Online City - County Directories

directory-Lynn 1917An often overlooked research in locating where an ancestor lived are the city / county directories. You might only have idea of a region in a state where a relative lived but using directories, just might help narrow down the search.

Directories vary over the decades, some providing just a person’s name and the city they lived in. Others will include a spouse’s name and the occupation of one or both spouses. The exact home address and if a business or shop is where the person works or owns, that can be lived with an address. It can serve as a key to unlocking some answers about your ancestor.

The online site, Historical Directories, is a good starting point. Here are thousands of listings for directories covering many different decades. In the listing is a variety – from the Free sites to those requiring a subscription or by piece fee. It is a site you need to check every couple months since more are coming online each month.

Do a search in the upper right corner search box. Place a town or a state’s name. You will a list of what is available. Have an idea of time period also since the directories are by dates.

Each directory will be different in how it is organized and set up for you to search. Here is an example for Lynn, Mass. in 1917 for some of my ancestors.

Kershaw Charles H (Meta), tool designer G E Co (W L) bds 58 Orchard; 
Kershaw Walter F, G E Co (W L) bds 137 Williams av; 
and Kershaw Warren T, lastmaker 701 Wash 

Here is names, including spouses, occupation, where they work and address of where they lived.

directories-adCheck if there are advertisements in the directory. Some have many — some other none. There could be one put in by an ancestor with a business.

Not every town or city is listed or every time frame. However, make the attempt to see what is available and keep trying to see if new ones are added.

Photos: Directory cover from 1917 and advertisement from 1913 directory

Related genealogical blogs:

Occupations in Directories

United Kingdom Directories


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