City Directories – 2019 Update

US Census Records are essential records used in genealogical research. They are a treasure trove of information; however, they come out only once every ten years leaving huge gaps.  With the 1890 census having lost so many records in a fire, often there is a twenty-year gap in our family research.  Don’t overlook city directories as a potential source to fill in those gaps.

Many cities and counties have had directories published over the years.
They were created for salespeople and merchants to be able to contact businesses and individuals.  Every publisher had their format for information they presented, but if you find one that includes your ancestor, it can be the source for new information.

Typically, city directories give the name and address of the head of the household.  Often they give the wife’s name, usually in parenthesis, and sometimes the names of adult children living at the same address. They also typically provide the occupation of the individual.  Sometimes there is a reverse directory included which goes by street address and contains the names of the individuals living there. Always look for your ancestor in the name section, the business section, and, if included, the reverse directory to see who else might live at the address.

Sometimes a directory can provide an answer to a question or clarify what was happening.  As an example, for many years I thought a great-grandmother of mine moved from one address to another on the same street.  I thought it was odd, but not unheard of before. A city directory revealed that they renumbered the street one year. The neighbors stayed the same, but the numbers changed for all of them.

Directories often show maps, street name changes, addresses of businesses, churches, schools, cemeteries, post offices, hospitals, newspapers and the like.  Some will give a history of the city as well as the names of elected officials.

Another significant bit of information often given is if a person is a widow.  That can be key to narrowing down the year of someone’s death and provides a “died before” date.  In some occasions, the city directory may even list marriages, and deaths, including date, during the previous year.

Online Resources

Google Books is always worth a quick look to see if they have a directory you need. Go to books.google.com and then enter in the search box: City Directory [city of interest].  You may be surprised at what is available online. I noted the 1850-51 City Directory for Portland, ME, was available as a free eBook.

Probably better than Google Books is Google’s US Online Historical Directories site. A click on “Maine” shows that eight of the 16 counties have directories online and that seven Portland City Directories are available online.  Five of those directories are accessible through Don’s List, which is one of my favorite online sources for information. Check them out at: (www.donlist.net).

Another excellent source for directories is the Internet Archive (www.archive.org) and has Many Maine directories. A quick search of Directory Maine yielded 257 results including directories for Lewiston, Casco Bay, Bangor, and Portland.

One of the best sources for Directories is Family Search. After logging in, select Search – Catalog. Then under titles, enter Directory and State.  For “Directory Maine” there are 64 results returned. Be sure to look at the available directories closely. There is a directory for “Greater Portland” and directories for “Portland” which are separated by quite a bit.  Many of the directories are still only available on microfilm at various libraries but pay attention to them as they are likely to become available online soon.

Of course, Ancestry has many directories available with a subscription.  A search for “Directory” in the title with a keyword of “Maine” yielded 27 results. Several of them were city directories.

Off-Line Resources

Many libraries and historical societies have city directories in their possession. It is always worth an email or telephone call to find out if a library has a city directory. Often, they will do a look-up for you without charge or for a small fee.  Occasionally the directories have been microfilmed so be sure to speak with a reference librarian who knows the various collections available on microfilm. Sometime those resources may be ordered via interlibrary loan.

Scarborough Historical Society & Museum Collection[1]

Thomas Henley Collection, Shelf K-12

The Scarborough Museum has a small collection of city directories of Portland, including the following:

  • 1942 – Thomas Henley – K11
  • 1952 – Thomas Henley – K11
  • 1956 – (Upstairs Archive)
  • 1963 – Thomas Henley – K04
  • 1965 – Thomas Henley – K12
  • 1970 – Thomas Henley – K12
  • 1975 – Thomas Henley – K12
  • 1977 – Thomas Henley – K12

These directories are available for members to use at the museum for research.  If you cannot make it to the museum, the Genealogy Volunteers will be happy to look up a couple of names for you. Just let them know the surname and the year.

Of course, if you have a Greater Portland city directory, or another directory that includes Scarborough, please consider donating it to the museum.  We would be extremely pleased to add it to our collection.

Other Public Collections

 The Scarborough Public Library also has many city directories including Greater Portland & Surrounding Communities from 1960 thru to the current 2019 directory.

The South Portland Historical Society also has many city directories, plus it is a great museum to visit. Check it out.

Finally, both the Maine Historical Society in Portland and the Maine State Library in Augusta have substantial collections of interest to genealogists that include many city directories. Either are great resources.


Endnotes

  1.  I am a volunteer at the Scarborough Historical Society and Museum. I am using it in this article as an example of what might be available at any local historical society.

Ancestry DNA – DNA Story

One of the kits I manage, I’ll call “JS,” has received his Ethnicity Estimate and he now knows he is 88% descended from England, Wales, and Northwestern Europe, 10% from Ireland and Scotland, and two percent from Germanic Europe. Pretty cool.

Ancestry also provides some pretty maps indicating a person’s ethnicity. In his case, the three ethnicity areas overlap.

Ancestry also provides connections to “Additional Communities.” In his case, there are:

  • “Lower Midwest & Virginia Settlers,” which includes Illinois, Indiana, and Tennessee.
  • “Mississippi & Louisiana Settlers”, (Mississippi & Louisiana)
  • “Tennessee & Southern States Settlers”

From my research, I’ve learned that JS’s great-grandparents were as follows.

  • Great-grandfather was from Illinois/Indiana[i].
  • Great-grandmother was from Indiana/Michigan.
  • Great-grandfather was from North Dakota/Michigan.
  • Great-grandmother was from Michigan/Minnesota.
  • Great-grandfather was from Tennessee.[ii]
  • Great-grandmother was from Tennessee.
  • Great-grandfather was from Tennessee.
  • Great-grandmother was from Tennessee.

Six of his eight great-grandparents are from the area identified by Ancestry which is as expected. However, the Mississippi & Louisiana settlers is somewhat of a surprise, and not seeing northern Midwestern ancestors was also unexpected. But although the Ethnicity Estimates and Communities are fun and interesting to see, there has to be more. For $99 (regular price) there has to be more, and there is. DNA Matches is the next big part of the process and in my next blog, I’ll describe what to do with them.



Endnotes

[i] Ancestors with two states listed were born in the first state and died in the second state listed.

[ii] The ancestors born in Tennessee also died in Tennessee.

University of Leicester Special Collections

I love it when I find a new website that really helps my genealogical research. I was researching my 4th Great-grandfather, Stephen Blackhurst, Sr. (c. 1779-1847) and found “Historical Directories of England & Wales,” on the University of Leicester, “Special Collections” webpages.  They have multiple directories from 40 county’s in England and Wales.  In my case I searched for Blackhurst and found over 100 returned items.  I then added “Yorkshire” to my listing and found 15 records.  Stephen died in 1847, so eliminated directories 1850 and newer. I looked closely at the Directories for 1833, 1841, 1847, and 1849 (he should have been gone for that one).

Stephen Blackwell in the 1833 Sheffield City Directory

Sure enough, there he was; a shoe maker at the Old Workhouse in Pitsmoor and he’s a shoemaker at 57 Pye bank in the 1839 and 1841 directories as well. He was not listed in the 1849 directory (he died in 1847), but two of his children, Adamson and Mary were listed.  Adamson was a shoe and butcher knife maker, at 102 Matilda St., and Mary was a dressmaker at 19 Chapel Street. I’m not 100% positive that this Mary Blackhurst is the right Mary Blackhurst (some of Mary’s siblings could have had a daughter Mary who could be this Mary), but it is likely enough to add it as a tentative entry.

To find the city directories, visit the University of Leicester Special Collections, then select Historical Directories of England & Wales. You can then browse or search the collection by county.  For those of you with Leicestershire ancestors, they have an additional 50 directories at Historical Directories of Leicestershire.

I can hardly wait to apply these city directories to my wife’s line in Workington and Cumberland County, England.

NIGS & “Google for the Wise Genealogist”

It has been a busy week.  Among many other things, I’ve been catching up on my genealogical education and training. I finished up and tested in the National Institute for Genealogical Studies (NIGSonlinene course, “Google for the Wise Genealogist.” (Got a 97.5%) It was a free course, apparently intended to have potential students learn what lessons with them might be like.

The sample offering was on a topic that I already know much about – Google.  I use Google in so many ways in my genealogy. Besides the obvious uses of Google Search and Google Maps, I use Google Drive and often create documents, spreadsheets, and other items in Google Docs, Google Sheets, etc. Basically, if I am planning on sharing a document, I use Google. I don’t use Google Scholar as much as I probably should. I have a Google Blog (Blogger web site), D. Taylor’s Food & Travel. Additionally, my genealogy blog (Don Taylor Genealogy) began life as a Blogger blog until I migrated the information to a WordPress site. I don’t use Google Patents Search as much as I should. I did find where my wife’s father patented several things but didn’t find where my grandfather supposedly patented some fishing items. (Family Oral History indicates that he patented a fishing lure.)  Anyway, I think I use Google Patents when I should as the need arises.

I think NIGS did a good job going over all of the Google tools that exist and highlighted uses that genealogists would actually find Google useful for.  The course had assignments and a final test to show understanding and competency in the material presented.

The “Google for the Wise Genealogist” course is one of the elective courses that can be used in pursuit of a Certificate in Genealogical Studies. Such a certificate requires nine compulsory basic courses, nine compulsory intermediate courses, ten required advanced courses, plus 12 elective courses. Receiving their top (American) certificate takes 40 classes.  At between $71.25 (one-time payment for all) to $89.00 per class (one at a time), the total cost to receive the “American Certificate in Genealogical Studies” runs between $2,850 and $3,560.

That said, NIGS has many other certificates, such as “Librarianship” and “Methodology” you can achieve along the way.  The real key to NIGS Courses is to know what you want. Are you looking for a certificate?  If so, this might be a way to receive one.  On the other hand, if you are looking for training and experience in a particular area of study, such as Probate Records or Military Records, taking individual, specific classes might be useful in your studies.

Logo of the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium I’m still behind in my genealogy training goal, but I should catch up in April when I attend the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium (NERGC) conference.  I’m signed up for sessions every period of the conference from the time I arrive to when I expect to leave. Also, I’m an “official blogger,” so I’ll be blogging about my experiences, doing a couple interviews, and taking some pictures. It should be grand.

Family Search’s “Watch” & Barbara Bertha Trumpi

Darling/Huber/Trümpi

Family Search Watch

Family Search is one of my favorite genealogical websites. They have many great features, but one of my favorites is their “Watch” function. It is simple but really powerful.

Click “Watch”.

Family Search uses a universal tree. That is to say, everyone with a FamilySearch account sees the same tree (except for living individuals you created). Some people don’t like that feature because it means you do not have complete control over your tree. But once you have a person in the tree, you can watch that individual and be informed of any changes that occur with that person.  Those changes can provide import clues for your own research and can suggest contacts clearly interested in the same individuals as you are.

One of my problem research areas has been my wife’s great-grandmother Bertha Barbara (Trümpi) Huber and her parents [Bernhard and Bertha (Koch) Trümpi]. Little more than their names were in the tree when I began watching each of them. Over the past few months, another researcher has added several children to the couple that I didn’t know about, a second wife, who I knew about but didn’t have a name for, and Bernhard’s parents’ names. Wow!

Now, I don’t accept that new information at face value; but I consider it as clues to other facts, which I can investigate. In this case, the researcher suggested four new siblings for Bertha:

  • New Brother: Heinrich (1886-1914)  Potential –
  • New Sister: Barbara (1888-____)    Probably a mistake (same name as Bertha Barbara)
  • New Brother: Bernhard (1891-1961) Potential.
  • New Sister: Emma (1901-1901) Potential.

The entries also confirmed information I have about Bertha, Frieda, August, and Ernst.

It also suggested a first wife for Bertha’s father, Bernhard was Regula Stüssi and seven children for Bernhard and Regula. Following the Family Search additions, it seems that

Bernhard Trümpi married Regula Staüsi in 1867. They had seven children, four of whom died as infants. Regula died in 1882 and Bernhard married Bertha Koch in 1883. Although Regula was only two years younger than Bernhard, Bertha was 19 years younger. Now the family oral history which said that Bertha Barbara came from a large family makes sense. I had her with six siblings, with the addition of new family members she may have had 15 siblings, 11 of which live to adulthood. That would be a large family.

Finally, the researcher suggested that Bernhard’s father was Bernard and his mother was Anna Maria Oertli. That knowledge opens an entirely new avenue of research.

That which I thought was a brick wall now has many new holes for me to pick at and find a way through. Thanks to the “Watch” feature of Family Search I circle around and have a new direction for my research. If you aren’t using the Family Search “Watch” feature, I highly recommend you do so.