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Directory Assistance
Book 'em! Discover how city directories can help you track down your ancestors' addresses and break through your research brick walls.

Anyone who's dabbled in family history knows that census records are a genealogical gold mine: They give a snapshot of the whole family on a particular day in history every 10 years. But those 10 years in between censuses can be a longtime in a family's history — longer still if your ancestors moved, were missed in a census or lived during that 20-year-gap left by the loss of the 1890 census to fire. If only you could find an annual accounting of your ancestors …

You can — if your ancestors lived in a place with a city directory. These valuable books contain an alphabetical list of a city's inhabitants, similar to today's telephone directories, but beginning even before Alexander Graham Bell made his first call. Some city directories date to the 1700s; most American cities began publishing directories annually or every other year in the mid- to late 1800s. City directories list the names of adults, including adult children living with parents. Some also tell residents' occupations, their employers' names, their home addresses and their spouses' names.

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