In order to better understand the incredible variety of information a city directory can offer, I took a closer look at the St. Louis City Directory for 1891. Directories for numerous cities including St. Louis are available in the Ancestry.com and Fold3.com reference databases. Directories are searchable by name or keywords, or can be browsed by year.
Note: Image numbers provided are those used in the Ancestry.com version of this directory.
The 1891 St. Louis City Directory includes a General Index (image 15) and an Index to Advertisers (images 15-16). The Index of Advertisers can be helpful for persons looking for display ads that can include illustrations of company buildings and/or products. An Index to Business Headings (images 17-20) provides listings for types of businesses such as cooper, tailor, etc.
Additions, Alterations, and Corrections (images 21-22) notes changes to listings made shortly before press time.
Ward Boundaries (images 22-23) and a Street and Avenue Directory (images 23-46) can be useful for persons using the federal census, or for those researching a particular street or neighborhood. Over the years we have helped a number of writers of fiction make use of city directories to add verisimilitude to a work in progress.
The alphabetical listings cover employed adults, and provide name, occupation, and residential address. A list of abbreviations used in this section is provided (image 46). Widows are also listed (whether or not employed), with first name of the deceased spouse generally provided. Listings for women in 19th century records can be invaluable sources for genealogists (especially in the decade following 1890, because that federal census was destroyed and nearly all its information lost to future historians and genealogists).
People looking for information on city offices and officeholders can consult the Appendix—City Government (images 916-920). There are also listings for Public Parks (image 942) and Libraries (images 939-940). There are similar listings for state and federal government (images 920-921), officers of the National Guard and Regular Army stationed in St. Louis (images 920-921), and for Courts of all jurisdictions (image 920). Also included are listings for Foreign Consuls in St. Louis (image 921).
People interested in medicine and public health can consult the classified listings for doctors (images 868-871), dentists (images 808-809), druggists (images 810-811), and midwives (images 855-856). There are also listings for Hospitals & Dispensaries (image 925) and Medical Colleges (image 855).
People interested in transportation alternatives can consult Street Railways (image 923), Railroads (images 923-924), and Steamboats (image 924).
People researching education in St. Louis can consult the listings for Academies, Schools, and Colleges (images 940-957).
Of special interest to our genealogists will be listings for Asylums, Convents, Etc. (images 924-925), Cemeteries (image 925), Churches (images 925-928), Societies (images 928-939), Undertakers (image 906) and Embalmers (image 815).