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The previous article, “Online Resources for Finding Living Relatives (Part 1 and Part 2),” identified many of the websites where white pages, yellow pages, and current city directories are found.
But, the old city directories, those published before the Internet, and those still sitting in a library somewhere, are in many cases a long way away from being digitized and included on the Internet for research.
For example, New York City’s directories go back to the 1730s, and they are very complete through 1933, the last year a full every-name city directory was produced for Manhattan.
The New York Public Library has an outstanding collection of the old city directories for all five boroughs of New York City.
The main listing of names in the book is an alphabetical listing by the names of the residents.
The cross-street index is also a resource to find people whose names may have changed.
For example, say a woman living alone at a particular address in 1938 disappears in the 1939 directory.
Here is an example I found in a city directory for the town of Whatcom (now Bellingham), Washington for the year 1893: The five entries above read like a family group sheet!
First, the directory informs us that Annie Clancy was a widow, and her deceased husband’s name was Patrick Clancy.