The pages on this website are organized first by country, then by state or province. In the United States, 48 of the state pages are then organized by county; Louisiana is organized by parish. Alaska has judicial bureaus and census areas instead of counties, but because there are so few directories available for that state, I will list all on the Alaska state page. In Canada, the links are listed by province and by a few of its largest cities, such as Toronto and Ottawa, instead of further breaking the pages down by county or district.
On each page where directory links are given, I've listed them in year order and then by location order, alphabetically.If the same directory can be found in several resources, the resources are listed alphabetically. Typically, the directory links are named as follows:
Location, type of directory, publisher, year - cost (resource)
An example would be:
Baltimore Business Directory, Polk, 1887 - $ (Ancestry)
Baltimore Business Directory, Polk, 1887 - $ (Fold3)
Baltimore Business Directory, Polk, 1888 - $ (Ancestry)
Please note that generally, city and county directories are found under their current location. When known, I also try to list them under their historical location. For instance, Orange County, California separated from Los Angeles County in 1889. I have tried to list Los Angeles County directories previous to 1889 on both the Los Angeles and Orange County pages.
2. Why do so many links take me directly to the first page of images? I don't have a subscription to Ancestry (or Fold3 or WorldVitalRecords), so this doesn't help me!
I have linked the directories, wherever possible, to the first page of images, rather than the corresponding search engines. This is because many times I have found the search engines to be unreliable since the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) feature mis-reads the text. One of my surnames, VALK, for instance, frequently gets confused with "walk" when I run a search. Also, there are many spelling variations such as VOLK, FALK, and FAULK that I have to check. It's easier for me to alphabetically browse through the directory.
At the top of each page of links that has directories from paid subscription websites, I have listed links to their corresponding search engines, so you will always have a choice of searching or browsing.
If you don't have a subscription to a subscription database website, check out question number 5 for ideas.
3. What does Free* mean?
You'll note that each link has the following info regarding cost: $, Free, and Free*. The dollar sign means you must have a paid subscription to that website; Free means free (really!); and Free* means the data is free but you must either go through a free registration process first or must have a library card to a participating library to access the information (i.e., HeritageQuest). See info below at question number 6 regarding HeritageQuest.
4. Where can I find offline city directories?
There are many way to access offline city directories!
A. City Directories of the United States of America (http://www.uscitydirectories.com) has begun a site listing major libraries' and repositories' holdings of city directories. These lists are not complete, and they encourage users to submit more information.
B. The Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA holds many directories in its collection, both in printed and microform (microfilm and microfiche) format. You can use their online library catalog to find directories, by running a Place search (pay close attention to the directions on the Place search page). When the list of results of topics comes up for your location, choose Directories.
Directories in microforms can be sent to your local Family History Center (branch library of the FHL) for a small rental fee (about $5.50 USD, plus local sales tax).
Directories in printed book format cannot be sent to a local Family History Center (FHC); however, you can ask for a "Request for Photocopies" form at your FHC, which will be sent to the FHL in Salt Lake City. For a small fee (about $4.00 USD), a volunteer at the FHL will look up a surname for you and notify you of the results. If found, you can then request a photocopy of the page (about $2.00 USD each). Prices may vary.
C. Your public library may well have copies of city directories for other locations besides your immediate community. As an example, my local library here in Spokane, Washington has city directories for Butte, Montana. Don't forget to check libraries in your ancestral locations. Many times, you can make a look up request by e-mail or telephone and have photocopies sent to you (a photocopy and/or mailing fee may be requested), or even have the directory sent to you by Inter-Library Loan.
To find public libraries in your ancestral locations, check out http://www.publiclibraries.com to use their online card catalogs, or better yet, use WorldCat --a world-wide library catalog created by participating libraries from around the globe--to find directories near you for Inter-Library Loan or look ups.
The Library of Congress (http://www.loc.gov) has a multitude of city and other directories.You must access them in person or hire a researcher (paid or volunteer) to access them for you. See part F for information on volunteer or low-cost researchers.
The Library and Archives of Canada (http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/) also has many city and other directories. Again, you must access them in person or hire a researcher (paid or volunteer) to access them for you. See part F for information on volunteer or low-cost researchers.
D. The National Archives in Washington, D.C. as well as its Regional Archives have many 1930s-era city directories. You must access them in person or hire a researcher (paid or volunteer) to access them for you. See part F for information on volunteer or low-cost researchers.
E. Many museums, government archives, universities, and local repositories have holdings that include city and other directories. Check out http://www.museumca.org/usa/ and http://www.uiweb.uidaho.edu/special-collections/Other.Repositories.html.
F. Once you've located a directory, it may not be possible to have it sent Inter-Library Loan (it may be located in the Library of Congress, for instance), or perhaps you need someone (besides a librarian) to look up the information for you. Here are some free and low-cost look up services:
Spyral Search (http://www.spyralsearchsales.com) offers city and phone directories for sale on CDs. They also do some low-cost look ups.
Rootsweb/Ancestry has a free City Directories Mailing List (http://lists.rootsweb.ancestry.com/index/other/Directories-City/CITY-DIRECTORIES.html) for which you can sign up. Its focus is "A mailing list for those who desire lookups in city directories such as the old directories found in many local and state public libraries, and for volunteers who are willing to undertake requested lookups in these directories."
Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (http://www.raogk.org) has volunteers for various records in many locations. Make sure you check out whether the volunteers actually have access to directories. Site is currently down.
Genealogy Look Up Forum (http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~genealogylookup/index.html) is another great volunteer research website. Make sure you check out whether the volunteers actually have access to directories.
USGenWeb and USGenNet county website volunteers – www.usgenweb.com, www.ahgp.org, www.alhn.org – for all of these, check on the state of interest, then the county name. Make sure you check out whether the volunteers actually have access to directories.
Genealogical and historical society volunteers - use Google (http://www.google.com) and Cyndi's List (http://www.cyndislist.com/society.htm) to find local genealogical and historical society websites in your ancestral locations to see if they have research volunteers that can do look ups in directories. Copying and mailing fees or a requested donation may apply.
Speaking of Cyndi's List, she has pages of links that include city directories (http://www.cyndislist.com/citydir.htm)--offline as well as online--and look up volunteers (http://www.cyndislist.com/society.htm).
GenLighten (http://genlighten.com/) has a list of paid researcher services. Please note: their prices range from amateur to professional fees.
Other look up websites include Books We Own (http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~bwo/), Privately Owned Publications (http://loricase.com/private.html), and the Genealogy CD List (http://loricase.com/CDs/cdlist.html). Make sure you check out whether the volunteers actually have access to directories.
G. You may be able to purchase a needed directory from a used-book website or an auction website. Some well-known reputable sites include Abe Books (http://www.abebooks.com), Alibris (http://www.alibris.com), Half.com (http://www.half.ebay.com) and E-bay (http://www.ebay.com).
Besides printed directories, you can purchase directories on microfilm at Gale Catalogs.
5. I don't have a subscription to one or more of the subscription database websites (Ancestry, Fold3, WorldVitalRecords, etc.). How else can I access these databases?
Many U.S. public libraries have the Ancestry Library Edition available for use by their patrons. This contains most of the collections found in the U.S. Deluxe Membership. The exceptions can be found here. If your local library district does not subscribe to the Ancestry Library Edition (ALE), see if one nearby does. It may be worth the price of a library card and a little travel time. My local library district, the Spokane City Library, does not have ALE, but the Spokane County Regional Library does. Fortunately, the city and county libraries have a collaborative partnership, so I can access ALE by traveling to a county library branch and using it for free.
The subscription websites Ancestry (Library Edition), Fold3 and WorldVitalRecords (US collection only) can be accessed for free at most U.S. Family History Centers (FHC). Click here to find the nearest FHC and get contact information to call to see if they have access.
Ancestral Findings (http://www.freegenealogylookups.com/) will perform free look ups at Ancestry.You must check daily to see their list of databases for which they will do look ups.
Check the volunteer resources listed above in question number 4 to see if anyone lists look ups in subscription database websites.
6. How do I get a subscription to HeritageQuest?
Individuals cannot obtain personal subscriptions to HeritageQuest; it is done through local library districts. First, check out Dick Eastman's list of participating library districts. If you discover your local library district does have a subscription to Heritage Quest, go to your library's website and find the link to HeritageQuest (you may need to call your library for assistance with this step). When found, click the link.You will be prompted to enter your library card number and then can access the database from the comfort of your own home.
Please note that in some cases, you cannot access HeritageQuest remotely (from your home computer), but must access it at the library's computers only.
Many U.S. Family History Centers have an on-site subscription to HeritageQuest. Click here to find the nearest FHC and get contact information to call to see if they have access.
7. My question isn't listed here. How can I get an answer?
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll do my best to respond as soon as possible.