Continuing with this series on using city directories in genealogy and family history research, we will next look at the indexes. Using my R.L. Polk City Directory for Detroit, 1925-1926 as a reference, the indexes come right after the Introduction page. There are two indexes included; a General Index and an Index of Advertisers. Let's start with the General Index first.
The General Index is one side of one page in length and in the case of my directory it is on p. 8. This index lists alphabetically the main topics of the directory. It does not list the names of businesses or individuals but it does list the page numbers where sections that do list individuals and businesses begin ("Alphabetical List of Names... 510"). It also lists the topics covered in the Statistical Department Report, and miscellaneous information about the city. So in this General Index we find such topics as: Asylums, Hospitals, & Homes, Board of Health, Churches, Department of Street Railways, Election Districts, Fire Department, Incorporated Companies, Legal Aid Bureau, Michigan Legislature, Newspapers, Physicians and Surgeons, Renumbering Ordinances, Societies-Secret and Benevolent, Trade and Labor Unions, and Waterworks.
Let's say you have an address of your ancestor from a census record and a street map of Detroit from the 1920s. You could then use this index to look up churches or local organizations to find the ones closest to the home of your ancestor. These could be valuable sources for finding additional documents about them.
The Index of Advertisers is two full pages in length and the print is very fine. This index lists all of the companies that paid to have an advertisement in the directory. And there are many of them. This index is handy to have if perhaps you are researching a business owned by one of your ancestors. The directory is so large that it would take you several hours to go through it page by page to see if your ancestor's business might have an ad. So taking a quick check here in the Index of Advertisers is the best place to start.
The ads listed in the Index of Advertisers appear either in the Buyer's Guide section, which is printed on goldenrod colored pages which are thicker than the rest of the pages of the directory, or as elongated ads that run on the top, bottom, or outer edge of regular listing pages of the directory.
That about sums it up for the indexes in city directories. They are the gateway to the information presented elsewhere in the directory and essential for putting your finger on specific information in an efficient manner.
Coming up next: City Directories: The Statistical Department
Read my series of articles about city directories:
I Won the eBay Bid
What's In A City Directory
City Directories: The Introduction
City Directories: The Indexes
City Directories: The Statistical Department
City Directories: Chronological History
City Directories: Miscellaneous Information
City Directories: Directory of Names
City Directories: Street Guide and Directory of Householders
City Directories: Classified Business Directory
City Directories: Additional Information