US Census Records are among the most
important 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. Do not 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 salesmen and merchants to be able to contact
individuals. Of course, every publisher
had their own format for information they presented but 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 usually provide a clue to the
occupation of the individual. Sometimes
there is a reverse directory included which goes by street address and provides
the name of the individuals living there.
For many years, I thought a great-grandmother of mine moved from one
address to another on the same street. 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 will often show maps, street name
changes, addresses of key 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. Some, like the 1867 Atlanta City Directory,
even gives the names and roles of various churches and civic organizations such
as Masons and Odd Fellows.
Another major 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
The Smyrna Museum has a small collection
of city directories of Marietta/Smyrna. The collection includes 1958, 1959,
1960, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1975, 1977,
1985-86, and 1987. These directories are
available for members to use at the museum for research. If you cannot make it to the museum, the
Genealogy Committee Volunteers will be happy to do a lookup for you. Just let
them know the surname and the year y If you want more than three surnames or
volumes looked at, a small donation to the Museum would be great.
Of course, if you have a Smyrna city
directory, even for a year listed above, please consider donating it to the
museum. We would be extremely pleased to
receive it as a donation.
Google Books is always worth a quick
look to see if they have a directory you are looking for. Go to
and then enter in the search box: City Directory [city of
interest]. You may be surprised at what
is available on line. Another great Google page is Google’s US Online Historical Directories
It shows access points to many city, county, business and other directories
online and provides information regarding them being free or paid sites.
One of my favorite sources for
Directories is Don’s List (www.donlist.net
He has an 1859 directory of Augusta, 27 directories for Atlanta (1867-1923) as
well as a Georgia Gazetteer from 1829 that provides a lot of history about
Georgia and information about the various counties and cities of Georgia at
that time. Smyrna was part of the Cherokee Nation until 1832. Once gold was
discovered, the land was quickly confiscated from the Indians and redistributed
to settlers via a land lottery.
Another great source for directories
is the Internet Archive (www.archive.org
and has several Atlanta directories.
Distant Cousin (www.distantcousin.com
) has the 1890
Brunswick, Georgia directory and information regarding several other Brunswick,
Of course Ancestry
have many directories in the qir paid sections.
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. Often 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.
The Family History Library has
microfilm and microfiche, which can be ordered from www.familysearch.org
and then viewed at
your local Family History Center. They have several cities in Georgia,
including Atlanta, Columbus, and Savannah.
Genealogy Research Associates will
lookups in Directories for a fee. They have access to Atlanta, Augusta,
Columbus, Macon, and Savannah. Check their website for years available. They
currently charge $15 plus P&H for the service.