Monday, July 26, 2010

Footnote Images - Part One - City Directories

This summer I have been working on my husband's family tree. His family has roots in Toledo, Ohio and I have been spending lots of time finding them in the Toledo city directories on I wanted to share some of my impressions about the directories on this site.

First, it is great to have digital images from city directories. I have been able to push his generations further by analyzing who lived with who. I also like how Footnote labels their images by page number and then by the first person listed on the page (ie. Musch, Aug H (p. 813)). This makes it fairly easy to find which page a certain surname will appear.

But there is also a problem with this system. Apparently publishers of city directories don't know how to count. Or at least how to number their pages. Often times I have found the same page number used for different pages. This becomes an issue when Footnote organizes their images by the name they have given it and not the order the pages appeared in the book. If the surname I am seeking, continues onto the next page, I have to go forward 2 pages to get to the next page in the printed directory.

Another problem that I have seen is that Footnote's OCR software mislabels the first name on the page. This can confuse people trying to find a certain name. But then again the publishers of the city directories had some issues with alphabetical order too. I have  found given names out of order as well as surnames in the completely wrong order.

Also, Footnote tries to label all pages in the same format - first person on the page and page number. This does not work on other sections of the book. The street listings and business listings are not in alphabetical order by everyone's name. They are in order of the street name or type of business. Footnote's labeling systems makes these pages impossible to find when browsing.

You are able to use Footnote's search engine to find names in the directories. But I have found that the OCR misses many of the names and that browsing is a more complete way of searching. Also the search tells you what page it is found with Footnote's labels that can be somewhat hard to figure out if it is not on an alphabetical page.

I know that I have found a lot of faults with Footnote's image names. I have been able to find what I am looking for most of the time and just wish their system was a little better.

This discussion leads me into another complaint with the way Footnote labels its images of the Massachusetts printed vital records. I'll write about that later this week.


  1. Browse searching is a good tip Tina. I have had some issues with working with Footnote and thought maybe I just needed to get used to it more since I'm a fairly new user. I have so far found some really great stuff and one really awesome one was in the directories. I will remember to do more browsing for my information in the future!

  2. Tina, I'm not a subscriber any more, because I never found anything and it was just too difficult to try to find something. Glad I'm not the only one.
    Let me know if you need a Mass. vital record, I subscribe to NEHGS.