I want to search the entire U.S. from 1750 to 1959 for residences. I have found the Polk city directories in the archives of some libraries in several cities, and it is useful. But I have to travel there. I am searching for addresses all over, from Nova Scotia to California and in between. Are there other city directories, other than telephone directories? Any online directories?

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    Welcome to G&FH SE! As a new user be sure to take the Tour. As it stands I think your question is too broad because there will be many directories for many cities both online and not. Would you be able to use the edit button beneath it to include details of a particular city, as well as the period for which you are seeking such directories. Also, if the person/people you are looking for were born more than 100 years ago you can mention their name(s), but that is certainly not required. Also, I think you should hold your last question over to a separate question so I am editing it.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 2:02
  • Clicking this link will take you to some previous Q&As here that may be helpful.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 2:07
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    I agree that this question is much too broad. A researcher could easily write an entire book about what city directories have been published in the United States. (P.S. that was a hint)
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 3:07

1 Answer 1


If you want to find historical city directories for the United States, it is ridiculously time-consuming to look for them one at a time by the title of the directory. So how do you find them? By using library catalogs, archival catalogs, and other resources to look for inventories and other works which talk about what city directories were published, otherwise known as finding aids.

One starting place might be the FamilySearch Research Wiki's article United States Directories which gives a brief overview of the topic, and lists both finding aids and links to some of the online sites.

But the best way I know of is to search the catalogs of the library and archives you visit -- not just for the directories themselves, but for research guides and finding aids for their own collections. Once you locate a directory in someone's collection, you can then look in WorldCat.org to see if you can find the directory in a library near you, or search to see who might have the directory online.

Some examples of research guides include:

Some resources for finding directories online:

Blog posts and online articles:

If you want to search specifically for Polk city directories, some library catalogs will allow you to narrow the search that way. For example, here are the search results for the genealogy collection at the Allen County Public Library, where a search for "city directories" plus filtering by the three selections for Polk directories yielded 451 results.

A simple way to search for more of anything you find in a library is to find the catalog entry for the item you already found, then to search the library subject headings for that item.

Many historical city directories can be located and read online -- and some can be downloaded -- from Google Books, the Hathi Trust, and the Internet Archive.

Some examples:

When searching Google, it's helpful to use the techniques demonstrated by Lisa Louise Cooke on how to narrow your search by date range. Add the beginning and end years to your search with two dots in between, and Google will return only the editions in those years.

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    Wow, thanks! Great answer. Now I have some work to do.
    – savta
    Commented Jul 25, 2015 at 19:05

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