Tuesday, September 16, 2008

US City Directories

City directories may be one of the most under-utilized resources for genealogy researchers. Why? Because they are usually held only in local repositories. And very few have been digitized or transcribed and are online in a searchable index. However, some of them are available in online databases or regional repositories.

The web site http://www.uscitydirectories.com/ provides lists - by state and city, of city directories that are available at major repositories, like the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City, the National Archives, the Library of Congress in Washington DC, and several other repositories. The repositories listed on the web site include:

* Alabama Department of History
* Brigham Young University
* Clarksville-Montgomery County Public Library; TN
* Colorado State Archives
* Columbus-Lowndes Public Library; Columbus, MS
* Excelsior Springs Historical Museum; Missouri
* Family History Library
* Flint Public Library; Michigan
* Grand Rapids Public Library; Michigan
* Idaho State Historical Society
* Kansas State Historical Society
* Kentucky Historical Society
* Library of Congress
* Logan Library; Utah
* Lyon County Historical Archives; Kansas
* Midwest Historical and Genealogical Society Library, Wichita, KS
* Minnesota State University; Mankato
* Monterey Family History Center; Seaside, CA
* National Archives
* Tennessee State Library and Archives
* Texas State Library
* University of Utah
* Washington Memorial Library; Macon, GA
* Wyoming State Archives

There is an opportunity for local societies to submit lists of city directories from local repositories not on the above list. See the submission page at http://www.uscitydirectories.com/submit.htm.

www.Ancestry.com has a number of City Directories available online - check the Directories and Member Lists here. I found that they had Leominster, Massachusetts (my father's home town) City Directories from 1880 to 1963 (not every year, but a great selection).

In the case of the LDS Family History Library, they often have the city directories on microfilm listed in the Family History Library Catalog. For instance, the FHLC has City Directories for Leominster, Massachusetts from 1883 to 1935, with two to six directories on each film. I could order these films at the local Family History Center (FHC) for about $6 each and read them when they arrive at the FHC.

The FHLC also has the San Diego City Directories on microfilm from 1897 to 1935. Of course, the San Diego Public Library, the National City Public Library and the Chula Vista Public Library have nearly complete collections of San Diego City Directories up into the 1980's.

Many of the City Directories I've seen have an alphabetical listing of the residents and a reverse directory - with street-by-street address listings of the residents.

City Directories can provide clues to the persons living in a residence, their occupation(s), the address of the residence, whether they own or rent the residence, and their neighbors. Reviewing the City Directories over many years can provide a trace of the family as they moved from house-to-house and job to job. There may be listings or advertisements for the companies where the residents worked.

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