09/13/13 475 W, 3 I - + 6 - 0 Wohoo! City Directories Available Online!

One of the best resources for historical research is now available online. A century's worth of the state's city directories have been digitized and made available from the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center (NCDHC). The collection features 939 directories from 108 cities in 64 counties, from 1860 to 1963.

What are city directories? These were hardcover books that listed every resident of a city, including their address, phone number, spouse's name, and occupation. They also listed businesses, as well as aspects of the local government. Such as the fire station locations, and even the company officer's name. See this posting showing some directory pages from Raleigh, from early decades.

There was also a street index, that listed the residences or business at each address, along with cross streets. Thus allowing a reverse search of "who lived" or "what was located" at a particular address or on a particular street, during a particular timeframe. (See this posting about using same to learn when a business moved after a fire.)

They also contained "yellow page" style business listings, which in more recent decades, contained such categories as "ambulance services" (see this posting) and "fire departments." (Old phone books are an equally good source in this regard. Unsure if they're archived online. Here's a posting about that.)

I've used the Raleigh directories in ways as simple as verifying that someone was a member of the fire department. Such as when finding a new name in a historical roster. I'll check the directories over several years, as a way to approximate when the person was listed with a career of "city firefighter." Not an exact science, mind you, but still helpful.

These digital archives will take some getting used to. The research process isn't as speedy as, say, having a shelf of the physical books to rapidly look through. But a physical trip to a local library is no longer required. That's the huge benefit, as collections of city directories are typically only found in a local library. Want to research Wilmington. Then travel to Wilmington. (The big universities may have multi-city collections, however. That's probably how the digital collection was created.)

My best advice for commencing usage? Download and store the PDF versions to your local computer. Rinse and repeat for every year that you want, and for each city that you want. Then access from your computer. Way faster.

Below are some examples of these directories. See if you can guess the year (ha) or era for each. Top to bottom is Wilmington, Charlotte, and Salisbury. Big thanks to Mrs. Blogger, who surfaced to me the news of this great new digital collection.

Remember personal info?

/ Textile

Comment moderation is enabled on this site. This means that your comment will not be visible on this site until it has been approved by an editor.

To prevent spam we require you to answer this silly question

  (Register your username / Log in)

Hide email:

Small print: All html tags except <b> and <i> will be removed from your comment. You can make links by just typing the url or mail-address.