As you search for information on your ancestors and build up your family tree, you will soon find that you are using a few basic sources. However, to truly get an understanding of your ancestor’s life and the context of that life, you will need to dig further into additional documents, manuscripts, land records, diaries, and more. Here are suggestions to help you expand your family history research in 3 possible source areas.
1. For life event details of individuals:
The basic life events are the dates and places of birth, marriage, divorce, death, and burial. Frequently these are held in government storage, and many are being digitized and indexed, available online. If not available online yet, the microfilm of the records may be available by asking at your local library, or at a local Family History Center (part of the Mormon Church genealogy research). Some records may be held at local courthouses for searching. This may include wills as well as birth, marriage, death records.
Newspapers may have information on your ancestors’ life events, in obituaries, social columns, ship arrivals or departures, advertising, and more. Your public library or local college/university may have collections of historical newspapers, both local and national. Online, search through sites with archives of historical newspapers for more information.
Your local genealogical society or history society may well have collections in their library which could be useful to your research. For instance school or university yearbooks, local histories, books about specific groups of people, and more may be found at their libraries. Contact them for more information on their resources and how to access them.
Cemeteries are another wonderful place with details of your ancestor. Dates of birth, death, and marriage may be on the headstone. Or, the cemetery may have a record of the interment, with details of cause of death, and other details including who paid for the interment. Write, search, email the cemetery company for more information and what you may be able to find out. Online, there are several websites which specialize in photographs of grave stones with transcriptions as well. Volunteers are often available to take more photos of your ancestors – all it takes is a request.
2. Relatives – wonderful resources for genealogy treasures:
Your grandparents’ brothers and sisters and their children are wonderful resources for you. Contact these relatives if they are alive and ask if you could confirm details or, to have a few questions answered about the family. Sometimes you can not find information on your grandmother’s family anywhere, and yet a cousin will know from his or her parents that the family lived in a specific place at a specific time, and “Oh, by the way, greatgrandmother’s family name was Whitehouse” – Imagine!
Occasionally, one branch of the family turns out to be the keepers of various family history documents, diaries, bibles, mementos, and photographs. Politely ask if you might see these items. Take along your best digital camera, and a big notepad, so that you can ask questions as well as copying documents. Also, bring something with you to share such as a few old photographs, a copy of a passenger list, a keepsake, etc. Perhaps a cousin may loan you a book or some photographs for you to copy items. Keep a detailed record of where and when you got an item, so that you will be certain to return it in a timely manner to your helpful relative.
3. Museums, libraries, archives, courthouses, and more:
These are all the various places that documents, manuscripts, histories, newspapers, diaries and journals, and other historical items of value will be kept. Looking at the family members you are researching, think about where any information about your ancestor might be kept. Did your ancestor belong to a union, or a fraternal lodge, or a business association, or a religious group which immigrated -? There may be records and details in one of these places which could be searched. Perhaps your ancestor was mentioned in a company newsletter, now archived. If you are creative in your thinking of your ancestor’s life, you may find wonderfully interesting information about his or her life.
Go online and see what possible directories may be available to search, and what items may be included. Check through manuscript holdings of libraries of all kinds in order to understand the context of your ancestor’s lives as well as the particular details of one ancestor. And always, ask a librarian wherever you go.
These are only a few of the possible resources for you to dig into when building a family tree with historical and individual personal details. You will be extremely well rewarded by thinking outside the basic details and go looking for more personal information about your ancestors and their lives. Enjoy your searches.