MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

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December 14, 2013

City directories serve as tools

One of the most frequently used research tools in the Local History and Genealogy Department at the Muskogee Public Library is the section where the city directories are located.

The Muskogee County volumes include the years of 1930 to the most recent donated, however earlier issues beginning in 1903 are available on microfilm. The collection also includes some directories for other Oklahoma cities including Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

City directories have been published in the United States since the 1700s. The provided a way for people to connect with one another and find businesses and organizations in their area. Frequently our patrons want to know more about an older home they have recently acquired or want to pursue ownership to learn more about “spirits” that seem to be in residence. You can use them to learn about your ancestors and their neighborhoods. They can even help you construct family relationships.

Most directories list people by surname and often include their occupation. In some southern regions, prior to 1960, African-Americans were either listed separately or include (col) with their surname, business or organization. Later directories also had sections that cross referenced surnames with telephone numbers. If the directory gives a man's occupation and employer's name, check the front of the directory for a key to abbreviations indicating the type of work he did.

A married man's name may be followed by his (wife's) name. Other information may indicate a single woman (miss) or a widow (w or wid.) If a widow appears at the same address as her husband for the previous year, then you have a clue as to his time of death. Surnames similar to the deceased spouse may give clues to nearby children or relatives. Because city directories are usually published annually or every two years, they can often be a valuable tool in forming a timeline in the life of an ancestor and their family members.

Address information can be helpful in locating ancestors who have not appeared in census of their time, particularly that of 1890 that for research purposes was basically destroyed. Personally, my parents do not appear on the 1940 U. S. Census. Through city directories I was able to determine they were in transition between a residence here in Muskogee and another in Delaware County during the time the Pensacola Dam was being built on the Grand River, which was completed in 1940.

Many city directories have been made available online at sites such as ancestry.com and fold3.com. While these are fee based sites, patrons with a current Muskogee Public Library card are given access through the genealogy department. These sites often include other types of directories including school yearbooks, telephone directories and organization rosters.

For more information regarding this type of research and other ancestral pursuits, please check our resources at the Local History and Genealogy Department at the Muskogee Public Library.

Nancy Lasater is a library assistant at the Muskogee Public Library. Reach her at (918) 682-6657, ext. 3.

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