11 August 2016

Samuel Glover leaves Michigan for New York in 1840's

City Directories can be a great source of information on the residences of our ancestors. My ancestor Samuel Stillman Glover left Michigan around 1848 and tracing his whereabouts was made easier by the federal census records, but that only gave me information for 1850 and 1860.  What about the other years?  This is where city directories can be your friend and if they are available online, even better.

By 1860, Samuel Stillman Glover is living in Rochester, New York. I was able to trace the last ten years of Samuel's life by using Rochester City Directories, available at the Rochester District Library website.  Samuel's residence was his place of work, but if it hadn't been the directory would have had separate addresses for residence and work.  The Rochester City Directory referenced advertisements that businesses placed in the directory.  There wasn't one for Samuel, but there was one for his son, Alanson. Samuel lived in Rochester during the following years:

1863-16 East Avenue. Occupation: Varnishing and Repairing Furniture
1866-164 Main Street. Occupation: Chair Repairer
1867-164 Main Street  Occupation: Chair Repairer
1868-164 Main Street. Occupation: Chair Repairer
1869-164 Main Street. Occupation: Chair Repairer
1870-38 Stillson Street. Occupation: Chair Repairer

Samuel Stillman Glover died 30 May 1870 in Rochester, New York.

Why I like to use city directories in my research:

  • Often lists the names of person, spouse, family members and their residence.
  • Helpful in finding information about the occupation of your family member.
  • Can narrow down the immigration year of ancestor.  When did your ancestor first appear in the city directory?
  • Great for finding people in larger cities, especially if they didn't own their own home.
  • Helps to know exactly what years your ancestor lived and worked in a certain place.
  • Leads one to business advertisements that your ancestor may have placed in the directory.
  • Leads you to area churches, schools, hospitals, funeral homes, etc, where you can look for more records.
  • May list death information that occurred that year.
  • It is a great place to check for other family members with the same, or different surnames.
A few places I have found city directories, online:

Local Libraries-Check the local or state library in your area for online city directories.  I have found many libraries have them digitized and available for researching.

Paid (or free at some libraries and Family History Centers)
Ancestry.com-U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995

For more information:
A fellow Michigander, Jasia, wrote an excellent series of ten blog posts about using City Directories at her award winning blog, Creative Gene.  I suggest to take a look at her posts, which are filled with a lot of helpful information.


  1. Thanks for the shout out about my Online Historical Directories site, Brenda!

  2. Thanks for the timely reminder about city directories. Sometimes I find the wife listed as "widow" which helps me narrow down the year of death if unknown.

  3. Marian, I have seen that as well. One city directory even had the date my ancestor died recorded.

  4. Miriam, you are welcome. It is a great resource.