City directories are easy to search by name, but have you tried searching them by address? It might turn up other people living at the same address, perhaps even some unknown relatives. But there’s another reason to search by address – you just might turn up an unusual spelling variation for a given surname.
For my Lockren cousins I have a list of spelling variants: Lockren, Lockran, Lochren, Lochran, Loughren, Loughran and more. Frequently I find members of the same household listed under different spellings in the same directory for a given year.
Ancestry.com’s directories, many of which are available for free on HeritageQuest Online with a library card, allow searching by address. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to use the search box for “Keyword” and enter the house number and street name. Usually I leave off terms such street or avenue because I don’t know how it might have been abbreviated. I then check the “exact” box.
When I did this for the Oakland, Alameda, California directories in the 1890s I was surprised to see an unusual surname variant – Rockren! In 1894, Charles, John and Mary are all listed under Rockren, and John and Mary also show up with Lockren,[i] but Charles doesn’t.
So far I haven’t seen ROCKREN pop up for my relatives in any other context, but nice to know there is yet one more way I might consider spelling this surname.
Consider searching directories by address. You never know what you will find!
[i] OCR index show LOEKREN, but actual page in directory shows LOCKREN
Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.