City directory: A record and road map of where I came from


Tooling around the library for a work project, I came across a shelf of old city directories that covered the area where a lot of my family lived back in the early 1900s.

I found one directory from the year after my grandmother was born in 1919. The above is a picture of the listing for where she grew up in Southgate, Ky. Unlike today (okay, unlike the 1990s since directories are now a dying thing), the head of household and all adult residents plus professions were listed alphabetically, minus telephone numbers.

In the above list of people, my great grandmother was Ida May.

My great grandfather, Gerald lost the house in the Great Depression when painters weren’t in high demand. Going through the directories year-by-year, Gerald moved up in ranks on the listing from a resident to head of household. It’s interesting to see how generations of families shared the same residence back then, and that houses passed from one person in the family to the next.

The house on Linden Avenue still stands. A Zillow entry says it sold in 2013 for $135,000 and was built in 1920.

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Years ago, when my grandmother was alive, she had me drive her to it once. Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 10.57.36 AMParked out front, she told me all sorts of stories about growing up, of a dog that died in the basement after being poisoned by a neighbor, and related details of the house, such as the original stained-glass windows that used to adorn it that were no longer there.

I wish I had recorded some of those conversations. There was nothing extremely unique about the stories, other than they were her’s and a part of her life that had passed. Whenever she told them they always captivated me, and specifically on that day because I knew she was seeing things looking out that car window that I would never be able to see.