Tip 17: More on Directories
Even with the 1950 census out now, I still don’t have anything that really helps me gather up information etc after that. However, I have had all sorts of luck recently in city directories. Some areas don’t have them, particularly small towns and rural areas. But after that comes telephone directories.
If Ancestry does not have your city directory, you can sometimes get copies from other places. I would try googling for them. FamilySearch.org has some city directories. State archives, city libraries also have them.
On Ancestry, go to Search on the top menu and then choose Card Catalog. Scroll down to Directories and Member Lists. Open this up and examine your options. For example, have you ever checked the telephone directories? There are a lot from other countries if you need them. I have seen the two volumes of Public Records Index 1950 to 1993. These two volumes seem to be searched automatically. Or at least they pop up regularly for me.
In these databases, if you find the father listed, and then search for the same surname with that address as the key word, you may find spouses and adult children, etc. But what do you do after 1993? Well, in the same list, you will find US telephone Directories 1993 to 2002. This database is set up differently. So I looked for my husband. I found him with me listed as spouse, with a telephone number from two moves back. The interesting thing is that there is a link to check neighbors. I don’t remember the names, so I think it is just the same zip code. But still it could be useful.
This is all entirely separate from the City Directories database. They are not searched automatically unless you specifically choose Directories when you search. So lots of people don’t see them. I wish they would list the actual directories so I know what they have. Directories are commonly published every other year in most locations. So what I do is pick a span of years and town and ask for Smith. If I don’t get one, then they don’t have that year. If you work around a little bit, you can create a list of the ones they have for your town.
Now I am desperately interested in a person born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He was born to an unmarried 15-year-old girl whose name is in his obituary. She is with her family elsewhere in the 1940 census. So I looked in the 1953 city directory of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I found the father of the unmarried girl listed with an address. A couple of the brothers were included. But I don’t need her, I need to know the unnamed father of her child. I don’t think a 15-year-old went elsewhere to get pregnant. She met someone in the neighborhood, or the church, or her school. Now looking at masses of matches, I have a list of likely surnames. So I went to the back of the city directory. It was what is called a Criss Cross directory. Many directories of that date were criss cross. This means that the street directory in the back of the book, has the surnames listed with the address. It does not list everyone in the household, just the main surname. I ran my eye up the same street a couple of blocks and found a very interesting surname. It was one of my surnames from a different county. It comprises a whole cluster.
So I looked back at that surname in that city directory and found other members of a family listed. The head of the family was a female widow of John which is terribly helpful. So I wrote down the other family members listed at the same address including one with an unusual name. Back to the 1940 census. OK. She is already a widow but now I have more children. So I went back to earlier years and found him and he was a Baptist Preacher. So now I know why he was not in the county where that family of matches are from. I eventually found his 1918 draft record with his birthplace in the original county, so I know I am in the family of the matches.
The early Mississippi death index is online. But I did not see the father. I went through the city directories and he disappeared between 1935 and 1937. The newspaper was not published during the depression. I suppose no one had the money. So no death certificate, no obituary. But if he was a preacher in the Missionary Baptist church, they have archives and I bet they have some record of him. He was there for almost 20 years.
So now what happened to all the kids and the wife? No clues in Hattiesburg. They just disappeared from the directories mid 50s. So eventually, searching the SS applications for the strange name, I found him in Michigan and his parents were listed so now I know the mother’s maiden name. She is from the other county too and I know exactly who she is. She is from the number two giant cluster. More searching and he showed up on findagrave.com in a cemetery record in Muskegon, Michigan. So I searched in the city directories of Muskegon, and the cemetery for other individuals with that surname, and up popped the Mom, most of the brothers and sisters with complete dates on the tombstones.
My immediate thought is obituaries. So I looked for the Muskegon Chronicle. Google said that was the local newspaper. But it is not on Newspapers.com or Newspaperarchive and google just smirked at me. However, on Findagrave.com the volunteer for this had a link. I wrote to him and explained I needed obits. He pointed me to the exact library, with a telephone number and said that they are not online. But this particular library has indexed the obituaries back to 1942 so they should have all of my people.
Now this is what I have to do next along with calling the repository for Missionary Baptist records. They did not keep vital records, but they will have kept records of ministers. I checked on FamilySearch.org wiki to find them. They list repositories for all the different denominations in each state. For example, New Jersey Dutch Reformed Church Records are in Philadelphia. So you just can’t guess.
I find this a little bit exciting because this couple is in the wrong county, and I don’t know if I would have found him very quickly. On a common name, you don’t want to have to look at every person with that surname in a state. My target may not be here, but I have to eliminate every son. This is especially true since I found the ancestor of one of the larger matches in that same cemetery in Michigan. I never knew her people were from Hattiesburg, MS. So I am now bouncing around in Michigan City Directories trying to find spouses and children.
I do love City Directories.