City Directories – 2019 Update

US Census Records are essential records used in genealogical research. They are a treasure trove of information; however, they come out only once every ten years leaving huge gaps.  With the 1890 census having lost so many records in a fire, often there is a twenty-year gap in our family research.  Don’t overlook city directories as a potential source to fill in those gaps.

Many cities and counties have had directories published over the years.
They were created for salespeople and merchants to be able to contact businesses and individuals.  Every publisher had their format for information they presented, but if you find one that includes your ancestor, it can be the source for new information.

Typically, city directories give the name and address of the head of the household.  Often they give the wife’s name, usually in parenthesis, and sometimes the names of adult children living at the same address. They also typically provide the occupation of the individual.  Sometimes there is a reverse directory included which goes by street address and contains the names of the individuals living there. Always look for your ancestor in the name section, the business section, and, if included, the reverse directory to see who else might live at the address.

Sometimes a directory can provide an answer to a question or clarify what was happening.  As an example, for many years I thought a great-grandmother of mine moved from one address to another on the same street.  I thought it was odd, but not unheard of before. A city directory revealed that they renumbered the street one year. The neighbors stayed the same, but the numbers changed for all of them.

Directories often show maps, street name changes, addresses of businesses, churches, schools, cemeteries, post offices, hospitals, newspapers and the like.  Some will give a history of the city as well as the names of elected officials.

Another significant bit of information often given is if a person is a widow.  That can be key to narrowing down the year of someone’s death and provides a “died before” date.  In some occasions, the city directory may even list marriages, and deaths, including date, during the previous year.

Online Resources

Google Books is always worth a quick look to see if they have a directory you need. Go to books.google.com and then enter in the search box: City Directory [city of interest].  You may be surprised at what is available online. I noted the 1850-51 City Directory for Portland, ME, was available as a free eBook.

Probably better than Google Books is Google’s US Online Historical Directories site. A click on “Maine” shows that eight of the 16 counties have directories online and that seven Portland City Directories are available online.  Five of those directories are accessible through Don’s List, which is one of my favorite online sources for information. Check them out at: (www.donlist.net).

Another excellent source for directories is the Internet Archive (www.archive.org) and has Many Maine directories. A quick search of Directory Maine yielded 257 results including directories for Lewiston, Casco Bay, Bangor, and Portland.

One of the best sources for Directories is Family Search. After logging in, select Search – Catalog. Then under titles, enter Directory and State.  For “Directory Maine” there are 64 results returned. Be sure to look at the available directories closely. There is a directory for “Greater Portland” and directories for “Portland” which are separated by quite a bit.  Many of the directories are still only available on microfilm at various libraries but pay attention to them as they are likely to become available online soon.

Of course, Ancestry has many directories available with a subscription.  A search for “Directory” in the title with a keyword of “Maine” yielded 27 results. Several of them were city directories.

Off-Line Resources

Many libraries and historical societies have city directories in their possession. It is always worth an email or telephone call to find out if a library has a city directory. Often, they will do a look-up for you without charge or for a small fee.  Occasionally the directories have been microfilmed so be sure to speak with a reference librarian who knows the various collections available on microfilm. Sometime those resources may be ordered via interlibrary loan.

Scarborough Historical Society & Museum Collection[1]

Thomas Henley Collection, Shelf K-12

The Scarborough Museum has a small collection of city directories of Portland, including the following:

  • 1942 – Thomas Henley – K11
  • 1952 – Thomas Henley – K11
  • 1956 – (Upstairs Archive)
  • 1963 – Thomas Henley – K04
  • 1965 – Thomas Henley – K12
  • 1970 – Thomas Henley – K12
  • 1975 – Thomas Henley – K12
  • 1977 – Thomas Henley – K12

These directories are available for members to use at the museum for research.  If you cannot make it to the museum, the Genealogy Volunteers will be happy to look up a couple of names for you. Just let them know the surname and the year.

Of course, if you have a Greater Portland city directory, or another directory that includes Scarborough, please consider donating it to the museum.  We would be extremely pleased to add it to our collection.

Other Public Collections

 The Scarborough Public Library also has many city directories including Greater Portland & Surrounding Communities from 1960 thru to the current 2019 directory.

The South Portland Historical Society also has many city directories, plus it is a great museum to visit. Check it out.

Finally, both the Maine Historical Society in Portland and the Maine State Library in Augusta have substantial collections of interest to genealogists that include many city directories. Either are great resources.


Endnotes

  1.  I am a volunteer at the Scarborough Historical Society and Museum. I am using it in this article as an example of what might be available at any local historical society.

1841 Tax Valuation Records

Museum Monday

Image of the Cover of the Scarborough, Maine, Tax Valuation book for 1841.
1841 Tax Valuation Book

It was a great week for me at the Scarborough Historical Society Museum. On Tuesday, three of us traveled up to the Maine State Library in Augusta and began working on scanning several Tax Valuation Books from the Town of Scarborough. They have a Zeutschel OS 12002 – it is a multi-camera book scanner that creates high-resolution images of bound and oversized materials. It is capable of correcting for page curvature as well as recognizing and indexing printed text. The scanned images were then combined into a PDF file. A “Scarborough Books” collection was created and the PDF file uploaded with some metadata information. Thank you so much for the assistance of Adam Fisher of the Maine State Library for his help and assistance in this Project.

The Valuation books provide information about property owners and voters who were Scarborough residents and some info about non-residents who owned property in Scarborough. If you have ancestors who lived in Scarborough in 1841, this book may provide information of interest. It gives things like how many acres of land they owned and how it was being used as well as how many horses, cows, and pigs they owned.

We also have Valuations Books for 1875, 1890, 1892, and 1900 digitized. I’ll be working on getting those images available online over the next few weeks.

  • The Scarborough Historical Society post about the 1841 image is here.
  • The actual download from Digital Maine is here.

The 1841 Scarborough Tax Valuation Book is a great resource to add texture to your family history and genealogical research.

Maine Marriage Records

By Don Taylor

photo of hole in a brick wall
Hole in Brick Wall – Photo by counterclockwise via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

I recently had the opportunity to be a Genealogy “brick wall buster,” which is a person who helps someone break through their genealogical brick walls. They say teaching a subject helps the teacher learn the topic even more. Likewise, helping others with their “brick walls” is an amazing process wherein I learn so much more. Anyway, one of my querists wanted to know, How to find marriage records in Maine.

As I thought about how I would approach the question I thought of several Wikis and ask the person if they used the Family Search wiki. She said, “No.” As I went through the day, I realized how few people knew about the two best genealogy wiki sites on the Internet. Everyone I spoke to during the day used Family Search and Ancestry.Com, but none of them ever used either of the two wikis.

I prefer the Family Search wiki. http://familysearch.org/wiki.  It seems to always provide the answer to my research questions.  For example, a search for Maine Marriage Records brings me to a page about the differences in records before 1892, between 1892 and 1922, and since 1922.

The Ancestry Wiki: http://ancestry.com/wiki/ is also a hidden gem – a fountain of information. Many people have subscriptions to Ancestry and many others access Ancestry through their local libraries, but I found few use the Ancestry Wiki. The results received from searching the Ancestry Wiki for “Maine Marriage Records,” was not quite as clear as Family Search but did quickly lead me to a Maine Vital Records page, which also told me all I needed to know.

The Maine Genealogy Network is one of my favorite sites for specifically Maine research. They have many Maine Specific databases, see http://www.mainegenealogy.net/databases.asp for a list of them. There is also a great article about “Finding Maine County Marriage Returns”

http://network.mainegenealogy.net/profiles/blogs/maine-county-marriage-returns, which explains methods to access some of the early Maine marriage records that may exist.

Scarborough Records

For Scarborough Records, the Cumberland County Marriages from 1786 thru 1886 may be browsed on the Family Search site at https://familysearch.org/search/catalog/553508. Look for the camera icon at the bottom right to see the images.

Image of Book Cover - Vital Records of Scarborough Maine.

There is a great book, Vital Records of Scarborough, Maine by James H. Wick published by the Maine Genealogical Society (MGS). The book is currently out of print and unavailable from the MGS, however, Minerva indicates it is available at several libraries in the area, (See https://tinyurl.com/ycb5ga9x) including the Scarborough Public Library. We also have a copy of it at the Scarborough Museum which may be viewed at the museum.

Also at the museum, we have several boxes of microfilm.  As an example, one of the boxes, Number 225, is a reel of “Town Records Births prior to 1891 with some dates to 1908, deaths ca. 1819-1891, intentions of marriage and marriage records 1816-1879.  I need to find a way to get these digitized and available or, better yet, find where someone else has already digitized these records.

Do you know of additional Maine Marriage Record sources available?  If so, please let me know through the comment form below.

Digitize those Photos!

By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.I advocate digitizing everything that can be digitized, particularly photographs. I was recently speaking with a person at the museum about a photo that she had of the Cunningham family. She showed me the old, faded photo and I asked immediately if it was digitized. I learned it was not. “Oh my,” I said, “we need to fix that.“ I explained the importance of digitizing photos as I went to get the light set for photographing.

Besides the importance of having a backup copy of the photo, electronic versions are easy to share. You can easily send a copy to cousins that may not have the photo. You can also post the photos on-line at many sites including Flickr, Google, Picasa, blogs, and other places to act as “cousin bait.” Finally, electronic versions of a photo may be cleaned up and made much more viewable quite simply and easily.  That is what I suggested to my museum visitor.

I photographed a couple of the larger photos with my camera then scanned a few of the smaller photos with a Flip-Pal.  It does a nice job of scanning photos without needing a computer.

To me, it is important to rename files immediately.  Filenames like DSCN1234 or Scan567 are useless. I know many folks like to use meta data, but I find having key information in the file name is much better. I use the form of, Subject, Context/Action, Place, Source, Date, and Status. I leave out the Place and Source if they aren’t important. That is the date of the image, not the date of the scan.  But, sometimes an image’s date might be something like “c. 1930s.”

Original scan of Charle & Carrie Cunningham & Family (in PNG Format)

In the case of the first photo, I knew that it was a Charles and Carrie Cunningham Family group photo. My guess is that the context might be something like 50th wedding anniversary of them; if so, it would be from 1928. Alternately, the clothes look to be from the early 1930s. So, I’m going to hazard a guess of c. 1930. So, I used the filename Charles & Carrie Cumming with Family – c. 1930.

I use different file extensions for different purposes. I use TIFF format for all my original scans and photographs. I then use JPEG format for all working and shared images. Finally, I use PDF for any images with text after I have run optical character recognition (OCR) on the image. The file types immediately tell me if the image is an original or if it has been edited. Occasionally, I use PNG for original files, particularly if I need to share an original. PNG files use compression to be smaller than TIFF files in size. I use them on images that are particularly large, typically more than 50MB as a TIFF. To give an idea of the various sizes, the following table shows the file sizes for the Charles & Carrie Cumming with Family – c. 1930 file.

TIF/TIFF PNG JPEG/JPG
Uncompressed Lossless Compression Lossy Compression
30.2MB 11.1MB 5.6 MB (Edited)

Next, I open the original file. I use Preview on a Mac.  It is really quick and it is easy to do almost everything I’d like to do. Windows computers have many other photo and/or image products which work very well also. After the file is opened, I immediately export it to JPG format. I then close my TIFF file and open the JPG file. I only ever manipulate or edit the JPG file.

I like to rotate the file and crop the file as appropriate.  If I can leave a ½ in border on the bottom during the cropping process, I do so.

For scanned black and white photos I set the saturation to 0; that eliminates any greens, or other weird colors from the image.  Next, I adjust the image exposure and contrast to provide the best possible image for the faces of the people.  Once I am happy with that image, I raise the sepia to a level that is easier on the eyes than a stark black and white.  Then I save the photo again. Just these few steps only take me about a minute and provides a much higher quality image to use and share, yet maintains the original in an untouched state so the process may be duplicated if desired.

Charles & Carrie Cumming with Family edited.
Charles & Carrie Cumming with Family edited.

I mentioned earlier about leaving a ½ inch border on the bottom of the photo.  That is to add a caption if possible.  In the case of a photo of Thomas Burdwood, the original was smallish and had aged pinkish over the years. Once again, I duplicated the photo, cropped it, set color saturation to 0, adjusted the exposure and contrast and sepia level.  Once I was done with that, I added text to the image of the individual’s name (based upon what was on the back of the photo) and saved it.

Thomas Burdwood Original Scan

Drawing of Thomas Burdwood
Thomas Burdwood edited

Of course, once a photo has had its initial edit, you can use many other image enhancement tools to remove creases, spots, or otherwise improve the photo.

Scanning photos greatly increase the likelihood that they won’t be lost. Keeping your original scan pristine means you can always return to the original and manipulate the image again. Finally, the manipulated and compressed version not only make the photo nicer to view it makes the image more shareable.

Ancestor Biography – Martha Angeline Libby (1863-1938)

Whitten Project
Whitten/Libby Line

By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.Ever since I started volunteering at the Scarborough Historical Society I’ve been hearing stories that all the Libby’s in Maine are descended from one person – John Libby. According to several accounts, John Libby settled in Scarborough about 1630 and was one of the earliest settlers.  Naturally, I was excited when I learned that my sister-in-law’s great-grandmother was a Libby.  Would I be able to connect her Libby ancestor into the long line of famous Maine Libby’s?

Whitten Project – Ancestor #9

List of Grandparents

  • Grandfather: Herbert Winfield Whitten
  • 1st Great-grandmother: Martha Angeline Libby
  • 2nd Great-grandfather: Charles G. Libby

Martha Angeline Libby (1863-1938)

Martha Angeline Libby[i] was born in March of 1863[ii], in Limerick, York County, Maine. She was probably the third child of Charles G. and Jane H. Libby.

Childhood

The 1870 Census is key in understanding her childhood. The census shows her father is a farm laborer and her mother is keeping house.  Also, living with them is Marietta, a 13-year-old girl who is working in the woolen mill and is also attending school. The 1870 Census does not include relationships, but I’m assuming she is an older sister unless I learn otherwise.  Also, is her older sister Harriett, who likewise is attending school. Seven-year-old Martha doesn’t appear to have begun school at that time.[iii]

The 1880 Census finds the 17-year-old Martha still at home in Limerick with her parents and her sister Hattie (Harriett). Her father is still a farm laborer.[iv]

Marriage

In 1882, Martha married Daniel Winfield Whitten[v]. And the family stays in Limerick and they begin to have children.

Adulthood

  • Life map of Martha Libby Whitten
    Martha Libby Whitten lived her entire life in York County, Maine

    Herbert Winfield Whitten was born on 3 September 1883 in Limerick.[vi]

  • Charles Libby Whitten was born in January 1886 in Limerick.[vii]
  • Muriel Arvella Whitten was born 7 Sep 1890 in Limerick.[viii]

The 1900 Census indicates that Martha had had three children and all three were alive, she and Herbert had been married for 18 years, and were then living about 15 miles south in Shapleigh, ME.

  • Newsen Whitten was born about 1901
  • Leland W. Whitten was born about 1904.

The 1910 Census indicates that Martha had had five children and all five were alive. The couple had moved to Kennebunkport and lived on Kennebunk Road. All the kids were living with them and were either working or attending school.[ix]

The 1920 Census shows Daniel and Martha Angeline “Angie” living on Portland Road in Kennebunk[x].  Herbert and Charles had moved on, so Muriel, Newsen, and Leland were the only children remaining at home.

The 1930 Census shows Daniel and Martha still on Portland Road in Kennebunk. Their daughter, Muriel, had moved in with her husband John Hayes.

Death

Marker of Daniel & Martha A. Whitten
Marker – Daniel & Martha A Whitten
Photo by “Airborne Steve” via Find a Grave.

Martha Angeline (Libby) Whitten died in 1938.[xi] She was survived by her husband, Daniel Winfield Whitten and at least four, if not all five, of her children. She is buried in Highland Grove cemetery in North Shapleigh, York County, Maine.

Libby Family Search

I then just had to look at The Libby Family in America 1602-1881 by Charles T Libby. Would I find Martha Angeline Libby.  Yes! She was listed. I now had an entry point into THE Libby family for Martha.  The book shows, on page 399, Martha Angeel Libby born on 23 March 1863 in Limerick, whose parents are Charles Gardner Libby and Jane H. Warren. It also shows an older sister, Hattie. Definitely, the right person.

Based upon The Libby Family in America 1602-1881, we learned that Charles’s father was William Libby, born in Limerick, Me., 21 June 1811; married, 28 Nov. 1830, Martha Libby.

Whose father was Joseph Libby, born in that part of Kittery, Me., which is now Eliot, 13 May 1767; married, 1795, Sarah Staples, daughter of Samuel and Sarah (Mendum) Staples of Scarborough.

Libby Line followed

Whose father was Azariah Libby, born 1740, in Kittery, now Eliot; Married Dec. 1762, Elizabeth Paul.

Whose father was Matthew Libby, born probably during his father’s stay in Portsmouth, 1690-1700; married 3 Sept. 1730, Mary Nason.

Whose father was Matthew Libby, born in Scarborough, in the year 1663 ; married Elizabeth Brown, daughter of Andew Brown, one of the principal inhabitants of Black Point.

Whose father was John Libby – the Immigrant (1602-1682) and the 8th great-grandfather of my sister-in-law. How fun is that.

UPDATED List of Grandparents

  • Grandfather: Herbert Winfield Whitten
  • 1st Great-grandmother: Martha Angeline Libby
  • 2nd Great-grandfather: Charles G. Libby
  • 3rd Great-grandfather:  William Libby
  • 4th Great-grandfather:  Joseph Libby
  • 5th Great-grandfather: Azariah Libby
  • 6th Great-grandfather: Matthew Libby
  • 7th Great-grandfather: Matthew Libby
  • 8th Great-grandfather: John Libby

Endnotes

[i] Martha Angeline Libby is identified as Martha in the 1880 and 1910 Censuses and as Angie M. in the 1900 and 1920 Censuses. Overall, Martha is used more frequently than Angie and is the name on her grave marker, so I prefer Martha in my use.

[ii] 1900 Census (FS), Danel [Daniel] W. Whitten – Shapleigh Town, York County, Maine. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MMG4-D6W.

[iii] 1870 Census, 1870 Census – Charles Libby – Limerick, Maine. http://search.ancestry.com/search/collections/1870usfedcen/33125883/printer-friendly.

[iv] 1880 Census (A), Charles G. Libby – Limerick, York, Maine – Page 27, ED 197. http://search.ancestry.com/search/collections/1880usfedcen/16254166/printer-friendly.

[v] 1900 Census (FS), Danel [Daniel] W. Whitten – Shapleigh Town, York County, Maine. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MMG4-D6W.

[vi] Maine Vital Records, 1670-1921, Family Search, Herbert Winfield Whitten, 1883. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2HKQ-Y3Y.

[vii] Daniel W Whitten – Kennebunk Town, York County, Maine.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] 1910 Census (FS) (NARA), Family Search, Daniel W Whitney [Whitten] Kennebunkport, York County, Maine.

[x] 1920 Census (FS), Daniel W Whitten – Kennebunk, York, Maine. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MF8W-K7Y.

[xi] Maine, Faylene Hutton Cemetery Collection, ca. 1780-1990, Family Search, Maine, Faylene Hutton Cemetery Collection, ca. 1780-1990 – Daniel W Whitten. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QKM1-WJ33  : United States, Maine State Library, Augusta; FHL microfilm 1,787,567.