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Web Directories
4/1/2005
Looking up your ancestors in yesterday's yellow pages has gotten easier. Here's how to let your mouse do the walking.

City directories may be the most potent weapons in the genealogist's brick-wall-busting arsenal. These cousins of today's phone books can clue you in to ancestors who've gone missing in the census, and even jump-start your search for church and occupational records. City directories list a town's inhabitants alphabetically, and usually include all the adults in a household, plus their occupations, employers' names and home address. But if you're used to having information at your fingertips online, city directories can be frustrating. Census and vital records have gone digital in droves. Where are the city directories?

The subscription Web site Ancestry.com <www.ancestry.com > has a long list of city directories, ranging from the 1889 and 1892 Abington, Mass., directories to the 1890-1891 book for Zanesville, Ohio. Because you can search Ancestry.com's online directories — part of the US Records Collection — singly or all at once, you can track down tricky ancestors in a flash without a brute-force search through books in the library. You also can try various search strategies to zero in on an ancestor whose name is spelled differently — or whose name you may not even know. Try leaving the name field blank and filling in an address (or part of one) in the keyword box. Run an occupation search if you know Great-grandpa was a blacksmith, say, or an attorney; widow also works as a search term.

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