Information About Records
You'll find that there are more types of records than you ever imagined and it might not be clear what you would get from each type of record. This brief overview will orient you with the types of materials you may use.
Can provide birth and death dates, locations, sometimes relationships to other people, military service, and membership in certain organizations.
Census records provide a variety of information about households, but this information varies by census year. The census was first taken in 1790, and the most recent information available at this time is census year 1930 due to privacy restrictions. In general, census records may tell you who lived in a household, their ages, their relationships to one another, their level of education, occupations, and whether or not they owned land. Census records also exist for other countries.
Church or Religious Group Records
Churches and religious groups often recorded birth, deaths, marriages, baptisms, and membership lists, among other types of information.
City directories can provide information about where people lived, their occupations, and where businesses where located in a particular city or town in a given year.
Court records can provide a variety of information about your family, such as positions held in local government, law suits, land disputes, and, commonly, estates in probate cases.
If you are lucky, someone in your family has already done some genealogical research and has compiled some family history or pedigree charts. Proceed with caution - make sure that you verify all of the information compile by someone else. Beware if they have not documented their sources or claim lineage from famous historical figures, particular if they belong to the remote past.
These records can give you information about when your ancestors came to the US and where they came from.
Land and Tax Records
Land records can provide information about who owned land and a description of property, including boundaries. These records includes such document types as warrants, surveys, deeds or patents. Tax records can provide information about property and its value.
Maps can provide information about migration routes and patterns, county boundaries, old place names, and events such as military battles and campaigns.
There are a variety of types of military records, and they can provide information such as dates of service, injuries, rank, and what unit they served in.
Newspapers provide a variety of resources, including obituaries, marriage and birth notices, society columns and local news. They can also help you to learn more about what was happening where your family lived at a particular time.
Individuals living today contain valuable historical information in their memories that may not exist elsewhere. Talk to your family members about their memories of their lives and other relatives. The information that they provide can help save endless hours of fruitless searching and help guide you in the right direction. You should prepare questions in advance and record your interview. See the Special Collections Divisions Guidelines on recording oral histories for more information.
Genealogical and historical periodicals can provide you with leads on resources and other people doing research on your family.
Photographs, Portraits, and Other Graphic Works
Photographs, portraits, and other graphic works (such as posters) can provide a variety of types of information about your family. They can, of course, show you what your family members looked like, but they can also provide information about where and under what conditions they lived. If youre very lucky, the people, places, and dates depicted will be identified. It is often helpful to bring photographs when you interview your family members as they may help them remember people or events.
Vital records include birth, death, marriage, and divorce records. Many of these records are held by local government offices.
Birth records can help you verify birth dates, birthplace, and the names of the parents. Depending upon the date of the record and the requirements of the particular jurisdiction, there may be more information about the family.
Death records may provide information such as date and cause of death, as well as the persons place of residence. Birth and death certificates are a relatively recent phenomenon, so be advised that the further in time you go back with your research, the less likely you will be to find these records and the more you will have to rely upon other resources such as family Bibles and cemetery or church records.
There are a variety of different types of marriage records. They may include marriage banns, marriage bonds, or certificates. Most of these records will provide at least the names of the bride and groom, the date, and the location of the marriage. Some records may contain more information.
Divorce records, although less common, can also be valuable sources of information, providing such information as birthplaces, ages, and occupations of the individuals involved as well as the names and ages of any children and the reason for the divorce.