Whether you're just getting started or you've been tracing
your roots for years, these research hints might help you
latch onto a vital
bit of information.
Where do I begin?
Start with yourself and work back one generation at a time in reverse
life order (death, marriage, birth). Obtain your birth certificate, marriage
records and other important documents.
Do the same for your parents and each
Try to get three different documents to prove each
event like birth, marriage and death.
What is the most common mistake new researchers make?
Many novices ignore variations in the spelling of surnames. There
has never been a universal way to spell specific surnames. The German surname
Ulrich, for example, may appear as Ulery, Ullery, Whoolery and Oolery on
different documents for the same person.
What kinds of documents provide the proof I need?
Birth, marriage and death certificates, marriage license applications,
wills and probate records, church and cemetery records, funeral home records,
federal and state census records, obituaries, military pension files and
Social Security card applications are among the potential resources.
Where do I get birth and death records?
Most counties began requiring birth and death records around
late 1800s. Earlier records do exist, and
may be in the county courthouse or the county may have shipped them to the
state archives. Keeping vital statistics became a state responsibility around
1905. For records after that time, contact the state's vital statistics office. (Dates
vary by state and county).
Where are marriage records kept?
Marriages were generally recorded in the county where the ceremony
took place. Records may date back to the mid-1800s
or earlier. Older records
are most likely to be found in the state's archives. From the late 1800s
on, the counties usually have the records. (Dates vary by state and county).
What is the difference between a marriage certificate
and a marriage
The marriage certificate is a record of the ceremony suitable for framing.
The application contains more genealogical data like names of the parents
of the bride and groom, previous marriages and occupations.
Where do I find federal census records?
Census records from 1790-1930 are available. Most public libraries
and Mormon Family History Centers have a selection of census records. Any
records they don't have on-site can be ordered through inter-library loan.
Many large public universities also have complete census records in their
Are official documents accurate?
Errors exist on all types of documents. That's why you need to use
three different sources to prove major life events. Death certificates are
among the least accurate records. Military pension and probate records are
usually the most correct.
What about published family histories?
Everyone makes mistakes. Published histories should only be
as a guideline for conducting your own research.
What are some of the most overlooked resources?
Funeral home records, old newspapers and local history books
contain a treasure trove of information.
Click on Research Topics for in-depth information on various topics.
Copyright © 2008.
All copy and graphics property of Donna Murray. This site may be freely linked
to but not duplicated in any fashion without the author's consent