Finding Ancestors in the 1940 Census Using a City Directory

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Background on City Directories[edit | edit source]

City directories are basically an alphabetical listing of the residents of a town or city and were designed to help businesses in working with their customer base. The geographic area covered by the publisher may be just those residents living within the boundaries of the city or it may also include a set suburban area. Residences outside the geographic boundaries would not be included. Directories before 1900 may not include the name of the wife, but would list a single adult woman if she was employed. After 1900, most directories would include the name of the wife. They also began to enter the names of adult children, if they were students in a post secondary education facility or working on their own. For further information, see: United States Directories.

Locating City Directories[edit | edit source]

City directories can usually be found in the local public library or historical society of the city of interest. They may also be found at a state university library or the state library or historical society. The Library of Congress has a large collection of city directories on microfilm in their Microform Reading Room. See their website at:

These directories are not available via interlibrary loan. They do provide a list of free-lance researchers in the greater Washington D.C. area who perform research for a fee., a subscription website, has several 1940 era directories for cities in California, Connecticut, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

City Directories of the United States of America has a clickable map of the United States showing where all known city directories are throughout the country. This is an ongoing project. Their website is:

Using the City Directory[edit | edit source]

City directories are alphabetical. After locating your ancestors address you will need to determine the Enumeration District that the residence was located in.