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Fee or Free US City Directories

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One of Ancestry.com’s most popular record sets is US City Directories, 1822-1995.

It’s a useful collection if you have an Ancestry subscription. Type in a name and place and you’ll likely find one or more records for the person you’re investigating.

But more and more, city directories are being digitized and hosted at free sites, allowing you to do similar searches without an Ancestry subscription. You’ll do more legwork and you won’t always find the same directories available, but there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find your family in the free US City Directories. Just remember, you don’t need to find them in every consecutive directory to get useful information.

FeeOrFree City Directories

FeeOrFree City Directories

 

The lowdown on City Directories

City Directories pre-date telephone books and can work as a census substitute and allow you to locate individuals in a city and potentially get their spouse’s name, their profession, and their address. With an address you can often do reverse lookups in city directories and by looking up the street address you can see who their neighbors were. Often family lived near each other and you’ll find relatives with the reverse lookup feature or you might have old, partially-identified photos with your ancestor and neighbors and the reverse lookup will allow you to identify them with their full name.

City Directories will usually include some historical information about an area, possibly a gazetteer with maps, street locators, churches, schools, and more. They can help you locate streets and buildings that no longer exist. And city directories usually have business directories as well, with a separate section for a listing of businesses. There are advertisements throughout the directories that give you a taste of yesteryear.

If you’d like to try your hand at free US City Directory searches, you have multiple search options.

OnGenealogy.com searches

You can start by using this link to OnGenealogy.com with “directories” in the “Search for” window and type the state you’re researching in the “Near” search window, then hit “Search” and inspect the results.

OnGenealogy Directories searches

 

Internet Archive searches

You can go to Internet Archive and search for the city or state and “city directory” in quotes and see what results show up. I’ve been adding these city directories to OnGenealogy and organizing them by city/state/year so there’s a good chance you’ll find these at OnGenealogy and they’ll be in consecutive order, rather than random years/cities.

 

Internet Archive free books

Google Books searches

You can use Google Books and be sure to specify you want results for free books. Here’s a blog post with directions for finding free books at Google Books. I’m currently adding these to OnGenealogy.

 

Google Books searches

HathiTrust searches

You can visit HathiTrust and search for the city or state and “city directory” in quotes and see what results show up. I’m currently adding these to OnGenealogy.com so if you don’t find them at OnGenealogy, definitely try an exhaustive search at HathiTrust.

 

Hathi Trust for books

 

DPLA searches

You can visit the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), a digital library aggregator, and let it point you to the online archive that holds the city directory you need. This might be a better way to search for HathiTrust directories because the HathiTrust search engine isn’t perfect. At DPLA you can enter “city directory” and then HathiTrust and a city, not necessarily in quotation marks, and the results should give you directories for that locale hosted by HathiTrust.

 

DPLA for free city directories

Visit a Local Repository

Most libraries and many genealogy societies have original city directories on their shelves. If you’re able to do offline research, check out USCityDirectories.com for a catalog (not complete) of which institutions have directories or microfilms of directories for each state/locale.

 

USCityDirectories

 

Lastly, you can do a general Google Search and see if you find something that hasn’t yet been added to OnGenealogy, InternetArchive, GoogleBooks, HathiTrust, or DPLA. There’s always an outlier and maybe it will be the one you’re looking for. Good luck with your research and Happy Hunting!

January 2, 2017 |

Rhode Island City Directories

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Directories, including city directories, county directories, school directories, and occupational directories are a valuable genealogy and family history research tool. City directories are arranged alphabetically with names and addresses and generally cover all adult residents of an area (not always). Directories often include occupations and list spouses and adult children.

City and county directories predate current telephone directories.

Directories may be the only source of information on an ancestor who moved before the census, didn’t register to vote, didn’t own property, etc. Directories often contain valuable information about the city or county including historical write-ups, a business directory, street directory, government directory, lists of town officers, maps, street name changes, schools, societies, churches, post offices, advertisements, and other matters of local interest.

Directories may help you discover who your ancestors’ neighbors were, with reverse street directories where streets are listed alphabetically, followed by the names of the people residing at each address.

Here’s a list of free, online Rhode Island City Directories, with links:

Newport, Rhode Island

Newport, Rhode Island 1921 City Directory (link not currently available, will link when it’s back online)

Providence, Rhode Island

Providence, Rhode Island 1824 City Directory (link not currently available, will link when it’s back online)

Providence, Rhode Island City Directory 1836-1837

Providence, Rhode Island City Directory 1836-1837 (link not currently available, will link when it’s back online)

Providence, Rhode Island City Directory 1844

The Rhode Island register for the year 1853 (and 1856)

Providence City and Rhode Island Business Directories 1889

Providence, Rhode Island House Directory 1895

Providence, Rhode Island House Directory 1896

Providence, Rhode Island House Directory 1897

Providence, Rhode Island House Directory 1898

Providence, Rhode Island House Directory 1899

Providence, Rhode Island House Directory 1900

Providence, Rhode Island House Directory 1901

Providence, Rhode Island House Directory 1903

Providence, Rhode Island House Directory 1905

Providence, Rhode Island House Directory and Family Address Book 1905

Providence, Rhode Island House Directory 1907

Providence, Rhode Island House Directory 1909

Providence, Rhode Island House Directory 1911

Providence, Rhode Island House Directory 1913

Providence, Rhode Island House Directory 1915

New England Business Directory and Gazetteer, 1916 (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut)

Providence, Rhode Island House Directory 1917

New England Business Directory and Gazetteer, 1918 (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut)

Providence, Rhode Island City Directory and Rhode Island State Business Directory 1919

Providence, Rhode Island House Directory 1919-1920

Providence, Rhode Island House Directory 1921-1922

Providence, Rhode Island House Directory 1923-1924

Providence, Rhode Island House Directory 1925-1926

Providence, Rhode Island House Directory 1927-1928

Providence, Rhode Island House Directory 1929-1930

Providence, Rhode Island House Directory 1931-1932

Providence, Rhode Island House Directory 1933-1934

Providence, Rhode Island House Directory 1935

The Rhode Island Department of State has a more complete library of Rhode Island City Directories in their possession, but these are not currently digitized or available online. Their city directories are available at the Rhode Island State Archives, 337 Westminster St, Providence, RI 02903, 401-222-2353.

 

April 12, 2016 |
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