|A Collection of the Names of the Merchants Living In and about the City of London, 1677,|
New York Public Library: http://www.nypl.org/blog/2012/06/08/direct-me-1786-history-city-directories-US-NYC
These extensive directories are extremely valuable to locate and track the movements of your ancestors. Collections of old directories may be found in many archives, museums and libraries around the country. In addition, these types of directories were also published in many cities around the world. The image above shows the cover of a city directory from the City of London in 1677.
Here is a quote from the New York Public Library in an article entitled, "A History of City Directories in the United States and New York City" about the value of city directories to genealogists:
In New York City, city directories were printed between 1786 and 1934: the first telephone books began to appear in the late 1870s. Both forms of directory are interesting to researchers, historians and genealogists alike, for a number of reasons, not least because, like a census, directories tie an individual to a certain location at a particular point in time. Historical city directories are even more useful as a research tools than early telephone directories, because they are more inclusive: you don't need a telephone to be in a city directory. In addition to this, city directories offer up many more historical details. This post describes the history of city directories, how they might be useful to your research, and where you will find them at the New York Public Library.Here is a list of useful references for finding city directories:
- Cyndi's List: Directories, City, County, Address, etc.
- City Directories of the United States of America
- Ancestry.com search for keyword "city directory"
- United States Directories
- City and Business Directories of the United States through 1860, University of Massachusetts at Amherst Libraries
- Spear, Dorothea N., Bibliography of American directories through 1860, Worcester, Mass., American Antiquarian Society, 1961.
- Analyzing City Directories - Board for Certification of Genealogists
- City Directories for Genealogy Research - DistantCousin.com
- Online Historical Directories Website
I have found collections of old city directories in some unexpected places. They even show up occasionally in used bookshops and thrift store sales of old books. There are hundreds of additional links on this subject. Just do a Google search on the terms "city directories historical" and you will find many, many more entries.