Monday, December 18, 2017

City Directory Coverage Can Be Spotty in Many Ways

These days my genealogy life is busy and not very productive of blog posts. But this morning I re-learned a lesson already known to genealogists who are cautious or experienced or both.

We've all benefited greatly from the increased on-line presence of city directories on commercial websites. Today I was trying to track a particular couple through a few years of on-line city directories for Kansas City, Kansas.

The name I sought was not in Ancestry.com's index for 1945, 1947, 1954, 1955, and 1959 -- but when I went into the directory itself, it was there for each of those years. The error was not systematic; other family members with the same fairly distinctive surname were indexed.

Not every year is represented on Ancestry.com, and I wondered if KCK directories were not published every year, or whether the microfilming was more complete than digital coverage. It is, a little bit: the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center's microtext catalog shows that they have the 1948 KCK directory, which Ancestry.com does not have (and which I will have to check on my next visit). On the other hand, Ancestry.com has the 1961 and 1963 directories, which may or may not be on the shelves in Fort Wayne, but are not in the microfilm collection.

Of course, directories themselves are not gospel either, though sometimes they may be about as close as we can get to some facts. I remember having one person's death record I had: she was survived several years by her directory listing!

No news here, just a reminder that good genealogy standards and practices survive digitization and other novelties. You'll find this one in Genealogy Standards #13: "Wherever possible, . . . research plans follow such materials [indexes and family histories and similar items] to original records and primary information." Happy Searching Holidays!

1 comment:

Lisa Gorrell said...

City Directories are some of my favorite resources for learning more about our ancestors. I have a feeling that the canvassers or publishers were a bit lazy in some years and reprinted what they had collected the year before. I have found people in two different places in the same year as well.