Directory Directions

By David A. Fryxell Premium

A. City directories can be terrific resources when you’re tracing ancestors between censuses, census records are missing or you’re looking for post-1930 relatives. (The 1930 enumeration is the latest available for public research.) Fortunately, many larger libraries have shelves of old city directories for their own locales and for places across the country. Ask at the reference desk or search the library’s online catalog to see what’s available.

You also can borrow microfilmed copies of many city directories at your local Family History Center, a branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Family History Library <> in Salt Lake City. For Los Angeles, microfilm numbers 1611705 to 1611714 contain the city directories between 1930 and 1935, which is the latest year available on film. Large cities discontinued their directories as the books grew unwieldy, so 1942 is the last one for Los Angeles.

Another option is to find a researcher in California who can look up information for you, either as a volunteer or for a small fee. Try the listings at <> or <> for starters.

Once you’ve gotten your hands on a directory, look through it methodically. If you can’t find your relative by name, check under the address from the 1930 census record you found. (On 1930 enumerations, the street is written along the left side of the page and the house number is in column two, under Place of Abode.) Start with the 1930 directory and work forward, year by year. If your father-in-law’s half sister moved, remember that Los Angeles encompasses many smaller communities, each of which usually had its own directory. These also are on microfilm. In the growing, mobile LA of the early 1900s, your genealogical quarry may have pulled up stakes for Pasadena, Burbank or another suburb.
From the June 2005 Family Tree Magazine