Who lived in my house? Dig deeper

Did searching in Portland city directories, or in Gresham and rural directories help you find all the past residents of your house? If not, try these other resources and strategies.

Search digitized newspapers

You may be able to find news articles, rental or real estate advertisements, or funeral notices that reference your house. 

Search tips

  • If your house was built before the early 1930s, don’t forget to search for your house’s old street address
  • Use quotes to search for a phrase (eg. “468 Roselawn” or “124 SW Meade”).
  • Experiment with keywords. Think about what words a homeowner might have included in a classified ad, or what words a journalist might have used in a local news story. 
  • If you know the name of an early resident, try searching for it.
  • If you get really stuck, we can help! Contact us by email, phone or chat – or ask for help at any library.

Contact your local library

If you live in Clackamas or Washington county, your local library can help. They are 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 can look for a list of owners. After all, they might have lived in the house too! By combing through the property records at your county assessor or recorder's office (in person), you can compile a list of previous owners. Find owners from 1850 to present. You might also find the names of people who owned the land before your house was built. 

Written property records

The location where Portland was built has always been a place of meeting, commerce and culture. First for Indigenous people and then for settlers and immigrants. Local tribes did not originally use written documents to record how they used and owned the land. When Oregon became a U.S. territory and then a state, the government created a system of property ownership documents. These documents helped solidify the newcomers’ claims to own and control the land. This is why written property records go back to the 1850s, but no earlier. 

Out-of-date addresses

If your house was in an unincorporated area when it was built, but it’s in a city now, it’s possible that it has had a couple of different addresses over time. Contact a librarian for help researching old addresses.

Ask us!

If you have more questions, or find yourself in a research puzzle, the library can help. Contact us by email, chat, or telephone and explain where you’re stuck. We’ll do our best to help you find the answers you need.