I was asked to help someone on a research request that was related to searching through telephone directories. Yes, that is right, printed, large-size, heavy paper phone directories from days past. You remember those, don’t you? Printed by RR Donnelly with updated directories dropped off at your doorstep year after year after year!
In going through our material in our collection to help answer a genealogy research question, I actually discovered that our library has on our Reference shelves 3 helpful “old” print telephone directories that can be of help to the genealogical researcher digging into ancestors that may have been in Chicago or the Suburbs of Chicago within the last 50 to 75 years.
Here is a description of the 3 items in our 2nd floor Reference Collection I want you to be aware of:
- 1944 Chicago Telephone Directory (Commonly referred to as “White Pages”) (R 384.6025 CHICAGO 1944)
- 1953 Chicago Telephone Directory (Commonly referred to as “White Pages”) (R 384.6025 CHICAGO 1953)
- 1958-59 Chicago Suburban Telephone Directory (Commonly referred to as “White Pages”) (ILLINOIS COLL R 384.6025 CHICAGO)
These can be very helpful to do look-ups in if you have Chicago ancestors that lived in Chicago proper during the time periods covered by these resources.
The 1944 directory is helpful to track any ancestor migration since the 1940 Census that is currently available (in the 1940 Census in Chicago, not present in the 1944 Chicago Telephone Directory); the 1953 directory is helpful because the 1950 Census has not been made public at this time.
I actually looked at the 1944 directory for my name and found no one listed under KIERNA. I guess my more recent ancestors did not have any money to have telephone service?? But by 1953 the name KIERNA does appear in that directory.
Your ancestor might not appear in these directories if they chose to have their information “Non-Published”. They paid for the privilege of not having their name published in the print directory. They may also not be in the directory if they did not have telephone service.
Just know that these resources are available in our library for you to use as a research tool. These books in print are on the 2nd floor Reference Shelves. Use the Call Number of the books noted above to find them. If you can’t come in to our library to take a look at these directories, you can always call our library at 847-985-4000 and ask for the “Ask Us” desk on the 2nd floor. They would be able to do a look-up for you in the directory.
Hopefully, the surname you seek is not a common one like “SMITH” or “JONES” because the directories cover the City of Chicago where these names are very common in the directory.
Also, since many of our ancestors may have originally settled in Chicago back in the late 1890s and early 1900s, it was not uncommon for them and their children to also “migrate” out of the city into the suburbs as the suburbs started growing in the 1940s and 1950s. This is where the Chicago Suburban Telephone Directory might be of more help to you to track down these early ancestors that might have moved out to the Chicago suburbs and were listed in the 1958-1959 Suburban Directory we have.
I am glad that my research effort made me aware of these nice resources that I have available right at my fingertips at the Schaumburg Township District Library. Perhaps it can help you too for your Chicago ancestral research, especially the part that is a little more current in time.
Schaumburg Township District Library