City Directories [Original 2013 Post]

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 previous year.
Smyrna Museum Collection
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.
On-Line Resources
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 online. Another great Google page is Google’s US Online Historical Directories site. 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 (
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 ( and has several Atlanta directories.
Distant Cousin ( has the 1890 Brunswick, Georgia directory and information regarding several other Brunswick, Georgia years.
Of course, Ancestry and Fold3 have many directories in the paid sections.
Off-Line Sources
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 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.