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City Directories for Genealogy Research from MyHeritage

Page from a city directory with title new collection on MyHeritage

Discover why the new US City Directories collection on MyHeritage helps genealogists quickly find their families year-by-year. This collection has more than records, but a technology revolutionizing genealogy research right now!

MyHeritage announced a revolutionary technology with its US City Directory collection. When I say revolutionary, I mean not only do they just give you hints about city directory and other collections that have your ancestors in them, but they actually find all of the city directory hints and put them together!

This video covers not only how to access the collection, but a few speed bumps you’ll run into along the journey. Don’t worry, you can get over the speed bumps without spoiling the fun.

VIDEO: MyHeritage City Directories

Watch this video on YouTube.

What are City Directories?

In the United States, cities and counties published directories for a variety of reasons, but consider them an early salesman’s tract book. As city directories evolved, they annually provided names of adults in a specific area beside their residence and occupation. They might also record workplaces and businesses and spouses.

Typically, 1835 marks the rise in the availability of such books, but some are available from the 1700s.

Next to census records, city directories are must-use resources for every beginning genealogist to place their ancestors in a specific place and time in the context of their family and community.

What does the MyHeritage US City Directories Collection Contain?

At the launch of the new MyHeritage US City Directories collection, containing 1.3 billion records from 25,000 directories published in the United States between 1860 -- 1960. Machine learning technology made the entire collection searchable AND has found links based on individual names and location address.

How to Access MyHeritage City Directories

There’s a number of ways to access the US City Direction collection. (Watch the

video to see all of those ways).

Here is a direct link to the U.S. City Directories Collection on MyHeritage.

You need at least a MyHeritage Data Plan to access this collection.

Screenshot of search results in MyHeritage US City Directory Collection

Search results for Gertrude Rang in MyHeritage US City Directory Collection

What You’ll Find As You Research MyHeritage City Directories

As you search for a relative, you’ll receive a number of hints.

Once you find a record that looks like it applies to your ancestor, click on the link to see this reference page. You’ll see:

  1. a thumbnail for the city directory

  2. Information extracted from one record

  3. a list of additional city directories that likely relate to your ancestor

That list of likely additional records is revolutionary.

  1. First, these additional hints have a strong correlation to your ancestor based on their names, identified spouses (if applicable), and residence.

  2. Secondly, you can flip through these additional city directories from this entry point.

  3. Thirdly, if you accept this recommendation from MyHeritage, you can save ALL of the city directories to your tree AT THE SAME TIME. (This is an incredible time-saver. I know because I’ve researched my ancestors in city directories on Ancestry and you can NOT go this quickly.

Screenshot of MyHeritage US City Directory collection for an individual

Notice the additional records (1908 and 1909) and “See who else live here” link that you can access from one record profile

MyHeritage City Directory Super Easy Address Search

After you search for a specific individual, MyHeritage makes searching based on an address incredibly quick and easy.

Click on the ‘See who else lived at this address” link and MyHeritage will return results across all of their directories for that address in that city.

I can’t even begin to tell you how time-consuming this task is without this technology. Suddenly, an ‘advanced’ city directory research technique is accessible to beginners.

By researching ‘who else lived at this address,’ you may find:

  1. female ancestors who had seemed to go missing after the married

  2. additional adult relatives, even if their surnames are different

  3. the house history, which may help you locate land and ownership records (and thus potentially additional relatives)

That’s just the start! Searching by one address opens up an entire possibility for genealogy discoveries. Who knows what brick walls you’re going to bust thanks to this one-click search technology.

↪️ Are you looking for more genealogy resources?

Grab your copy of this FREE Genealogy Research Guide:

Fingers typing on keyboard with title 10 Online Genealogy Resources You Have to Try

Speed Bumps in the MyHeritage City Directories

There are several things that happen in the MyHeritage City Directory collection that can slow down your research. Learn what they are and how to safely proceed.

OCR Misreads

OCR technology continues to improve, but it is not infallible. As such you’ll encounter a number of misread entires.

  1. MyHeritage allows you to correct a person’s name if it has a transcription error.

  2. If any other details are inaccurate, you currently can not fix those mistakes.

  3. If an OCR scan combines two people into one entry (common with ‘Ditto’ mark surnames)

  4. You can’t add a new entry to MyHeritage

  5. Save a link to the City Directory manually to the second person’s profile

  6. Save the combined entry to the individual listed in the searchable field.

Ancestor’s With Inconsistent Names

MyHeritage’s automatic record consolidation technology is fantastic but not full proof. It may not recognize that spelling and name usage variations reference the same individual.

Let’s say you have an ancestor that appears with the following names:

  1. Aleta N Geiszler

  2. Aleta B Geiszler

  3. Aleta M Geiszler

  4. Aleta Geiszler

  5. Aleta Giesler

MyHeritage can not combine these entries into one. They also recommend that you don’t change the transcription to another name. The record is correct. 

Instead, save all of these variations to your ancestor’s profile. (Which means, you should also search for all the variations so you can trace your ancestor.)

MyHeritage’s US City Directories Are Addictive

Be warned, the speed within which MyHeritage is finding US City Directories for your ancestors, in publications not found on other websites, can consume all of your time. Don’t begin searching in this collection unless you are prepared to lose several hours (or a weekend) of your time.

City directories can help you trace the daily details about your ancestors and uncover hidden stories available for the serious researcher. No longer are these records too hard to access for beginning genealogists.

Go enjoy the collection on MyHeritage!

Three circles featuring the MyHeritage logo and two images from city directories and the title One Click Multiple Records

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Continue Learning About City Directories or MyHeritage

The following blog posts and videos can help you continue your quest to learn about city directories or resources available from MyHeritage

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