Before the advent of telephone directories, city directories provided information about local communities. Early directories contained lists of individuals, their addresses, and occupations.
Later directories included additional information and could include: a yearly calendar, street maps, railroad schedules, and engravings of public buildings, along with local information about town offices, courts, public schools, various societies, and business listings. Some directories even included marriage, birth, and death information.
Social registers are directories of names and addresses of prominent American families who are claimed to be from “polite society.” Additional information provided sometimes included educational backgrounds, maiden names, names of parents, and club affiliations for those listed. Social registers have existed for cities such as Boston, Buffalo, Cleveland, New York, Kansas City, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and San Francisco.