Skeletons in your Closet?

As Autumn descends on our fair city, temperatures drop, trees turn their leaves, squirrels gather acorns and other goodies for their long winter naps, and even our houses settle in for the coming Winter. 

Older houses, of which Davenport has many, are especially susceptible to the changing seasons.  The creaks and groans of beams and floors lend an eerie soundtrack to the early evenings, while drafts from older windows trail a spooky finger across the back of one’s neck.  All this reminds one that Halloween will soon be here.

It is no wonder that this is the time of year when people come to the library to research their homes. And that when we ask them what kind of information most interests them, quite a few lean forward and whisper that what they really want to know is if anyone ever died in the house.

Unfortunately, our Scott County death records are arranged by name, not address, so unless the name of the deceased is known, this resource can’t help.   So how to find the name –or names?

City  directories can provide the names of the adults who lived in a particular house each year.   When someone stops being listed in the directory, the usual explanation is that he or she moved on . . . or passed away.   If one were to look up the name of that person in the death records for the years surrounding the year he or she was last listed in the directory, one might find a death record, which  would give the address of the place of death.  If a death record is not found for that person, he or she didn’t die in Scott County during those years and the researcher can move on to the next person.

The researcher might keep in mind that while this is a way to locate the death of someone who is listed in the city directory, some residents of a house, such as minor children, spouses, or even boarders, may not be listed.  Federal or State Census records can supply the names of everyone living in a particular household in the year the census was taken.  If a person ‘disappears’ between census years, cemetery and tombstone indexes, County probate records, and other resources may confirm a death and narrow a death date enough for the researcher to locate the death record.

And of course, all of these methods assume that the person who might have died in the house actually lived there.  If someone passed away while visiting, unless the name of the person was known, it would be very difficult to track down the death record, or any newspaper articles related to the death.

But even if our available resources can’t help you discover literal skeletons in your closet*, they can help you find out more about the rest of your house.  We even made a brochure about it.


(Posted by Sarah)


*We also have many genealogical resources available to help you search out the metaphorical ones!

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