Tuesday, July 9, 2013

City Directories--More Than Location Information

City Directories

I have gotten some very helpful information from City Directories during my years of genealogical research.  Often times we think is just provides locational information on an individual.  However, it can do much more than that.  Some years back, when I was researching my wife's great grandfather, census data indicated he and his family moved to Indianapolis.  Unfortunately, his name was Frederick Schmidt; which is equivalent to John Smith in terms of commonality.  I did know that he was a butcher and when I looked at the Indianapolis City Directories for the years that he resided there, he was the only Frederick Schmidt who was a butcher.  

At the time I was doing the research, I didn't have any information as to when he died.  As I tracked him in the City Directory, I noted that he was listed in the 1872 Indianapolis City Directory as living at 75 N. Illinois St; but was not listed in either the 1873 or 1874 Directory.  His wife and sons, however continued to be listed in the Indianapolis City Directory.  I speculated that he had died.  Later information from cemetery records revealed that he had died in October 1872.  Of course, it wasn't until the 1880 census that his wife, Julia, was listed as widowed.  

City Directory information was also key to my learning that Frederick's wife, Julia, was a midwife. The 1872 through 1874 Indianapolis City Directories listed "Mrs.  Schmidt" as a Midwife.  Interestingly, the 1887-1890 Directories listed her as a "Physician".   Her obituary said that she was "one of the most prominent German charity organization workers in the city. . . "

For today's blog I decided to see what information I could find on line about City Directories.  Rather that look for an individual, I looked for specific city directories--not by year, just by city name.  I chose Weatherford, Texas since I had lots of Jones and Dean ancestors who lived there and it was a relatively small town (just over 3000 inhabitants).  

I chose the web site "City Directories of the United States" from my genealogy "favorites" list to start my search.  

Home Page


I then clicked on the state of Texas in the map, which took me to the following graphic showing Texas highlighted in red and listing all the cities for which they had City Directories.  One of those was Weatherford.


When I clicked on Weatherford, the following information was provided.  It revealed three City Directories, the 1889, 1961 and 1982.  I was fortunate in that several of my ancestors resided there in 1889. 


The graphic also provided the location of the directories and, in the case of the 1889, a call number and the ability to order a copy.  Prior to ordering a copy, I clicked on the BYU hyperlink and it took me to the Harold B. Lee library web site at BYU.  I spent considerable time searching the library catalog; but was unable to locate the City Directory.  I used keywords for City Directories and Weatherford, Texas, as well as a combination and none produced useful results.  

When I clicked on "Order Copy" I was taken to the web site for Genealogy Research Associates, which included a somewhat confusing order form and revealing it would cost me $21.95 for them to find the directory and send me the requested information. 

 I am sure there is a better way to get the information; but since I had so many ancestors there in 1889, I ordered the information.  However, not before I had used Google, Ancestry, Fold3 and Cyndi's List to try and get the same information.  Fold3 had directories for 31 cities in 21 states.  As you would expect they were only for the larger cities such as Kansas City and St. Louis for Missouri; Brooklyn, Buffalo, NY City and Rochester for New York.

Ancestry had several; but not my Weatherford, Texas. Cyndi's list did take me to the same site as I use above 

It will be interesting to see what I receive from Genealogy Research Associates.  If anyone has used their services, I would be interested in your comments. Meanwhile, I will continue to see what more I can learn about the BYU library--perhaps I will give them a call.