City directories and early census records go hand-in-hand for genealogy research. To verify whether the person in an early census record is your ancestor, track him in the city directories for as many years as you can go. After tracking for a number of years, it often is very obvious which person is your man in the city directories. You know what street he lived on and what his occupation was.
Now go to the census records. Note your ancestor’s neighbors-both above and below–for 5-6 people. Then look for these names in the city directories, either in the year the census was taken or a year before. You’ll probably see a few of these people on your ancestor’s block. You’ll know what your ancestor’s neighborhood was like–the people who lived there, their occupations, the number of people living on the block. It all adds to getting the story of your ancestors told.
You can also see which direction the census enumerator went on the block and sometimes how many families were living in your ancestor’s building.