Researching Your Home's History

If you'd like to know more about the history of your Boston-Edison home, we've gathered some resources on this page. Here are some suggestions for finding out more about your home's past, and its past residents.

Research Guides

Of course Boston-Edison residents aren't the only ones interested in their home's past. Here are a few guides written for the historical researcher:

  1. How to Research Your Historic Detroit Home, a quick and easy guide on where to look first, from Paul Sewick at Curbed Detroit.
  2. A Guide to Researching Your Corktown Home, a more detailed guide from Paul Sewick's blog, with step-by-step instructions. The information is Corktown-centric, but chock full of  generally applicable information.
  3. A Guide to Researching the History of a House, a compilation of on-line resources from HomeAdvisor. Some are free, some are subscription services.
  4. A Landlord's Guide to Researching Property History, a compilation of general advice, with multiple additional resources.

Getting Started: Basic Information About Your House

Your "Old" pre-1921 House Number: On January 1, 1921, Detroit renumbered all the addresses in the city, so that the numbers were consistent from block to block. In Boston-Edison, all houses received new, very different address numbers. If your home was built before 1921, you'll need to know the "old" address when using any pre-1921 resources. For a cross-reference of Boston-Edison old and new addresses, look here, or visit Stephen Morse's site for the entire book.

Legal Description: For some property searches, you'll need to know the legal description of your property (the liber number and page number where the property is recorded, and the subdivision and lot number where the house is located). All this should be on your mortgage document, or at the City of Detroit Parcel Viewer at the bottom of the page. Alternatively, you can find the legal description at the Wayne County Register of Deeds. Access their search engine, type in the name of the house's owner, and bring up one of the documents on file. The legal description will be at the bottom of the page.

Finding Out Who Lived in a House

There are multiple places to find information about previous residents of your house, who they were, and what they did. 

Detroit City Directories: City directories list residents and their occupations for each address throughout the city. Using these, HBEA has compiled a historic list of residents for every house in the neighborhood at approximately five year intervals through the early 1970s. HBEA members can download a spreadsheet version of the list here. (Note that the original directories contain occasional misspelling of names, so cross-check any information.) For directories from other years, visit the Burton Historical Collection at the main branch of the Detroit Public Library, which stocks more City Directories through the early 1970s. A few directories are available online, including the following:

  • Detroit Social Register (1919, 1920, 1922 are online).
  • Polk's Detroit City Directory (1914 and 1929 are online).

Wayne County Register of Deeds: The Wayne County Register of Deeds has a record of the owners of each piece of property (who may or may not be the residents of the house). The office has a limited online search engine, with records beginning in 1986. However, if you visit their Greektown office in person, they can provide a copy of your property records for a small fee. You'll need to know the legal definition of your property.

Newspapers: You can search back issues of multiple local newspapers (see a list below); particularly useful are the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News. Search for your address (both current and original), as well as any names of residents you already know.

Genealogy sites such as ancestry.com also have resources for identifying historic residents, although a subscription is typically required. A short list of suggested sites is included in HomeAdvisor's Guide.

Census Data: The raw handwritten house-by-house US census records through 1950 are available online. The records list every person living at every address (including children, relatives, boarders, and servants), along with their age, occupation, and place of birth. For census data through 1930, the best free online tool to identify census records for a particular address is hosted by Steve Morse. The 1940 and 1950 censuses have dedicated websites hosted by the National Archives. 

Finding a particular address requires that you know its Enumeration District (ED), each of which encompasses a few square blocks (see, for example, this map of the 1940 EDs). As a short-cut, the Enumeration Districts covering Boston-Edison are listed in the table below for the 1910-1950 censuses, with links to the scanned census documents. Note that in some cases, houses on the north and south sides of the same street will be in different EDs.

 Blocks 1910 census EDs 1920 census EDs 1930 census EDs 1940 census EDs 1950 census EDs
 0-100 Block  Wayne-34  Wayne-87 (Ed-Long-Chic-Bost)
 Wayne-88 (Bost)
 82-62 (Ed-Long-Chic-Bost)
 82-1074 (Bost)
 84-100 (Ed-Long-Chic-Bost)
 84-101 (Bost)
 85-149 (Ed-Long-Chic-Bost)
 85-151 (Bost)
 600-700 Block  Wayne-63   Wayne-156 (Ed)
 Wayne-157 (Long-Chic-Bost)
 Wayne-158 (Bost)
 82-1076   84-184  85-287
 800-900 Block  Wayne-63  Wayne-155 (Ed-Long)
 Wayne-157 (Long-Chic-Bost)
 82-110   84-182   85-288
 1100-1200 Block  --  Wayne-215 (Ed-Long-Chic-Bost)
 Wayne-216 (Bost)
 82-1078   84-276  85-444
 1400-1500 Block  --  Wayne-216   82-165   84-274 (Ed-Long)
 84-275 (Long-Chic-Bost)
 85-447 (Ed-Long)
 85-446 (Long-Chic-Bost)
 1600-1700 Block  --  Wayne-270   82-220 (Ed-Long-Chic-Bost)
 82-221 (Bost)
 84-371 (Ed-Long)
 84-372 (Long-Chic-Bost)
 84-373 (Bost)
 85-575 (Ed-Long)
 85-574 (Long-Chic-Bost)
 85-573 (Bost)
 1900-2000 Block  --  Wayne-270   82-220 (Ed-Long-Chic-Bost)
 82-221 (Bost)
 84-371 (Ed-Long)
 84-372 (Long-Chic-Bost)
 84-373 (Bost)
 85-575 (Ed-Long)
 85-574 (Long-Chic-Bost)
 85-573 (Bost)
 2200-2300 Block  --  Wayne-325 
 82-313   84-549   85-805
 2400-2500 Block  --  Wayne-325   82-312   84-550   85-806

The addresses in each Enumeration District are listed in the order visited by the census-taker, which will often (although not always) be in order block-by-block geographically. In some cases, houses on the north and south sides of the street will be in different ED. Some addresses may be out of order, so you may need to scan the entire ED. For the 1910 and 1920 census, houses are listed by their pre-1921 address (see above).

Newspapers

Newspapers are great resources for finding when your house was built, when it was sold, who the residents were, what they did, and (if you're lucky) some photos of the house or residents. Search for your house number (both current and original) and street, names of residents, or any other applicable information. 

Good newspaper resources for Boston-Edison homes are:

Detroit Free Press: You can search back issues of the Detroit Free Press (1831-1999) online, for free, if you have a library card from the Detroit Public Library (cards are free for Detroit residents). You can also view the appropriate issue yourself in person on microfilm at the main branch of the Detroit Public Library. Back issues are also searchable through newspapers.com; the search is free, but more than a snippet view requires a subscription.

Detroit News: You can search back issues of the Detroit News (1873-1999) online, for free, if you have a library card from the Library of Michigan (cards are free for Michigan residents). The access link for the Detroit News is on the Library's "Online Resources" page along with other useful research sources.

The Michigan Chronicle: You can search back issues of the Michigan Chronicle (a weekly African-American newspaper based in Detroit) online, for free, if you have a library card from the Detroit Public Library. Back issues from 1936 to the present are available.

Detroit Jewish News and Detroit Jewish Chronicle: Back issues of the Detroit Jewish News and the Detroit Jewish Chronicle are available online, and accessible for free through the University of Michigan's Bentley Historical Library.

The Detroit Tribune: Back issues of the Tribune (once Michigan's largest African-American newspaper) are online and searchable through the Library of Congress. (Type "Detroit Tribune" with quotes into the search box, then your search term.)

Finding Out More About Historic Residents

If you know who owned or lived in your house, and want to know more about that person, there are a few places to look for biographies or other information.

HBEA's list of historically significant residents. Check to see if we did the research for you. Also see our spreadsheet with all known residents of the district (for HBEA members only).

The Burton Historical Collection. Not only does the library stock yearly Detroit City Directories (see our spreadsheet version, for HBEA members only), which will often list the profession and sometimes children of the residents, they also keep a biography index and other genealogical resources.

Newspapers. There are a number of local newspapers that are good resources (see the list above)

 for finding out more about historic residents. Search for applicable names, addresses, and businesses associated with residents.

Genealogy Sites. Sites such as such as ancestry.com can have detailed information on individuals, although these sites typically require a subscription. A short list of suggested sites is included in HomeAdvisor's Guide.

Published Directories and Biographies. There are a number of published biographies and directories, many of which can be accessed online. Some of these are:
  • Detroit Social Register (1919, 1920, 1922 are online).
  • Polk's Detroit City Directory (1914 and 1929 are online).
  • Albert Nelson Marquis' Book of Detroiters (1908 and 1914 are online).
  • Clarence Monroe Burton's The City of Detroit 1701-1922 features biographies in Volumes III, IV, and V (All volumes are available online: Volume III, Volume IV, and Volume V).
  • Various "Who's Who" volumes will list Detroit residents. Of special interest are Who's Who in Michigan, and the Who's Who for African-Americans (1941 edition available online) and Jewish Americans (1926 edition available online).

Finding Pictures and Maps

There are, unfortunately, only a few resources for historic images and maps. A few resources for specific maps and images include:

1974 House Photos: In the 1970s, when Boston-Edison was first designated a historic district, every house in the neighborhood was photographed. Colored slides of this photography project are kept by the Detroit Historic District Commission. Contact them to get a copy. Preservation Detroit also has these images online for Chicago and W. Boston Boulevards.

Aerial Photographs: Historic aerial photographs of Detroit from DTE are online at Wayne State University's digital collections. Boston-Edison appears in photographs from 1949 and 1952 (pre-freeway!), as well as from 1956 (Zones 1&2 and Zones 2&3), 1961, 1981 (Zone 1, Zones 2&3), and 1997

Boston-Edison Archives: The Historic Boston-Edison Association maintains an archive of items associated with the neighborhood. The archives include a few images of some homes. There are only a few, but please contact us and ask if yours is among them.

Newspaper Photos: The construction and sale of houses in the neighborhood early in the 20th century was often considered newsworthy; newspaper reports will sometimes contain a picture. See the list of newspapers above, particularly the News and Free Press.

Online Archives: Some Detroit-area institutions are putting parts of their historical collections on-line. These include:

Sanborn Maps: Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps are large-scale maps of the location, footprint, and construction of every building in the city. If your house was built before 1915, it will be included in this Volume 9 Sanborn Map at the Library of Congress. Additionally, Sanborn Maps from 1925 and 1950 can be accessed via the Detroit Public Library. If you have a library card, you can access the maps remotely (Boston-Edison is in Volume 9, Detroit, Michigan). 

Boston-Edison Subdivision Plat Maps: The state of Michigan has digital copies of original plat maps online, showing the locations and sizes of all lots in the neighborhood. All of Boston-Edison is located in one of following subdivisions (verify with the City of Detroit Parcel Viewer): 

  1. Zone 1 (Woodward-Hamilton): Voigt Park Subdivision (misspelled as "Voight Park" in the database), Record number PLATS-3158.
  2. Zone 2 (Hamilton-Rosa Parks): Most lots (except some on Edison as noted below) are in the Boston Boulevard Subdivision, Record number PLATS-4821
    • 1419 -1486 Edison: Guerold's Subdivision, Record number PLATS-4442.
    • 1642 -1701 Edison: Jackson Park Subdivision.
    • 1708 -1767 Edison: Lewis Park Subdivision, Record number PLATS-3917.
  3. Zone 3 (Rosa Parks-Linwood): Joy Farm Subdivision, Record number PLATS-3647.
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