Genealogy Friday: 7 Pieces of Information City Directories Can Reveal

I had a great-uncle who disappeared without a trace.  Family legend stated he disappeared in 1934, but he was listed on the 1940 census with his family.  This confused me.  I thought that he did not disappear until after 1940 and everyone was wrong.

So, I turned to the City Directories for the area where he and his family were living.

Through the city directories I was able to trace the family for over 30 years.  I began around the time my uncle married and followed city directory trail until it ran out and both my great-uncle and his wife disappeared from this area.

old City directories are a great resource for finding businesses and people

I discovered the following:

  1. The address where they were living—by tracing the address year by year I could tell when they moved and did not move.
  2. The correct spelling of my uncle’s name—which cleared up several discrepancies
  3. My great uncle’s occupation
  4. The place where my great-uncle worked—in this case the exact mill where he worked
  5. When they moved to another city—which I was already aware of from census records
  6. When they returned to the area
  7. When my great-uncle disappeared. In 1933, he was listed in the directory by name. In the 1934-1943 city directories his wife was listed as the head of the household.
  8. When his wife disappeared from the area, which gave me a date to begin searching when she approximately remarried.


City directories are a great resource that are often over looked.  While have some city directories online, the best place to check is your local library.

The earlier city directories revealed much more information than they did by the end of the 20th Century.

What information have you found in city directories?

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