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Census Sleuthing

30 years of census data
Click to enlarge!
It totally made my day earlier this week to open up my inbox and see an email waiting for me from my friend Breanna, who just so happens to be a neighbor too. She is an internet history detective and had made some recent census discoveries while surfing ancestry.com. I’ve let her know before that I am very curious about my house, I myself have tried to dig through public 1940’s census data online to see if I could find any info on the house, but it appears that nothing was recorded for our address that year. Since Breanna is so fancy with her ancestry.com hookup, she did some digging on my behalf. She sent me 5 census documents from 1900-1940 and 3 of them have info on the people that were living in my home almost 100 years ago! Isn’t that so exciting?

I’ve already started to dig around on the internet looking for more info on these people. In the 1910 census document a family going by the name “Pillsbury” lived here (a pretty big name around these parts). I have no idea what the exact relationship to thee Pillsbury fam is, but hopefully, with that rather famous name I’ll be able to find some more info on the people who once lived here! According to our records the house was built in 1910, however, there is a date on the coal bin attached to the back of the house stamped 1907, so who knows really?

The other couple (from the 1920 and 1930 census) lived here at least 10 years, can you imagine? People living in my house for much, much longer than I ever have. I love all the history that comes with an old house. All these people have experienced their life living in this same place that I live now!, isn’t that so crazy? I don’t mean to get all deep and gushy about it, but that is pretty awesome! Maybe the 1930’s newspapers that I found behind the flour bin in the kitchen earlier this week were from that family. I just want to know everything.

I already like the notion that a family with two boys were the first to reside here, and I am curious to learn more! I’m thinking about signing myself up for ancestry.com to do my own unearthing. The more little clues I discover about the house the more I want to know.

Has anyone else solved the historic mystery of their house? If so how’d you do it?? I want to crack the case!

*Update – Breanna killed it and got access to the Minnesota City Directoires, she was able to get even more info for me on the people who lived in my house. I just started a membership with ancestry.com and am getting deep into this house detective work. I think I probably need to pitch the house detectives idea to HGTV, right?

Ellis W & Elizabeth M Drisko owned the house.

▽ 1911 – 1929 Ellis M was a painter at 457 Temple Ct
▽ 1915 Jessie Martin was a boarder with the Driskos and worked as a milliner.
▽ 1929 Jessie (Martin?) Bruehl resided/roomed here and was the widow of Charles W Bruehl.
▽ 1930 – October 24, Ellis Drisko Dies
▽ 1939 – November 29, Elizabeth Drisko Dies

Elizabeth A Carroll resided/roomed at there and was a clerk.

No known information

Thomas J (Father) & Mary E R (maiden name Stiles) (Mother) Burns owned the home. Children: Edward (Kevin), Jack, Mary K, Rita M, Janet J.

▽ 1944 – Thomas was a tractor operator for City Engineering
▽ 1946 – Edward K(evin)Burns resided/roomed here and was a member of the USMC (United States Marine Corps)
▽ 1948 – Thomas and Mary lived here and he worked as a tractor operator.
▽ 1948 – Kevin E(dward) Burns resided/roomed here and was a laborer for City Engineering
▽ 1950 – Thomas and Mary lived here and he worked as an operator.
▽ 1950 – Edward Kevin & Christine Burns resided/roomed in the house, and Edward was a student.
▽ 1952 – Rita M Burns resided/roomed here. She was an office worker at the Chamber of Commerce

Robert C & Marilyn J Oberle resided/roomed here. He was a tech(?) at the University of Minnesota. Also living there was Janet L Carol who was a maid at Northwestern Hospital.

If you have found yourself here after searching for any of the above names, I’d love to get in touch. E-mail me here, I’d be happy to share what I know about the house with you!
in Cool Things
11 comments… add one
  • Breanna September 13, 2013

    Yay! I love this post (obviously). I am having so much fun learning about my house and our neighborhood. I’ll keep digging!

    • Scoops September 13, 2013

      I think we should make a history center date…

      • Breanna September 13, 2013

        Definitely! But I have to warn you… it’s addictive! Will email you and we’ll find a date soon.

  • Casey September 13, 2013

    That’s so cool! I love old houses for their personal history and stories. Many libraries provide a free ancestry.com account when you use their computers and/or sign up with your library card. You should check your local branch!

    • Scoops September 13, 2013

      Casey! Great tip, I want to get out to the Minnesota History center too and see what I can find there. It would be such a thrill to find an old photo of the house or the families that lived here!

  • Amanda @ willful/joyful September 13, 2013

    I LOVE the history that comes with old houses! The house I grew up in was built in 1918. Back in the mid-90s we were having a garage sale and an old man brought us an old photograph of our house a year after it was built. It was so neat to see the original leaded glass windows in the front (that had been replaced in the 60s – so sad), the original railing on the porch (now bland wrought iron from the 70s), and the original owners who were dressed in their very best clothes out in front of the house. They were the man’s parents and so cute. His grandmother was sitting in the front window watching the photographer, and the old man (then around 5 or 6) had snuck into the shot and was hiding between two tiny pine trees. Those trees had since grown very tall and so big around that they squished together and we thought it was one tree. What a gift he gave us! It hangs in my parent’s living room and will stay with the house when they move on.

    The house we live in now was built in 1985 and we are only the second owners. It’s not quite the same, but knowing that a happy family was raised here and stayed for a good long time is nice. We accidentally named our youngest, Grant, after them (it was their last name). We didn’t even realize it until he was about a week old. As we had discussed names from the comfort of our home, something about “Grant” just felt right, maybe from it echoing over our walls for the previous 25 years or from seeing it all over the papers as we signed to buy the place not even a year before. Either way, it’s a fun homage to the family that cared for our home before us :)

    • Scoops September 13, 2013

      This made me tear up a bit. What a sweet story both about your old house, and Grant. Houses are seriously like family members, that’s why we gotta take care of them, so that we can hand them off to the next family knowing that we loved ’em up good.

      There is something pretty special about being responsible for a home. It’s a place that needs to be taken care of, and in return takes care of you. It’s also a space that can reflect who we are as people and as a family.

      It’s getting so mushy over here!

  • Monica September 13, 2013

    get thee to the registry of deeds! That’s where I was taught to go as an undergrad doing historical geog. research, and it’s probably the source of whatever’s online anyway. Hours of fun to see stuff written out in fancy longhand, and plat maps! so cool!
    This might be your local one:

  • jessica September 14, 2013

    The house I live in now was the areas farm house back when my neighbourhood was one big farm. 120 some odd years of history in our beautiful home. The Dutch painter who built it had an unbelievable eye for detail. I feel so lucky to be part of its history. I love what you have to say about taking care of our homes just as they take care of us.
    Thanks for this post…oh now I’ve got a tear in my eye.

  • Becky September 14, 2013

    Our house was built in 1915 and I am very curious about its history. I made my first trip to the archives on Wednesday and found several owners of the home. One family lived her for close to 50 years (the wife lived in our house for close to 30 years as a widow). It is crazy to think that someone spent most of their adult life in our house–all of the personal and historical events that happened between 1944 and 1992.

    Being in Canada the process is probably slightly different but the archivists gave me several methods of searching, including the Land Registry office, where you can discover exactly who lived in the house, whether they were owners or renters, and up until a certain point their occupations. Also, the old tax assessment records will be able to tell you when renovations occurred because the taxes will have increased (ie, as a family had more money they made improvements like bricking the exterior, adding indoor plumbing, etc). They also suggested looking through fire insurance maps. The insurance companies mapped houses and listed the materials used in the construction and included plans for the homes.

    Good luck in your searching!

  • Dawn FP September 15, 2013

    The Mpls library has tons of info. Some you can access online and some that require a field trip to the downtown library. Here’s a link to what they offer and how to access it:


    Be careful how you search with it, though. I put in my address and got nothing. But when I searched “16th” there was lots of stuff.

    There’s also a kiosk at Mpls Development Review where you can access copies of a lot of old records. Here’s a link w/ that info:


    Hope this helps! Can’t wait to hear if you find out something cool.

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