City Directory FAQs


What information can I expect to find in a city directory?

All directories include:

  • Listing of names: adult male inhabitants, women running a business
    (such as a tavern or boarding house)
  • Where the person lived and what he did for a living
  • A list of street names that tells which ward each street is in
  • Historical or almanac-style information

Many directories also include:

  • Listings of businesses
  • “Classified” advertising
  • Listings of clubs and associations
  • Listings of major buildings and institutions

Some of the pre-Civil War era directories contain a separate listing for the African-American population. In the directories published 1916 and later, you will also find the wife’s name listed in parentheses next to her husband; sometimes-adult children living at home. Death dates appear in the directories the year after the person’s death. There is not a separate mortuary listing. Beginning in 1922, there is a separate section listing by street address. The directories contain many variations of spelling from year to year; be sure to check under alternate spellings of a name. The Adobe format page numbers do not correspond to the actual page numbers of the directories, listed at the tops of pages and in the tables of contents and indices.

Advertisements are not usually indexed, but if the directory does contain an advertising index, it will be bookmarked in Adobe.



How do I view the city directories?

You need to have Adobe Acrobat loaded on your computer. If you do not have it, you can download it for free by clicking on the link below and following the instructions:



Why are some years of the directory not available?

We will be digitizing all of the existing Rochester City Directories for the years 1827–1930 for this database. If a year is not listed, then no directory exists for that year. For example, the first directory published was 1827; the next, 1834, and the 3rd, 1838.



How do I find information in the city directory?

In the name section of the directory, listings are alphabetical. Any other lists—clubs, organizations, street—would also be alphabetical. Historical or almanac information is not indexed; you would have to scan it page by page.

Each directory is broken up into several sections. You can either select a small section—for example, Names A-C, or open up the entire directory and choose the section you wish by clicking on the bookmarks listed in the left-hand column of the screen.



Can I print directory pages?

Yes, you can print directory pages for your own use.



Why is a name not listed in the directory when I am sure he lived in Rochester during the 1850s?

There are a number of reasons why a name might not appear, including but not limited to:

  • The individual was a child during the 1850s; minor children are not listed in the directories.
  • The person compiling the directory missed him!
  • He had no fixed address or employment.
  • He was living outside of the City limits at that time. (The boundaries of the city have changed several times over the years.)