|This article originally appeared in Printed Sources: A Guide to Published Genealogical Records, edited by Kory L. Meyerink.|
Directories are alphabetical lists of people, organizations, associations, and institutions. They guide researchers to current information on many topics. Researchers can often restart stalled research by investigating and using the many directories available.
Directories are among the easiest reference tools to use. A directory’s scope is often revealed in the title, such as Directory of Archives and Manuscript Repositories in the United States (Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1988). The information presented in a directory is usually limited to one topic. Directories range in scope from the common telephone book to more narrowly focused works, such as the Directory of Family "One-Name" Periodicals (Indianapolis: Ye Olde Genealogie Shoppe, 1994). Directories contain addresses, telephone numbers, and descriptive information for individuals, firms, and associations. Additionally, they provide information on an institution’s holdings, hours of operation, and, sometimes, historical data about the institution.
Directories in Print (Detroit: Gale Research, 1989) is actually a directory of directories. Published annually, Directories in Print describes more than fifteen thousand printed and non-printed directories, rosters, buyers’ guides, and address lists published in the United States and worldwide. Almost two hundred entries appear in the Biography and Genealogy section of the fourteenth edition (1997) of Directories in Print. The attached figure shows the broad coverage of this very useful reference book. Researchers interested in locating reference sources and facilities for southern New Jersey, for example, might be interested in purchasing the directory titled Genealogical Resources in Southern New Jersey, edited by Edith Hoelle. Browsing through Directories in Print can reveal many new research clues for the family historian who thinks he has searched everywhere.
Categorizing directories into five broadly defined groups helps to outline the potential research capabilities that directories offer to genealogists. The five groups are: (1) local, (2) professional, (3) institutional, (4) groups and associations, and (5) source guides.