Business and city directories provide a surprising amount of information about how people and communities have changed over time. One of the oldest in the state, Branson’s North Carolina Business Directory, was compiled and published beginning in the mid-1800s. Each volume contained facts, figures, names, and locations of businesses throughout the state. There were also illustrated advertisements from many of the more prominent businesses of the period and a plethora of statistical information.
The only such directory for Brevard, NC was published in 1962, Hill’s Brevard City Directory. Some of the most interesting features within this volume are the many ways the information is organized. The standard “phone book” white and yellow pages are contained in this volume, but also street listings by number, as well as a listing of all phone numbers in numerical order. A picture of what the community looks like begins to form.
More information than an ordinary phone book is included, such as details about the county and city officials; colleges and schools; churches, pastors, and ministers; hotels and boarding houses with proprietors; farmers, lawyers, merchants, mechanics, physicians, and teachers; manufacturers, mills, and mines with owners; newspapers; and post offices with post masters.
City directories offer names listed alphabetically, as well as by street address. Generally, the head of household, address, occupation, the wife’s name, name of the deceased husband if widowed, and business partners’ names are stated. City directories typically include government officials at all levels, information on schools, societies, churches, post offices, and various other data of local interest.
While content varies in both business and city directories depending on the time and place covered, both can provide the next step in leading genealogists and researchers to more of the story. Many historical directories are available online through DigitalNC which is available through the Library’s website.
The NC Room at the Library hosts a monthly meeting for family history enthusiasts every third Thursday at 1 pm. The November 16 meeting will focus on utilizing city directories for genealogical research. The short 15 minute workshop will be followed by social time. Anyone interested in learning more is encouraged to attend.
Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. This article was written by Local History Librarian Laura Sperry. Sources available upon request. For more information, comments, or suggestions, contact NC Room staff at [email protected] or 828-884-1820.