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A directory is a method of organizing information for greater access. Organized alphabetically or categorically, directories are used to aid people in finding information on persons, businesses, organizations, associations, affiliations, and may include phone numbers, addresses, and other similar information. Directories can be "nested" to any depth; that is, one directory nested inside another in a logical progression. A key difference in directories and search engines is that directories are evaluated by human hands with entries selected for inclusion based on usefulness for a particular purpose; whereas search engines are computer generated, bringing up all entries matching keywords provided by the user. General directories on the Internet such as Google, Yahoo and the Open Source Directory Project each provide main categories that allow you to drill down and search a variety of subject areas from general to specific.

Two primary types of directories are of interest in genealogy, directories of genealogy resources and directories that contain family history information. Directories to genealogy resources can help short-cut your research by "directing" you to relevant resources. Such directories include the Genealogy Today Directory, Cyndi's List, and the Family Genealogy and History Internet Education Directory, among others. Directories that contain family history information are an often overlooked but valuable resource, and may include telephone directories, city directories, business directories, employee directories, alumni directories, membership directories, etc. Virtually any organization may have issued a directory of some type, with information that varies from names and addresses to birth, death, and family relationship information. Such directories are often found in libraries, archives, and online.

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