Using City Directories to Create a Timeline

City Directories are the “phone books” of old and there are many freely available online or via subscription sites like A city directory most often contains residents listed in alpha order, with their occupation and address.

It’s easy to take the basic information and construct a timeline. I made this quick one in Powerpoint. Perhaps the most interesting thing for me was discovering that Rebecca Marnie briefly moved from Philadelphia to Camden. The timeline is also helping to make some assumptions about when she died, but now I have a new location to search as well.

Do you use City Directories in your research?



12 thoughts on “Using City Directories to Create a Timeline

  1. Jennifer: I have been utilizing City Directories. Recently connected my paternal grandmother to the correct Onions family in Newark and Irvington, NJ. However, thanks for the tip. I need all the help I can get!


  2. I have been using City and county Directories and love the way you tied them together. Cute idea and easy to follow. Will have to try that.

  3. Pingback: Cool GenStuff - Monday 9 September 2013 | Hack Genealogy

  4. I have recently realized that some city directories contained a separate section for “colored persons”. When you get a “hit” on, it doesn’t always appear obvious which section of the directory the page is from, so look carefully. I’m starting to use this to help sort out people and families in non-census years with similar or identical names.

  5. City Directories…I teach people to use them in my “Introduction to Family Research” classes. I especially like the fact that they’re available annually rather than on the 10 year cycle of a census record. AND they’re not kept confidential for 72 years!! I like your use of the timeline feature!

  6. Pingback: City Directory Timelines, Part 2 | Out Here Studying Stones

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