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Directories are alphabetical lists of names and addresses. They are usually published yearly. Directories may list the following information:
- Names of inhabitants (listed alphabetically).
- Address and occupation.
- Spouse's name.
- A street address listing (arranged by address, name, and occupation).
- Widows, working women, and adult children at home.
- Ward maps.
- Street locator, including cross streets.
- Street name changes.
- Removals (a list of local people who moved away. Sometimes their destinations are listed as well).
- Businesses (and index to advertisers).
- Churches, schools, funeral homes, cemeteries, post offices, courts, hospitals, benevolent associations, and newspapers.
- Whether a woman is a widow (including name of husband).
- List of marriages and deaths of previous year.
- Many early directories listed only businesspeople.
Why Use Directories
- Learn the exact years your ancestor inhabited a place.
- Locate ancestor in a census that hasn’t been indexed (esp. state census).
- Estimate year of immigration.
- Learn occupation and employer as identifiers.
- Find other family members.
How to Search Directories
- Check the beginning of the directory for cutoff dates, geographical coverage, and the meaning of abbreviations.
- Check alphabetical listing of residents to find known ancestors.
- After finding a known ancestor’s address in the alphabetical listings, check the street address listing to find unknown ancestors at the same address.
Before Searching You Must Know
City, County or State of residence. Find through sesarching census records.
Where to find Maryland directories
- OCLC/Worldcat lists the holdings of 69,000 libraries. Search it with the keywords "directory [county or city name]."
- UScityDirectories.com identifies directories by place and gives repository and call number (including FHL film numbers).
- Local public and university libraries, historical and genealogical socities and state archives generally have historic directories.
- The Library of Congress has the largest single collection of city and county directories.
Directories have been published for major cities in Maryland. For example, the Family History Library has the following Baltimore directories:
|1752, 1796-1860||Family History Library fiche 6043563-601|
|1863-1930||Family History Library films 1376528-56 & 1605845-71|
|1914||Family History Library film 1697549 item 1|
|1940, 1956||Family History Library book Q 975.271/B1 E4p|
Search these online site for Maryland directories.
The Enoch Pratt Free Library at http://www.prattlibrary.org/, the Maryland Historical Society at http://www.mdhs.org/, and the Maryland State Archives http://www.msa.md.gov/ have large collections of Maryland city directories. Local public libraries and county and city historical and genealogical societies are another good source of city directories, especially for small towns and cities.
US City Directories This web site identifies printed, microfilmed, and online directories and their repositories.
The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A. has a huge collection of U.S. directories. Find directories in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog by searching for the town or county.
- Some early directories listed only businesspeople.
- A substitute record that existed before directories is town meeting minutes, which listed the inhabitants of a town.
- Directories list occupants (not necessarily owners).
- Major cities: Check town or county histories for outlying towns later absorbed by a city.
- Minorities were often listed separately.
- Others at your ancestor’s address may be boarders.
- Pay attention to occupations. Occupations can give you an extra “handle” by which you can identify your ancestor in another record. If an alphabetical listing says your ancestor is “Asst. to John Doe,” see what John Doe does for a living.
- Streets were renumbered. If your ancestor’s address changes, see if his neighbors’ addresses change correspondingly.
- Second marriages: If a widow is listed at an address, then replaced by a man the next year at that address, check marriage records!
- For blank forms you can use to extract information from a directory, see www.tpl.toronto.on.ca/localhistory/directories4.html
What to do next
Find ancestor in all available directories. This will yield more name handles, such as middle names or maiden or married names; more relatives at the same address; and more occupations.
Directories serve as springboards to other records:
- Church records. To narrow down the church records to search for an ancestor, use directories to find addresses of churches near your ancestor’s residence. If you have a marriage certificate naming the minister who performed the marriage ceremony, find his listing in directories to learn the name of his church.
- Land records. Directory listings often mention whether the resident is an owner, renter, or boarder. If owner, see land records!