San Francisco Genealogy
City Directories
with Research Tips

This web page was mentioned in Matthew and April Helm's book,
Genealogy Online for Dummies


This is a miscellaneous collection of information, research tips, and a list of some of the locations where you can find San Francisco City Directories.

(Please note that this page is by no means a complete list of locations!)
Thank you to the volunteers who provided tips and lists for this page!

Some of the City Directory locations and collection lists on this page were submitted by volunteer researchers, and were current at the time of submission, but you may wish to contact the various respositories to be sure they still have the directory you need before you make your trip.

Please help by submitting locations and collection lists to this page!

If you know of the locations of any books or microfilms of San Francisco City Directories that are not yet listed, or would like to correct any of the listings, please let us know.

If you've solved a unique genealogical puzzle by using City Directories and would like to share any helpful hints with us, tell us about it so that your experience can benefit other researchers.

General Information and Tips on using City Directories in your research
by Pamela Storm

San Francisco City Directories are a great and often overlooked resource for finding information about your San Francisco ancestors.  They can be very helpful in estimating what year a family first settled in San Francisco, especially if they came here in between census years.  You can often discover unknown relatives by looking through all the listings for a given surname, paying careful attention to similar addresses.   Listings in City Directories can be of help in narrowing down an approximate year of death in some cases.  For example, you may find a husband's listing for a number of consecutive years, and the following year, find his wife listed under her own name with the notation "widow".   In some directories after 1913, a wife's name is listed in parentheses next to the husband's entry.  Quite often, a person's occupation, and/or their place of business is mentioned.

In the back section of most City Directories, you'll usually find a "business directory", which is similar to what we now refer to as the "yellow pages" of our current telephone books.  If your ancestor had a business, this listing may provide further useful information.   In the front section, you'll usually find a great deal of interesting and helpful information on organizations such as houses of worship, schools, fraternal organizations, hospitals, governmental departments, etc.  You can sometimes find cross street directories, maps, names of current government agencies and officials, legislative district boundaries, historical information, and much more.

Caution:  Use care in drawing conclusions about your ancestors from listings you find in City Directories.  While they can provide excellent leads to further research, be cautious about making assumptions regarding dates of settlement or death, etc.  Such information should always be verified by other means whenever possible.  Directories often contain typographical errors in names and addresses, and just like our current telephone directories, information for any given year may be several months' out of date by the time a directory was printed.  City Directory listings can provide wonderful information on your ancestors, but keep in mind that they are just a piece of your genealogical jigsaw puzzle.

Some repositories actually have the old books right on the shelves for you to use.  Some have microfilm and microfiche collections, or a combination of these.  There's something "magical" about actually handling the old books, but as they become too fragile, they're gradually being retired in favor of the microfilm and microfiche.  If you are fortunate enough to be able to handle and view the actual books, please help preserve these fragile, older volumes by handling them carefully with clean, dry hands, turning the pages very gently, and follow any restrictions posted regarding photocopying.  They'll last awhile longer if we treat them all as if they were our own Great-Grandmother's family Bible!

Index to Locations of San Francisco City Directory Collections
(If you know of more, please share them with us!)


Your local FHC

CA--Los Angeles
CA--San Bruno
CA--San Francisco
CA--San Jose
CA--San Rafael
CA--Santa Rosa
NY--New York City (Manhattan)
Washington D.C.

Your local Family History Center

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City has the following directories on microfilm and/or microfiche.  Your local Family History Center can order them for you to view.

(Thank you to Lee Neilsen for helping with these film/fiche numbers!)

CA--Los Angeles

Los Angeles Public Library Central Branch (Downtown)

(Thank you to J Tortarolo for this information!)




California Genealogical Society

Oakland Main Library
125 Fourteenth St.
Oakland, CA
Oakland History Room, 2nd floor:
Magazine and Newspaper Room, 2nd floor: (Thank you to Dan Mosier for this list!)


California State University
6000 J Street
Sacramento, CA
(Thank you to Elaine Bukove for the  list of books! Thank you to Sandy Bressler {aka Sandymento} for the tips.)

CA--San Bruno
NARA Pacific Region

CA--San Francisco

San Francisco Main Public Library, History Center (6th floor), provided this list of their microfilm holdings.  By the way, a round of applause to the History Center Staff;  they are among the most helpful librarians I've ever met!  They are very cautious with their collection, and rightly so:  most of their materials are rare and irreplacable.  But you'll find they are extremely willing and will usually go out of their way to be helpful.

San Francisco Main Public Library, Magazine & Newspaper Department (5th floor) Sutro Library California Historical Society Library

CA--San Jose

San Jose Public Library
150 E. San Fernando St.
San José, CA 95112
(408) 808-2000