Casefile Clues

21 February 2014

My House in 1955

It's one thing to find it driving down the road. It is another to find it in a published book of pictures when you do not know the name of the owner.

I grew up in an old farmhouse north of Carthage, Illinois. I know exactly where it is. I can easily find it on a township map, an online satellite map, etc. But finding it in this 1955 Aerial County History Series for Hancock County, Illinois, took a little doing.

The main problem was that the house and accompanying acreage was not owned by my family in 1955. The property was a half mile east of where my paternal grandparents lived and was rented originally by my uncle in the early 1960s and later by my father starting in the late 1960s. I did not know the name of the owner in 1955. I knew the name of later owners, but that did not help me.


The pictures in the book were arranged by township and then alphabetically by owner within the township. I found where I lived on a plat map of the county in order to determine what section of Carthage township the house was located in. Since the section of each piece of property was given, that would help with my search. The "town" given was the mailing address of the owner. Sometimes that was the same name as the township in my case (but not always). Searching the digital images on  Mocavo.com was difficult because:

  • I didn't have the name of the owner
  • I had the route number wrong--I had forgotten where I grew up was route 4 when my father was growing up.
  • Searching for "Sec. 7" as a search term was not working quite the way I thought it should--even with the quotes. 
I quit searching and decided that it would be easier to go through the entire set of alphabetical set of pictures for Carthage Township and look closely at any property in section 7. I knew there would not be that many properties in section 7. 

And there weren't.

As soon as I saw this image, I knew I had the right place (and actually that name of Frank Oertel "rang a bell" the moment I saw it). The relative position of the house to the outbuildings and barn was right (although there was one more building than I remember). There was also some sort of circular cement fixture (a tank) to the north of the barn, which I had completely forgotten about until I saw the picture. 

Sometimes one has to search manually for that item of interest. Sometimes one has to use other finding aids to help (the township map with section numbers helped me remember the section number in which the farm was located). 

Patience would have helped also. If I had not been in such a hurry to find it, I could have asked my Dad who used to own the place the next time I saw him. He would have known. 

But then the search might not have been quite so fun.