Tuesday, March 24, 2009

1941-1948 San Diego City Directories on Ancestry.com are incomplete

In some free moments today, I went exploring in the 1941-1948 San Diego City Directories recently added on http://www.ancestry.com/.

I input my father's name, expecting to see entries for each year. Nope. I input my mother's name and expected to see every year. Nope. They were in the 1943-1945 set, but not any others. Hmmm, what's happening here?

You can see what is in each collection by following the links at the top of the Ancestry.com screen. Here is the screen shot for U.S > City Directories > California > San Diego:

It looks like there are directories for 1941-1942, 1943-1945, and 1945-1948. I clicked on the 1941-1942 link, and the first image is:

This Image #1 is page 1230 of the 1941 San Diego City Directory. It is the middle of the Business pages. After these pages come the other county city listings. The last image in this 1941 directory is #215 (I think).

Image #216 is page 5 of the 1942 San Diego City Directory:

The pages up to the last image in this Image Set contain the entire San Diego City Directory (but not the other cities in the county). The last image in this Image Set is #1368, which is page 1198 of the 1942 City Directory - the S listing of street addresses:

Where are the rest of the Street lists and the listings for the other county cities? I went back and clicked on the 1943-1945 set. The first image was of page 881 of the 1943 San Diego City Directory:

Image #1 is the T surname listings of the 1943 San Diego City listings. The 1943 directory ends at Image #899.

The 1944-5 directory starts at Image #903. The last image in this set is #1377, which is page 500 of the San Diego City surnames.

Moving on to the 1945-1948 directory, Image #1 is page 1736 of the Business listings of the 1944-1945 directory. Image #311 is page 2044, the end of the 1944-1945 directory.

Image #312 is page x of the 1947-1948 directory. This image set goes to Image #1344 which is page 1032 (the S Surnames in San Diego City).

It is apparent to me that the San Diego City Directories are woefully incomplete in the current Image Sets. There are "holes" between:

** page 1199 to the end of the 1942 directory.
** page 1 to page 880 of the 1943 directory.
** page 501 to page 1735 of the 1944-1945 directory.
** page 1033 to the end of the 1947-1948 directory.

No wonder I couldn't find my folks in every year! This collection of 1940's City Directories is FAU if they are not complete!

{Rant on]

So WTF happened here? Is this a problem with the microfilms that the Ancestry images were copied and indexed from? Or is it a quality control problem where whole sections of available city directories were ignored? Or were put in some other file that I can't find?

Whatever it is, it needs to either be explained or fixed, preferably the latter. If it cannot be fixed, then the "holes" in the records should be identified and published along with the database explanations so that customers are not mislead into thinking that their family members didn't live where they thought they lived.

Is this only a San Diego problem, or is it endemic to all of the other 1940's era City Directories recently added to the Ancestry.com collection? I urge other bloggers interested in this 1940s-era set of City Directories to do a similar exercise for their area. I'm too POed to do it for another area - it will be NVA for me, anyway.

Why can't an entire City Directory be included in one Image Set? In other words - start with the front cover and end with the back cover, and include all pages in between? None of the San Diego directories I looked at had a front cover or back cover filmed, and didn't have some of the front pages either. This is incomprehensible to me - but then I'm an engineer who tries to think logically and to figure out "how would I do this?"

[I've used some abbreviations above - they are engineer-speak ... email me at rjseaver@cox.net if you want a translation! Maybe we can make my abbreviations a SNGF item? Then your blog could also be PNG at the FHL!] [Rant off]


Thomas MacEntee said...

Great post Randy - I in general was very underwhelmed by this new addition to Ancestry and felt that the sidebar ads were a bit of a tease.

For someone like me with ancestors in the 1940s in medium sized cities in upstate New York, there are no city directories.

footnoteMaven said...


A worthy rant to say the least. I will be looking forward to some answers.


Craig Manson said...

I'll be the dissenter here. As I wrote the other day, I'm happy with the City Directories Collection. I found a lot of my relatives and learned many new things about them. For me it was an excellent 1940 census sub. Do I wish the collection had been bigger? Yes. But overall, I think it was good.

Dan Babish said...

I've found the same sort of issue with the NJ directories. It looks to me that a whole set of microfilm was digitized and then an attempt was made to split the results into the appropriate years without success.

John said...

The St. Louis City 1940-1941 directory begins on page 985 in the Qs.

The St. Louis County 1939-1941 directory begins on page 498 in the Ns.

I am also surprised a bit by an oversight, though an easy one for Ancestry to fix. The 1940 census substitute collection of databases arguably should include the 1935 and 1945 Florida state census. But it doesn't. You have to search them separately.

Geolover said...


As John's post would suggest, the gaps and omissions are numerous throughout the database - that is, in many if not most locations. Ancestry bought microfilms and imaged them as-found.

Ancestry did not regroup the images by specific Directory (place, year-edition), so it is difficult to determine what is missing without the tedious browsing such as what you did.

Geolover said...

Here is a response, from an Ancestry.com manager, to items regarding missing parts of the Directories:

Chris Lydiksen, Ancestry.com
Posted on: March 16, 2009 at 9:04 am

Regarding situations where the first image shown is not the first page of the city directory (or where the last image is not the last page), our source for these directories filmed them with multiple directories on a single roll, or single directories on multiple rolls. There are thousands more city directories to come and as we release them and piece all the partials together, these instances will diminish.


Chris said...

All, the city directory issue where the first image shown is not the first page of the city directory (or where the last image is not the last page), has been mostly fixed (by mostly I mean most of the city directories are displaying as you would expect in the browse now). This was not an easy or quick fix. We are aware of some lingering issues that will take longer to sort out.

Again, these directories were filmed in such a way that some individual directories ran across two rolls of microfilm. The larger project consists of over 8,000 rolls. There are thousands more city directories to come and we have adjusted the requirements to catch and fix this issue in subsequent batches.

Thanks for your patience on this.

One more thing. We extract names, dates and places from free-text (OCR-captured typewritten text as with city directories, newspapers, books, etc.) When searching free-text databases on Ancestry.com, you can search just for extracted names using the names fields. However, only names that are included in our name dictionaries are extracted. Our name dictionary does not include every possible given name or surname in history. “Lydiksen” is not even included. This is done to minimize false hits on name searches. That said, there is a project to augment these dictionaries.

So, and many of you probably already know this, if you are not getting results using the name fields, try entering the name in the keyword field. That will search ALL captured text, including names, dates and places (this is how I found my grandparents in New Jersey directories).

Chris Lydiksen
U.S. Content

Donna Hague Wendt said...

Thanks for your comments, Randy. It appears that there are no entries for Los Angeles City. Lots from the suburbs though. Also I did find family from the Des Moines City Directories, but, like your experience I had to go back and forth to zero in on the appropriate page. The good news is that there will be more additions and that things may get in some sort of order. Thanks, Donna