Source Information

Tami, Chris. New York City Directory, 1786 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 1998.
Original data: Franks, David. The New York directory for 1786, illustrated with a plan of the city, also changes in the names of streets. New York, NY, USA: H.J. Sachs & Company, 1905.

About New York City Directory, 1786

Originally settled by the Dutch, New York City was ceded to the English at the Peace of Breda in 1667. This city directory was published in 1905 by the Winthrop Press and includes the names of over 1500 individuals (primarily male, heads of households) who lived in the city in 1786. Information provided includes the address and occupation of the resident. In addition, there are lists of prominent persons and city directors, a list of street names changed prior to 1786, and a description of the city by Noah Webster.

City directories are primarily useful for locating people in a particular place and time. They can tell you generally where an ancestor lived and give an exact location for census years. They are also useful for linkage with sources other than censuses.

There are usually several parts to a city directory. The section of most interest to the genealogist, of course, is the alphabetical listing of names, for it is there that you may find your ancestor.

Whenever you use a directory, however, it is important to refer to the page showing abbreviations used in the alphabetical section of the directory, usually following the name in each entry. Some abbreviations are quite common, such as h for home or r, indicating residence. There may even be a subtle distinction between r for residents who are related to the homeowner and b for boarders who are not related.

Some city directories list adult children who lived with their parents but were working or going to school. Look for persons of the same surname residing at the same address. If analyzed and interpreted properly, these annual directories can tell you (by implication) which children belong to which household, when they married and started families of their own, and when they established themselves in business. In cases where specific occupation is given, you can search records pertinent to that occupation.

Once an ancestor has been found in a city directory, there are several ways the information can be used to gain access to, or link with, such sources as censuses, death and probate records, church records, naturalization records, and land records.

Taken from Chapter 11: Research in Directories, The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy by Gordon Lewis Remington; edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking (Salt Lake City, UT: Ancestry Incorporated, 1997).