Wanderings From Your President


Genealogists’ “Hunting Season” Never Ends!

How many of us have heard the statement, “I have found everything on my family that there is to find.”?  A number of people have the idea that if they have names and dates, they have done a good job.  This is only a start.

Organize early and often.  This does not mean piles on the dining room table or on the floor in a corner.  (I have a 3-ring binder notebook for each branch of my family and of my husband’s.)   Put each member in order of birth and see what you know about each person.

When you first start, you may want to work on the generations closest to you (parents, grandparents and their siblings).  This will give you a feel for what kind of information can be found.  Things to look for:  marriage, births, deaths, obits, cemeteries, census and vital records.  Make sure you record where you found the record, in case you need to find it again.

For accuracy and detail, photocopy records and photograph tombstones and houses, if the information might be questioned.

We all think we know where they lived, but do we??  Start with finding them on the census.  Every ten years, the Federal government has taken the census, starting in 1790; 1790 through 1930 are available. 

There are a number of things we can learn from a census.  Husband, wife, children, years married, # of living children, immigration, and the list goes on.  Some states have census for the in-between years.

What you can find at the courthouse:  Marriage records, they will name the bride and groom – maybe parents – if they were of age to get married, or if they had to have permission from their parents.  If there are other names in the record, they could be relatives.

Wills:  A document by which a person directs how his or her property shall be distributed after death.  You will find names of spouse, children, or other relatives such as grandchildren, nieces and nephews.  You can learn what property the deceased owned at the time the will was written, religious beliefs, and instructions for burial and the division of the estate.  Witnesses could be relatives.

Probate files: A number of things could be here – Wills, appointment of executors, executors’ bonds, estate inventories and appraisals, records of estate sales, guardianship if heirs included minors, annual reports of income and expenses, receipts of payment to creditors, and several more documents that may give you a record to follow up on.

Deeds:  Transfers ownership of land, buildings, or other property.  Warranty deeds, quitclaim deeds, deeds of gift, and deeds of trust: these are all forms of property involvement.

There are several more records found in a courthouse.  Birth and death registrations, property tax lists, divorce, voter registrations, registrations of livestock marks and brands, military discharge papers of WWI and after.   Sometimes, school records, school censuses, newspapers, manuscripts for county histories.

 Vital records: Birth and death records were not always recorded before early 1900.

 I have just touched on a few of the records that are out there to find.  I recommend getting a good book that has suggestions on what to go looking for.

One thing to remember, all people are not interested in genealogy.  Be polite, to the point and don’t stay or talk too long.  A few short visits or telephone calls may be more effective than a long, tiring visit.  Ask for help at a court-house, but don’t expect them to do the research.

This has been more of an informational column than I try to write most of the time, so I hope you learned from it.  Go now and enjoy one of the most fascinating, rewarding, never-ending, adventure-filled and addictive hobbies available anywhere.

[Information taken from:    Unpuzzling Your Past by Emily Anne Croom]