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Directories are alphabetical lists of names and addresses. The most helpful directories for genealogical research are provincial directories and city directories (published annually in the 20th century).
Published directories were issued annually for major metropolitan centers. They identify the residence for heads of household as well as provide lists of government employees, members of private and charitable organizations, lists of professionals and tradesmen. They exist primarily for the later 19th and early 20th centuries. Some of these are available in major research libraries around the United States.
A person’s address can be very helpful when searching an un-indexed census of a large city. Inclusion or omission in successive directories can indicate when the person came to the city, left the city, or died.