Wednesday, December 11, 2013
The Problem With City Directories
City directories can provide such a rich snapshot of the neighborhoods of our ancestors.
Just look at this lovely old directory from Sacramento City, 1851.
Another beautiful example from Cleveland, Ohio, 1837.
But, I have one really big problem with city directories; not a single one of my ancestors lived in a city. Therefore, these really are of no value to me.
Just last week, I went to the headquarters of The Ohio Genealogical Society, which is just six miles from my home. I'm there often, but not often enough. Friends from Indiana were headed home after the Thanksgiving holiday, and they had never been there. Would we like to meet up?
Of course! I arranged for them to have a tour from one of the most knowledgeable staff members I know; Missy Derrenberger. I always tag along, for I learn things I didn't know I didn't know. This day was no exception.
As they marveled at the holdings at this wonderful library (one of the ten largest genealogical libraries east of the Mississippi), I only listened in occasionally. I've heard it before. I'm there all the time. But, this time, Missy was instructing them on the value of county directories.
I have to be honest. I have never given them a second thought.
When I returned home, I began to think about them more. So, I returned on Saturday to talk with Missy.
Shelves of county directories are available at OGS.
A few years ago, she and another volunteer learned that a large collection of these directories were going to be thrown away. Through a series of correspondence, they made the trek and returned home with hundreds of copies.
The directories cover the years 1915-1921, stop for awhile, then begin again in the 1930's. They have consistently been published now since the 1950's.
There are several differences between these and the city directories.
The cover of the Mercer Co., Ohio Directory - 1915.
The title page of the Trumbull Co., OH Directory - 1936. It states the townships that are covered in the directory.
Shelby County, Ohio - 1936 County Directory
But...look at the priceless differences in what you find in a county directory. Look at the entry for ALTEPETER, Paul W. His wife Herschema is listed, as well as Martha (age 1), Geo (age 2), and Phil (age 4). I can't remember what the "T" stands for, but he is employed at Gibson Grain Prod, and lives at 54 Road 27 RD 4, Sidney, Ohio.
City directories don't typically list the family members and their ages. At least none that I've ever looked at.
Richland County, Ohio - 1995-96 County Directory
As we come a bit closer to our time period, we notice that even phone numbers are given, Look at the Andrew M. Troyer family. They live on a farm and have no phone. (My guess is that they are Amish, for this is a typically Amish name in an area where many Amish families live.) His wife Fanny A is listed, along with a number of children. The numbers after their names are not their ages, but their birth years.
I can see that I have a lot more research to do, which includes a lot of backtracking. I honestly have not known too much about county directories. When the word "directory" is brought up, I have just automatically thought city directory. It appears I have been wrong.
The Ohio Genealogical Society houses these directories only for this state. I must now see if there are some available for the areas of Appalachia I must search in.