House History Hunting Part 2: Raising the dead

by on March 27th, 2014

Yesterday I took a first look into the history of a property’s owners through the Iowa City Assessor’s website. Today we dig deeper.

The Assessor’s site only listed one sale in 2006, and that sale was code 14—“Exchange, trade, gift, transfer from Estate,” and it includes the names for both the buyers and the sellers. From there, I go to the 2nd floor Page Station’s City Directories to look for a deeper history of ownership. The listing states the house was built in 1963, so I start with the 1963 Polk Directory and look the house up by its address. Hmm. The Directory lists the property under the same family name as the name on the Estate. Could this mean the house was in the same family for 50 years? I grow hopeful.

1915 City Directory

1915 City Directory

I decide to look for the obituary of the family member who died in 2006. ProQuest has the Iowa City Press Citizen archives from 2002 forward. Plugging the family name into the search bar brings up enough articles and obituaries that I don’t have to do an advanced search. I find the obituary for the matriarch who died in 2006 (obituaries often list home addresses—score!) The obituary tells me she married her high school sweetheart, worked for the UI and ACT, and supported her husband’s masonry business.

Masonry business? This new clue practically REQUIRES me to go back to the city directories. The house has two fireplaces, and if professional masons lived there, I am going to have tons of confidence in the brick work. Before I go back to the directories, I discover the patriarch of the family died before 2002, so I can’t get his obituary from ProQuest.

Where can I turn to next? Look for tomorrow’s post to find out.

Posts in this series:

House History Hunting Part 1: Good deeds go unpunished

House History Hunting Part 2: Raising the dead (currently reading)

House History Hunting Part 3: A local index like no other

Ad in 1915 City Directory

“Let me be your beautifier”–Extra just-for-fun pic

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About Melody Dworak

Melody Dworak
Melody buys books for the second half of the nonfiction Dewey numbers on the 2nd floor. She has recently been bitten by the fiction bug, but loves those historical reference questions regardless. Visit the digital collections she manages at and