City directories are an essential census substitute to track your ancestors. They document your ancestor’s address, spouse (if applicable) and occupation. In addition, the name of the employer or business may also be listed. If your ancestor’s spouse died, the name of the deceased spouse would be listed preceded by ‘wid’ for widow or widower.
Some states include additional information. For instance, New Jersey includes the resident’s date of death and age which can assist in obtaining the death certificate (privacy rules permitting) or searching for an obituary or will. It also includes the name of the spouse if recently married which can be used for obtaining the marriage certificate (again, privacy rules permitting) and a published marriage announcement, if it exists. Additionally, if your ancestor recently moved, the directory includes the location of the new residence. Oregon directories include the names and ages of children.
Finding your immigrant ancestor in a city directory could be a clue to assist in locating naturalization records. Do you have a photograph of your ancestor with the name and address of the photographer on the back? Locating that photographer in directories could assist in dating the photo.
As each city or telephone directory is digitized for this database, the results are analyzed and a related ‘Fun Facts’ document is created which can be found here. These documents list unique occupations, statistics of the largest employers found, slogans of businesses, notations of the year businesses were formed, if provided, and statistics on the number of residents who married, moved or died, if applicable.
The Ancestral Beginnings Directories Database requires users to become a member. To join, click here.
This UNIQUE database can be used to search for individuals or businesses across all directories contained in the database or within a single directory. In addition, the street name alone can be searched. For example, if you know your ancestor resided on Main Street but did not know the city, you can search on Main Street. The search results will return all residents living on Main Street across all city directories in the database at that point in time. Searching singularly on the name of the street will provide you with a variation of the reverse address look-up. This will assist locating the friends, associates and neighbors of your relatives (the “FAN Club’ coined by Elizabeth Shown Mills.) Similarly, looking up the address alone can provide a history of residents for that address.
A listing of abbreviations found throughout the database can be found here.
If the city you are looking for is not yet included in the database, check here to see if that city is in our inventory. If yes, look-ups can be purchased.
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