|This article originally appeared in Printed Sources: A Guide to Published Genealogical Records, edited by Kory L. Meyerink.|
Telephone directories fall into this category. A telephone book is perhaps the first directory a person learns to use and is the one directory people often use daily. Phonefiche (Ann Arbor, Mich.: United Microfilms International) is a unique telephone directory found in large libraries. It offers a collection of more than 2,600 U.S. telephone directories on microfiche. Updated monthly, Phonefiche provides instant access to both yellow and white pages, primarily of Bell telephone systems in the United States.
Telephone directories are now available online through the Internet and in CD-ROM format. Pro CD (Danvers, Maryland), Digital Directory Assistance (Bethesda, Maryland), American Business Information (Omaha, Nebraska), and DeLorme Mapping (Freeport, Maine) all produce telephone directories on CD-ROM. A search for a surname within these databases may be limited by first name, state, city, ZIP code, area code, or any combination thereof. A search of the surname of this author’s maternal ancestor showed that there are 310 and 180 Bremner listings in the western and eastern United States, respectively.
These electronic telephone listings provide genealogists with nationwide access to names and addresses of possible relatives. However, do not assume that the compilers of these listings have used all of the telephone company-produced directories from throughout the United States. Each publisher draws its information from different sources that may include city directories, drivers’ licenses, utility listings, and other, similar lists. Duplicate entries may appear for some people, and some names may be absent altogether. These listings are not all-inclusive, but they can be especially useful to researchers who are searching for unusual names or specific names in certain places.
City directories, another type of local directory, offer genealogists an excellent source for family information. City directories provide alphabetical listings for persons by last name, by street address, and sometimes numerically by telephone number. They are usually published yearly and are available from early in American history. For a comprehensive look at city directories and their use in genealogical research, consult Overview of Directories.
Local community directories offer data not found in nationally focused directories. Yearly church directories, hospital directories, and local governmental directories are examples. Publications of local organizations such as chambers of commerce, Rotary clubs, and patriotic organizations usually list members’ names, addresses, and other historical data. These directories can often be found in local libraries and historical societies. Community directories can also be found in reference or archive departments of state universities and state libraries and archives. Consult the following subject categories in a library catalog for possible references to local directories: Subject-State-County-Directories; for example: Churches-Illinois-Du Page County-Directories; or simply Physicians-Directories or Junior Colleges-Directories.