So much new information from City Directories  

Posted by Abba-Dad in , , ,

One of the reasons I've been visiting the library is to go through the City Directories. I looked at all my research subjects and tried to find them and see what information I can gain about them. And let me tell you, if you're not looking at City Directories you are missing out on a lot of information. I am not sure how accurate it is, but it is extremely helpful.

For example, the Atlanta City Directories usually have two indexes. The first is a street address index that lists all the streets in the city and then the house number. Next to each house number you will find the residents. This is very helpful when you are trying to figure out who lived in a certain house and you don't know all the names.

The second index is obviously the names index. But it doesn't just give you the name. You can see the last name, then usually head of household name and wife's name in parenthesis. Then you will get an occupation and place of work. Next to that you can see the persons address and whether they were renting or boarding at that location.

There are a lot of additional tidbits that are invaluable clues. For example, you might find a person who died that year and get a date of death. You can find widows listed with their deceased spouse's name next to them in parenthesis. Sometimes if someone worked for another person as a cook or driver you will see their employer's name.

Needless to say I was blown away. And then, on my first library visit, I forgot to bring my camera (doh!) so I wrote down everything I could find. I took down 3-4 books at a time and went through a through surname search to see who I could find. What really helped me find hidden relatives is that they sometimes were listed as living in the same house. Here's an example:

This is a partial listing of Brannon's living in Atlanta in 1932. Look what I can find from this:

1) L Travis, married to Esther, works as a Secretary/Treasurer for Charles J. Williamson Inc. and rents a house at 209 Poplar Circle. From my previous research I know that Lester Travis Brannon Sr. was married to Esta (Esther) Louisa Cherry and was a bookkeeper/accountant. In 1930 they are listed in the census as living at 189 Poplar Circle. This is a perfect match. I can now go through the rest of the directories, year by year and see where he worked and where they lived. This is information I can't get anywhere else since it's past the 1930 census.

2) Lollie G, married to Louise, works as a musician at the Fox Theatre and rents a house at 1186 Stewart Avenue. Before I found this I knew he was a piano salesman from the 1920 census. But this adds so much more and I didn't even know his wife's name. But this gets better:

3) William L works as a salesman and rents a house at 1186 Stewart Avenue as well. This is my wife's elusive grandfather who I know as Lawrence, not William. The six siblings all had names that started in the letter L. Leile/Lula, Louis, Lester, Lollie, Levi and Lawrence. Anyway, he's living with his big brother Lollie. The thing is, in 1932 his son, my father-in-law, is born but Lawrence is not listed as living with a spouse yet. I wonder when these were actually published and how old the data is in them. And a little more:

4) Salena L, widow of William T, owns the house at 1186 Stewart Avenue! Salena (Selena) is my wife's great-grandmother and the daughter of my mysterious Margaret Bishop/McElrath. I don't have a date of death for her yet, but if I keep going through these directories I might be able to find that. I also find it hilarious that her two sons are renting rooms from her. Smart woman!

5) Is Lula that rents apartment C11 at 635 North Highland Avenue one of the sisters? I don't have any information about her so this could lead me down a new path.

As you can see there is a lot of information here. I took this page as an example, but I have tracked the family members for 20 years through the turn of the century and found middle names, spouse names, occupations, places of employment and so much more.

Bottom line: If you are not looking at City Directories, you are losing out!

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 10:01 PM and is filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


I agree with you that directories can be a great source of information. Interesting here too that there are 2 BRANNONs listed as musicians. Is there a connection to Thomas M. Brannon too perhaps?

November 16, 2008 at 8:58 PM

M. Diane, I didn't even notice that Thomas M Brannon was also a musician! I don't have him in my database yet, but it's an interesting lead. Salena's deceased husband had 3 other brothers out of 11 total siblings so I wouldn't be surprised if several of them are in these directories.

This 1932 directory is about 50 years into the future of where I am currently at :-). I'm still trying to sort out Bishops and Brannons in the previous century.

November 16, 2008 at 10:16 PM

Amir, I'd like to invite your readers to check out my Online City, County, and Rural Directories website, where I'm (slowly) compiling every online directory link I can find, in location and date order.

August 1, 2009 at 12:32 AM

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