Library, use to provide access to e-books. Like publishing houses, self-publishers must fill out a Publisher Application found on OverDrive's Content Reserve site. OverDrive has also created a helpful Intro to Digital Distribution pdf for new authors and publishers. OverDrive's public contact info can be found here. If your e-book is added into the OverDrive catalog, you can then suggest that we purchase it.

MCL also selects e-books written by local authors during our annual Library Writers Project

In your creative work, you may find yourself wondering about copyright law and how it applies to you. We have quite a few books that provide guidance on these subjects - two of these are The Copyright Handbook: What Every Writer Needs to Know by Stephen Fishman and Fair Use, Free Use, and Use by Permission: How to Handle Copyrights in All Media, by Lee Wilson. You’ll find quite a few others under the subject heading Copyright -- United States -- Popular Works.

Have fun, enjoy the process, and feel empowered to get your work into print! As always, please let us know if we can help direct you to books or other resources to help with your project. 

 

 

You can find lots of detailed information about your neighborhood, your street, or even your house from maps. The maps below have historical information about property ownership, building footprints, old out-of-date addresses, and more! 

Digital Sanborn Maps. Library resource containing digital versions of Sanborn fire insurance maps for Oregon for various dates. Compiled for insurance companies, these maps show the location and composition of buildings. They also note potential fire hazards like gas stations, lumber mills, movie theaters, bakeries, and show the location of steep slopes, water mains, and other infrastructure details. Maps for Gresham, Troutdale, and Portland are in this collection, as are maps for the former cities of St. Johns, Albina, and Multnomah (now all part of the city of Portland). Be ready to enter your library card number and PIN; this is a special library resource!

The Portland Block Book. Two-volume book of maps of the city of Portland, circa 1907, showing ownership of residential property and other real estate information. You'll need to know a property's legal description -- the name of the addition/subdivision and the block and lot numbers to use this book. You can usually get the legal description of a property from PortlandMaps (see below). Visit Central Library to use this two-volume set in person.

Metsker's Atlas of Multnomah County, Oregon. Atlases showing the names of property owners (for larger lots), lot lines and street names. The library has Metsker atlases from 1927, 1936, and 1944, as well as atlases for Clackamas, Washington and most other Oregon counties. Visit Central Library to use the Metsker atlases in person.

PortlandMaps. Maps and current property information for Portland and much of the surrounding area, including maps, tax information, crime data, school and park information and more.

 

You may have heard a rumor that your house was "bought by mail order."  What does that mean, you might wonder?  Or you might have noticed that there are twins of your house dotted around your neighborhood.  Were all those twins built by the same company? 

It might be that your house was built from a mail-order plan -- or it could be that your house was bought fom a mail-order company that supplied the plans and a complete set of building materials cut to size and ready to assemble.   Mail-order houses like these are the ancestors of modern manufactured homes, but they were built on-site by carpenters using traditional techniques, just like architect-designed houses of the same historical period. 

The websites below showcase archives of house plans from mail-order home companies. They show exterior views of each house (some in color), floor plans, and prices.  Since most mail-order house companies also sold a multitude of cabinetry, fancy trim, plumbing and lighting fixtures, and furniture, you can sometimes get an idea for popular interior design of the period as well.

I should also remind you, the library has books with old mail-order floor plans in them too!   

Questions? Ask the Librarian!  We'd be glad to offer you some personalized help with your research project.

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