City directories have long been a staple of genealogical research. You can find people through a directory’s alphabetical listing of residents and neighbors through the street listings. Until recently, to see the directories for the City of Newton required a trip to the Special Collections Room at the Newton Free Library or a search of the more limited online selections at sites such as Ancestry.com. Now the City of Newton has made its directories for the years from 1868 to 1934 directly available through Digital Newton. Click on the live link below. http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/content.php?pid=216316&sid=1867358 Additional years will be added as they become available. You will also find Newton’s Assessed Polls (a directory of potential voters) and Newton’s Blue Book (not as extensive as the directories) on this same page.
Above you will see a photograph of the 1890 Newton City Directory. I photographed this particular directory to make a point about another use of city directories. The United States Census is taken only every ten years. City directories are often published every other year. They help fill in the gaps between censuses. The 1890s in particular are critical years for the influx of immigrants to America. Unfortunately almost all of the 1890 census was destroyed by fire. If you know a likely area of settlement for your immigrant ancestors during this period, city directories will be a key source for some of the information you are seeking. If they settled in Newton, you can now find them online.
The Newton City Directories are keyword searchable, but only by using an Adobe Acrobat search. You can also look through the directory pages much like a regular book. You can search one page after another or you can jump around using the pdf format to go to a specific page.
Look for a table of contents at the front of a directory. Use it to see how the directory is set up. Just as you would with any other printed genealogical resource, make sure you read the introduction. You also need to find the key to abbreviations used in the book to understand everything it is telling you. The directories include other articles and listings that will give you a deeper sense of the life of the city during the period you are researching. Look for those in the table of contents as well.
For additional information on using city directories you should check out City Directories: Who Lived Where and When? I also recommend other articles on various topics you will find at the authors’ Genwriters site under the GenGuides listing. They are very informative reads. If you would like to see additional material on city directories, take a look at a detailed article written by Kori L. Meyerink at ProGenealogists entitled “Effective Use of City Directories”.
Good luck on your research.