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A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
What do writers need? Virginia Woolf famously said that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction” (in the essay A Room of One’s Own), but of course that’s not all, and not for everyone (men, poets, playwrights…). Writers need time, and space to pursue their craft. Writers need support, which can take the form of opportunities to read aloud, or to hear other writers talking about writing, or a community of supportive critical readers.

There are lots of organizations in the Portland area that offer resources for writers! Some are free, others are cheap (though not all). They involve various commitments of time. Here are some local organizations, roughly grouped  - but you’ll see that they are hard to categorize… 

Writing groups, workshops, and classes

The Attic Institute presents workshops, classes, and individual consultation about writing projects.

Lewis and Clark Northwest Writing Institute offers classes for community members.

The Mountain Writers Series presents monthly readings and writing workshops. The links section of their webpage connects to a huge number of other local organizations!

The Multnomah Arts Center offers some wonderful literary arts classes.

PDX Writers facilitates workshops and retreats.

Portland State University has a few different academic programs in creative writing.

VoiceCatcher is a nonprofit connecting and empowering women writers in Portland.

Write Around Portland offers free creative writing workshops in social service settings, and creates publication and reading opportunities for workshop participants.

Cultivate Writing and Meditation Retreats for women. Twice annually, Hood River.

Membership organizations

The Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) offers resources and workshops related to printing and book-making. They also have certificate programs in creative nonfiction/fiction, poetry, and comics/graphic novels.

Oregon Poetry Association, Oregon’s oldest and largest literary organization, offers community, contests, and conferences.

Oregon Writers Colony offers community, conferences and workshops, and the use of a beach house writing retreat!

Rose City Romance Writers, the Portland, Oregon chapter of Romance Writers of America, educates, supports, and mentors published and unpublished romance writers.

Willamette Writers hosts regular meetings for the exchange of ideas related to writing and craft.

Reading series

Literary Arts’ programs include Portland Arts and Lectures, Writers in the Schools, the Oregon Book Awards and Fellowships, and Delve Readers Seminars.

There are many different reading series in Portland! You could head out to hear writers read their work at the Free Range Poetry series at the Northwest Library,  Mountain Writers series, the Spare Room series, the Loggernaut reading series, the submission reading series, Burnt Tongue, Unchaste Readers, or The Switch... you could catch a reading when the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (FWWA) Pacific Northwest Reading Series has a Portland event...  or you could see one of the many readings at Powell's Books! The Notable Portland column on The Rumpus lists select awesome events, mostly literary oriented.

Other stuff

Last but certainly not least, Multnomah County’s Central Library offers the Sterling Room for Writers, where writers can find a quiet work space in close proximity to all the resources the library has to offer. Interested writers must submit an application and be approved to gain access to the room.

I was practically sobbing last summer as I scrubbed away eleven years worth of smudges and fingerprints on the walls of a hallway leading down to my basement. Not because I don’t especially enjoy housework, or because it's hard getting a house ready to sell when you've lived in it for a long time with a rather slovenly family, or because the prospect of finding a new house to buy was stressful, although all those things are true. My face was wet with tears because a character I’d come to love in my audio book had met a terribly sad end. When my husband, who was doing some other chore, passed by on his way to the basement and gave me a quizzical look, I flopped back my hair to show him my headphones, and he nodded. 

I'm too busy-- just like everyone else in the 21st Century, right?--but I have to have books in my life, not only because they matter to me, but because staying on top of what’s happening in the world of books is part of my job. Audio books have been my secret weapon. I can read on the way to Trader Joe's, while I make fish tacos for dinner, while I get the exercise that is so important to my mood, while I clean up the clutter in my house. 

I resisted audio books for awhile. The experience is, admittedly, different from reading a “real” book. And I tend to try to save things that are deeper or more complex for reading on an actual printed page. But some books are actually better in audio. I always feel a little sad for people who are checking out David Sedaris' printed books at the library, because I love them so much in Sedaris’s very unique voice. And listening to Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman is an absolutely lovely experience. Her current English accent is very pleasant to listen to, but sometimes in the course of the story, she uses the accent she had in her working class, Northern English childhood, which is hilarious. Libba Bray’s The Diviners is set in 1920s New York City, and the voice actor does an astonishing job with a wide variety of characters. There's a showgirl who sounds a lot like Mae West, and the main character sounds a little like Gracie Allen. The reader's narration brings an already wonderful book to life and makes it even better. And did you know that there’s an audio book of Graham Greene’s romantic, moody novel, The End of the Affair that is read by Colin Firth? Come on. Colin Firth speaking right into your ears. This could make even cleaning out the cat box a transcendent experience. If you enjoy audio books and want ideas for a new one to listen to, take a look at some lists I made. There's one for young adult fiction, one for adult fiction, and one list of great audio books that are read by the author. And please-- let me know if there are more good books in our collection that you think are better in the audio version.

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!

So, now that it’s legal, you are planning to marry. Congratulations!!

If you are organizing a wedding celebration or party in addition to your legal ceremony, you have some work ahead of you.  No matter the size or formality of your event, you’ll probably have to at least invite people and find a place to celebrate in.  If you want a huge party with tons of people in lovely outfits, flowers, a big cake, party favors and a unicorn; well, that’s going to require a lot of organization.  But never fear, librarians are always here to help!

What does organizing your wedding look like?  I’d say the answer depends entirely on you and your intended spouse.  One thing working in your favor is that, um, you’re not straight.  Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer people have long had the joy -- and the burden -- of defining their own relationships and building their own rules for living.  So make your wedding yours.  Here are a few resources to help you get started:

Books and articles

There are precious few books written specifically to aid same-sex couples in wedding planning, but the library has a few you may want to consult:

Despite their queer focus, these books are all pretty traditional.  Folks who are looking for stories and images of trans people and couples, or weddings that center on specific aspects of gay culture and style may not find them in these -- or in any books. That’s not a surprise, but it is a disappointment.  If your wedding planning is taking you in a direction that isn’t well-served by the mainstream media, you might want to do some more, shall we say, basic research.

Depending on your needs, you might start with wedding how-to books that were written for a general (yeah, mostly straight!) audience.  The library has tons, including books on wedding decorations, wedding photography, making or designing your wedding cake, wedding traditions, making or styling your wedding dress/es.  Or, you might want to take a look at general books about costume history, flower arranging or planning a non-wedding type of party.  Will your wedding have a theme?  Chances are, the library has books, magazine articles, or other materials that will help you incorporate that theme into your celebration -- contact a librarian to get started.  

Queer-friendly wedding businesses

Even in the first blush of marriage equality here in the Beaver State, it can be a bit tricky to find trusted, queer-friendly wedding business and other resources. Try Purple Unions, a national directory of gay-friendly wedding vendors -- they list a variety of Oregon wedding venues, photographers, wedding planners, and other wedding services and professionals.  

Do you have more questions?

Librarians are ready to help you find answers!  Whether you’re looking for help finding the perfect queer-positive tailor or you want some inspiration for writing your vows, we are happy to help.  Ask a librarian anytime.

And, be sure to check out the library’s booth at the Pride Festival, June 14 and 15 at Tom McCall Waterfront Park!


 

Portland’s newest bridge was officially named Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People today by TriMet, and I thought you might be interested in a little background on the familiar word "tilikum,”* and Chinuk Wawa, the language of which it is part.

First, tilikum!

Here's a definition of the word from Chinuk Wawa: kakwa nsayka ulman-tilixam laska munk-kemteks nsakya - As our elders teach us to speak it, a Chinuk Wawa dictionary, grammar, and text for learners produced by the Chinuk Wawa Dictionary Project of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon.  This definition is supported by an etymological note, which gives the historical roots of the word.

Chinuk Wawa

Chinuk Wawa is a trade language, used historically by people from many different language traditions.  In the nineteenth and very early twentieth centuries, it was the lingua franca of Native people and foreigners all around the lower Columbia river area.  But although this language is no longer heard throughout our region as a part of the sound of everyday business, it is by no means lost. 

In addition to spearheading the Chinuk Wawa dictionary project, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde hosts a regular series of Chinuk Wawa language classes, which are free to all -- though my sense is that it is expected that learners will become teachers also, nurturing the language and sharing their experiences with it.  Classes take place in Portland as well as at Grand Ronde and in Eugene.  The teacher for the Portland classes, Eric Michael Bernando, also teaches a Chinuk Wawa class at Portland Community College.

Older definitions of tilikum. . .

As I said, the library has many English / Chinuk Wawa dictionaries and glossaries.  Most are quite old, and these older dictionaries are all (so far as I can tell) written by non-Native scholars who learned the language as adults.  Therefore, their definitions may have the benefit of research done among fluent speakers from 100 years ago or more, but they don't have the authority of modern scholarship rooted in Native communities.  However, I do want to share one of these definitions with you, from The Chinook Book, by El Comancho (W.S. Phillips), published waaay back in 1913.  It's a fairly rich definition, with lots of examples of idiomatic usage.

 


* I've used the spelling "tilikum" throughout this post, because it's the spelling TriMet chose for the name of the new bridge.  As you can see, many different transliterations and spellings of this, and other Chinuk Wawa words have been used over time -- tilacum, tillikum, tilixam, and no doubt many others. 


 

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!


 


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 ebook, 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 ebook publishing, too. 

If you choose to self-publish an ebook, 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 ebook 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 organizations useful:

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 ebooks 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.

 

Many new amateur house historians find determining their home's historic period and style to be a challenging task. You can usually find the date your house was built by looking it up in PortlandMaps or contacting your local County Assessor's office, but figuring out what it might have looked like when it was new can be difficult!

Once you've looked through a few guides to historic periods in architecture, try looking at some of these resources to get a more detailed idea of how houses were designed and decorated in the past:

  • Mail order house plans and design catalogs [blog post].  List of websites featuring scans of late 19th and early-mid 20th century house plan catalogs.  People used these catalogs to shop for a new house -- they either bought the plans and had a builder construct them, or bought a house kit, which came with plans and all the materials (neat, right?). 
  • Floor plan books [reading list]. Reprints of house plan catalogs, simliar to the ones featured in the blog post above, which you can check out from the library!
  • Using old magazines to identify house styles [blog post].  Guide to researching house-style and architectural history information in the library's collection of old (and new!) magazines.
  • Color scheme & design books [reading list]. Books focusing on the history of paint colors and color design of the late 19th and early-mid 20th century.

A teacher from a childcare center recently contacted me for some library resources. She was looking for few board books, a picture book or two, a music CD, and a few rhymes with interesting content for infants and toddlers, all related to the same theme. My immediate thought was Multnomah County Library’s collection of Storytime It’s in the Bags. We have 20 themed bags for toddlers (ages 18 mths—3 yrs) and another 21 bags for preschool-aged children (3—6 years). Each bag centers on a theme and contains five books, a small toy, game, puzzle or music CD related to the theme, and an activity sheet. The sheet has a couple of rhymes or games to play with children to extend the theme, as well as some tips for sharing books with children to effectively help them gain the skills they need to become successful readers. These bags are perfect for busy childcare teachers, family childcare providers and parents who want to share thematic materials with the little ones in their care. The Storytime bags are a popular resource and they are available on the shelves in some MCL locations. The easiest way to get your hands on these bags is to look through the toddler and preschool bag lists and place holds on the ones you would like to share with the kids in your life.

MCL also has bags for infants and their caregivers (0-6 months, 6-12 months and 12-18 months). Another new set of resources are the Bolsitas de Cuentos, which are themed bags with books in Spanish and bilingual English/Spanish. The Cuentos bags contain books appropriate for children 0-5 years old, and are fun for Spanish-speaking families and families who are working at being bilingual.

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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