Sunday, May 1, 2011

Five Ways to Use City Directories



Five Ways to Use City Directories

These city directory strategies are from the Family Tree University Course
Exploring City Directories: How to Trace Your Family in Yesterday's Yellow Pages. The next session starts Monday, May 9.

1. Ancestor missing from a census? Use your ancestor's street address in a city directory published close to the census year to determine the 
enumeration district (ED) for that census. Then browse census records by ED looking for your ancestor.

2. Look for alternate sources of birth information. If you can't get a birth certificate, check city directories for places of worship where a baptism may have taken place. Directories also will list newspapers that may have published an announcement.

3. Narrow down a marriage date. Nineteenth- and early 20th-century marriages almost always involved a change in residence by at least one of the parties. Compare city directories from year to year, looking for a man newly listed with a wife or a woman disappearing from her parents' listing. 

4. Find land records. Most city directories denote whether a person owns his property, or indicate otherwise with terms such as "renter" or "boards with." A shift from renter to owner status tells you to look for deeds.

5. Narrow down a death date. Death is only one of the possible explanations for your ancestor's disappearance from city directories—but it should be one of the possibilities you explore. Widows frequently are listed as "Mrs." or labeled "wid" or "widow."

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