Friday, April 27, 2012 U.S. City Directories, 1821 - 1989

Over the last several weeks, I've been so busy browsing and indexing 1940 Census records and doing volunteer work (is that an oxymoron?) for the Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society (LLCGS), that I haven't checked in at

During a bout of insomnia the other night, I was checking out the app on my new iPhone (yes, I finally got with it and now wonder why I dragged my feet about upgrading). By following the shaking leaves and some hints, I discovered a much expanded database of U. S. City Directories covering the period 1821 - 1989.

For me, the beta version of this database and image set is a goldmine of information that may end up distracting me from indexing for a few days. My focus has been Nebraska city directories which are available for the following cities: Beatrice, Columbus, Fremont, Hastings, Kearney, Lexington, Lincoln, Norfolk, North Platte, Omaha, Scottsbluff and York.

The Omaha directories go back as far as 1866 and go through 1959. Of course, not every year is there, nor is every directory complete. But, there's enough of a selection that if your ancestors lived in Omaha, the odds of locating them are quite good.

Lincoln's directories range from 1883 to 1960. I've located my grandparents in several directories from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. I found my Dad living with his parents in 1947, having returned from World War II and now in the work force. I found Mom living in Lincoln in 1947 as a young single working woman. I checked out her two best friends from Greenwood and, as I expected, the trio of girls were roommates living at 1936 D Street. This was shortly before my parents were married in 1947. Dad recalled the girls living in a third floor apartment as that's where Mom lived when she and Dad began dating.

Patricia Kelly
Kenneth Petersen
circa 1946-47
This photograph of my parents was probably taken outside of Mom's apartment building. The tower in the background is First Plymouth Church, which is located at 20th and D Streets in Lincoln.

I also discovered my grandmother, Sina Bellinger, living with her brother Clifford and their parents, John and Emma, in Lincoln in 1910. Sina's brother, Harry Bellinger, was trackable in the Omaha City Directories for several years, when he was a fireman for the railroad, then later when he became a railroad engineer.

The Fitzgerald kin make several appearances in the Lincoln directories. John Fitzgerald's entry almost reads like a resume, with a long list of all of his businesses and affiliations. One of his sons, William Paul Fitzgerald, lived in Denver during the 1940s and 1950s. I was able to locate several entries for him as well. I'm still missing evidence of his death, but the city directories helped me move his life forward several more years.

I'm still on the hunt for Margaret Kelly Langdon, the sister of my great grandfather, Daniel Kelly. I've tracked her to about 1918 in Kansas City, when she was living with one of their brothers. I'm hopeful that a couple entries I've discovered for her will end up being a match.

Regarding the database, it is very easy to search and end up with some pretty accurate results. You can search the entire database or narrow it by location. I've discovered that many of the street addresses have been transcribed incorrectly in the database. In nearly all of the examples I've found, the first digit of the street address is missing. However, the images are clear and it's easy to make a correction to the transcribed index.

Search Ancestry'com's City Directories database - I'd love to hear what gems you find!

The link to this post is:

1 comment:

  1. Your blog was the featured blog in the Stevenson's Genealogy Newsletter - great information and interesting writing.