Chichester Terrace Street Directory

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How Directories were Compiled

The names in many early directories were obtained by personal visits or through local agents paid for the task. Those involved were often local printers and booksellers, registry office keepers, tax and post office officials, policemen, or accountants and agents for insurance companies. Land and house agents and auctioneers would be aware of local changes of address and business.

The use of circulars and advertisements was found ineffective and although rate books might appear to be a good source they omit permanent lodgers and those who do not pay the poor rate. Fees for insertion, other than for advertisements, seem rarely to have been charged.

Many people moved at the quarter-days in June and December and, as there was a delay of two or three months between the collection of names and the publication of a directory, most were planned to come out in March or September. Accordingly Bailey made his surveys after Christmas. The 1795 directory of Newcastle-upon-Tyne took only two months to prepare and the names for Kelly's 1840 London directory were collected in September for printing in late November. Longer delays, however, could occur.

Street Directories can be inaccurate. Severe weather conditions might adversely affect the collection of names and there would always be those who avoided a listing, fearful that names were being taken for the militia, or simply because they wanted to be ex-directory. There would be problems too, of course, with local pronunciations when names were given by servants and with defining those with multiple occupations.

Many early directory compilers were dishonest, and there are disconcerting differences between any two directories for the same place and date. Shameless copying was always a problem. As late as 1863 Casey's Directory of Hertfordshire was copied wholesale from Kelly's 1862 directory of that county. A directory that is regularly printed in its own locality is likely to be more reliable than any other.

Street Directories can easily be accessed online.