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United States: City and Telephone Directories

City and telephone directories are used to identify people and businesses from a specific time and place. This guide provides an index to the extensive collection of United States city and telephone directories available at the Library of Congress.

Introduction

Family historians use city and telephone directories to fill in the gaps between censuses. These neighborhood roll calls help to pinpoint where and with whom ancestors lived each year, which in turn helps researchers to know where to look for more records. Each page contributes to the historical context of a community by identifying the businesses, schools, religions, and services available to residents.

The Library of Congress makes available to the public an extensive collection of past and present city, telephone, and reverse telephone (criss-cross) directories for the United States and many foreign countries. These directories are available in a variety of formats and locations. For information on a particular type of directory, consult the appropriate section of this guide.

Main Reading Room, Local History & Genealogy, and Microform Centers

U.S City and Telephone directories are accessible in both the Main Reading Room (LJ 100) or the Microform and Electronic Research Center (LJ 139) which is directly across from the Main Reading Room. Local History & Genealogy Reference Services are also located inside the entrance to the Main Reading Room. View a map of the First Floor of the Jefferson Building.

Requesting a Large Number of Directories

This guidance is for those interested in requesting a large number of print directories housed in the John Adams Building including Street Address, Criss-Cross, Telephone Books, and City Business Directories. These directories are not in the catalog, so there are separate steps for requesting these items. Please read these policies carefully before making a request:

  • Directories are served in the Science & Business Reading Room on the 5th floor of the John Adams Building. 
  • Directory requests need to be submitted in person via paper slip at the book services desk in the Science & Business Reading Room.
  • There is a maximum of 40 directories per person per day. Requests that contain more than 40 directories will be truncated at 40 items. 
  • We strongly encourage submitting bulk directory requests at least 24 hours in advance in person. Same day requests can take up to 2 hours.
  • Directory requests need to include (a) type of directory: Street Address, Criss-Cross, Telephone Book, or City Business), (b) location, including state, and (c) specific years. Library staff will only pull the volumes that are specifically requested.
  • Once you’ve arrived, check in at the book service desk so staff can deliver your cart of directories.
  • No carts are kept in the reading room overnight; let staff know if you plan to continue to use the directories at a future appointment.

Effective April 4, 2022