Friday, February 28, 2014

City Directories. The book you just can't put down!

City directories can be a source of some fascinating information about your ancestors. First of all everybody is listed alphabetically so you can find all your family members (or possible family members) in one spot.You can see which sons and daughters got married and are still living in their parents' home with their spouses and children (much like the census). But it will also show you the children who married and moved to another address. City directories give you a little compact snapshot of where your family was in a certain year. All living together and loving life!

So you say the city directories give you much of the same information that you might find in a census. This is true. But you can find the in-between years with the city directories. You may find a more detailed description of where your ancestors worked. If they owned the company, you will find that noted. You might also be able to determine when a person died or left the area.

But more than that you will see the life style of your family in the ads that make up the first part of the directory. Next there will be a section that will give you clues about where to look for records for your ancestors. Lists of churches, cemeteries, schools, organizations/clubs, to mention just a few.

Now lets go back and take a look at a Toledo, Ohio city directory from the early 1900's to get an idea of what my family's life was like back in the good old days.

Here is a wake up call. There were 2 high schools for the whole area. I had never heard of either one of them. So does this tell me there weren't that many teenagers in the area at that time or does it tell me that only a select few went on to high school? By the way, if you are looking for teenagers in this time period, the schools were Mann High School and Mitchell High School.

The primary schools and secondary schools taught students in two languages - English and German. This tells me there were a lot of German immigrants in the area. But it also raises the question of when did this stop. Was it the first world war? 

There was a Home for Friendless Women. Missing a female ancestor? This might be a place to look. But more importantly, why friendless women?

There were several orphan homes. Another place to look for an ancestor. But, again, why so many orphan homes.

There was a Babies' Home. There is only one question here and that is -- why?

As you can see there is much to be found in a local city directory. There are so many questions and so many clues. It will be like a book you cannot put down.

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