Deciphering city directory entries

U.S. City directories provide a wealth of information for historians. Beyond simply establishing location or residence, directories offer details about individuals and their community. Directories have been published usually annually (yearly) since the early 1800’s. City and county directories are similar to present day telephone  books and are useful records for locating people.

City directories include an alphabetical listing of inhabitants (arranged by name, address, and occupation); widows, working women, and adult children at home. Some directories list a wife in parenthesis or whether a woman is a widow (including name of husband); a list of marriages and deaths of previous year; and death date.

Directories include ward maps; street locators, including cross streets; street name changes; businesses (and index to advertisers); and addresses and maps of churches, schools, funeral homes, cemeteries, post offices, courts, hospitals, benevolent associations and newspapers.

Often, this information appears in abbreviated form. The following table provides a few examples of the more common abbreviations found in U.S. city directories. Taken in context, they can provide a valuable insight into a person’s lifestyle and situation, and the community in which they lived. In addition, city directories may act as a census substitute for the 1890 federal census that was mostly lost in a fire in the 1920s.

For more information about city directories and their use in family or community history research, take a look at:

Direct Me NYC 1786: A History of City Directories in the United States and New York City by Philip Sutton, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy. June 8, 2012.

ab above
agcy agency
agt agent
al alley
agrl agricultural
apt apartment
assn, Assn Association
auto automobile
av, Av avenue
b, bdg, bds boards (room and board)
bdg hse boarding house
bel below
bet between
bld, bldg building
blk block
blvd, boul boulevard
br branch
bros brothers
c, cor corner
causew causeway
ch, Ch church
chmbrs chambers
civ civil, civic
ck creek
co county
col, col’d colored
coll college
com commission, commons
com’l commercial
confry confectionary
cres crescent
ct court
dept department
dist district
div division
do ditto (or the same as above)
dom domestic
drugst drugstore
e, E east
Ea east
elec electric
e.s. east side
est estate
ex, exch exchange
f freeholder
fcty factory
fl floor
for forest
ft foot
frt freight
gdns gardens
gds goods
gen, genl general
govt government
gr fl ground floor
gt great
h house, householder (owns the house)
hd hand
hdqtrs headquarters
hdw hardware
heth heath
hngr hangar
ho house
hosp hospital
imp import
implts implements
imptr importer
inc incorporated
ins insurance
jct junction
l lives
la lane
lbr lumber
ldg lodging
ltd, Ltd Limited
mdse merchandise
mer merchant
mfg manufacturing
mfr manufacturer
mkt market
mn man
mut mutual
n, N north
n, nr near
n.e. northeast
n.s. north side
n.w. northwest
natl national
off office
op, opp opposite
pass passenger
ph penthouse
pk park
pkwy parkway
pl place
p.o. post office
pt point
propr proprietor (owner)
prov province
r roomer or resides (renter)
r, rr rear
R.C. Roman Catholic
rd road
regd registered
real est real estate
res residence, resides
ret retail, retired
rm room
rms rooms (renter)
RR rural route
rw row
Ry railway
s, S south
sch school
s.e. southeast or side entrance
ship shipping
side side entrance
soc society
spec special
sq square
st store
s.s. south side
sta stable
sta, stn station
sum res summer residence
s.w. southwest
t tenant
tav tavern
tel telephone
teleg telegraph
ter terrace
tn town
tp township
trans transportation
trans transfer
trav travelling
up upper
var variety
w, W west
ware warehouse
wf, whf wharf
w.s. west side
whol wholesale
wid widow
wks works
wlk walk
wmn woman
yd yard


What’s a Palatine German?

A client recently asked me to clarify the meaning of “Palatine German” in researching their family origins. In simple terms, a “palatine” is someone from the “palatinate”, an area near the Rhine River near present-day Southwestern Germany. The term has been used to refer to German immigrants who originated from that particular region of Europe.

In this particular research project, the “German Palatines” were early 18th century emigrants from the Middle Rhine region who immigrated to North America by way of Rotterdam as part of a larger wave of Palatine immigration. Like many of their brethren, they settled near present-day Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and remained for several generations.

Some  genealogical resources use the terms “Pennsylvania Dutch” and “German Palatines” interchangeably. It’s important to note that many but not all Pennsylvania Dutch are descendants of refugees from the Palatinate of the German Rhine.

Here are a few additional and excellent resources for better understanding this terminology and it’s application in family history research:

Researching orphanages and asylums in Chicago

This month, I researched a young man who spent time in a Chicago orphanage in the late 1800s. Through this process, I discovered the following excellent resources:



Chicago Nursery and Half-Orphan Asylum aka Chapin Hall
These records are held at the University of Chicago Black Metropolis Research Consortium

Chicago Child Care Society
The Chicago Child Care Society (CCCS) is the oldest child welfare organization in Illinois, founded in 1849 as the Chicago Orphan Asylum.
These records are also held at the University of Chicago Black Metropolis Research Consortium


  • Cmiel, Kenneth. 1995. A Home of Another Kind: One Chicago Orphanage and the Tangle of Child Welfare. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • McCausland, Clare L.  1976. Children of circumstance : a history of the first 125 years (1849-1974) of Chicago Child Care Society.
  • Heenen, Kathleen Mackin. 2002. St. Vincent’s : an orphanage that shined. Gold Leaf Publications and Productions.


Take me out to the ball game

Digging for resources documenting the history of minor league baseball, players and teams, farm clubs, in the United States.

  1. The Official Site of Minor League Baseball –
  2. Society for American Baseball Research –
  3. The National Pastime Archives –
  4. The Baseball Cube –
  5. Baseball Hall of Fame –
  6. Baseball Hall of Fame Library/Archives Collections –
  7. Sean Lahman Baseball Archive –
  8. Obojski, Robert. Bush League: A history of minor league baseball. 1975.
  9. Sullivan, Neal J. The Minors: The Struggles and Triumph of Baseball’s Poor Relation from 1876 to the Present. 1990.
  10. Seymour, Harold. Baseball – The Early Years.  Oxford University Press. 1989.
  11. Baseball American –
  12. The Baseball HIstorian –
  13. Baseball Resources at the Library of Congress –
  14. Baseball Resources at the Library of Congress – Online Finding Aids –
  15. Baseball Records in the National Archives –

Great Chicago Fire of 1871

A few excellent resources to kick start (no pun intended) research on the Chicago Fire of 1871. Spoiler alert! Mrs. O’Leary’s cow is not to blame…


Texas’ Ellis Island

Don’t overlook this port of entry when researching 19th century immigration routes. Thousands of immigrants, primarily from Germany and Eastern Europe, disembarked at the port of Galveston, Texas, between 1846 and 1948.

Beginning in the 1830s, Galveston was an increasingly popular port of entry for German immigrants. Up to 20,000 German immigrants settled in Texas after Texas Independence in March 1836 and prior to U.S. annexation in December 1845. Many settled in the Texas towns of New Braunfels and Fredericksburg.

Note: If your German ancestors passed through the port of Galveston prior to 1847, you won’t find their passenger records on Microfilm Series M575 (see below) because during that time, Texas was an independent nation and not subject to U.S. Customs Passenger statutes.



  • National Archives Microfilm Collection – Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Galveston, TX, 1896–1951. M1359. 36 rolls. (PDF)
  • Copies of Lists of Passengers Arriving at Miscellaneous Ports on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts and at Ports on the Great Lakes, 1820–1873. M575. 16 rolls. (PDF)
  • Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Galveston, TX, 1906-1951. This is an alphabetical index to the names of passengers arriving at Galveston and the subports of Houston and Brownsville, Texas beginning in October 1906.

NARA Roll# / FHL Roll# / Covers
M1358-1 / 1402454 / Aab, Maria–Duquesne, Isidro Ariosa
M1358-2 / 1402455 / Duran, Carlos–Inglis, Elizabeth
M1358-3 / 1402456 / Ingram, Joseph–Lavitjanz, Arschak
M1358-4 / 1402457 / Lawenda, Joel–Papurlieff
M1358-5 / 1402458 / Paracheroff, Dimitar–Schriever
M1358-6 / 1402459 / Schrobenhauser, Anni–Weigert, Jacques
M1358-7 / 1402460 / Weiger, Georg–Zyzora, Wasyi


  • A New Land Beckoned: German Immigration to Texas, 1844-1847, Chester W. Geue and Ethel H. Geue; 2nd enlarged ed; Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co, 1972.
  • Ships Passenger Lists, Port of Galveston, Texas, 1846-1871, the Galveston County Genealogical Society; Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1984.
  • Galveston: Ellis Island of the West (Suny Series in Modern Jewish History), Bernard Marinbach. June 30, 1984.