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Good Call!

retro phone

November 7, 2018

My kids remind me all the time that as a genealogist, I talk about some strange topics. When I get together with other genealogists, they understand why I get so excited about those subjects. Just the other day when I was holding a stack of phone books, I noticed an ad on the back of a phone book from the 1950s talking about how “modern homes have colored phones.” The woman pictured had three different colored phones in three different areas of her house. She could enjoy the “comfort and prestige of a well-telephoned home” by choosing any or all of the eight beautiful colors with matching extension cords. It was “convenience unlimited!”

My coworkers laughed a little over how far telephones have come over the years. Now, people rarely worry about the cost of long-distance calls. In 1957, a three-minute phone call during the evening from one coast to the other cost $1.90. I now comprehend why my mom made the shortest long-distance calls ever. Party lines have become obsolete. If you don’t understand the concept of a party line, check out a copy of the movie Pillow Talk with Rock Hudson and Doris Day. Other phone memories I have include the first phone we bought at a store (you used to have to get them from the phone company), answering machines, call waiting, cordless phones, and even QWERTY texting on cell phones.

The Midwest Genealogy Center has an entire section of city directories from all over the country as well as a few from foreign countries. If you want “convenience unlimited” today, try searching over a billion city directory records from 1821 to 1989 using HeritageQuest Online. Using a city directory for genealogy is always a good call.

City directories help us put our ancestors in a certain place at a certain time so we can break down some genealogy brick walls. Recently, I found my ancestor’s daughter listed on a passenger list. The record contained her married name, so I used a city directory in her hometown in Germany to find her husband at the address listed on the passenger list.

How have city directories helped you in your genealogy research?

Jolene C.
Midwest Genealogy Center

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