city directories

Your Guide to Finding Ancestors
in City Directories



Guides to using city directories.


  • There is a major microform set called City Directories of the United States", which consists of a huge collection of city directories on microfiche and roll film. It is marketed to libraries and many libraries own portions; few own the whole set.
    • The Allen County Library in Fort Wayne has a full set I believe -- if not a full set, they have a significant portion of it.
    • The Library of Congress has this set and a page that lists holdings (scroll down and click the state of interest to see the list for that state.
    • The Family History Library in Salt Lake City owns the set, but there is no circulation to the network of Family History Centers.
    • REMEMBER: A library might not have the whole set, but still own the portion that covers a region, state or city.
  • The place most likely to have book or film copies of city directories for a town is the public library of that town. Often state libraries and larger libraries will also have city directories for towns in that state. To find a library in the town you are researching, use LibWeb. In most cases the public libraries are the first place to check, but state and academic libraries also often have sets of city directories. The Bentley Library has many city directories for Michigan cities and towns
  • To find City Directories in the catalog of the Family History Library, search by locality, then check the topic "directories" -- remember, sometimes a directory will cover a county, but most often it will be listed under the city location. Here is a little more information on finding city directories in the catalog of the Family History Library. The Family History Library has the microfiche set "City Directories of the Unites States" listed above, but there is no circulation to branch centers.
  • Genealogy Research Associates offers a helpful site, that includes lists to available directories for various states, research guidance and a bibliography of resources: City Directories of the United States of America.. It is not yet complete, but the intention of this website is to " identify all printed, microfilmed, and online directories, and their repositories, for the United States.  This site will answer these questions: does a directory exist for a locality?  If it does, where can it be found?" I found few, if any, links to online directories. The list serves as an unofficial and very incomplete union list of City Directories. For many there is an option to order a lookup in the city directory by clicking the "order copy" icon on the right. The price of the lookups (plus shipping and handling) seem to me to be on the high end of a reasonable charge, but if all other efforts fail, it is good to know this service is available.

City Directories Online

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This page last updated October 4, 2013