Sunday, February 09, 2014

Understanding the Symbols

1956 Cranston City Directory page 37, Symbols

Understanding the Information
 in the City Directory

There's much to learn from City directories but it can be hard to make sense of what you are looking at. In the example above from 1956, this page explains the symbols indicating "home owner" and the "telephone subscriber". Even by 1956, there must have been households that did not subscribe (have) a telephone! 

In subsequent years of the directories, there continues to be an abbreviation list. As I reported in an earlier post, each village in Rhode Island was represented by an initial which corresponded to the town or village of the street, and this letter appears after each family listing. The family listing gave the home owner's name and sometimes the wife's name in parentheses, plus the street name as I have showed here.

In this cropped section of the 1956 Cranston City Directory listing for my father at at the end there is an H. That H stands for Howard which is the village name for "The Plat".

Understanding the abbreviations (Here's a full page from the 1948 Cranston City Directory, page 8 image 22 "City Information") you can learn a lot about how to read the listings. I want you to click on the link above and go there and look at the list. It contains job descriptions, shortened first names, church denominations, and military affiliations. In later city directories, the name of the business the person worked for may be listed. This might not be information you have for your ancestors.

Information gleaned now can be recorded with the citation:

  1. Broadfoot Thomas H
  2. Broadfoot Dorothy S 
  3. dry cleaner
  4. house at 60 Hill Top Dr.
  5. Howard


Anonymous said...

Hi Midge, Thanks for highlighting this outstanding genealogical resource. Yes, some really did not have phones back in the late 1940's and early 1950's. My own family had a party line until about 1963.

Jana Iverson Last said...


I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in my Fab Finds post today at

Have a wonderful weekend!