City Directories

 Who lived in my house? Did they own this house? Where did they work? Who lived on my block? Did they live here a long time?

City Directories come out every year — like the phone book but with more info. Sections of the directories are printed in different colors, but those colors are not consistent year-to-year.

  • STREET SECTION  lists every street and address in the city, with the main resident or business at that address.
  • ALPHABETICAL SECTION lists residents alphabetically, with info about spouse, job and more. Businesses are also listed here, with name of owner and other top officials.
  • Some directories have a separate business section. Some have advertising.
  • Until 1952, directories indicated African Americans with a (c) after the name.

Charlotte City Directories started in 1875, occasionally at first, then every year beginning in 1903.

The best place to put your hands on a run of nearly all Charlotte city directories is the  Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room. Directories can also be found on-line, but only those published before 1964.

As you explore, you’ll find yourself flipping back and forth between sections, and also comparing entries from one year from those in the next. Most folks find it easiest to actually handle hard-copy volumes.

Here’s how to use City Directories to research an address, a person, or a neighborhood.

Street Section - Search by Address

If you know what address you are researching, this is where to start.

The highlighted areas from a 1950 City Directory show:

  • Dixon Street in Charlotte’s Biddleville neighborhood – The (c) designation stands for colored. The donut symbol indicates a home owner. The residents of Dixon Street are African Americans who mostly rent their homes.
  • About half the residents of Dixon Street had telephones, indicated by the bell symbol.
  • Mrs. Undine Graft owns her home at 625 Dorothy Drive in Dilworth. Nearly all of the homes neighboring Mrs. Graft are white homeowners.

Next, look up your person in the Alphabetical Section (see below).

Close up of 1950 City Directory - Streets section
Close up of 1950 City Directory – Streets section

Alphabetical Section - Search by Occupant's Name

The Alphabetical Section gives additional info, adding to what you’ve learned in the Street Section.

You can often find occupation/employer, spouse’s name and more. And if you find the name of an employer, you can look up THAT name to learn even more.

For instance, here we see that

  • Undine Graft is the widow of Charles E. and does not seem to be working outside of the home.
  • Mrs. Blanche Graham manages a cleaning company and lives on Tuckaseegee Road.
Close up of City Directory - Alphabetical section
Close up of City Directory – Alphabetical section