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Family Tree Friday: Post Office Records, Continued

by on December 3, 2010


Last time I talked about the records of appointment of postmasters. This time, I want to talk about a different type of post office record – one that doesn’t provide a lot of family history information, but can provide a great deal of information about the community.

Reports of Site Locations provide, as the series name implies, reports on the locations of post offices. The content will vary, depending on the location and the year of the report, but most reports will provide some basic information on the post office and the surrounding area. You will find such things as the exact location of the post office, the nearest railroads, the nearest rivers, and the nearest post offices.

For example, here is a 1937 site location report for Pittsburg, KS.

1937 Post Office Site Location Report for Pittsburg, KS

1937 Post Office Site Location Report for Pittsburg, KS

At the top of the page, we see some basic information about the location – the post office is located in Pittsburg, KS, which is in the northern part of Baker Township, in Crawford County. The nearest adjoining county is Barton Co., MO, and the Pittsburg post office is roughly 4 ½ to 5 miles from the county line. The report also provides the names of neighboring post offices, and the distances to them. We learn that while there is a post office 4 miles to the north in Frontenac, KS, you would have to travel 11 miles to the west before you found another post office (Cherokee, KS).

The report also indicates that the nearest railroad was the Kansas City Southern, and it passed within a block of the post office itself. An earlier (1909) site location report indicates that the nearest railroad was the Joplin and Pittsburg Railroad, and the post office was located across the street from the tracks. The Joplin and Pittsburg (Railway) was a trolley system that ran in southeast Kansas and southwest Missouri. The nearest stream to the Pittsburg post office was called Cow Creek, and the nearest “prominent river” was the Spring River (located in Missouri).
The map that accompanies the 1909 site location report shows the location of the Pittsburg post office, as well as neighboring post offices.
M1126 Crawford3
Because Pittsburg is a relatively small town, and there is only one post office, the map is not very detailed. It does, however, show all the railroads which ran through town, as well as the position of Cow Creek and Spring River.

By contrast, 1 1915 map for the Roxborough Station post office in Philadelphia, PA is quite detailed.

1915 map showing location of Roxborough Station Post Office in Philadelphia, PA

1915 map showing location of Roxborough Station Post Office in Philadelphia, PA

We can see the position of the post office relative to the surrounding neighborhood – all drawn at a scale of 300 feet to the inch. Most maps are not drawn at this level of detail.

Along with the site location reports and their accompanying maps, you can also find applications for new post offices.
M1126 Philadelphia4
This application from 1887 provides details on the proposed location for a new post office in Montgomery County, PA. The new post office was to be called “Overbrook,” and the proposed location was at Overbrook Station on the Pennsylvania Railroad, about 5 ½ miles southeast of Philadelphia.

These records are part of Record Group 28, Records of the Post Office Department, 1773–1971, and are available on National Archives Microfilm Publication M1126, Post Office Department Reports of Site Locations, 1837-1950. They are arranged by state and then by county. The microfilm is available in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, as well as many of our regional facilities. It has not been digitized, and is not available online. For more information about Post Office records, see our website.


Comments

Denise Henderson December 15, 2010 at 9:04 am

Thanks so much for featuring Post Office records, Katherine! My dad has worked for the post office for 36 years and comes from a long line of mailmen. In my spare time, I’ve been doing some research into the establishment of their post office, this post is extraordinarily helpful!

Katherine December 17, 2010 at 10:08 am

Hi Denise,

I’m glad you found these posts interesting and helpful! There are a lot more post office records – I’ve only touched on what’s available. I have always found these records to be both really interesting and also under utilized.

- Katherine

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