City and County Directories: Hidden Treasures

As a family history researcher, have you found that your ancestor seems to have disappeared and you can’t find their death date?  Perhaps city and county directories could help.  Published yearly, they list heads of households, their occupation, and their street address. For death certificate research, our staff will often follow a name in a city directory until it ceases. This indicates that perhaps the person died the previous year or moved.  We now have a possible date to search for a death certificate.

Generally, city directories list those people who lived in a city or town, while county directories document those people who lived in rural areas.  For instance, Zanesville city directories list the residents of that city, while the Muskingum County directories list those who live in Muskingum County outside the city of Zanesville.

They are a treasure trove of information about a city or county.  Schools, colleges, hospitals, orphanages, courts, government offices, stores, hotels, and businesses are listed.  Beginning in the early 20th century, pages of streets with the names of the head of the household at each residence were included.  This is especially helpful to those who wish to trace the history of their house.

The Ohio History Connection has a remarkable collection of city and county directories from the major cities, small towns, and counties all over Ohio.  They date from the 1830s to the present.   Recently, we received several hundred city and county directories from all over the state of Ohio covering the 1940s to the 2000s from the Columbus Metropolitan Library and the Ohio Genealogical Society. What is exciting is that we received several county directories which we do not have many of.

How do you find city and county directories?  You can find them in our Online Collection Catalog by entering the city or county name in the keyword search box. Click on the title and it will provide a description of the directory. Most of the city and county directories are available in the Research Room, but some are shelved in the stacks. If you cannot visit Ohio History Center Archives/Library, our staff is available to research these treasures for you. Please contact us with your questions at

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5 Responses to City and County Directories: Hidden Treasures

  1. Gene Meier says:

    I am writing the first book from the American point of view about 19th century rotunda panoramas. These were the biggest paintings in the world, 50 x 400=20,000 square feet, housed in their own rotundas which were 16-sided polygons. Chicago in 1893 had 6 panorama companies and 6 panorama rotundas. I have much information to share.

  2. Pingback: Historical local directories at the Dayton Metro Library | Glancing Backwards

  3. This is great info! It inspired me to look at all the specifics of the directories we have in our library (Dayton) and do a little write-up on it. Thanks for the idea!

  4. Joe says:

    Just an FYI, the link for the list of directories isn’t working.

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