Who lived in my house? East of I-205

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City directories are great tools for finding out who lived at a specific address in the past. Historical Portland city directories contain listings for people and businesses that were within Portland city limits when the directory was published.  

Multnomah County has other cities, and plenty of houses in rural areas. Many Portland neighborhoods were built up before joining the city. If your house wasn’t in Portland when it was built, other directories can help you learn who lived there in past years. 

City directories for Oregon communities  

Gresham Library and Central Library have directories for Gresham and other nearby areas. These directories have a by-address section, which includes houses and businesses within the then-current city limits of Gresham. They also include many addresses in the Cully, Parkrose, Brentwood-Darlington, Powellhurst-Gilbert, Hazelwood, Mill Park and Centennial neighborhoods. These neighborhoods were outside Portland city limits until the 1980s.

Historical Gresham and Portland East Suburban city directories on a bookshelf at Central Library.

The library has many city directories for towns and cities around Oregon, but some are incomplete resources. Some smaller-town directories were published in irregular years, include listings by name only, or don’t include an index by address. 

To consult directories from Oregon cities beyond Gresham and Portland, visit the nonfiction room at Central Library. The librarian on duty can get you started.

Rural directories  

Tscheu Publishing produced a wide variety of rural directories for Oregon localities. These 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." These were used for rural mail delivery (instead of the street addresses rural houses have now). 

Close-up of a map of Gresham Rural Route Number 2 from the 1977 rural route directory of Multnomah and Clackamas counties.

You may be able to use these maps to look for residents based on the location of rural route boxes. Tscheu published this series from the late 1950s to the late 1970s. As with the other non-Portland directories, coverage (both for date and for location) is spotty.

Dig a little deeper

If you can’t find your house’s past residents using city directories or rural directories, try these suggestions for other creative ways to research who lived in your house