Sunday, February 19, 2012

City Directories Aren’t Just for City Folk

When I listen to podcasts about genealogy, I often hear people mentioning finding good clues in city directories.  In my mind, I always imagined New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, and maybe Dallas and Houston.  But my ancestors were farmers.  They didn’t live in big cities like that.  I figured I was out of luck.

But ancestry.com recently posted enhanced indexes of city directories, so I thought I’d give them a look.  Much to my delight, I found that Texas was one of the states included – and specifically there were directories for Abilene, Waco, and San Antonio, all cities where some of my direct ancestors have lived.

I checked for Collins surname in the Abilene city directories. I was surprised to find my great grandfather Albert Buell Collins in several (1909, 1914, 1917, 1919, 1921, 1924, 1926) directories. The surprise came because he was a farmer. Furthermore, the 1910 US Census showed him with his family in Roby, 50 miles away. My grandfather’s memoirs mentioned moving to Abilene so that his older brother could attend high school, but the dates weren’t mentioned. These directories help flesh out that information. 

There were several Collins in these directories, some known relatives.  It makes me wonder if there are any other relatives lurking there.
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The Abilene entries sent me on successful tangents to San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston where family members moved as they established their own careers.

I also checked out Lester Loyd Edmonds in the Waco city directories.  I found him in the 1923, 1926, 1928, 1930, 1932, and 1934 directories.  I found one new address for him, plus plenty of evidence of his employment at Piggly Wiggly Stores.  It also provided some tips for his sister Blanche and her husband James Blaine Gilmore.  I’d really like to find and get in touch with her descendants.

Oh, and the advertisements are a hoot, too.  Check out this one from the 1919 Waco directory:
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Note the 2-digit phone number!

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