Friday, December 26, 2008

Akron City Directories 1859-1969!

The Akron-Summit County Public Library Special Collections has done several wonderful things in digitizing Akron city directories. The most wonderful thing is that they did it at all, making this great research tool available to those who no longer live conveniently in northeast Ohio. But that's not all the goodness by any means. Let me count the ways:

First, they did them all or almost all (1911 and 1916 are still on the way), not skipping or selecting years. (The earliest is a partial edition from 1859; the latest is 1969. In between they have most years including a complete run 1877-1910.) Yearly coverage is critical for researchers just as it was for contemporaries. It enables us to confirm family members' presence, location, and occupation; even if they don't move (and most people rented and moved almost every year), their occupation may change or be described differently or include the employer's name. Unlikely-looking listings can be double-checked and perhaps confirmed in adjacent years. Family linkages may be suggested if people circulate through the same addresses in different years.

Second, they put each one in PDF format, making it easy to browse from one page to the next just as if browsing the physical book -- unlike Footnote's city directories, which often interleave two or three directories from the same year (with several "page 35" entries in a row), and sort the unnumbered pages strangely.

Third, they made them every-word-searchable with OCR (subject to the limitations of faded pages and worn type), so that the diligent researcher can pursue neighbors by searching on street names and numbers even in the absence of a criss-cross directory.

This is the best online city directory collection I've seen yet -- if you have nominees from elsewhere I'd love to see 'em. I'll be burrowing into my database, hoping to find some research targets who lived in or near Akron. (Hat tip to Kelly Holderbaum for pointing it out!)

No comments: