Monday, October 12, 2009

City Directories on has the absolute best online collection of City Directories from large cities to date, especially for the years before 1923.

The City Directories available include:

* Baltimore City Directories, 1863-1923
* Boston City Directories, 1786-1926

* Brooklyn City Directories, 1862-1900, 1902-1912
* Buffalo City Directories, 1861-1923
* Chicago City Directories, 1843-1916, 1923
* Dallas City Directories, 1878-1923
* Detroit City Directories, 1861-1923
* Fort Wayne City Directories, 1861-1923
* Los Angeles City Directories, 1873-1924
* Louisville City Directories, 1861-1923
* New Orleans City Directories, 1861-1923
* New York City Directories, 1786-1922
* Newark City Directories, 1861-1923
* Philadelphia City Directories, 1785-1922

* Pittsburgh City Directories, 1861-1923
* St. Louis City Directories, 1863-1923
* San Francisco City Directories, 1861-1923

* Washington DC City Directories, 1822-1923

Not every year is available for every city, but these collections are very complete after the 1860s.

The easiest way to see the City Directories collection is to go to the Browse Original documents ( page, click on the News and Town Records link, then the City Directories link, and select a state and see the list of cities with a collection. Click on the city and you can obtain a list of the years available.

There is also a collection called Miscellaneous City Directories which has a few city directories for smaller cities in CT, ME, MA, NH and RI.

For any of these City Directories, you can use the search field at the bottom of the Browse screen to search for a surname. I recommend doing this year-by-year in a specific city if you are doing a one-name search.


MikeF said...


First let me note that I am not a Footnote subscriber, though I have been waiting for an opportunity (as in they start digitizing War of 1812 records).

One of my big pet peeves, especially triggered by newspaper sites, is deceptive advertising, as in advertising a period of years only to find out that it is not continuous and only contains a few issues at each end perhaps.

I have never before found Footnote guilty of such doings, but now I am not sure with the city directories.

One should be able to use browse mode as you recommend, to go to a year and then find one or more directories listed, i.e. books whose pages one can then see if one has a subscription.

Instead, one clicks on a year and sees thumbnail views of of pages, without knowing what one will see until one clicks on it. Will it be a certain brand directory, will it be complete, and will there be more than one brand/title of directory lumped in together in the bastardized fashion that Ancestry likes to often do?

So using Cincinnati as an example I browsed to that city and clicked on 1880. I find a directory that only has 70 pages for a large city. My guess is that if I had a subscription, that I would find that only a very small portion of the Williams Directory will be there, as in the business directory at the beginning. Which would of course mean not finding one's ancestors living in Cincinnati in 1880.

There needs to be an arrangement by book title and note of how complete each one is. Otherwise the whole could constitute deceptive advertising of databases.

Again I have a good opinion of Footnote and am only going off of a quick search without the ability to do a more thorough search, and maybe I am missing something, as in not being able to see an actual page county without a subscription. Perhaps you have a subscription and can dig further on this to find out the truth.



Randy Seaver said...


There are 1,395 pages in the Cincinnati 1880 City Directory. It is a Williams Directory.

If you click on one of the pagen umbers, you do see the thumbnail of the page and it is difficult to find your folks. That's why you should use the Search box at the bottom of the page to find the surname or keyword. It gives you the list of pages with your Search matches.

I did all of that within my subscription - haven't tested to see what happens without a subscription.

Good luck -- Randy

MikeF said...


Thanks for the response. This is odd. When browsing under "browse titles" and navigating to the 1880 Cincinnati directory, I do get a numbering that if taken to the end via ">>" gives the 1395 pages as you said. I am trying to replicate how I got there before which I cannot seem to do. Instead of the usual browse arrangement where you keep getting new panels to the right until you get the database in question and then liniks to individual pages, I got a view with thumbnails of individual pages, and where 70 was the max available. And I do not mean the thumbnails with "premium" on them that are typically returned by a search. Instead all I can get is a link for each page and not a thumbnail.

Oh well false alarm I guess :). Maybe it was some fluke although it would be interesting if someone can replicate what I did where you get a page of thumbnails for individual pages in that year's directory. As I said I had never seen Footnote do anything to misrepresent before so I am glad that is not the case. Now if they would just get those War of 1812 Compiled Service Records . . .


Free Advertisement said...

Posting your business in online directories not only help promote your business but increase the chance of having a great number of customers as well.