Phone Book Searches:
A Useful Genealogical Tool

Not so long ago, a phone book search was another genealogical exercise in slogging through page after page of small print, in volume after dog-eared volume, at the library. Later, when the dialup BBS became popular, it was possible to request help from fellow researchers across the country.

The Web has changed all that, of course. Today, the phone book search -- looking for modern-day descendants of an ancestor or relative -- is much easier. Now you can do searches yourself -- not just in the USA, but in your ancestors' countries as well. I've included several links below.

Once you've got some results, you'll have to decide what to do with them. You can either send a 'blind inquiry' letter, or, if you feel brave, you can try calling them directly.

If you decide to "cold-call" -- just call a total stranger -- do so with caution. For one thing, your phone bill will blossom. More importantly, telemarketers have poisoned the well; unsolicited calls are too often not welcome. Still, there are a few tips to keep in mind if and when you try some cold-calling, for what they're worth:

These same tips apply to "blind emails" as well -- my success rate is 50% with them, which actually isn't bad at all. (Unlike a phone call, you don't have to react to an email.) Still, the search for the right formula goes on.

Phone Books on the Web
Just a sampling. If you have a favorite, please let me know.

United States

AnyWho Seems fairly comprehensive.
WorldPages Nice feature: lets you search all states at once.
America's Homepage  

England (U.K.)

British Telecommunications plc The official BT phone book. Their free service allows unregistered users 10 free searches per day.
i-CD Publishing They sell a UK phone directory CD called "Info Disk," but apparently you can search it from the above site!


TeleAusKunft Has English version, plus "similar names" and "local area" search (very useful for foreigners not sure about spelling or places.)

Links Pages with More Directories

Telephone Directories on the Web "Over 350 links to Yellow Pages, White Pages, Business Directories, Email Addresses and Fax Listings from over 150 countries"
E-Mail Address and Telephone Number Searches Has large Canadian section
World Telephone Directories
Not all countries have online directories yet.
Online Phonebooks of the World (Couldn't connect last I tried - are they gone?)