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African American Genealogy: Comparing City Directory Resources

Robin Foster
by Robin Foster

My great uncle, Clarence Adam Chick was born in Union County, South Carolina in 1896.  I first discovered him on the 1900 US Census with his father and mother and siblings. He was younger brother to my great grandmother, Daisy B. Chick (Tucker).  The family moved to Newberry County by 1910.

I found him in The Palmetto Leader with a picture by accident. He was entered as C. A. Chick, and the photo was from when he attended Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina. The Palmetto Leader is an African-American newspaper that is held by Richland Library.

I felt a burning sensation inside long after I passed up that article. I have discovered so much about him since then, but I know I will go back to document that article.  He has become a central figure.

He seemed to have vanished after the article. I conducted an interview with cousin, Clarence A. Chick, a namesake and his sister, and I was told that he taught school in Fayetteville, North Carolina. My next objective was to search among city directories at Ancestry.com to see if I might find him.

Ancestry.com City Directories

I began to discover that he lived in Fayetteville, NC and also Spartanburg, South Carolina.  He had also taught school in Virginia. The following are city directories I accessed at Ancestry.com, in the collection “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995:”

  • 1960 Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA
  • 1959 Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA
  • 1954 Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA
  • 1953 Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA
  • 1957 Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA
  • 1938 Richmond, Virginia, USA
  • 1936 Richmond, Virginia, USA
  • 1937 Richmond, Virginia, USA
  • 1931 Columbia, South Carolina, USA
  • 1929 Spartanburg, South Carolina, USA
  • 1928 Spartanburg, South Carolina, USA

City Directories at Cumberland County Library, North Carolina

I have always used the city directories at the genealogy room in the local and family history in libraries. At the Cumberland County Library Local and Family History Room, city directories are kept from as far back as 1909. I knew, therefore, that I could see the year Clarence died in 1966, and I could see where he and his wife, Helen, were living the year before he died in 1965.

In the 1966 North Carolina Hill’s Fayetteville City Directory, Helen T. Chick, Instructor at Fayetteville State College, widow of Clarence, is listed residing at 1875 Broadell Dr.:

 

Clarence Chick, City Directory Clarence Chick, City Directory

 

I was able to find the 1965 North Carolina Hill’s Fayetteville City Directory where Clarence lived the last year of his life. He and Helen were in the same house at 1875 Broadell Dr.

 

Clarence Chick City Directory Clarence Chick, City Directory

 

This was exciting to me because I knew I could go view the house as it stands today:

 

Broadnell Drive

1875 Broadell Dr., Fayetteville, NC, Home of Clarence Chick

 

So, with Ancestry.com online and the more current issues of the city directories at the library, I was able to plot out where Clarence was during his later years and during the time he died.

Sharpen the Saw

Choose an ancestor, and plot out were they are during life until death using city directories. You may find that all of the city directories are not online. Visit or contact the local library where your family would have been living. Gain access to the rest of city directories that will show you where they were living and who lived with them. Let us know what you find in our Facebook Group.

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