Historical Gainesville city directories now freely available online

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Oct. 6, 2020
CONTACT: Deborah Hakes, dhakes@georgialibraries.org

ATLANTA — Georgia Public Library Service has digitized 5,500 pages of Gainesville city directories belonging to the Hall County Library System dating from 1882-1960. The 17 full-text searchable volumes are freely available in the Digital Library of Georgia.

The digital collection is part of a statewide initiative to digitize Georgia’s public domain city directories. The project is a partnership between Georgia Public Library Service, the Digital Library of Georgia, and public library systems across the state. Additional city directories in the Digital Library of Georgia include those from Albany (1922-1949), Athens (1889-1958), Atlanta (1867-1922), Columbus (1859-1912) and Macon (1860-1899).

City directories provide details of local history: Details in the collections about residence and resident make city directories ideally suited for student, educator, and professional research, and those working remotely will enjoy increased access to volumes that were previously only available onsite at their local library. City directories antedate the phonebook as a listing of residents, businesses, organizations, and streets. In addition to basic location information, city directories frequently provide local governmental and civic information, street maps, church and cemetery information, and historical details about the city and surrounding areas. Information about individuals typically includes the resident’s name, title or salutation, home address, marital status and spouse’s name, race, occupation, and, if applicable, information about business ownership.

Ronda Sanders, Genealogy and Local History Librarian for the Hall County Library System, notes some of the many ways city directories are instrumental to research:

When used in tandem with digitized Sanborn maps, city directories can mimic the experience of a stroll down Main Street to see the names of businesses and neighbors. Family portraits with studio stamps can be cross-referenced to city directories to narrow down the dates the company was in business, thus approximating the date of the photo. And, if one is lucky enough to find an old death record, it can be difficult to read the name of the physician. By using a city directory from the same general time, genealogists can compare the names of practicing doctors to decipher their notoriously illegible handwriting.

Hall County Library Director Lisa MacKinney states, “Digitization projects like this one help to make sure our local history is not only kept safe for future generations, but made much more accessible to everyone. We are so appreciative of the work done by Georgia Public Library Service and the Digital Library of Georgia to make this project possible, as well as the funding provided by the Institute for Museum and Library Services.”

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Georgia Public Library Service (GPLS) empowers libraries to improve the lives of all Georgians by encouraging reading, literacy, and education through the continuing support and improvement of public libraries. GPLS is a unit of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. This project is supported with federal Library Services and Technology Act funds administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through GPLS. www.georgialibraries.org #georgialibraries

Based at the University of Georgia Libraries, the Digital Library of Georgia is a GALILEO initiative that collaborates with Georgia’s libraries, archives, museums, and other institutions of education and culture to provide access to key information resources on Georgia history, culture, and life. This primary mission is accomplished through the ongoing development, maintenance and preservation of digital collections and online digital library resources. The Digital Library of Georgia also serves as Georgia’s service hub for the Digital Public Library of America and as the home of the Georgia Newspaper Project, the state’s historic newspaper microfilming project.

The Hall County Library System serves a population of just over 200,000 with five public library branches including the recently renovated and expanded Gainesville Library. HCLS is a member of the PINES network. More information is available at www.hallcountylibrary.org.

Selected items from the collection:

Gainesville city directory, 1913-1914 (with fold-out map)

Gainesville city directory, 1939 (with “Queen City of the Mountains” in the front matter)

Polk’s Gainesville (Hall County, Ga.) city directory, 1960, including Chicopee, Gainesville Mill, and New Holland (with Gainesville Statistical Review in the front matter)

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