Directories have been published for various Alabama cities and counties since the early 1800s, though they may not be available for every year. Some directories focus on the businesses or occupations of an area, others include heads of households, landowners, and voters.
City and county directories are similar to present-day telephone books and are useful records for locating people. They were often published annually. They list heads of households and employed household members with their occupations and addresses. They can be used with census records or as substitutes for them.
Directories are particularly valuable for research in large cities where a high percentage of the people were renters, new arrivals, or temporary residents. In fact, a directory may be the only source that lists an ancestor if he or she was not registered to vote and did not own property. Most households were included because the directories were created for salesmen, merchants, and others interested in contacting residents of an area.
Directories have other clues that may require careful study to discover. For example, people in similar or related occupations were often relatives, in-laws, or friends. A year-by-year study of directories may reveal the movement of ancestors and relatives within the city and sometimes to or from other cities.
Many directories were published as county directories listing inhabitants of major towns in the county. Rural directories collected information on farmers, dairymen, and other rural residents.
Resources for Alabama Directories
Libraries and Archives
Ancestry.com ($) has Alabama directories available online in its U.S. City Directories collection.
The Family History Library
The Family History Library has city directories for various years from throughout the state of Alabama including:
- Birmingham, 1902–1935 and 1940
- Huntsville, 1859–1850 and 1931
- Mobile, 1837–1935
- Montgomery, 1859–1860, 1878, 1902–1935, and 1940
The Family History Library has compact discs that contain telephone directories for most of the United States. These directories are not available at family history centers, but may be used at the Family History Library. Current telephone directories can also be found on the Internet, and may help you find living relatives.
To find directories, consult the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
- ALABAMA, [COUNTY]- DIRECTORIES
- ALABAMA, [COUNTY], [TOWN]- DIRECTORIES
- Alabama Online Historical Directories Identifies historical city, county, business and other directories available online on both free and pay-to-access websites.
- D'Addezio.com's Alabama Directory index
- US City Directories - this web site identifies printed, microfilmed, and online directories and their repositories.