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03 September 2011

Look at the Entire City Directory

Don't look at just the alphabetical names in a city directory. There may be directories of businessmen that could provide more detail about your ancestor who owned a small shop, was a tradesman, etc. Rural directories may list owners of specific types of livestock in special sections and some even list who owned what type of automobiles.

City directories may also have reverse directories in the "back" of the book. The point? Get away from the alphabetical list and you may learn even more about your ancestor.


  1. Great advice! In the Chicago directories I sometimes see "Names, Changes, Removals, Additions, Etc. Too Late for Regular Insertion." (For an example, see p. 16 in the 1885 directory on Fold3.) It seems like it might be good to check that list if a family is likely to have moved in close to publication time.

  2. I found my great grandfather while searching alphabetically in a 1908 Boston Directory. I then used his address to look him up in the "reverse" part of the same directory and learned that he was living with his future brother-in-law, something I would have never known had I not checked this part of the directory.
    ~Lorraine W.
    Tulsa, OK