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'Let Your Fingers Do the Walking'

Using City, Provincial, Telephone and Business Directories in Archival Research

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Introduction

Ever think of using old telephone or city directories in your research? Long after their immediate shelf-life has ended, these published sources live on as significant research tools for family and community history, environmental studies, and for tracking home and property ownership.

Originally created to list all the residents of a city, all the residents of a province, all the businesses in a specific community, or all the subscribers to a telephone service, back copies of these directories have become invaluable for:

  • developing individual family residency patterns and profiles

  • revealing past populations and patterns of urban development

  • profiling specific site-use patterns

  • determining approximate dates for original house construction

  • profiling previous occupants of a specific property

  • enhancing built-heritage research

Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management (NSARM) maintains a substantial collection of published directories, beginning with Nugent's Business Directory for the City of Halifax for 1858-59 (1858) and the first McAlpine's Halifax City Directory (1868) to the most recent set of telephone books for the province. Although city and telephone directories are the most obvious and well-known series within this collection, researchers should also be aware of scattered provincial directories (which attempted to list everyone living in the province), as well as the occasional business directory created for specific communities around the province.

Anyone wanting to work with city, town, provincial or business directories at NSARM will find that most of them are now available on microfilm. The 'Self-Service Library Microfilm Finding Aid' (copies available in the NSARM Microfilm Reading Room) is the first step in finding your way to and through these resources. Under the heading 'Directories' are several pages of holdings, with pertinent reel numbers.

Please remember that not all of our directory holdings are on microfilm — those still available only in hard-copy format are accessed through the regular Library Card Catalogue in the Archival Reading Room. In addition to the microfilm version of the McAlpine's Halifax City Directories, a hard-copy set of the more recent issues,1960-1999, is shelved in the Microfilm Reading Room for ready access.


Holdings Available Elsewhere

LAC Directories

McAlpine's Halifax City Directory – 1864-1900 (except for 1880)

Hutchinson's Nova Scotia Directory – 1864/65 and 1866/67

Lovell's Province of Nova Scotia Directory for 1871

McAlpine's Nova Scotia Directory – 1868/69 and 1890/97

Go to: Library and Archives Canada / Collections Canada Website
http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/canadiandirectories/


City, provincial, town and business directories can also be found at the Nova Scotia Legislative Library (Province House on Hollis Street, downtown Halifax); within the Halifax Regional Library system; and in various other public and university libraries around the province. Your local library can carry out an inter-institutional search for you, regarding the location and availability of these holdings.

The most complete run of telephone directories for Nova Scotia (1888-1999; predominantly 1911-1999) can be found at the Dalhousie University Archives in the Killam Library, University Avenue. The Halifax Regional Library System, especially the Spring Garden Road Branch, also has good coverage for the Nova Scotia Telephone Company, MTT and their subsidiaries, from 1915 to the present.



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