When you want to find an ancestor during those pesky years between census enumerations, a city directory should be one of the first places you look.
Unfortunately, most of my ancestors lived in the rural south and midwest, where records of any sort can be few and far between. On the rare occasion when I do find an ancestor who lived in a city, one of the first things I do is check to see if I can find her/him in a directory.
One Ancestor Found in a City Directory
Such was my luck with my great-grandmother, Elizabeth “Bessie” (Delaney) McGraw. Born in rural Nebraska in 1895, Bessie married Thomas McGraw and had two children. They moved around Nebraska several times, and somehow wound up in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, according to the 1930 U.S. census.1
Bessie and Thomas separated at some point between 1930 and 1940,2 but I don’t know exactly when. However, thanks to Polk’s City Directory – available on Ancestry.com – I am able to at least narrow down the time frame. I found “Mrs Bessie McGraw” living, and working as a maid, in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1931.3 Thomas is not listed in this directory, so I believe it is reasonable to conclude that Bessie and Thomas were separated at the time of publication.
So, what genealogical goodies can be found in this city directory entry? I found the following about my great-grandmother:
- Her residence address
- Her occupation
- Her place of employment
- Her presumed marital status
Not too shabby for just one line of information!
Adding City Directory Claims to Evidentia
The first step is to add the source to Evidentia. Since I had previously documented this source in my genealogy database, I just copied the source information from my database and pasted it into the Evidentia source listing box.
The next step is to enter Bessie’s city directory information as claims in Evidentia. Here was my takeaway:
Did I miss anything?
UPDATED: Oops, yes, I did miss something! Visit this post to find out what it was. 😯
Why Use City Directories?
If you are unfamiliar with city directories, here is what you can expect to find in a typical listing:
- Home address
- Business address
- Marital status
- Spouse’s name
- And more!
Since each entry is typically limited to one line, the information will most likely be abbreviated. Be sure to check the list of abbreviations located near the front of each book.
Also, don’t forget to check for other people of the same surname. There might be family members living nearby (or in the same house), or working for the same business.
What sort of gems have YOU found in city directories? Did you remember to include them in Evidentia?
- 1930 U.S. census, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, population schedule, Oklahoma City, ED 142, sheet 11B, dwelling 12, family 12, Thomas & Bess McGraw. ↩
- In the 1940 U.S. census, Bess is listed as the head of household, and her marital status is “M7”. According to enumerator instructions for this census, this indicates that one is married, but living separately from one’s spouse. ↩
- Sioux City (Iowa) Directory. Detroit, Michigan: R. L. Polk & Co., 1931. Digital images. Ancestry.com. https://www.ancestry.com : 2014. ↩