Have you ever used a city directory?
If not, now's the time! During the COVID-19 pandemic closure at DPL, Ancestry has graciously extended the use of Ancestry Library Edition to at-home DPL users. (Ancestry has digitized Denver city directories from 1866 to 1979.)
First, let's explain what a city directory is. Remember phone books? City directories are a bit like those, but actually predate them—and can contain more information than just names, addresses, and telephone numbers.
According to Ancestry, city directories can indicate the following:
...the names of the heads of households, their addresses, and occupational information. Sometimes a wife's name will be listed in parentheses or italics following the husband's. Other helpful information might include death dates for individuals who had been listed in the previous year's directory, names of partners in firms, and forwarding addresses or post offices for people who had moved to another town.
Beyond providing information about residents, city directories tell a lot about the governmental, commercial, educational, and social composition of a place. Toward the front section of each directory is usually something called a "City Record," which paints a comprehensive picture of a municipality. This section can provide the following:
- names and titles of local government officials and city council members
- descriptions of wards
- names and locations of government buildings, schools, churches, businesses, and organizations
- names of streets and their locations (including information on recent street name changes)