Thursday, August 09, 2007

City Directories: Street Guide and Directory of Householders

For genealogists, the second most popular section of a city directory is the one that allows you to look up street addresses to obtain the names of the "householders" at that address. Using my R.L. Polk City Directory for Detroit, 1925-1926 as a reference, the directory of households section starts on p. 2065 and runs through p. 2462... this is another large section, the second largest in the book.

So what information does this section have to offer? A short paragraph describing the content is given on the title page, Polk's Detroit Street and Avenue Guide and Directory of Householders 1925-1926, Copyright 1926 by R. L. Polk & Co.


In the following list the streets are arranged in alphabetical order, the intersecting streets being shown. The number of each building on the street is given in numerical order, and opposite the number is placed the name of the occupant or house holder. In the business blocks containing offices the occupants are shown by room numbers where practicable. In all streets excepting Woodward avenue, and Griswold street both sides of the street are included in one list, but owing to the large number of offices, etc., on these streets a division is necessary to make the information comprehensive. The profession, business, etc., of individuals and firms are only given at their respective place of business; to find occupation of householder, refer to Alphabetical List of names.

So, this section then will give us essentially the heads of household living at a given address. In my directory, this section is printed on pink pages. Presumably they were a bright pink when the book was brand new though mine are faded now and barely pink anymore.

Let's take a look at how an entry in this section looks. In my previous post on this subject I excerpted the entry of one surname (Poniatowski) and analyzed it to see what information might be obtained from it. To save you the time of referring to it I'll show it again here.


Poniatowski Adam autowkr h2834 Roosevelt av
" Anthony press opr r6639 Floyd av
" Frank mldr h6639 Floyd av
" John inspr h6403 Field av
" Jos clk r6639 Floyd av
" Jos lab h7184 Holmes av
" Jos soft drinks 3301 Poplar h3999 Tillman av
" Margt Mrs 3999 Tillman av
" Margt press opr r6639 Floyd av
" Walter chauf r6639 Floyd av

For continuity sake, let's now take a look at the entries for 6639 Floyd av and 3999 Tillman av where we have multiple individuals with the Poniatowski surname living. On p. 2183, we find:


FLOYD AV-From 7219 Livernois av west to Wetherby av, 4 north of Warren av w
(then under the cross street "Rangoon av")
6639 Evashevski Albin
Poniatowski Frank

And on p. 2410, we find:


TILLMAN AV-From 3316 Michigan av north to McGraw av
(then under the cross street "Linden" and immediately above the cross street "Poplar")
3999 Poniatowski Jos

So what have we learned from these entries? First off we notice that only one Poniatowski individual is listed at each address which further supports our supposition that the multiple Poniatowskis at each address are related and not coincidentally living in different units of the same building. Secondly, we notice the name of another person living at the 6639 Floyd av address, Albin Evashevski. We can then assume that this building is a duplex or 2-family home (as was common in this neighborhood) since this section only lists house holders and not each head of family.

During the 1920s in Detroit the population was growing so fast that housing was hard to come by. Especially in immigrant neighborhoods. It was not at all uncommon for home owners to rent out a room or two in their house to another family who would then share the common areas such as the kitchen and parlor. Fortunately we can look Mr. Evashevski up in the name directory section to verify that he is in fact a home owner and not a renter. On p. 889 we find the following entry:


Evashevski Albin slsmn Chas A Strelinger Co
h6631 Floyd av

So there we have it then. Mr. Evashevski was a home owner. Two different home owners at one address definitely means a duplex residence. See how nicely the ability to cross check names and addresses works?

Coming up next: City Directories: Classified Business Directory

Read my series of articles about city directories:
I Won the eBay Bid
What's In A City Directory
City Directories: The Introduction
City Directories: The Indexes
City Directories: The Statistical Department
City Directories: Chronological History
City Directories: Miscellaneous Information
City Directories: Directory of Names
City Directories: Street Guide and Directory of Householders
City Directories: Classified Business Directory
City Directories: Additional Information

2 comments:

  1. Jasia, any idea when Polk started publishing the directory of household sections in their city directories? The ones I'm currently researching on microfilm are late 1870s - early 1880s for Grand Rapids, Michigan, and I don't believe they are offered yet (I'm going to double check next time I'm at my local Family History Center).

    Here in Spokane, I was able to go back to 1919 in the local Polk directories to find the occupants of the home I currently own (the house was built 1907 - 08). Before 1919, I have to know the name of the occupant and see if they lived at this address, since there is no way to cross-reference it.

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  2. Hmmm... I'm not sure when Polk started publishing the directory of household sections in their city directories. I must admit I haven't had reason to access any before 1881 as that is when the first of my ancestors to come to the USA arrived. Good question though. Perhaps someone else out there has knowledge on this subject???

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