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About People: The Boston city directories

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The People: City directories

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The history of a place lies in the people as much as the landscape. Discovering the history and stories of a place through primary documents has not always been easy, especially when the amount of raw information available is so large. The Boston Streets resources provide a means of sorting through millions of pieces of information about the people of the Boston to find general trends or trace the personal paths of specific people and places.

Nine Boston city directories (1845, 1855, 1865, 1870, 1872, 19875, 1885, 1905, and 1925) are be included in the Boston Streets Collection. Although this is just a small sampling of the directories available for the city of Boston, these few include over 2 million unique entries in their personal sections alone. Entries include a person or organization's name, occupation or organizational focus, commercial and residential address within Boston, and in surrounding towns and cities.

With a range of 100 years, these directories document more than just the people who lived in Boston. The times these directories document saw early segregation of citizen's listings and the integration of all residents into personal listings prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. Mention can be found of American Greats, such as William Llyod Garrison and Alexander Graham Bell. Whole streets and businesses were redefined following the 1872 fire, while the physical growth of the Shawmut pennisula and the resulting Back Bay residential area greatly added to the places where people could live.

Directories where chosen to compliment available census data resources, aiming at first to capture information every twenty years, beginning in 1865. With generous support from Docema, additional directories focused around 1870s and earlier were added to the project, creating the 100 year range we offer today.

For more information about how the city directories were transformed from paper documents to electronic resources, see the Project Details.