Maybe your family was in Dallas at the turn of the century – the 19th into the 20th century that is – or before that time. Maybe you'd like to what neighborhood know where some of the early movers and shakers of Dallas lived, here are some interesting resources that may reveal new facts you never knew about your family.
Throughout the United States, there were a number of publishers producing city directories. People are generally familiar with R.L. Polk & Company, one of the few city directory publishers still in business. Such directories were cross references used by businesses to market their products from a statistical standpoint. The directories frequently listed residents alphabetically, much like a phonebook would do, and sometimes compiled additional data on all the streets in a city, listing businesses and occupations of adults living in a household. Such directories - published at the appropriate times - have proven helpful in locating families in the 1930 and 1940 U.S. Census releases.
A few ancient issues of such directories, and even more recent editions, are readily available for perusal at the main Dallas and Fort Worth public libraries, depending on whether a directory was published for certain areas in certain years. It also matters whether those directories have survived the ravages of time and use. Thanks to today's technology, these Dallas city directories which are available online through Jim Wheat's Dallas County Archives:
- Butterfield and Rundlett Directory of the City of Dallas, 1875
- Morrison and Co.'s Directory of the City of Dallas,1878-1879
- Morrison & Fourmy's Directory of the City of Dallas,1884-1885
- Morrison & Fourmy's Directory of the City of Dallas, 1886-1887
- Worley's Dallas City Directory, 1901
- Worley's Dallas City Street Directory, 1901
- Worley's Dallas City Directory, 1910
- Worley's Dallas Business Directory, 1910
- Worley's Dallas City Directory, 1911
From 1878-1887, Morrison, and then Morrison and Fourmy, published directories for Dallas. Worley’s published a city directory for Dallas in 1901, 1910, and 1911, which has now been scanned and placed online with a clickable alphabetized index leading to each page. It is even possible to print individual directory pages to keep for future reference
Once you've pinned down an address, the next step is to determine the physical location of the address. Some street names have been changed over the years; some neighborhoods succumbed to the bulldozer of progress. If you can't find an address on a modern map, some helpful resources can be found at the Dallas Public Library. The library has a number of historical maps which have been reproduced for public sale. They also have a collection of Sanborn fire and insurance maps which actually provide detailed information about actual structures and the layout of lots and buildings on the city's streets. By comparing older maps with current ones, along with the information gathered from an old directory, it’s possible to imagine and, in some cases, actually see former business locations, homes, and neighborhoods where an ancestor or history figure lived and walked.
Such resources can also help you determine a date range for an old family photograph, or even a set of photographs. Photographs were frequently taken outdoors on the front steps of the family home. In reviewing the old family album once again, you may find the house number discernible in the porch shadows or posted above your grandmother's head. It may take a magnifying glass and a little bit of research, but the clues will point the way and reveal just whose home, or even what city, in which a photograph was taken all those years ago.
Additional resources for Dallas and directories for other Texas cities directories have been digitized and such resources continue to be added to the University of North Texas website, Portal to Texas History.