Directories are alphabetical lists of names and addresses. These often list all the adult residents or trades people of a city or area. Beginning in the 20th century there are telephone directories.
The most helpful directories for genealogical research are city directories. These can identify a street address where an ancestor lived, which may be needed to locate his or her family in a census record. Depending on the area, directories may also be for a much broader area, such as state-wide directories for Australia. These types of directories are generally published annually and may include an individual’s name, address, and occupation; a spouse’s name; and other helpful facts. An individual’s address can be very helpful when searching in a large city, especially if there are records such as unindexed censuses that need to be searched. Directories sometimes have city maps and may include addresses of synagogues, cemeteries, civil registration offices, and other locations of value to the genealogist.
Some trades, such as the medical profession, publish their own directories. For example, annual medical directories for the British Isles have been published since 1845. Trade directories can be particularly valuable for Jewish research. They often list advertisements and personal information that may help you compile your ancestor’s history. A summary about Russian business directories is found in:
Gostin, Ted. "Russian Business Directories." Syllabus. Salt Lake City: FEEFHS 1997: 55–58. (FHL book 940 C4f; film 1183732 item3.)
Information from some directories can be found on the Internet. One such searchable database is for 19th century London Jews compiled from several London trade directories and other sources. Another database is the 1923–1925 Lithuanian medical directories and includes information for over 800 Jewish medical personnel. Information listed on the Internet from these medical directories includes name, place of residence, professional specialty, citizenship, year of birth, and the source and date of the medical degree for the people who are listed. A web address that contains information about Jews listed in several directories is:
Some places have directories that list only Jews. For example, England has directories of Jews beginning in the 19th century.
The Family History Library has many directories that date from the late 1700s to the present day. Some directories list only certain types of trades people or businesses. Check for these records in the Family History Library Catalog. Most will be listed in the locality search section of the catalog under the name of the city where your ancestor lived.
You can use modern telephone directories to locate relatives or organizations that can help with your research. An Internet site that has links to telephone directories for various states and countries is:
If there is a research outline for the country or state where your ancestor lived, see the directory section of the outline for further information about records in specific geographical areas.