Talk:United States Directories
Why Use Directories?
- Learn the exact years your ancestor inhabited a place.
- Locate ancestor in a census that hasn’t been indexed (esp. state census).
- Estimate year of immigration.
- Learn occupation and employer as identifiers
- Find other family members.
- An alphabetical listing (arranged by name, address, and occupation).
- A street address listing (arranged by address, name, and occupation).
- Widows, working women, and adult children at home.
- Ward maps.
- Street locator, including cross streets.
- Street name changes.
- Removals (sometimes destinations!).
- Businesses (and index to advertisers).
- Churches, schools, funeral homes, cemeteries, post offices, courts, hospitals, benevolent associations, newspapers.
- Many early directories listed only businesspeople.
- Some directories list wife in parenthesis.
- Whether a woman is a widow (including name of husband).
- List of marriages and deaths of previous year.
- Death date.
- Place Search -- Family History Library Catalog
- Search city and county.
- Predecessor record: minutes of town meetings incl. lists of inhabitants.
- Finding aids:
- City Directories of the United States. New Haven: Research Publications, Inc. 1971-
- City Directories of the United States, 1860-1901: Guide to the Microfilm Collection. Woodbridge, CT: Research Publications, 1983
- Spear, Dorothea N. Bibliography of American Directories Through 1860. Worcester, Mass.: American Antiquarian Society, 1961.
- UScityDirectories.com: Identifies directories by place and gives repository and call number (incl. FHL film numbers).
- Transcriptions of city directories from 18 states.
- Check the beginning of the directory for cutoff dates, geographical coverage, and the meaning of abbreviations.
- Check alphabetical listing or residents to find known ancestors.
- After finding a known ancestor’s address in the alphabetical listings, check the street address listing to find unknown ancestors at the same address.
- Directories list occupants (not necessarily owners).
- Major cities: Check town or county histories for outlying towns later absorbed by a city.
- Minorities were often listed separately.
- Others at your ancestor’s address may be boarders.
- Pay attention to occupations
- Occupations can give you an extra “handle” by which you can identify your ancestor in another record.
- If an alphabetical listing says your ancestor is “Asst. to John Doe,” see what John Doe does for a living.
- Streets were renumbered. If your ancestor’s address changes, see if his neighbors’ addresses change correspondingly.
- Second marriages: If a widow is listed at an address, then replaced by a man the next year at that address, check marriage records!
- Find ancestor in all available directories:
- More name handles.
- More relatives at same address.
- More occupations.
- For blank forms you can use to extract information from a directory, see www.tpl.toronto.on.ca/localhistory/directories4.html
What to Do Next
Directories serve as springboards to other records:
- To narrow down the church records to search for an ancestor, use directories to find addresses of churches near your ancestor’s residence.
- If you have a marriage certificate naming the minister who performed the marriage ceremony, find his listing in directories to learn the name of his church.
- Directory listings often mention whether the resident is an owner, renter, or boarder. If owner, see land records!
Egan-Baker, Maryan. "U.S. Census & City Directories: The Dynamic Duo." Utah Genealogical Association Conference. Salt Lake City, Utah, 13 April. 2000.
Gormley, Myra Vanderpool, C.G. City Directories: Windows on the Past. <http://www.ancestry.com/columns/myra/Shaking_Family_Tree03-19-98.htm>. 19 March 1998 (Accessed 27 August 2002).
Hinckley, Kathleen W., C.G.R.S. Skillbuilding: Analyzing City Directories. <http://www.bcgcertification.org/skillbuilders/skbld965.html>. May 1996 (Accessed 27 August 2002).
Morgan, George. City Directories. <http://www.ancestry.com/columns/george/03-06098.htm?sourceid=00392187254525771865>. 6 March 1998 (Accessed 27 August 2002).
Primary Sources -- Directories. <http://www.tpl.toronto.on.ca/localhistory/directories1.html>. 27 January 2000 (Accessed 27 August 2002).
Remington, Gordon, F.U.G.A. "Needle in a Smokestack: Urban Research." Utah Genealogical Association Conference. Salt Lake City, Utah, 13 April, 2000.