What Kind of Car Did Grandpa Own?
If you’re anything like me, you want to know simply everything about your ancestors. I have fantasies about getting to heaven and being able to talk with my great-great grandmother about the color of the wallpaper in the upstairs back bedroom in her house! And recently I found a resource containing an unusual list.
City directories are great for locating where our ancestors were between census years. We can search directories by name to plot year by year where our ancestors were living. We can search them by address, to see who else might have been living with them – I’ve found women’s maiden names when I discovered their parents in the same house at the same time.
And many directories are filled with lists – lists of churches, fraternal organizations, funeral homes, cemeteries and more that our ancestors might have been involved with or used. But one list I saw in a directory blew me away.
How would you like to find something like the “Automobile Directory of Montgomery County, [Illinois]”?! From a 1918 directory I learned that Clem Bedinghaus on Rt. 1 in Farmersville owned an Overland. John Carroll from Ramsey owned a Hupmobile. Roscoe Heim of Harvel drove a Dort. (I’ll resist the temptation to tell you all about the four models Dort offered for sale. You’re a good researcher, and I’m sure you can find the info if I have piqued your interest….) Arthur Greenwood drove a Briscoe, John Hucker a Crow Elkhart and William Herzog a Paige. (Are you still with me or have I lost you to the early 20th century automobile section of Wikipedia?) Ed. Lessman owned two automobiles – a Ford and a Buick.
Explore city directories. You can find them on some of the genealogy websites and also on more general sites like GoogleBooks and Archive.org. But don’t just look for your ancestor’s name and address. Browse through all the pages to see what made their hometown the special place at was to them.
 Prairie Farmer’s Directory of Montgomery County, Illinois, (Chicago: Prairie Farmer Publishing, 1918); digital images, Archive.org (archive.org : accessed 7 July 2020).
8/22/2020 05:14:14 am
My wife had a picture of her father sitting on the hood of an old car. With a little searching I was able to determine the make, model and year of the car (1928 Pontiac two door sedan) and was able to determine the year of the license plate, which was 1934, so that was the year of the photo. Next I determined what colors the car came in and then I colorized her old photo, and put it in a frame with a Pontiac medallion that purchased and glued to the frame. I think it ended up being the best Christmas gift I ever gave her.
8/22/2020 06:47:56 am
I don't know exactly what car my paternal grandfather had (Buick Roadmaster, I think) but I have my maternal grandfather's 1936 Ford Phaeton. He bought it in 1936 with his initials on the front doors. Many years ago a police officer stopped my father because we had nine people in the car and four on the running boards (I was one of them).
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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.