The following article was written by Michael John Neill:
On the surface, city directories may not seem to contain much information. After all, they usually only provide the names of heads of households. They also do not provide the details typically obtained from census records taken during the same time period. Directories are especially key for urban researchers and provide details about individuals in off-census years. Ignoring them because they seem tedious, repetitive, and dull may leave gaps in your research.
City directories can be accessed in a number of ways. An increasing number of city directories are available online, on both free and paid sites. Footnote, Ancestry, Worldvitalrecords, and other fee-based sites contain city directories in their collections. Public library and other non-profit websites may also contain digital copies of these materials. There are a variety of concerns with these images, but researchers should first learn whether or not a site has all directories from a specific locality for a given range of dates. Some fee-based sites contain incomplete ranges of directories, and some free sites may only be able to place a directory or two on their site. Also, some free sites may only contain submissions by users and may not be complete, even for a given directory year.
Readers are encouraged to use these sites, but don't stop there.
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