Monday, June 21, 2010

Third Carnival Of Genealogical Societies: Uniquely EWGS

Eastern Washington Genealogical Society offers something unique that probably no other society does: city directories with forwarding address (also referred to as postal directories). Hopefully everyone recognizes a page from a city directory, but these are special city directories. Someone at the post office took apart Spokane city directories, added four pages of lined paper between each city directory page and then rebound the directories in small books about an inch or smaller thick. It took about 15 books for A to Z with all the big letters separate and the smaller ones bunched up. This may seem kind of odd, but remember they added 4 pages for each city directory page, so if the city directory had 300 pages the postal forwarding books would have 1500 pages, 300 from the city directories and 1200 added pages between the city directory pages. The earliest one we have is 1903, but just one letter for 1903, 1904 and 1905. 1906 has several and from 1907 to 1940 nearly all the letters are there. 1921 is completely missing, and several years have a missing letter, but they are a wonderful resource. The last few years they did not use them much so they do not have only a few a on each of the added pages instead of nearly a whole page on the earlier years.

If you look closely at the page above you will see a line across near the middle of each column. The top of each column has a number: the left column has a 1, the right column has a 3, while below the lines are the numbers 2 and 4. Those numbers correspond to the four pages added between each city directory page. Page 1 shows postal forwarding addresses in the section labeled 1, page 2 shows postal forwarding addresses from the section labeled 2, etc.

On page 1 the first two entries are:
  • Freer Dr. F.N. 126 1/2 Howard date 3-22
  • Freeman Selva Toppinish, Wn G.D. (General Delivery) 4-5 and 4-8
Notice neither of these people are listed in the city directory page, so finding them here is important. This is a page from the 1911 city directory, so without this record how could you find out that Selva Freeman had moved to Toppinish, Washington. There is also an entry for Mrs. A.E. Freemore that moved with her daughters Erma and Eva to Minot, N.D. 413 Cleveland on 8-11 (August 11th). The next line contains a four-digit number 3872, but we have not figured out what that number means. We asked the post office, but our source there had never seen a book like this and had no idea what the numbers meant.

On page 2, Mrs. Jake Frei moved 5 times: first on September 14, second on October 18, third on December 8, fourth on January 23 and finally to Julietta, Idaho, Route 1 on March 12. Now how can that be? Well the city directories came out early in the year and it took someone a while to take apart the city directories and then add pages and rebind, so we are pretty sure those last two dates would actually be 1912 instead of 1911.

Note page 3 contains five ladies. The 1913 Spokane city directory was the first to list the wives. Although a few ladies were listed in the city directories before 1913, most ladies were not listed at all. These forwarding address pages are a great resource for finding female ancestors!

Notice how the surname French was divided by the line so some are on page 3 and some on page 4. This page also lists some RFD (Rural Free Delivery) addresses; usually not many RFD addresses are in a city directory!

About 10 years ago, I got a query from a gentleman looking for his grandparents. He found them in one Spokane census but not in the next, so he figured they died between censuses and was looking for their obituaries. I could not find them in the Washington Death Index so I checked the postal forwarding books, and found that they had moved to a little town about five miles from Calgary, Alberta in Canada. A few weeks later I got a big thank-you letter; that town had put the cemetery list online and his grandparents were there in that cemetery. Without these postal forwarding books they may never have found his grandparents' burial place.

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