RM facts, City Directory versus Residence

  1. Both facts are available in RM, which fact should be used? Wouldn’t a city directory entry be a source to prove that person resided in a certain place. Using that logic the appropriate fact would be Residence.

City Directory is not one of the RM9 built-in facts. It must have been either created as a custom fact or imported from elsewhere. I agree that it should be a source.

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You are correct. I bet the fact came from merging ancestry. Thank you.

This same topic of “fact vs. source” usually comes up in the context of Census rather than City Directory, but it’s the same basic question.

I tend to think it’s “both fact and source”, or maybe it’s better said as “both event and source”. Being enumerated either in a census or a city directory is sort of a life event, over and above where you live. So it seems to me that both Census and City Directory can tell a much bigger story than must a person’s residence.

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One should also bear in mind when using City Directories is that the data published therein was most often collected in the year prior to publication. So John Doe living at 1234 Main Street, Anytown in 1909 may or may not be the case. He was more likely living there in 1908. Of course he may still have been there in 1909 but you would have to check the 1910 directory for that!

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In addition, the data was actually collected in two different ways. One was was a house to house canvass by employees of the company that published the City Directory, sort of like a miniature version of what the Census bureau did. The other way was a canvass of businesses who would provide lists of their employees to the company that produced the City Directory. Also, business owners were usually listed. As a result, City Directories often included people who did not live in the city at all. Sometimes it included people who did not even live in the same county.

When I was growing up, my grandparents and many of my aunts and uncles still lived on farms out in the country but they had day jobs in the city. Because of their day jobs, many of them did show up in the City Directory even though the lived out in the country. And even more important, many of these country people showed up in the City Directory when they were young men and women who were not yet married and who actually were living in the city. But most of them returned to a farm for their residence after they were married and while they were still working a day job in the city.

Sometimes I question the importance of listing individual CIty DIrectory entries in RM. But my experience is that if I get the City Directory entries for as many years as possible for a person, those entries collectively tell a sort of a story how the person made their living through their various jobs and sometimes even how they were promoted within the same company. You just have to realize that the dates usually lag by a year.

These kinds of things persuade me pretty strongly that a City Directory entry is much more than just a source for a Residence fact. A City Directory entry is a story in its own right.

I’m aware of this information for two reasons. One is that I actually worked as a canvasser for a City Directory company during the summer between when I graduated from high school and when I started college. The other is that my father was the person at his company who provided the lists of employees to the City Directory company each year. At one point, I was asking him about City Directory entries for him as a young man that appeared to be off by a year, and he explained to me exactly how it all worked.


City Directories can be quite useful for find other people on same (and/or adjacent pages). Sometimes not everyone is indexed so you might need to search manually. These directories often report deaths (though dates might not detailed the year usually is). Even Widow of – is useful… By the 1970’s most of these had been phased out in most places - but prior to 1960s through later 1800s – lots of info there.