Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A City Directory unlike Those You've Seen Online

Nancy Mumford, of Marstons Mills, Massachusetts, contacted me about her great aunt's husband, Robert G. Spiers, who spent most of his life in Waterbury but left sometime before 1915 and eventually died in Newark in 1922.  Whenever I'm at a loss as to where to begin, I usually start with the city directories because that's the best way to place someone in Waterbury at a given time.  If you've visited the Library, you may have had occasion to search the city directories using the microfilm readers.  We also have the original print volumes downstairs in storage.  In fact, we have two different versions, the type that was distributed to the public and another special edition that was used by the Registrar of Voters.  Just by chance, I picked up the 1921 directory used by the Registrar's office.  Checking the surname "Spiers," I found an Irving, a William F. and a William M. on pages 550 and 551. Then, I happened to glance at the lined page facing the printed page and found this handwritten notation:
      Spiers Robert M. 357 So Main St. left 1921. See if same man lived at 76 E. Main
The Registrar's version was designed to readily permit annotations.  I guess it was a common practice at this time for Registrars to keep their records up to date in this way.  Anyway, it's fortunate for us that they did.  We have a unique primary source here at the Bronson Library that supplements the published directories.  You won't find this on!  I went upstairs and searched the microfilmed version of the 1921 city directory even though I was sure that pages 550 and 551 would look exactly like the ones in the Registrar's version.  Yes, I was right.  When they scanned the directories, they used the more commonly available edition, not the one used by the Registrar.  To get back to Nancy's question, I immediately thought this could be the person she was seeking and that she could have been mistaken about the middle initial.  She replied that no, it wasn't the same person; it was her ancestor's cousin.

Thanks to Nancy, I'm going to have to change the way I will do things from now on.  I will probably still ask patrons to use the microfilm just to cut down on the wear and tear on the books.  However, if someone's search of the microfilmed city directories comes up empty, I guess I will feel obligated to go downstairs and check the Registrar's books . . . just in case.

Nancy is seeking information about Robert G. Spiers' whereabouts during the years 1900 through 1915.  If you can help, please contact me via email and I will forward your email to Nancy.

(Details used with Nancy Mumford's permission.)

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