©2023 Donald R. Snow - Page last updated 2023-04-18

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ABSTRACT: City directories are like phone books, but before there were telephones. They have information on residences and who lived there.  For businesses, they include what it was and who owned it.  They are usually shown by street address, so you can see who lived nearby.  Now, with scanning, they are completely searchable for name, address, or business, and are very helpful in family history.  Other types of directories, such as yearbooks, church directories, telephone books, and trade and occupation directories, are subjects for other classes.  Many city directories have been scanned and are posted online and are searchable and downloadable for free.  We will discuss sources and how to use these. The notes for this class and related articles, all with active internet links, are posted on my website .


  1. Instructor is Donald R. Snow ( ) of Provo, Utah.
  2. The notes with active URLs and additional information in other notes and articles are posted at .
  3. Tips:  (1)  To put an icon on your desktop for these notes, or any webpage, just drag the icon from in front of the address in your browser onto your desktop.  (2)  To open a link, but keep your place in these notes, hold down the Control key while clicking the link.
  4. Problem for today:  What are city directories and how do you find and use them online?

  6. City directories are lists of residences and businesses, usually by street address, showing the residents and businesses.  They usually indicate whether the space was rented or owned and, if a business, what that was and who owned it.
  7. Because they are by street address they show who lived nearby and, frequently, the neighbors are relatives.
  8. For online searches for directories you may need to use "director" since the title is probably singular and this will pick up "directory" and "directories"; you can also enter the [city] and [state.
  9. Many city directories online are free and you can download or do screenshots.
  10. PDFs are of different kinds, some searchable and some not - it depends on whether the pdf text layer is on the pdf picture layer or not.
  11. If a directory is pdf and downloadable, but not searchable, there are (free) programs that will OCR (Optical Character Recognize) your screenshots or downloads to make them searchable -- see other notes and articles on my website of how to do this 
  12. Be sure you keep track of where and when you do a screenshot or download. 

  14. FamilySearch Catalog
    1. FamilySearch > Search > Catalog - "city directory" (without the quotes) yields 20,000 hits
    2. FamilySearch > Search > Catalog > "city directory provo utah" (without the quotes) yields 50 hits
  15. FamilySearch Digital Library
    1. FamilySearch > Search > Books > [keyword] "directory" (no quotes)  yields 12,000 hits (This includes any book with the word "directory" in it that is in their collection.)
    2. "city directory" (with quotes) yields 25,000 hits and you can narrow down the search by using the filters on the left side, e.g. clicking U.S. Genealogy yields 600 hits
  16. FamilySearch > Search > Records (This is Historical Records.) -- the city directories are in record type "Census and Lists"; you can narrow your search by location, etc. in the left panel 
  17. FamilySearch > Search > Wiki   has several articles about finding and using city directories   

  19. Internet Archive --
    1. Website with 1000s of out-of-print texts and other items for free; texts are completely searchable and most are downloadable 
    2. "city directory" (no quotes) in Search for Metadata yields 8,000 hits
    3. "city directory" (no quotes) in Search In Text Content yields 76,000 hits, which is any book in their collection with "city" and "directory" on the same page 
    4. "city directory utah" in Search Metadata yields 13 hits  
  20. MyHeritage -- -- Major source of city directories; searchable by name of a person  
  21. Ancestry -- -- major collection of city directories   
  22. Ancestry's U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 -- 
  23. Ancestry's blog  of 500 german city directories -- 
  24. Cyndi's List --   
  25. Don's List (That's not me!) -- -- includes online street, phone, and other directories  
  26. Los Angeles California Online Historical Directories -- 
  27. New York City directories at New York Public Library online for free -- 
  28. WorldCat for "St. George Utah city directory" --
  29. City directories -- -- This site doesn't work the way it is supposed to, but you can see the name pattern from the Salt Lake City and Provo pages ---  and  
  30. UK Historical Directories at U of Leicester --  

  32. FamilySearch Wiki (mentioned earlier)-- United States City Directories -- -- good article with links to directory information for each state  
  33. The Family History Guide --
  34. Online Historical Directories website --
  35. Using City Directories for Genealogy Research --   
  36. Searching City and Area Directories - Ancestry -- -- many helpful tips and articles 
  37. New York Public Library article --   
  38. Polk's Directories (US) --     
  39. Kelly's Directories (UK) --'s_Directory 
  40. Pigot's Directories (UK) --  
  41. White's Directories (UK) --   

  43. City directories are useful in family history to help identify people and where and when they lived; they show neighbors add backgrounds for people, including yourself.    
  44. Many city directories are posted online and can be downloaded and/or searched for free.

  45. Return to the Events Page or the Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group Home Page or Don's Class Listings Page .