Using Directories for your Research
By the mid 1800’s most major cities had directories, and many smaller towns were included in those of larger locales. Directories are an often overlooked source of genealogical gold. They typically include the names, addresses and occupations of the individuals listed, as well as marital status and names. Additional information may be available in specialty sections that list names of those in political positions, local societies, businesses, and advertisements.
Types of Directories
- Criss-Cross or Reverse Directories are organized by address rather than by names. Older City Directories may include a Street directory at the back that is organized by address that can be helpful in finding relatives, friends, relatives, and neighbors.
- Social Registers are lists of prominent, community members, typically those well connected, and socially elite Blue Books are almanacs, buyer’s guides or other compilations of statistics and information.
- Professional Directories list members in specific occupations such as medicine, law, agriculture, and education, often including individual biographical details
- Specialized Directories, published by school and university alumni groups, church/religious groups, and non-profit organizations typically contain listings of their members or associates
Where to Start
- Your Guide to Finding Ancestors in City Directories
- Family Locket: Examining City Directories to Discover New Avenues of Research
- Sassy Jane, Finding more in U.S. City Directories
- How to use directories in your genealogy research
- Cyndi’s List – has general information and links to locality-specific resources
- The Library of Congress (LOC) maintains collections of nearly all city directories and county histories in the U.S.
- com: Using Directories for Genealogy
- HathiTrust – search for “Directories” and add location
- The Online Historical Directories Website
Search Google for directories using the following format: geographical location + “city [or other type of] directory” + year (optional) For example, Washington+Seattle directory+1932 or Washington+Seattle directory
Updated from original article published in the October 2019 issue of the SIGS newsletter, the Beacon.