More Than a Phone Book
Accessing the old city directories is a great resource to trace where your ancestors lived. By combining old city directories research alone with the local maps of the era you can get a real sense of how they lived. Many of the major city public libraries around the country have both resources available for viewing. Be for warned-many of the street names may have been changed. Ask the librarian if there is a list of street name changes that was recorded by the city’s improvement department.
If you are not close to a public library many people do their research through free searches online. City directories began to be published in the 1700’s, as soon as America’s growing populace began settling themselves into towns and cities.
There are assorted websites that have the directories available to search through for free. Many of the directories have been digitally scanned from the originals.
Individuals and businesses are listed alphabetically in city directories, similar to the White Pages of today’s phone book.
Businesses had their names listed along with a one or two word blurb about what type of business it was. Following that was usually the address; if there was no street address it usually stated the nearest corner streets. An example is below:
ABF Manufacturing Co, jewelers, 21st cor Arapahoe (this company was on 21st St. near the corner of Arapahoe)
Individuals had their names listed with their last name first, along with their occupation and address. An example is below:
Abair Francis X, carp, r 125 S. Tremont (this gentleman was a carpenter; his residence was at 125 S. Tremont)
The directories can be a great addition to your genealogy tool kit. They may help you to fill in details about your ancestors’ name, occupation and where he/she lived.