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City Directories_More Than Names and Addresses_Syllabus

City Directories_More Than Names and Addresses_Syllabus

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Published by Jim Heddell
City directories are an incredible resource often
overlooked or neglected by genealogists. Why?
Perhaps they think “I already know my ancestor’s
names and I know where they lived. Why should I
waste time looking at a city directory when I could
be looking at other records?”
City directories are an incredible resource often
overlooked or neglected by genealogists. Why?
Perhaps they think “I already know my ancestor’s
names and I know where they lived. Why should I
waste time looking at a city directory when I could
be looking at other records?”

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Categories:Types, Research, Genealogy
Published by: Jim Heddell on Oct 06, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/13/2014

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City Directories: More than Names and Addresses
Presented by Jason B. Harrison, CG
SM
City directories are an incredible resource oftenoverlooked or neglected by genealogists. Why?Perhaps they think “I already know my ancestor’snames and I know where they lived. Why should Iwaste time looking at a city directory when I could be looking at other records?”This class takes participants beyond the basics of city directory research and explores the many uniqueways a city directory can be used to further genealogical research.
History
 
 MacPherson’s Directory for the City and Suburbs of Philadelphia
(1785) is consideredto be the first U.S. city directory
 
 
Early city directories were published in NewYork (1786), Boston (1789), Baltimore (1796)and Hartford (1799)
 
By 1860 directories were being publishedregularly in over 70 U.S. cities
 
Major directory publishers included Damrell& Moore, C.S. Williams, John F. Trow, JohnDoggett, William H. Boyd, and R.L. Polk 
 
Publication of traditional city directoriesdecreased during the mid twentieth century as phone directories increased in popularity
Purpose
Directories benefited the entire community, butmore particularly the businessman. They helped himkeep track of his customers, identify potentialcustomers, and served as an advertising andmarketing medium. Businessmen also used thedirectory as a means for determining if a person wascredit worthy based on their status as a home owner.
Content
Directory content varies greatly over time and fromcity to city. Names, occupations, and addresses havealways been an industry standard. However, mostnineteenth century directories include additionalinformation about the city and its residents such as:
 
Advertisements
 
Business directory
 
Calendar of events
 
Cemeteries
 
Churches and ministers
 
City and government officials
 
Description of ward boundaries
 
Historical timelines
 
History of the city
 
Maps (most often found in microfilm copies)
 
 Newspapers
 
Post offices
 
Reverse directory (listing of residents arrangedalphabetical by street and house number)
 
Societies, institutions, and organizations
 
Street directory (list of streets and intersections)
Facts
 
Early directories typically listed only the headof the household
 
By mid 1800s nearly all adult working maleswere listed
 
Eventually, directories included names of wives, widows and single adult workingfemales
 Advantages
 
 No handwriting to decipher (printed)
 
Listings are alphabetical by surname
 
 Nearly all adult males are identified
 
Printed annually or biannually
 
Are available for most large cities
 
Easily accessible on microfilm or the Internet
UsesforCityDirectories
 
Identify Family Relationships
o
 
Listings may include names of spouse or children
o
 
Look for individuals with the samesurname residing at the same address
o
 
Use “Reverse” directories to identifymarried females and other unknownrelatives living at the family residence
o
 
Family often lived close to one another,so use directory maps to determine proximity of same surname households
 
Determine Birth, Marriage, and Death Dates
 
o
 
Some directories included lists of births,marriages, and deaths for the previousyear 
o
 
Entries may include a death date
o
 
Entries may note a female was married
o
 
“Widow of” notations can be used tonarrow down when a husband died
o
 
Disappearance from the directory mayindicate that a death had occurred, asingle adult female had married, or awidow had re-married
 
Migration Clues
o
 
Entries may indicate if a person had“Removed to” another city
o
 
Listings may include a former state or country of residence
o
 
Examine listings of neighbors for  potential migration clues
o
 
Find information about migration routes(roads, railways, canals, etc.) and modesof transportation (stage coaches, trains,steamships, etc.)
o
 
Use “Distance” tables to identify townsand cities along major migration routesand the miles between each location
 
Determine Religious Affiliation
o
 
Find the name of a minister listed on amarriage record in the city directory todetermine religious affiliation
o
 
Identify the nearest church by browsingthe listings of churches
 
Census Research Aid
o
 
Find names of other adult members of ahousehold not listed in pre-1850 head of household censuses
o
 
Substitute for the 1890 census destroyed by fire
o
 
Fill the gaps between census years
o
 
Use maps and boundary descriptions todetermine ward boundaries—thensearch the enumeration district page by page
o
 
Locate elusive individuals in the 1880,1900, 1910, 1920, 1930 and 1940censuses by using the street address provided in the directory and the “Onestep” census resources atwww.stevemorse.org 
 
Identify Friends, Associates, and Neighbors
 
o
 
When available use “Reverse”directories or city maps to identifyneighbors
o
 
Identify potential coworkers bycomparing occupations and employers
 
Find Cemetery Records
o
 
 Narrow the list of possible burial sites by determining which cemeteries werein existence
o
 
Use maps to locate cemeteries closest toan ancestor’s residence
 
Identify Contemporary Newspapers
o
 
Search listings of newspaper publishersto determine what papers were incirculation at the time
o
 
Identify specialty papers (Ethnic,Religious, Political, or Professional)
 
Land and Property Ownership Clues
o
 
Listings may designate “owner” of home
o
 
 Notations such as “h.” or “House” mayimply home ownership
o
 
Continuous residence at one addressover time may signify home ownership
o
 
Reverse directories generally record thename of the home owner of each address
 
Learn of Military Service
o
 
 Notation of military occupations(soldier, corporal, lieutenant, etc.)
o
 
May include a section with the names of local militia officers
o
 
Find listings of Civil War soldiers
 
Find Occupation
o
 
Use directories to learn about a person’s profession or employer then check tosee if any occupational records exist
 
 
Enhance Family Histories
o
 
Use directories to learn about the historyof a city. Often historical timelines areincluded
o
 
Find contemporary place descriptions
o
 
Extract information from advertisements
o
 
Look for photos and/or engravings of  persons, places or things
ResearchStrategies
 
 
Search every year that a directory is available
 
Search competing directories
 
Always examine the table of contents to learnwhat kind of information is included
 
Search all known spelling variations of a name
 
Search at least 5 years before or after a personappears or disappears from the directory
 
Look for directories for cities with populationsof 20,000 or more.
Caution
 
Directories are susceptible to errors andinaccuracies
 
Abbreviations may differ from one directoryto another (“r” may mean rear, rooms, rents,resides or residence)
 
The title page may list the year the directoryexpired and not the year it was issued
 
Don’t assume that just because someone wasmissing from the directory they weren’t there
FindingCityDirectories
Fortunately librarians, archivists, historians,collectors, etc., recognized the value of citydirectories and took measures to ensure that theywere preserved. Today, researchers can access printand microform copies of directories at manylocations including:
 
Local, state, and university libraries
 
County and state historical societies
 
State and national archives
 
Library of Congress
 
Family History Library
 
Allen County Public Library
 
American Antiquarian Society
TheFamilyHistoryLibrary
The Family History library has an excellentcollection of city directories available in print andmicroform. For details about the collection searchthe Family History Library catalog atwww.familysearch.org. For best results, do a “Placenames” search. Be sure to check all jurisdictions(town, city, county, and state). City directories arelisted in the catalog under the topic “Directories.”
FindingAids
Several helpful finding aids can be used to identifyand locate city directories. Use the followingresources to find out if a city directory exists:
 Printed Resources:
Spear, Dorothea N.
 Bibliography of American Directories Through 1860
. Worcester,Massachusetts: American Antiquarian Society,1961. (FHL book 973 A3s)Contains a listing of all known city directories published prior to 1860 with references torepositories where the items can be found.
City Directories of the United States Pre 1860Through 1901: Guide to the Microfilm Collection
.Woodbridge, Conn.: Research Publications, 1983.(FHL book 973 E43c)
 
Picks up where Spear’s bibliography left off.The guide is arranged alphabetically by nameof city (first entry is for Akron, Ohio), andthen chronologically by year. Each entrycontains year of publication and full directorytitle. A helpful index at the back of the book lists all the cities in the collection grouped bystates.Family History Library.
 Directory of United StatesCity Directories in Book Form at the Family History Library
. Salt Lake City, Utah: Church of JesusChrist of Latter-day Saints. Family History Library,1988. (FHL book 973 E43d)Although outdated, this register is still avaluable resource for determining what citydirectories are available at the Family HistoryLibrary in print format. Many of thesedirectories are housed in “High Density”storage on the B1floor and are not currentlylisted in the catalog. To retrieve materialsfrom “High Density” storage see the libraryattendant at the Access Services window onthe B1 floor.
Online Resources:WorldCat 
(www.worldcat.org). Search thecollections of over 10,000 libraries worldwide todetermine what directories exist and to figure outwhich institutions have holdings. Use interlibraryloan services to access far away materials.
City Directories of the United States
 (www.uscitydirectories.com).
This website
attempts “to identify all printed, microfilmed, and

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