With the cancellation of Jane’s Walks this year due to COVID-19, why not take this opportunity to do a bit of your own house history research?
Granted, not all of our Grace Schmidt Room resources are available on line, but you can plan your search using our handy house research guide here. Getting your information in order is a great first step.
If you are eager, you can take a look at our online collection of city directories. You can use the directories online or download them for your research. A word of caution – the county directories prior to 1900 often did not include a lot of detailed information on city dwellers – only a list a residents and a city/town name. After 1900, directory publishers included more detailed information on residents and location.
A great place to start in the city directories is the street directory section. This section lists the homes/occupants along each side of the street. You can jump to the street directory section by searching with the keywords “street directory“. Your first hits should be the main directory index – which will give you the start page numbers for either Kitchener (Berlin) or Waterloo street directory sections.
In the street directory sections, crossroads are noted, giving you the ability to narrow down your search to specific city blocks along a street. As the years progress, you will see that the number of houses along a street increase, sometimes change numbers, and occasionally, the street names change.
You can find our street index here. It does not list every street and name change occurrence, but you can sometimes see trends that may give you an idea about the age of your neighbourhood and its development.
Once you have the name of a resident, you can search for their name in the directory. Depending upon the year of publication, you may see their occupation/workplace and the names of spouses and other adults living in the house. Please be aware that the resident shown in the directory might be a tenant and not the owner of the house. Having the name of the resident is another avenue of research – you can check out Ancestry Library Edition (you’ll need your KPL Library card and PIN) or Waterloo Region Generations to see if their family history is there.
Another place to look is in our online photograph collection. You can search by street or family name. This collection is a small portion of our complete photograph collection. There’s also paper index in the GSR which can be consulted when the Library re-opens.
Why not check out the resources, my Information Services colleague, Kathryn, has suggested to determine the architectural style of your home on the Library’s Where the Community Connects blog? She’s got lots of other great ideas too.
Enjoy the journey!