Thursday, July 17, 2008

Searching City Directories at Footnote

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I was pleased to see that Fold3 (formerly has begun to add city directories to its collection. If you have ancestors who lived in a city, these directories can be a great genealogy resource since they were published annually.

City Directory Uses
City directories show the husband's name, address, & occupation. If the husband has died, the city directory will show the widow's name and address. It also will generally note her husband's name. How is this useful? If you follow a family in the city directories year by year, you can learn the year of death of the husband by noting the first year that the wife appears as a widow.

City directories can also be used to follow a family's migration and note the year the moved from a city. I've also been able to use city directories to pinpoint the location of a family so that I could find them in census.

Searching Footnote City Directories
When I first started searching the Footnote city directories, I found it a bit confusing. I searched for the surname Mahady, but the search results came up with Maguire. Close, but not the same name. But when I went to the city directory image, it turns out that Maguire was the name listed at the top of the city directory - the first name that showed on the page of names. Like a phone book today, a city directory has beginning names in the top corners for each page, and this is the name that Footnote gave as a result.

Once you get a result at Footnote, zoom in on the page images and pan down to the name you searched for. The Mahady family was on the city directory page that started with Maguire.

You can browse each page to eyeball any possible surname variations, and find a family that an exact name search might have missed.

So far, Footnote has multiple years of these cities:

  • Chicago
  • Boston
  • Philadelphia
  • Washington, D.C.
and for many cities in New England states.

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1 comment:

Lisa / Smallest Leaf said...

Thanks for the tips, Kathi. I'll be doing some research on Footnote very soon.

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