Nothing like a good chuckle from ancestry.com

My Ancestry.com membership has not been of much use, except for immigration records for my family. Most recently, it has become a source of amusement.

I recently discovered Ancestry.com’s database, U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989. It is a wonderful resource of scanned phone books. This is a great alternative to the 1950 U.S. Census, which will be made public in 8 years.

My most recent discovery in the database was quite amusing. My paternal grandmother’s family lived in Miami and I have never noticed another family with the same name in Miami in the 1950s.

I knew an address looked awfully familiar but the first name was Beach. I wonder which relative tried to communicate their first name for the phone directory. How could the name Alexander or Anisja become Beach? Maybe this is a terminology used in the 1950s that someone could explain to me.

These two first names also were listed in the phonebook as Anna and Arthur. Anisja was called Aunt Anne by her nieces and nephews. I know these people are my relatives from these phone directories because I have the same addresses on immigration records.

The same phone directory butchered my grand uncle Wasiliy’s name (Vasiliy, the more correct English spelling) into Wasitij. The name was later changed in the phone directory as Wasilli.

Russian and Ukrainian names are quite a challenge to spell for some. That makes researching Russian and Ukrainian relatives more complicated. A lot of Russian names that end with v get changed to w or ff (like Smirnoff vodka) and those with y get changed to j (like Anisja).

With some smart search techniques, U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 is an incredible resource for genealogy and family searches. The 1950s Miami white pages list the first names of spouses and workplaces of those listed. I noticed the same information in New York City directories.

Can anyone imagine phone directories listing places of employment for each person listed today? Just imagine the lawsuits for invasion of privacy. It’s a good thing that things were different back in the 20th century.

Ancestry.com has another similar resource, U.S. Public Records Index. It is much less accurate. I searched myself and I found myself living in another state. My dead grandfather was supposedly living at my childhood home. Then, a cousin’s birth date was off by 26 years.

So go check out U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989, a resource with 1.5 billion residential listings. It is not worth waiting for the 1950 U.S. Census when this massive database is available.

4 thoughts on “Nothing like a good chuckle from ancestry.com

  1. Roy Batchelder

    I have used the directories also to make sure I had the correct relatives that I was looking up. It is going to take 8 years for the 1950 census to be done. I hope I am still alive in 8 years so I can see if I am on the family census. Just joking.

  2. I’ve been helping my friend search his Ukranian/Polish ancestors in Manitoba, Canada. The spellings are crazy!! His granny’s name was Iyna (that’s an EYE at the beginning not an EL), but she was always known as Ann. Before she passed away well in her 90s, Granny Annie gave us a great old lecture about how some names were Slavic and some were Chek and Polish names were a mishmash of both. According to her the different cultures all hated each other equally but that didn’t stop them from intermarrying. Her family was from Galicia, which I believe is not far from Kiev.

  3. Melanie

    Those are city directories, not phone books. They predate white pages and list residents and businesses in a city usually by place (street name). They are very useful tools! And still published today (though employment info is gone, they still list if you are a homeowner or renter, for example).

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