We have a lot of fantastic information resources in this town. Never was this more apparent to me than during a recent research endeavor done for personal purposes. I had been lucky enough to be invited over to a friend’s home in Old Louisville for a dinner party. During the course of the evening, the inevitable “when was this house built, who built it?” questions came up – as my friends did not have a firm idea, I decided what better thank you could I give them for an evening of fun than to research a bit of the history of their home?
Although I’ve had numerous patrons address me for assistance when working reference on researching their homes’ histories, I had never personally conducted such a search in depth. I decided to begin with Louisville City Directories. After an embarrassing stint during which I spent some time researching the wrong house number, I was able to find some solid information on an owner in the early 1900s – what was especially valuable was that I found information on when the house numbers on the street changed (1909). The Louisville City Directories are available here at The Filson on microfilm as well as in hard copy and digitally for certain years. From the name given in the city directories, I turned to The Filson’s library subscription to Ancestry.com and researched the available records for the family. I found census records, death certificates, foreign travel information, and more. [The City Directories, as well as Ancestry.com access, are also available through the Louisville Free Public Library.]
Another resource I turned to, as I was struggling to determine if this family was indeed the original owner, was the Louisville Free Public Library’s access to the ProQuest Database of the Louisville Courier-Journal newspaper. I’ve been incredibly excited about this tool since it was announced late last year, and it has been proving invaluable in local history research. I found some very interesting articles on the family’s local involvement and foreign travel, which I passed on to my friends, the current owners of the house. When they shared it on Facebook, a friend of theirs suggested they check out the Digital Collections at the University of Louisville to see pictures of one of the family members. I love crowdsourcing! After reviewing the pictures and being in contact with the archivist in charge of that particular collection, we were able to provide one another with additional material on the individuals. The Digital Collection also contains a selection of U of L’s dissertations and theses. One on local women’s clubs of the early twentieth century gave me some more information on the lady of the house, as did a Google Books search of her name. It’s amazing what sorts of minute books and legal proceedings have been published and fully digitized online!
I’m still not exactly sure about the date of the home’s construction; I am hoping to perhaps spend some time at the Metro Government’s Deed Room to trace the original deeds to the house through a title search. I also would like to learn more about the builders or architect of the home. And of course, I need to learn more about the gap leading up to my friends’ purchase. I am not an expert on this topic in any way, but I do feel like this little bit of time spent has really opened up a lot of avenues to pursue. It’s also reminded me of just a few of the great information sources in town aside from the Filson – the LFPL and U of L’s Archives and Special Collections – and my amazing colleagues who work there.