The importance of directories and electoral rolls to trace where our ancestors lived is a bit like the use of birth, death and marriage certificates in family history. They give us the names, the dates and the where but they don’t really tell the story. So let’s look at adding details to these addresses.
First note down the basics of street address and the years that you lived there, you could even create a timeline of these. If you still live there you might like to record the actual land description from your rates or other land documentation.
Who lived in this house?
Did anyone move in or move out while you were living there? Who came to visit and stay while you lived there? Why did you move to this house? Why did you move away? Did you rent or own this house?
How many rooms did the house have?
Did you have to share a bedroom? Was the toilet and laundry inside or outside? What appliances did you have in the kitchen? Do you remember the smells of food cooking or baking being done? Were there pictures on the walls and photos of family around?
Did you change anything about the house?
Move walls? Add rooms? Are there any particular colour schemes, wallpapers and carpets that you remember? Which pieces of furniture were special and why?
When you looked out the front door what did you see?
Were your neighbours close or far away? Did you have a big garden? Were there vegetables in the garden or was it filled with flowers? Were there trees to build tree houses in or that were filled with cherries and plums in the summer?
What was the neighbourhood like?
Did you have friends living near you? Was school close by? Where did you go shopping? Did you use public transport to get to work or drive yourself?
What other memories do you have about your home? What about the houses that you visited - your grandparents, siblings, children?
I got my Mum to sketch the layouts of the houses that she had lived in. They may not have had draughtsman accuracy, but they do show me how and where the rooms were in each house. The later ones that I lived in I remember too and could add details.
Now when I look at photos taken in each of these houses I’m able to put a perspective on them. Looking at the background of the photos I can see the windows, the views, how the furniture was arranged.
Here’s a challenge, go take photos of each room in your house and the views from them. You could even go for a drive and take photos of the houses you have lived in and add these to your notes.
Previously published The New Zealand Genealogist, Vol 40 No 319, September/October 2009.