In urban Irish immigrant research, it is common too not identify common names in the city directories. All you usually have is a name, occupation, and home address. If you already know this information then that is the key into this valuable source. However, you may have Patrick Sullivan who was a laborer, and you cannot find him in the census indexes? So what do you do?
Steps to Correlate City Directories with Censuses
The way I approach these issues is to try and eliminate individuals by correlating the city directory information with census information. My approach, which works well in large urban jungles such as Boston, Chicago, New York City and San Francisco is as follows:
Step 1: Find an online database of the city directory nearest the census year you want to concentrate upon. This could include one year either way of 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880, for example.
Step 2: Then instead of using that database just for names, use the search feature for the address. If your subject from the directories was on 34 Ambassador Street, then you want to know who else was residing around 34 Ambassador Street when your targeted Patrick Sullivan was living there.
Step 3: Once you have a neighborhood identified, then you take all the names, regardless of who they are, and see if you can find them in the index for that census year.
Step 4: The goal is to find the family of that Patrick Sullivan in that neighborhood. This will help you to know who was at that address in the city directory. This approach works especially well if you cannot find your ancestor in a particular census. I usually assume the surname was not indexed correctly. This happens often when a German census taker is writing down Irish names, and then an indexer tries to make further sense out of the entry.
Successful Research Methods
I have solved many problems by using this simple strategy. This method works for sorting through common names or trying to determine if your ancestor was actually listed in the census enumeration. If you can reconstruct the people living around a particular address, then you have an extra tool in your tool box from which to continue your research.
If you have lost your Irish immigrant ancestors in the urban jungles then Click Here.