Directories have been published for various Tennessee cities and counties since the mid-1800's, 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.
Directories are alphabetical lists of names and addresses. City directories can help you to learn where an ancestor lived. The person’s occupation is frequently given. Often the home address and the business address are both mentioned. When a husband dies, the widow is often listed as “widow of. . . .” Directories at times can help you determine in which ward the family lived, so that when you are searching census records for big cities, you can find your ancestor more easily.
Directories sometimes have maps and addresses of churches, cemeteries, courthouses, and other important locations.
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 to list an ancestor 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.
The following are representative of the city directories in the Family History Library Catalog:
Nashville (Tennessee) City Directories. Woodridge, Connecticut: Research Publications, 1980–1984. (On 29 Family History Library films beginning with 1377091; fiche 6044160–65 [set of 29.)] This directory includes the years 1853–1935.
Knoxville (Tennessee) City Directories. Woodridge, Connecticut: Research Publications, 1980–1984. (On 22 Family History Library films beginning with 1844154.) This directory includes the years 1869–1881 (some years are missing), 1902–1935.
There is an 1859 city directory at some archives.
Memphis (Tennessee) City Directories. Woodridge, Connecticut: Research Publications, 1980–1984. (On 41 Family History Library films beginning with 1377032; fiche 6044115–6044119 [set of 22.)] This directory includes the years 1849–1935 (many early years missing).
The Family History Library, the Tennessee State Library and Archives, the University of Tennessee, and other Tennessee repositories have large collections of city and county directories. A list of city directories at the Tennessee State Library and Archives is available on their web site.
Many groups have created directories of their organizational structure and members or personnel.
Companies may create directories of their subscribers. The directories that were published for public distribution are the ones most likely to find their way into libraries and archives. Typical examples of directories in an archive are city directories, telephone directories, church directories, occupational directories, farmers directories, or rosters of society members. These directories may range from local to international in scope. Often the most recent edition of a directory is the only one an archive will have on hand.
The Family History Library has compact discs that incorporate telephone directories for most of the United States. These directories are not at Family History Centers but may be used at the Family History Library. Current telephone directories can also be found on the Internet and may assist in finding living relatives.
See the article, United States Directories, for more detailed information on the value and content of directories.
To find directories, consult the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
- TENNESSEE - DIRECTORIES
- TENNESSEE, [COUNTY] - DIRECTORIES
- TENNESSEE, [COUNTY], [TOWN] - DIRECTORIES