One of the first rules of genealogy, long neglected by genealogists is to write down your own stories. On this German Unity Day, as falling leaves and temperatures finally reach Alabama, memories of my Year of Firsts, thirty (!) years ago flood my mind. But the beginning of the story, like so many tales, requires me to go back a year earlier when I was in the spring of my fourth year of undergraduate studies at the University of Missouri in Columbia. A wanderlust had invaded my soul at an early age, but financial and academic limitations made me believe I could not afford to study abroad during my undergraduate days. As I was talking to my advisor and German mentor, Dr. Dennis Mueller, I mentioned I had dreamed of going to Germany for many years. He looked at me rather quizzically and said simply “why don’t you?”
Genealogists know that city directories are not simply phone books, rather that these resources were created for businesses to get access to customers and vice versa. They are genealogy gold ready to be mined! Ralph L. Polk, the most widely known publisher, began his business with 1872 Evansville, IN directory, listing the names and addresses of all residents of the town. Early Polk directories included a variety of information useful to genealogists including county courts, stage lines, steamboat companies, count residents on rural routes, and other detailed information on the locality.