Directories have been published for various Illinois cities and counties since the 1830s, though they may not exist for every year. Some directories focus on the businesses or occupations of an area, while 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, listing heads of households, employed household members, and their occupations and addresses. They can be used with census records or as substitutes for them.
Directories are particularly helpful 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 a person if he 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 movements of ancestors and relatives within the city and sometimes to or from other cities.
Examples of directories that may be found in an archive are: city directories, telephone directories, church directories, occupational directories, farmers directories, or rosters of society members.
Directories are alphabetical lists of names and addresses. City directories can help you learn where an ancestor lived. The person's occupation is frequently given. Often the home address and the business address are both mentioned. When a husband has died, the widow is often listed as "widow of . . . ." Directories can sometimes help when you search census records to determine in which ward the family lived for a particular time in a big city. Directories sometimes have maps and addresses of churches, cemeteries, courthouses, and other important locations.
- Polk, R.L. and Company. Northwestern Gazetteer, Minnesota, North and South Dakota and Montana Gazetteer and Business Directory. St. Paul, Minnesota: Polk, 1914. (Family History Library microfilm 1321220-21.) The first part of the directory covers Minnesota and lists residences of people, often with their occupation. It also serves as a gazetteer for the time. It lists population, churches and commercial buildings, newspapers, and where land was located and the price for which it was selling.
The Family History Library and the Minnesota Historical Society Library have incomplete collections of directories from throughout Minnesota. Many 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 Minnesota Directories
Libraries and Archives
- Fold3.com ($) has Minneapolis City Directories 1865-1923 (4 yrs. missing) available online.
- Fold3.com ($) has St. Paul City Directories 1863-1924 (4 yrs. missing) available online.
- Ancestry.com ($) has Minnesota directories available online in its U.S. City Directories collection.
The Family History Library
The following are at the Family History Library:
|1856–1859||Family History Library microfiche 6044463–65|
|1863–1935||beginning with Family History Library microfilm 13770507|
|1865–1935|| beginning with Family History Library microfilm 1377061 |
Directories are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
- MINNESOTA, [COUNTY] – DIRECTORIES
- MINNESOTA, [COUNTY], [CITY] – DIRECTORIES
- For a statewide City Directory database search see the Dalby Database.
- US City Directories This web site identifies printed, microfilmed, and online directories and their repositories.