23 March 2016

Resource Roundup : Elizabeth City Directories

1905 Elizabeth, NJ City Directory. Entry for the Dixon surname. City directories are a great source of genealogical information. This Resource Roundup focuses on directories for Elizabeth, NJ.
Dixons in the 1905 Elizabeth City Directory.
The year my grandfather was born. William A. is his father.
John, the antiquarian, is his grandfather.
Have you used City Directories to find more information about your ancestors? You really should give it a try! You can find all sorts of things in these little gems.

Directories generally feature an overview of the town or areas that they cover. You can learn what industries are there, how the local government and municipal services are organized, and find the names of churches and organizations that your ancestors may have belonged to. The advertisements are a treasure trove of social history, documenting the types of goods and services that were offered in a location at any given time.

Discover your ancestor's street address, occupation (mostly for the men), find others with the same surname who might be related, discover neighbors, reconstruct their neighborhood, discover an advertisement for a business that they owned. If you're having a hard time finding them on a census record, or if a census record for a particular year doesn't exist, you might glean some information from the city directory.

By compiling directory listings for your family's surnames over a range of years you can learn some interesting things. If, for instance, you are trying to narrow down a date range to help you locate a death record you might track when and where an ancestor appears in a city directory. Sometimes a note will be made if a person is deceased, or a woman might be listed as a widow.

Not every document or source will give you a complete picture of the facts surrounding your ancestor's life, but by adding up the facts from a variety of sources, including city directories, you may find just the information you need, or at least get a better idea of what their lives were like at a specific point in time.

City Directory Resources for Elizabeth, New Jersey


On-Line Resources

  • Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822 - 1995 [database on-line]. $
    "This database is a collection of directories for U.S. cities and counties in various years. The database currently contains directories for all states except Alaska."
  • DistantCousin.com offers a limited number of NJ city directories, including the 1921 Elizabeth City Residential Directory.
  • Don's List : City Directories. Digitized copy of Elizabeth, NJ Fire Alarm and Street Directory, 1893. Some other NJ directories as well.
  • LDS [Latter Day Saints] Genealogy : Union County NJ City Directories. Offers links to a variety of directories from a variety of sources, including Ancestry.com, Distant Cousin, and the Allen County Public Library. Indicates those that can be accessed through your local Family History Center. [Note: You may have to request that the microfilm be ordered for delivery to the Family History Center.]


Local, County, and University Libraries

It's generally a good idea to check the local library in the city that is the subject of your research. Other county, state, and organization [i.e. historical societies, etc.] libraries may also hold the resources you need.

Federal Resources


Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Entry for the Dixon surname, 1905 Elizabeth, NJ City Directory. 

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