24 October 2016

NYPL Directories Initiative

An email from former OPL genealogy specialist Patricia Barlosky draws my attention to the New York Public Library which is starting to digitize 137 years of New York City directories (1786-1923), and will make them available free of charge online.

Patricia comments that although this may not be exciting news for most genealogists in Ottawa, of more general interest is the explanation of why city directories are such good research tools, as well as the potential that digitization provides to combine data in totally new ways.


Wouldn't it be great if all our public libraries recognized that in 2016 and beyond it isn't good enough to just make their city directories available in hard copy or microfilm, and assumed the public service responsibility for digitizing their community directories.


Glenn W said...

Excellent suggestion that custodians of city directories assume responsibility for digitization of these significant resources. I had occasion to search several Toronto directories (dating from the 1930s) at LAC last week and it is a shame that these volumes are literally disintegrating with every turn of the page. With continued use, will there be anything to digitize once the decision is made to do so?

Jean said...

I tried the NYC digitized directories site. Great project in concept, but the functionality for users needs work. As a browsable image collection, I found it confusing and difficult to locate the page I needed, even after carefully reading the instructions on how to use the scroll bars and/or Jump-to drop-down list. When I finally got to the page that would have the listing I sought, the zoom function wouldn't bring the text to a large enough size to be read. I found a Feedback button at the bottom of the screen, and submitted comments on my experience. I hope changes can be made to make these resources more accessible because, in comparison, microforms are easier to use!

Anonymous said...

I am so looking forward to the completion of this project. I've got dicumentary evidence that one person I have been researching was living in Lower Manhattan in the 1820s, but cannot pick him up in the censuses prior to 1850, by which time he had accumulated a wife and at least 5 children, plus a thriving business. It's possible he was listed in one or more of these city directories.