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Research Tools: Chicago Board of Education Directories

Tuesday I found myself in downtown Chicago with an hour to spare between copying a divorce file at the Circuit Court Archives and meeting up with my husband to attend a [really awesome!] Carolina Chocolate Drops concert at City Winery.  I decided to stop by the Harold Washington Library to take a close look at the Chicago Board of Education directories that are available at the Municipal Reference Collection desk on the fifth floor.

What Years are Available?

A guide to the library's holdings lists volumes beginning with 1895, but 1899 was the earliest the staff member could locate for me. She thought the earlier volume might fragile and therefore unavailable. Glancing at the key, the collection appears to be strong from 1900 to 1990, with a few gaps, and then the final volumes cover 1998 and 2003.


What's in the Directories?

Here's a quick list of what I found in the 1899 directory:

Regular board meeting dates
School term dates -- fall, winter, summer, evening
Dates of examinations for principals, admission to high school, admission to normal school
Members of board of education with address and a year (ending of their term of office?)
Committee members
School districts and the schools they included
List of high schools
Office hours
Principals of schools for the school year covered
Schedule of salaries
Reference books furnished for high schools and elementary schools
Apparatus furnished including maps and a globe
Text books adopted for use
Supplementary reading for each grade (titles of books)
Street railway lines
Railway passenger stations
Elevated roads
Population of the city by divisions
Locations of schools and how to reach them by public transportation
Schools for the deaf
Manual training centers
Teachers, school assignment, and address (arranged by surname)

The 1924 volume had the same rich information by by 1951, the other year I sampled, there was much less information -- schools and their addresses, district personnel rosters including teachers, but no home addresses. The 1973 volume included school lists with personnel and a list of principals but no mention of teachers.

How Can the Directories be Used for Family History Research?

I started to brainstorm based on the list above, but my ideas seemed to obvious. So, instead of making suggestions, I'll ask you a few questions:
  • Have you used these directories? If so, for what?
  • Have you seen similar directories in other parts of the country?
  • Are there other ways to find the kinds of information that these directories include?
I'll go first. I haven't used school board directories for my own research but I was able to figure out a Minnesota school clerk's early 1900s employment dates and determine her salary using school board payroll records on microfilm. At the time it felt like a nice find.

Now it's your turn!

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