How do I go about finding proof of residence from 1940's
December 28, 2006 8:59 PM   Subscribe

My mother is 94. I recently found out that she has unclaimed assets from a long time ago. The state says that in order to claim the money, she has to prove that she lived at the residence listed on the claim. We think she lived there in the 1940's. How do I go about finding records from so long ago?
posted by ellke to Law & Government (8 answers total) allows you to search the Federal decennial census records going back to, I think, 1890. If you can find a record of her living at that residence in the 1940 or 1950 census, perhaps that would work?
posted by cerebus19 at 9:15 PM on December 28, 2006

I assume you've looked in old shoeboxes for helpful documents.

Your first stop MUST be the county clerk's office. Explain your situation there. You may be looking for property deeds, marriage licenses, voter records, etc. The documents might be under your name as well as hers, such as a school record or birth certificate.

I know the IRS keeps detailed records of tax filings but I have no idea whether this includes anything from the 1980s or earlier.
posted by rolypolyman at 9:20 PM on December 28, 2006

Many cities and towns published their own directories at that time, since not everyone had telephones. Check that place's public library.
posted by brujita at 9:37 PM on December 28, 2006

I think you're going to be going on a field trip. The local town hall would be my first stop; if you can find a helpful soul who'll look through their records and see if they have anything there with her name and that address on it, you're set. In many towns, you can look through the "Grand List" which shows property owners and values, year by year. (Of course, if she wasn't a property owner, that may be less than helpful.) If she was old enough to vote when she lived there, the registrar of voters might have records back that far.

My next stop after that would be the library; they might have old phone directories or school publications. Also, many towns have local genealogical societies; they can be real treasure troves of information.

If going to the town in person is out of the question, I'd fire up your word processor and start typing some paper letters. I think you'll have better luck writing than by calling or using any electronic medium. And going local -- to the town or city where she lived -- and working up, is probably going to get you much faster results than working from the Federal government (via the Census or IRS) down.

Also, before you go, it's probably worth it to sit down with her and work out a timeline of significant (documented) events that occured when she lived there, so you'll know what to look for. Births, deaths, marriage, sale or purchase of property, court cases, or anything that might have been mentioned in the newspaper are all game.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:46 PM on December 28, 2006

If you can find a record of her living at that residence in the 1940 or 1950 census, perhaps that would work?

Nope, the 1930 Federal Census is the latest one released; 1940 isn't due to be released to the public until 2012.

HOWEVER, if you think she was living at that address in either the year 1940 or the year 1950, you can get a one-census-line print-out from the government stating that fact, and other bare-bones information from that same census-line (age, race, nationality, other household members' names, etc.). In other words, 1940-2000 Census records are sealed, but you can get minimal and governmentally certified confirmation of information, provided that you can give them the exact address and year to work with.

But that's tedious. Your best bet? Go to the local library and get a copy of the phonebooks for the 1940's, which should have her family living at that address. Big city libraries, including New York, also often have lots of out of state phone books on microfilm that you can look up for free. School libraries might be helpful too. Good luck!
posted by Asparagirl at 10:58 PM on December 28, 2006

Contact the National Archives and Records Administration. They have regional facilities. They can provide help in where to start looking in the most likely places.
posted by ewkpates at 3:34 AM on December 29, 2006

Another source of genealogical information is the local Family History Center. These centers are run by Mormons but are open to everyone.
posted by cabingirl at 5:51 AM on December 29, 2006

I agree with Asparagirl. I once had to get an exact address where I had lived 20 years earlier. I called the local phone company, who looked it up in their file of old directories. This was pre-internet, so it took a couple of days. It's probably faster now.
posted by KRS at 11:22 AM on December 29, 2006

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