This database is a collection of city directories for various years and cities in Rhode Island. Generally a city directory will contain an alphabetical list of its citizens, listing the names of the heads of households, their addresses, and occupational information. Sometimes the wife's name will be listed in parentheses or italics following the husband's. Often, dates of deaths of individuals listed in the previous year's directory are listed as well as the names of partners of firms, and when possible, the forwarding addresses or post offices of people who moved to another town. In addition to the alphabetical portion, a city directory may also contain a business directory, street directory, governmental directory, and listings of town officers, schools, societies, churches, post offices, and other miscellaneous matters of general and local interest.
To see what cities and years are currently available, view the browse table above. Begin by selecting a city of interest. Once you do that you'll be able to see all the years that are currently available for that city.
Why use city directories?
City directories are primarily useful for locating people in a particular place and time. They can tell you generally where an ancestor lived and give an exact location for census years. They are also useful for linkage with sources other than censuses.
What is in a city directory?
There are usually several parts to a city directory. The section of most interest to the genealogist, of course, is the alphabetical listing of names, for it is there that you may find your ancestor.
Whenever you use a directory, however, it is important to refer to the page showing abbreviations used in the alphabetical section of the directory, usually following the name in each entry. Some abbreviations are quite common, such as h for home or r, indicating residence. There may even be a subtle distinction between r for residents who are related to the homeowner and b for boarders who are not related.
Some city directories list adult children who lived with their parents but were working or going to school. Look for persons of the same surname residing at the same address. If analyzed and interpreted properly, these annual directories can tell you (by implication) which children belong to which household, when they married and started families of their own, and when they established themselves in business. In cases where specific occupation is given, you can search records pertinent to that occupation.
Once an ancestor has been found in a city directory, there are several ways the information can be used to gain access to, or link with, such sources as censuses, death and probate records, church records, naturalization records, and land records.
Taken from Chapter 11: Research in Directories, The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy by Gordon Lewis Remington; edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking (Salt Lake City, UT: Ancestry Incorporated, 1997).