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An Extensive List of Telephone Directories
1881-1900 City & Business Directories Avaiable Online
Chris Seggermann from the Arizona State Library shares information about Arizona city directories now available through the Arizona Memory Project Online. Sometimes when people hunt an elusive ancestor, they say "It's not like I can just look them up in a phone book!" Well, sometimes, THEY CAN.
In the era before telephones, let alone cell phones, city and business directories acted as a guide to who lived where, and what sort of services people could find in those cities. Genealogists now use that information to look up ancestors. The information shown includes name, address, and sometimes occupation. The Arizona Memory Project has a collection of Arizona City Directories for Phoenix and Tucson ranging from 1881 to 1900, located here:
Other than just looking up an ancestor's name and address, how do genealogists use city directories? They supply missing pieces of information that confirm the known and lead to the unknown. For example: from a newspaper, you learn an ancestor's marriage took place in Phoenix in 1899. However, the announcement does not list the church the marriage took place in. If you want the records from the church, how can you find the right one? The marriage announcement said "L.A. McAfee" officiated, the 1899 Phoenix City Directory shows he was the Reverend of the First Presbyterian Church in Phoenix in two places. First, you can look under "M" and find the Reverend's name. The city directory also shows his church with that entry. This does not always happen; other directories require searching through lists of the staff of each church.
If the city directory has been scanned and made searchable, this will speed your research, but sometimes the best way is just to read through the index as if it were still made of paper. Under the Churches section, Rev. McAfee is also shown as that church's minister. That's one way a city directory can help a family history researcher.
Cities all over America have them, sometimes in state archives and historical societies. Institutions have been digitizing them, but the paper copies on hand usually exceed what you find online. The State Archives at 1901 W. Madison has a print collection of Arizona city directories as well.