City Directories


Earlier this week I noticed several genealogy patrons looking at city directories. Have you tried finding your ancestor in such a directory? Larger cities often had city directories which contained lists of businesses and residents, sort of like a phone book except that you didn’t have to own a phone to be included in one. This is a real plus for the late 1800s and early 1900s when many households did not have telephones.

But where do you find these directories? More and more are being digitized and made accessible through the Internet. Online sources include:
– and Ancestry Library Edition (available in the library or from home through TryIt! Illinois until November 30).
Fold3 (available from home with a Cook Library card through the library’s website)
The Online Historical Directories Website claims to list all online city directories in one place.
– Search Google Books
– Try HathiTrust or Internet Archives

And if you can’t find city directories for your ancestor’s hometown online, see if a bricks-and-mortar library has a collection of their city’s directories. The Newberry Library has many city directories in their collection. It may be worth a visit!

Have you found another source for city directories? Let us know!


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