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December 19th, 2016:

Using City Directories for Research: Basic Information

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Page 95 of the Raleigh City Directory of 1880-1881

Raleigh City Directory 1880/81

City directories are a great resource to add to genealogy sources. City directories have been used in the U.S. since the 1700s in some areas and in North Carolina since the late 1800s. One of the first directories in the state was for Wilmington in 1860. Rural areas are rarely included, but if they lived close enough to a large town to be considered a suburb, they may be included. However, what we consider rural now, may not have been then. Over 100 towns in 63 counties of North Carolina have city directories.

In my own research, a city directory allowed me to discover information about my great-great-grandfather that other sources, such as census, did not. This includes information about his exact residence, where he worked and found out his boss was his brother-in-law; I also learned what that business did through an advertisement I found within the book.

This is the start of a multi-part series. This post will focus on the basics of city directories. In January, I will show how city directories have helped me to trace a family through multiple years and what I can learn from the information found. Later in the spring, I’ll talk about other uses for city directories in genealogy research.

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