In December 2016, I talked about the basic information in city directories and how they can be helpful for research. In this post, I want to show you how I used city directories in conjunction with other records to trace the Pettiford family of Raleigh. I learned a lot from tracking this family from 1875-1930. Finding this them in the city directories led me to other records, such as deeds, marriage records, and in some cases, just confirmed relationships as you can see from the image above.
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.
The fourth federal census occurred in 1820 with the census day as August 7, 1820. Thirteen months were allotted. As with earlier censuses, there was no printed forms for enumerators to use.
The 1820 census is mostly intact, but six counties have lost census records. Those counties are Currituck, Franklin, Martin, Montgomery, Randolph, and Wake. If your ancestor lived in one of those counties, there are possible substitutes that you can use. It should be noted that Currituck has very few records before the mid-1800s. Martin County had a court house fire in 1884 that destroyed many records and Montgomery had a fire in 1835 that also destroyed records. Below are substitutes you can use for these counties mentioned; they have the following records close to 1820:
- Tax: Franklin, Randolph, Wake
- Court records (can include Jury lists) Currituck, Franklin, Montgomery, Randolph, Wake
- Deeds and land records (which include witnesses): Franklin, Martin, Randolph, Wake
Location, location, location – the mantra of real estate, but also important in genealogy too. I’ve posted before about the importance of knowing what county your ancestor lived in as records are filed by county name. In addition, our ancestors could have lived in 1 location their entire life, yet lived in 3 different counties due to boundary changes. 32 of North Carolina’s 100 counties were created by at least two other counties.
One of the problems that researchers may have is determining which county they lived in before the creation of the new county. The Government and Heritage Library has a few tools that can help you narrow down where an ancestor really lived. Today, I will use a fictitious scenario to show how you can use these tools to find a location. The locations and time frames are real, but the scenario itself is made up.