Making the Most of Addresses: Tips for Finding Your Ancestors in the Papers

Did you know that newspaper articles about your ancestors often included addresses? Those addresses provide a puzzle piece that allows you to grow your family tree. We want to walk you through how we used an address to expand one family tree.

We came across this obituary for Tudie Boggs. She died at 118 Chestnut Street in Harrisburg, PA, in 1878.

The obituary says Tudie died at the home of J. W. Hutchison. Who was J. W.? Was he a relative? We don’t have him in our tree, so we decided to dig a little deeper. Since the notice stated that Tudie’s mother lived in Franklin County, we searched “Tudie Boggs” on™ and narrowed our results to Franklin County papers in 1878, and we found this notice:

This Memoriam notice revealed a huge clue – J. W. Hutchison was Tudie’s uncle. The notice also refers to a deceased father, brother, and sister. These are additional clues about this family. Since J. W. Hutchison lived at 118 Chestnut Street, we entered the terms “Hutchison” and “118 Chestnut Street” in the™ search bar, and the pieces began falling into place.

This clipping revealed that J. W. Hutchison was John W. Hutchison.  

We knew this was our John because of his address. And now that we had John’s birth and death dates, we could search for additional vital records and newspaper articles about him. We found a record showing that John W. Hutchison was married to Jennie Francis Boggs (remember, Boggs was Tudie’s last name). We knew we were getting close to solving this mystery. It didn’t take long to discover that Jennie was the sister of Thaddeus Boggs, and Thaddeus Boggs was Tudie’s father! It was all coming together; none of this information was in our family tree.

In this probate notice, we learned that a few years after the death of her husband, Letters of Administration had been granted to Jennie. She was still residing at 118 Chestnut Street.

The following month, we found this notice for individual rooms for rent. Notice that Jennie’s name does not appear in this clipping, but we can piece the story together using the address. Was Jennie operating a boarding house to make ends meet?

We searched for more records and discovered a marriage record for Jennie F. B. Hutchison. She remarried Alfred M. Cleveland (another fact not in our tree). Alfred also lived in Harrisburg, and there were numerous clippings about him.

A short time later, the entire home at 118 Chestnut Street was offered for rent.

By entering all this new information, we could add more than a dozen names to the Boggs family tree – and it all began with an address! When you search for an address in the papers, you can explore your ancestor’s neighborhood, piece together a family puzzle, and learn more about your family tree. Sometimes, homes stay in families for generations, and you can track the family by searching the address. If the house is still standing, you might even be able to see it on Google Street View and explore the neighborhood visually.

If you haven’t searched for your ancestor’s address on™, try it today!

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19 thoughts on “Making the Most of Addresses: Tips for Finding Your Ancestors in the Papers

  1. In what field would you get the best results? I use HeritageQuest Online, I think it is connected to Ancestry through my Public Library and I mostly always look at the City Directories. What way is best? Putting it in the keyword section or the publication title section or both one at a time? And how “1234 Adams St” or what….

    1. Hi Robert, In the example above, we just searched the address as a keyword. We searched like this, “118 Chestnut Street” using quotations, so the search would only return results where those letters and numbers appeared together. We also filtered our search and used two keywords — “118 Chestnut Street” and “Hutchison”. You can add multiple keywords in the search field. Just use quotation marks around each keyword and link them with the word AND. Hope this helps. Remember, we are searching newspapers and not City Directories. Newspapers often included the addresses of individuals.

  2. When I try for an obit the relevant newspaper will ask for a subscription at a price too high. Any thoughts?

    1. You can also go to the local public library. They often have local obituaries. This has often worked for me.

    2. You can often buy a one-day subscription online newspapers sites that will allow you to access a subscription.

  3. Have you tried something broad like Genealogy Bank? A special offer of 46% off popped up for me for an annual subscription. Online newspapers will have all kinds of sales through the holidays. There is a free trial. I would have to delete the cookie to see the offer again, but I believe it is for 30 days. Get a list going of desired information on people and plan for when you have down time to get the most out of the free trial. And depending on the time and place and event, your obit could be published in multiple newspapers because a sibling or child lived there.

  4. Addresses can also lead to recent online real estate listings with pictures. I was able to find listings for my grandmother’s and great grandmother’s houses that I visited as a child. Since most family members did not invest in flash photography, I have very few interior photos of these houses. Although a lot had changed in the last 50+ years, much had not. I could easily relate the pictures to my childhood memories.

    1. That’s a great tip! I did a similar thing with an ancestor’s house that he built with his own hands in 1890. It was listed for sale, and I got to explore each room virtually.

  5. Thanks for this tip! Found ads from my ggmother looking for work as a cook and housekeeper, and ads from my gggfather selling horses!

  6. So this is a story that is longer than I can express here, so I’ll try to be quick with a background. Our family came across some home movies that were not of our family. Probably picked up at a garage sale among a projector and other film equipment.
    I had one address and one name. Through censuses and many obituaries I found on Newspapers, I was able to expand the family which included many of the wife’s family of that one name. Footage of a get together, after a wedding, gave some hints I used to get possible locations on a mapping app ( yes that one). Still not sure which was correct, I continued to search names in the Newspapers in that area. I came across a public notice of a property transfer, which indicated a family member living at one of those addresses that I had suspected held the wedding gathering. It was a great find and a solve to a minor mystery.
    The wedding was held at St. Ambrose church in East Rochester, NY. I posted a screen shot on the map app from the home movie. Maybe someone will recognize it.

  7. Looking for Jess Clinton Reed (my step-Grandfather)/ Birth 23 June 1887 in Cleveland, Columbia County, Pennsylvania

    1. 10-16-2023 Could you explain exactly what information it is that you are looking for about this individual?

    Often when looking for someone in the US Census I can’t find someone because the name is badly mispelled or totally wrong but I’ll have their address where they lived
    during or close to a Census year. City Directories are often helpful but lots of people
    weren’t in them but “everyone” should be in the Census.

    Mssrs. MORSE & WEINTRAUB have done a Herculean job of making it possible to
    search for the addresses from 1880-1950. It’s FREE!
    It took me a good while to learn how to use it but I’m old and one of those guys who
    doesn’t like to read the instructions! It works for me 90% of the time.

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