Saturday, October 15, 2011

In your searching, you may have overlooked...

When you write a genealogy blog, researchers automatically assume that you can solve their most difficult ancestral problems. I regularly have conversations that start out with, "We have been looking for this ancestor for ____ years and have run out of ideas." Interestingly, there always seems to be more places to look, but when I make suggestions, I often get blank or even negative stares. It seems like there is a whole generation of would-be genealogists who don't want to look for documents past FamilySearch and Ancestry.com. Let me give you a few suggestions of place I find have been entirely overlooked.

First on my list of overlooked resources are city directories. Even before there were telephone books, there were city directories. Don't forget their close cousins, the insurance maps. One of the mistakes made by novice researchers is assuming the if a directory isn't listed online, it doesn't exist. Some of the places you need to look are larger libraries in the state you are researching. It is also important to check with the state archives and/or the state historical society. On one visit to the Utah State Archives, I discovered that they had shelves of city and town directories dating back into the early 1900s and even the 1800s.

Here are some other documents that are often overlooked:

Records of the State Hospitals, especially the mental hospitals, sometimes called Insane record books
School histories
School censuses
Building permits
News clippings and scrapbooks
Parks and Recreation reports
Administrative records
Town council minutes (many of these date back to the earliest times in American history)
City court records
Irrigation district records
City cemetery burial permits (these can be valuable by giving the name of mortuary for the deceased)
Mortuary records
Cemetery perpetual care certificates
Probate case records
Cemetery records (sometimes only available at the Sexton's office and no where else)
Railroad records, especially work records
Account books
Agricultural reports
Branding records for animals
Tax rolls

Just one or two examples, in searching the Utah State Archives, I find Cemetery Burial Records for the city of Provo, Utah going back to 1849. The pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847! Very, very few of these types of records have been digitized and are available online. Face it, you have to make arrangements to visit the archives.

Another example, here is what is listed in the Ohio State Archives: Birth Records, Census Records, Death Certificates, Death Records Index, Land Entry Records, Marriage Records, Military Records, Military Rosters, Naturalization Records, Genealogy Workshops, and more. In additional they offer some great special collections, including African-American Experience in Ohio: 1850-1920, Civil War Collections, and OhioPix an online image gallery.

You don't have enough time left in your life to even look at all the records available, so you better get started.



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