Thursday, October 9, 2008

City Directories

As a major fan of city directories, I was glad to see Randy Seaver's post at Genea-Musings on the Genealogy Research Associates' site "City Directories of the United States of America."

This is NOT a site for on-line access to city directories, like or (on a smaller scale but better crafted) the Newberry Library's Chicago Ancestors. It's intended to be locator site for where you can find hard copies or microfilms of city directories from all across the country. This is a wonderful service, because even libraries that have city directories don't always catalog them properly for those of us who really need to know whether they have 1871 or 1873!

GRA has covered two dozen repositories, only two within our coverage area (Flint and Grand Rapids, Michigan), and only three world-class (the Family History Library, BYU Library, and the Library of Congress). The glaring omission, of course, is the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana -- but the site is a work in progress and invites contributions. To find Allen County's microtext holdings, visit ACPL's Microtext Catalog and click on "City and County Directories." As for their hard-copy holdings (in a different part of the library), don't give up too soon in your search of their (separate) main catalog. What looks in the initial list like just one book unfolds into a glorious year-by-year listing when you click through.

And don't give up because you think your town is too small. Even little Sparta, Monroe County Wisconsin, has its directories -- if you go there!

Enjoy tracking your urban research targets from one year to the next, and -- if humanly possible -- remember to copy all instances of your target surnames. Trust me on this. The odds are very great that you'll discover an additional connection (or, more likely, a mysterious possible connection) for even the most banal ancestor, and then you'll Really Want To Know who else was on that page!

1 comment:

T.K. said...

Thanks for the link to Chicago's online city directories, Harold. I've been wanting 1891-1893, and was excited to find 1892 using your link. Found my great-grandfather, as I'd hoped I would. Yay!

You'd be welcome in the Genea-Bloggers group at Facebook if you're interested!