Saturday, September 26, 2009

San Francisco and Los Angeles City Directories on - Post 3

In San Francisco and Los Angeles City Directories on - Post 1, I noted that there are extensive runs of City directories for these two California cities; in Post 2, I demonstrated using the traditional search method of finding city directory entries, and noted that this method may be time consuming for common surnames and common names because the matches on the list are pretty random.

There is another way to search the City Directories, and other large databases with many pages. The user can do a Browse and Search technique. Let me demonstrate it for you.

I was looking for all of the McKnew entries in the San Francisco City Directories. My preference is to start with the first directory and work through to the last one, writing down all of the entries so that I can construct a history of the surname in the city. Here is the home page screen for

Do you see the "Browse Titles" link just below the row of "Historical Era" links, and just above the "Popular this week" line? If you click on the "Browse Titles" link, you get this page that can list all of the titles by collection:

In the screen above, I clicked on "News and Town Records" link in the left-hand column, then on the "City Directories" link in the second column, then on the "California" link in the third column, and the list of cities appeared in the fourth column. I clicked on "San Francisco" and the table moved a column to the left, then selected a year from the column of years (I chose 1887 for some reason) and the list of pages appeared in the right column (two screens that overlap):

You do not want to look at the City Directory pages one at a time, trust me! There are 1,390 pages in this 1887 directory. If I'm searching for a surname, I want to go to the page with that surname, not have to hunt for the page using some trial and error method (been there, done that!).

The key to this search is the Search field at the bottom of the frame. In the screen above, I typed in "Mcknew" and hit the "Go" button:

I received one match for "McKnew" in this specific directory. When I clicked on the "View Image" link, the image came up:

This image was on page 824 of the 1,390 page San Francisco City Directory for 1887. If the entries for a surname are on more than one page, the user can click on the previous or next page of the filmstrip at the bottom of the page.

If the user wants to make another search in the same directory, s/he can use the Browser History list (in the browser top row, next to the URL on my IE7 browser) and select "Browse Original Documents" to get to the Search box again. If you use the "Go Back" link, or your browser's "Back" button, you get back to the Match for the currently open directory. You could use the "Back" button twice, of course!

To go quickly to another City Directory, you should use your Browser History button and select "Browse Original Documents."

There is a wealth of information in the City Directories just waiting for you to find it!

Miriam Midkiff has a helpful website devoted to helping you find online City Directories at I did not see links to the collections on this site.

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