Professional and organizational directories were often published specifically those engaged in a specific profession or those involved in a professional, ethnic, political, fraternal, or military organization. Professional directories can shed light on your ancestor’s professional life, education, and training. Organizational directories can lead you to a paper trail he or she might have left in the organization’s records, perhaps in the form of membership applications, account books, or meeting minutes.
In addition to learning more about your ancestor’s occupation, professional directories can include birth and death information, qualifications, residence, date of registration or license, and occasionally photographs.
These records are helpful in placing your ancestor in a specific location in a particular year. Use that information to expand your search and seek out other local records that may have been created while your ancestor lived there.
- Ancestry has professional directories for many different occupations. Try searching the Card Catalog for an occupation, like farm* (to find farm, farmer, and farming), baseball, physician, or mining to find examples of occupational directories.
- In collections which contain images of directories, it’s helpful to use the "Browse this collection" feature. Browsing lets you view a directory page-by-page as you would if you were looking at the actual book. Since names weren’t always spelled consistently, browsing the alphabetical section of the directory can help you spot an ancestor under a slightly different spelling of their name.
- Once you’ve found your ancestor in a directory, take the time to look at the addresses and occupations of other people who share their surname. You might find relatives working in the same industry.