City Directories are also sometimes thought of as city censuses or city registers of residents. Only the earliest ones did not also include businesses. They are focused on what is within the city boundaries only, although sometimes they contain more than one city or town. But generally they do not cover the surrounding area as telephone books usually do. They are precursors to telephone books which eventually replaced them in the mid to late 20th century.
Most of the microfilmed directories are from the Research Publications collection "City Directories of the United States." They can be viewed on-site in the Research Services Department on the 2nd floor of the Central Library.
The bound original directories are stored off-site. They can be ordered through the Delivery Desk at the Central Library. Allow several days for recovery.
Please note that dates in the these links in many cases are being actively updated so that there may be more years available than what is posted.
You will need your Boston Public Library card to use our subscription databases. Cards are free and available to all Massachusetts residents. If you don't already have one, you can get an eCard on our website. You may then upgrade this to a standard card when/if you come in.
Out of state
The Boston Public Library’s primary responsibility is to the residents of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. While we provide limited reference services to out-of-state residents, our circulating material, including audiobooks and other downloadable media, are reserved for the residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with full and good standing membership cards. Subscription databases are supported by tax dollars and are only available to Massachusetts residents. However, check with your local/college/state libraries, they also may subscribe to these providing you with access at home. Visitors from anywhere can come and use our materials in the building, we issue research cards to them, and these cards are free. Research cards expire after 30 days, but can be renewed. Please bring identification with you. The research cards may be obtained at the Delivery Desk on the second floor.