Finding Ancestors in City Directories
Researching your ancestors can be a long and arduous task if you don’t know the best places to search or the right tools to use. Conventional methods of gaining information on people such as the newspaper might seem useful, but only if the person you are investigating is of enough significance to appear in the tabloids. However, finding ancestors in city directories is an easier and more fruitful alternative that can help produce a wider selection of useful criteria.Not only are city directories easy to navigate but they can provide more information regarding a person’s history when residing in the city and are almost always available due to the nature of record keeping of such key documents.
Information stored in city directories
When you’re searching through city directories, you’re more than likely to find the following information:
• Name and Occupation of a resident head of house
• Spouses (following the name of husband and available from mid to late 19th century marriages)
• Names of dependants (Usually provided, though often of children employed outside the home).
• Street address of the residence
• Occupation of residents
• Work Address (particularly if working away from home)
Searching using city directories
Searching in city directories can yield various results as mentioned before, but sometimes aspects of this information may not entirely make sense. When finding ancestors in city directories, certain keywords may be used and it is important to know what these mean. Abbreviations are commonly used, including the following:
• ‘n’, indicates ‘near’ and is usually listed near street addresses
• ‘r’ indicates ‘resides’ or ‘rents’, though commonly used for ‘resides’.
There are also late listings of names that have not been able to achieve alphabetical listing in the main residents section. Usually these are added from new visitors to the area as well as people missed during the recording.
Helpful city directory websites
There are a various number of useful sources, including a plethora of online websites that will help give you accurate city directory information. Simply searching for your city’s name and directories will easily bring up a number of specific web addresses. Certain websites such as http://www.cyndislist.com/directories/ also offer a number of directories with the inclusion of city directories, helping to make it much easier and more accessible for people to trace back their origins.Another useful website is http://www.distantcousin.com/directories/ which features free archives of city records and scanned images.The Library of congress has also maintained a US collection of city directories which has been microfilmed at http://microformguides.gale.com/index.shtml.
Alternatives to city directory websites
You may not always have access to the internet, but there are also other effective methods of searching as well. Contacting your city council and visiting city libraries that adhere to the collection and maintenance of documentation, particularly pertaining to the city are also viable methods of gaining information and the people involved will be more than happy in helping you in your quest for finding ancestors in city directories through all the means available to you.
Persistence is perhaps key as well as never giving up. There are a number of tools available for you to utilise and you will most likely find what you’re looking for in the end.
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