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Genealogy: City Directories

Introduction

This guide is a selective list of directories. The emphasis is on publications having multiple years of coverage. The Library collection specializes in Delaware resources, but there are materials covering other areas. For example, the Library has a very good collection of city directories for Philadelphia.

Early directories in Delaware were published for the entire state of Delaware, rather than for cities.

Consult the Special Collections Department in the UD Library for more directories (https://library.udel.edu/special/).

Information About City Directories

Video Tutorial

Researching City Directories at the Internet Archive - video tutorial by Kenneth R. Marks of The Ancestor Hunt.

Directories Online

Google or Bing searches will include directories that are online and freely available.

Examples of online digital collections you may find:

Large Collections of City Directories


City Directories of the United States. Published by Primary Source Microfilm.

Huge set of filmed directories. The set is not at the UD Library. The UD Library has selected Delaware directories. Other directories can be borrowed through Interlibrary Loan. For example: Center for Research Libraries. The University of Delaware Library is a member of Center for Research Libraries (CRL). Items from CRL can be borrowed through Interlibrary Loan.

Guide to the set:

The Library has the microfiche of Wilmington, Delaware, for 1814 (Call Number: Microfiche S 324) and 1857 (Call Number: Microfiche S 325)

The Library has the microfilm of Wilmington, Delaware, for 1882/1883 to 1898/1899 (Call Number: Microfilm no. 2876)

Free Online Directories

There are a few city directories available (free) on the internet. Some are scanned pages of the directory and others are transciptions of the list of names.

City Directories

Wilmington, Delaware 1889 City Directory (online) (Wayback Machine)

City directories are much like phone books. They typically have a list of both residents and businesses. There are also business directories and farm directories. 

Some directories have a description of the town, including street guides, government description and listings,  lists of churches, schools, libraries, charitable association, fraternal orders, and more.

When available, it is useful to consult more than one directory. Each may have some piece of information not in the other.

HInts

Utilize both the browse and the search functions of an online directory or collection.

Note the Table of Contents, directions, and abbreviations at the beginning of the directory.

Arrangement of names beginning with Mc and Mac differs in various directories. Browse the pages to check all possibilities.

  • names beginning with M' and Mc filed before names beginning with "M;" Mac filed after Mab
  • names beginning with M', Mc, and Mac all filed as if spelled "Mac"

Business Directories

Business directories typically do not have indexes by people's names. The index is by business category. The index identifies the pages where those particular businesses are covered.

The listing identifies the owner or proprietor and the street address.

Entry in index for "pipes."

Listed as Pipes (Smoking), manufacturers of and dealers in.

Entry in directory

Gopsill’s Philadelphia Business Directory.
Location: Morris Library Call Number F158.2 .G65 (Years 1880, 1883, 1885, 1889)

Other Information in Directories

In addition to the names and addresses of businesses and persons, directories may help you understand something about the place or the time.

There may be listings of associations, churches, schools, government offices, charitable societies, fraternal organizations, and more.

 

Advertisements can tell you about the goods and services available.

Delaware and Wilmington Directories, Pre-1950. UD Library and online.

In Delaware, "city directories" often covered New Castle county and in some cases, the entire state.

Consult the Special Collections Department in the UD Library for more directories.

The following is a list of print and microfilm/fiche in the UD Library and online:

Delaware and Wilmington Directories, 1950 -

Genealogy Resources at the University of Delaware Library

Family tree

Although not aimed at genealogy and family history, the collections of the University of Delaware Library (Morris Library) include materials useful to genealogists and family historians.

This Genealogy Research Guide is provided as a service for genealogists. It presents topics and resources to assist researchers.

The UD Library does not specialize in genealogy and does not have staff responsible for genealogy. Library staff cannot conduct research.

For questions about library resources and holdings, use the Ask the Library service.

For questions about getting research assistance, see the suggestions on the home page of this guide or on the topic/resources pages.

Finding Directories in Library Catalogs

Search by Keyword:

Gopsill's Philadelphia

Gopsill's Wilmington

Polk's Wilmington

Wilmington City Directory

Bradford County pennsylvania Directories

 

Search by Subject Keywords (prefix su:):

Delaware Directories

Philadelphia Pennsylvania Directories

philadelphia commerce directories

Subject keyword retrieves only records that have those words in the subject description.

Use the prefix or go to the Advanced Search box.

Rural Areas

County Land Ownership Atlases

These atlases show detailed information about land in rural areas and often include property owners’ names.

Like city directories, the atlases were published by commercial publishers. The Library of Congress has a huge collection.

Land ownership maps are also called cadastral maps.