About City Directories
City directories were the forerunners of today’s telephone books and contain listings for most, but not all, residents of a given city. Information generally included consists of the person’s name, occupation, residence address, and sometimes the business address.
Usually the names are for family heads, however, some directories also include names of wives. Employed children are also often listed. Listings for widowed women usually include the name of their deceased husband, thus providing clues as to when he might have died.
Such listings can provide a profile of a given family, indicating their approximate arrival and departure dates from a city. The specific street address of a person may yield invaluable clues for locating families in unindexed cities in the federal census records when used in conjunction with ward maps, ward boundary descriptions, and other finding aids.
Examples include 1910 Manhattan and Brooklyn, among others.
The Family History Library has an extensive collection of city directories that includes most larger cities through 1935. The majority of the directories are on microfilm, however, some are the original printed books.