Directories have been published for various Illinois cities and counties since the 1830s, though they may not exist for every year. Some directories focus on the businesses or occupations of an area, while others include heads of households, landowners, and voters.
City and county directories are similar to present-day telephone books and are useful records for locating people. They were often published annually, listing heads of households, employed household members, and their occupations and addresses. They can be used with census records or as substitutes for them.
Directories are particularly helpful for research in large cities where a high percentage of the people were renters, new arrivals, or temporary residents. In fact, a directory may be the only source that lists a person if he was not registered to vote and did not own property. Most households were included because the directories were created for salesmen, merchants, and others interested in contacting residents of an area.
Directories have other clues that may require careful study to discover. For example, people in similar or related occupations were often relatives, in-laws, or friends. A year-by-year study of directories may reveal the movements of ancestors and relatives within the city and sometimes to or from other cities.
- The Newberry Library, the Chicago Historical Society, also known as the Chicago History Museum and other libraries have excellent collections of city and county directories. Contact the local library in the area where you believe your ancestor lived to learn what directories are available.
The Family History Library has various directories from throughout the state of Illinois. Many were published as county directories listing inhabitants of major towns in the county. Rural directories collected information on farmers, dairymen, and other rural residents
The Family History Library has compact discs that incorporate telephone directories for most of the United States. These directories are not available at Family History Centers, but may be used at the Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah. Current telephone directories can also be found on the Internet and may assist in finding living relatives.
Examples of directories that may be found in an archive are: city directories, telephone directories, church directories, occupational directories, farmers directories, or rosters of society members. To find these directories in the Family History Library Catalog, do a Place Search for the town, county, or state, depending on the size of the area an organization may cover. Record types to select include:
- ILLINOIS - DIRECTORIES
- ILLINOIS, [COUNTY] - DIRECTORIES
- ILLINOIS, [COUNTY], [TOWN] - DIRECTORIES
- ILLINOIS, [COUNTY], [TOWN] - SOCIETIES- DIRECTORIES
The following are typical of the city directories in the Family History Library Catalog for Chicago and Cook County:
||Family History Library fiche 6043786–808|
|1844–1901||Family History Library films 1000739–54|
|1861–1929||Family History Library films 1376659–705, 1759633–49|
The Lurie index gives names and addresses of residents of Chicago in 1937:
Lurie Index of People in Chicago in 1937 As Well As All of the Voters’ Registration for Chicago. Tucson, Arizona: Reproduction, 19–?. (Family History Library films 933501–38).
Directories for other cities, such as Peoria, Rockford, and Springfield, are also available.
A series of directories of businesses in Illinois and Missouri is:
Illinois (State) Directories. Woodbridge, Connecticut: Research Publications, 1980–84. (Family History Library fiche 6043985–989 [set of 41].) The original directories in this collection were published between 1847 and 1860 by various publishers.
- The Newberry Library
- Chicago Historical Society
- Illinois Online Historical Directories