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The General Collections



Starting Places
Biographical Sources
PATHFINDER: Biographical Sources
arrow graphicGenealogies, Local and Family Histories, City Directories
Memorial Volumes
Women's Writings
Other Sources




Genealogies, Local and Family Histories, City Directories
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Hunting Horse and daughters. J.V. Dedrick, photographer. Copyright 1908. Prints and Photographs Division. LC-USZ62-106984 (b&w film copy neg)

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From the Library's large collection of genealogies and regional histories you can find information on women ranging from an elusive birth date to a detailed account of the lives of several generations. Family histories can be surprisingly intimate and, in this age of self-publishing, appear in great numbers. Local histories may explain workings of nearby factories and businesses, conflicts within churches or town government, or compelling issues confronting a locale—all of which may tell us about the lives of women. Background on the places a woman lived—her schools, churches, movie theaters, gardens—are needed to write biographies and also contribute to other aspects of women's history. These volumes are rarely well indexed.

American Memory contains many multiformat collections that focus on the history and culture of particular regions of the United States. See a list of some of these collections. New collections can be found by searching American Memory.

Telephone and City Directories

The Library also holds a vast number of United States telephone and city directories, many of which are available on microform. City directories are rich in unexpected bits of information; in addition to names and addresses, they often list spouses, occupations, and boarders, and some indicate race and marital status.

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African American family posed for portrait. W.E.B. DuBois, collector. [1899 or 1900]. Prints and Photographs Division. LC-USZ62-69913 (b&w film copy neg)

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Classified sections with names of businesses, organizations, and public institutions in the town reveal women's options in choosing churches, schools, clubs, newspapers, or hat makers. To discover the women's organizations in Whatcom, Washington, in 1902, or the number of midwives in Honolulu in 1936, look in the appropriate city directories.

Browsing the 1863 Washington and Georgetown Directory shows that the most frequent occupations given for women were boardinghouse keeper, dressmaker, and milliner. The directory names one accoucheur and several women who were hucksters.9

Scanning runs of directories for one town or state might show when women began to appear in town offices or in traditionally male occupations. Careful searching can uncover details that enrich our picture of women's lives in specific areas and at specific times. The Local History and Genealogy Reading Room has a sizable reference collection and is staffed by specialists who can provide assistance in using these sources.


Genealogies in the Library of Congress: A Bibliography. Edited by Marion J. Kaminkow. 5 vols. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 2001, 1972-87. Z5319.U53 LH&G, MRR Alc [catalog record].

Neagles, James C. The Library of Congress: A Guide to Genealogical and Historical Research. Salt Lake City: Ancestry Publications, 1990. Z1250.N4 1990 LH&G, MRR Alc [catalog record]. This volume lists LC holdings for city directories, and a looseleaf notebook at the LH&G reference desk adds directories microfilmed since the book's publication. City directories do not exist for all places.

Telephone and City Directories in the Library of Congress: A Finding Guide. Compiled by Barbara B. Walsh. Humanities and Social Sciences Research Guides, no. 37.Washington: Library of Congress, 2000. Available at MRR Ref Desk and LH&G and online at <>.

U.S. City Directories on Microfilm in the Microfom Reading Room is available online at <>.

United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress: A Bibliography. Edited by Marion J. Kaminkow. 5 vols. Baltimore: Magna Carta Book Co., 1975-76. Z1250.U59 1975 LH&G, MRR Alc, N&CPR [catalog record].


For genealogies, search: “[Last name] family” as a subject.

For local histories, search by name of the geographical location (town, county, state, region).

For city directories, search: “[Geographical location]—Directories.”

LC CALL NUMBERS: There are no call numbers for U.S. telephone books and city directories. Request by name of town, state, and year. Many are selfserve in the Microform Reading Room.

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