Thursday, October 18, 2018

City Directories:
Reading Between the Lines

City directories can tell a family's story, but the narrative spills out line by line, year by year. Directories may be a tedious recounting of the family's history with just the facts of name, address, and perhaps place of employment. Lacking any better details, that's at least a start. And since I'm stumped with Annie Goodman and what led her to leave her home in Nashville, Tennessee, to marry a man in Jersey County, Illinois, I may as well use every tool at my disposal. Besides, there's that nagging puzzle about the mysterious Dollie Goodman who showed up in a photograph I found of Annie Goodman: I have yet to find any documentation of just who that Dollie Goodman was.

My guess was that Annie, who married in 1884, would not likely have made such a long trip to arrive at her wedding location in Illinois by herselfat least, if my understanding of the customs of that time are correct. But assuming that her widowed mother escorted her that distance is difficult to prove, mainly because it seems both her mother and her father had disappeared from the scene after the 1880 census. Running on the theory that Annie's half brothers from her mother's first marriage provided escort service turned out to be a poor hypothesis; as we saw yesterday, each of those three half-brothers remained in Nashville.

Not knowing exactly what became of Annie's parents bothered me. I wasn't finding any information through the usual meansnot living near Tennessee, I need to glean from what online resources are available to meso in desperation, I decided it was time to pull out those year-by-year accounts of who lived in town, and grind through each annual tome.

Starting with 1880, the same year in which we found Annie's parents in the U.S. census, her father Henry was listed in the city directory. Thankfully, his occupation was listed in the census as blacksmith, and the directory corroborated that detail, along with a similar rendering of the home addressthis time, on "Buena Vista Pike" instead of Buena Vista Street. Still, what are the chances of two blacksmiths with the same name, but on two different streets with almost the same name?

Moving to the 1881 city directory, the Goodman blacksmith was still on Buena Vista, but for some reason, this time his name was rendered as George. Was Annie's father's name actually George Henry Goodman? Or was this an overlooked typo on the part of the directory's editor?

In the 1882 city directory, Annie's dad was back to being listed as Henry, and now his shop was on Main Street, though his house was located at Jefferson. By 1883, blacksmith Henry Goodman was working at South Tenth, and he moved his home around the corner from Jefferson to Park.

Joining him, in the 1883 Nashville directory, were two other Goodmans: Miss Annie Goodman and Miss Emma Goodman, both of whom worked at the Tennessee Manufacturing Company, and both of whom were likely Henry Goodman's daughters.

Unfortunately, after that, there is a gap in the online resource for Nashville city directories. The next directory I could find was for 1886, a gap of three valuable years. Still, there are a few details that caught my eye. Gone was Henry Goodman the blacksmith, but in his place was a Henry Goodman who worked at the National Manufacturing Company, and who boarded at Jeffersonsame home location as we found in the 1882 directory.

There was, however, that something else which had caught my eye: there were two other Goodmans now listed in the directory, along with Henryneither of whom was Annie. Both of them worked at the same place as Henry, and both of them were listed as boarding at the same location as Henry. One was Emma Goodman, Annie's sister whom we had seen listed in the 1883 directory, who was now boarding with the Henry whom I presume would be her brother, rather than her father.

The other one was someone named Dollie Goodman.

The next year's directory tells one more piece of the story. In 1887, along with the Henry Goodman who was working at the National Manufacturing Company, we see an entry for one more Goodman who had been missing from the picture in the previous directories. It was Sarah Goodman, listed there as widow of Henry.

While the gap between 1883 and 1886 in the available Nashville city directories could hold valuable clues for us, even with their absence, it is possible to form another hypothesis about what happened to bring Annie Goodman to Illinois. Perhaps Annie's mother, by then possibly the widowed Sarah, left town with Annie before her 1884 marriage, then returned to Nashville in time to be listed in the 1887 directory.

The good news of all this grunt work is that we've found our first clueother than her photographthat Dollie Goodman actually existed. But there is one more thing we also discovered, mainly from its absence. While we found Dollie, and observed entries for her brother Henry and her sisters Annie and Emma, there was no mention of the other sister, Alice. It is by figuring out that absence that we'll be led closer to the answer we're seeking on just how Annie from Tennessee ended up married in Illinois.

Both images above from the Nashville city directory, courtesy of


  1. So is Dollie Alice? tomorrow tomorrow will the answer come tomorrow??

    1. Soon...remember, this is a work in progress, and I'm only a few steps ahead of you. We will continue with Alice's story on Monday...although that is a good guess about Dollie's true identity actually being Alice...

  2. yes Dollie may be Alice?? You are making progress:)

    1. I am wondering. Still, there may be a chance that those were two separate people.


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