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The Value of Ulster Street Directories

by Familia Ulster Genealogical Review: No. 24, 2008


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by Deirdre Armstrong

"Street directories are easily used, accessible publications for the local historian. They can provide some insight into the growth or decline of towns, the social fabric of localities, and the commercial and industrial development of a province. They are the type of publication that illustrates a more settled period of economic growth and prosperity. Compared to maps or the valuation records they may not be the best source to study the growth of a town or village, but their layout is simple and straightforward, and they can include a wide variety of pieces of information that might not be so easily obtained elsewhere. They can be used to trace people as long as they were affluent or held a trade, or to study occupations that have now disappeared.

But the chief reason that these directories were published was for trade and the pursuit of business. The nineteenth century directory is an indicator of the importance of trade, at local and national level – country met town, farmer met trader, the wider world engaged with the small locality at fairs and markets."

This article examines the role Ulster Street Directories have in family history research, and acknowledges just how innovative and inventive the publishers of the early street directories were, how they are unique publications, and how fortunate we are to still have easy access to this information.