1859 Nashville City Directory/courtesy of Jeanne Johnson


What is a city directory?

Who is listed in the 1859 Nashville City directory?
A city directory is a publication that lists persons living and/or working in a city. You also may find lists of churches, businesses, members of government and schools, and an advertiser section. City directories have been in use for over 200 years. They are similar to our modern-day telephone books because individuals are listed alphabetically. The occupations, business addresses, and home addresses are usually included. City directories can be invaluable resources when you cannot find an individual in a census or, in the case of the federal census year of 1890 or censuses later than 1930, when most census records are unavailable. City directories can provide additional information about your ancestor. For instance, sometimes the description of “widow” or the death date of an individual can be found in a city directory. If an individual was consistently named in city directories for many years and wasn’t listed in a following year, you might pursue this hint that the individual died or moved away. If you find several individuals with the same surname living or working at the same address, you may wish to pursue these clues that these individuals are related in some way.
According to the introduction in the city directory, "to secure a correct list of names for the body of the Directory, he [the publisher] visited in person every office and dwelling within the corporate limits of the city".  "Within the corporate limits of the city we have 25,113 inhabitants as a total. Of these 5,885 are blacks, and of these 1,758 are free. Of 19,728 whites, 10,757 are males, and 8,971 are females. Edgefield has a population of at least 2,500; North Nashville, 1,200; West Nashville, 1,000; and Southfield 2,000. All of these villages belong to Nashville, which gives us a grand total population of 31,813."
Why can't I find who I am looking for?
As I compiled the alphabetical index of the images of the city directory pages, I noticed many names were not in alphabetical order. They were grouped in general order (all the surnames beginning with "A" were in the "A" pages) but not always in strict alphabetical order. You should view every page of the same alphabet letter. Also, be sure to check the appendix for your individual. The appendix is a list of names added later by the publisher.
Where can I find Nashville city directories for other years?
The image is too fuzzy for me to read. Can you help me?
The Metropolitan Archives of Nashville & Davidson County, TN, has the following years:1853-2002. Archives staff will provide copies of pages for a specific surname for a specific year. A copy of the record from microfilm is $3.00 (up to 10 pages). You will be notified if there is a fee for additional pages. If they do not have a directory for the year specified, they will copy from the directory closest to the specified year.


The process of preparing an image for the Internet involves compressing the file size by reducing the details. If you need help reading a particular line, email me and I'll view my original image for you. My email link is on the home page.
Where can I find the answer to a question that is not listed here?
Please feel free to contact me. My email link is on the home page.
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