Post Office and Street Directories

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Directories

This article is part of a series.
Overview of Directories
Locating Directories
City Directories
Using Census Records with Directories
City Directories and World War I Draft Registration Cards
Using Death and Probate Records with Directories
Using Church Records with Directories
Using Naturalization and Land Records with Directories
Telephone Directories
Directories on Microform
Professional Directories
Organizational Directories
Religious Directories
Post Office and Street Directories
List of Useful Directory References
Topics

This article originally appeared in "Directories" by Gordon L. Remington, FASG, FUGA in The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy

Post office and street directories were originally published by the government to help deliver the mail correctly before the advent of zip codes. Post office directories list all active post offices in the year of publication. For instance, The Street Directory of the Principal Cities of the United States . . . to April 1908 contains the names of streets and the cities with streets by those names. This was necessary in cases where the sender listed only a street address, with no city and no return address. The directory was published mainly for the use of the Division of Dead Letters and should not be confused with the street directories discussed with city directories.

How to Use Post Office and Street Directories

You can use both of these types of directories with old family letters. If you have a letter that bears only the name of a town and state and the town cannot be found in any modern gazetteer, it may no longer exist, or the name may have been changed. A post office directory from the right period gives you the location. If the letter bears only an address on Religious Street and the date of 13 January 1908, the original envelope having been lost, the street directory can help. A 1908 directory shows:

Reliance Place
Flushing, N.Y.
(Elmhurst)
Relic Alley
Pittsburg, Pa.
Relief
Oil City, Pa., 1-20
Relief Alley
Allegheny, Pa.
Pittsburg, Pa.
Relief Ave.
Poplar Bluff, Mo., 200-600
Religious
New Orleans, La., 1400-1999
Rellis
Saginaw, Mich., 200
Relyea Place
New Rochelle, N.Y., 1-20
Rembert
Memphis, Tenn., N.
61-662 S.[1]

Thus, in 1908, Religious Street existed only in New Orleans. If, however, the name is Relief, you would have more cities to consider. This method can be used with any stray street address, including photographers’ addresses on the backs of old photographs.

References

  1. ↑ Street Directory of the Principal Cities of the United States Embracing Letter-Carrier Offices Established to April 30, 1908 (Washington, D.C.: Postmaster General, 1908), 637.

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