Baker Printing Company documents donated by James Thompson; originals now housed at The
East Texas Research Center, scanned and transcribed by Debbie Parker Wayne
Telephone books can be used to place your ancestor at a certain place and time. But just like tax lists there is so much more information that can be gleaned from the telephone book with a little extra work.
This photocopy and sorted phone book transcript have been indexed to allow you to find the stores, doctors, stables, car service facilities, etc. that may have been used by your ancestor. Many of these businesses or their owners have placed papers in the archives at the East Texas Research Center (ETRC). Perhaps the store logs list your ancestor and the purchases they made.
The card catalog describing the manuscript collection of the ETRC is online and also includes many businesses not listed in this telephone book. The East Texas Research Center website home page is
It would be interesting to compare the total number of people in the county with the number who have telephones listed. In urban areas two people with the same number may be relatives or friends sharing a home. If an ancestors phone is listed as "res." they probably lived in town and would be found on the census enueration district for the city of Nacogdoches.
The ads can be especially telling about the lives of our ancestors. Check the listing on page 9 for sanitary steaming of garments. Also of interest are the long distance rates and procedures described on the "information" pages, pages 5 and 6, which demonstrate how much phone service has changed; how long since you've heard someone ask "Number, please" when you picked up a telephone receiver?
Research would need to be done about how telephone numbers were assigned in urban locations before the numerical listing for the city could be completely analyzed: were numbers assigned in numerical order by installation or were blocks of numbers assigned to certain areas? Many rural phone lines in the early 1900s were party lines and neighbors generally shared the party lines.
Can't find your ancestor in the 1920 census index? If they had a telephone and lived in a rural area with a party line, find them in the telephone book, check the list sorted by telephone number for other people with the same base number; these are probably the neighbors of your rural ancestor. Then maybe you can find the neighbors on the census index and browse to find your ancestor who may have been incorrectly indexed.
One thing you will notice in the numerical sorted listing is that leading zeroes have been added to make each number a minimum of four digits. This was done to facilitate sorting by number as many PC word processors do not properly sort numbers without leading zeroes. Depending on the tool used this might not be necessary. The list could be sorted by category to find similar businesses.
When confronted with a list of names always think creatively about other ways to use the information provided.
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Page last modified: Wednesday, 14-Nov-2007 10:18:31 MST