How to Locate Your Ancestor in the United StatesEdit This Page

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Contents

Introduction

Knowing where your ancestor lived is key to successful research, since records may be kept by state, county, or town agencies. Local records such as censuses, death certificates, county histories, [[United States Military Records|military records], and obituaries tell so much about the people who lived there.

You may find in your research that your ancestor was born or lived in a particular state, with no county or town given. Thus it becomes a challenge to find out exactly where he or she lived in that state.

Fortunately there are many types of records to search to help you locate your ancestor. This guide lists these types of records and give suggestions on how to find where your ancestor lived in the United States.

What You Are Looking For: The place where your ancestor lived so that you can use the records of that place to find more information about your ancestor, such as birth, marriage, and death information.

Steps

The following steps list sources which may give the state, county, or town where your ancestor lived.


Step 1. Check previous research.

Research done by other people may have the information you are seeking. For suggestions on previous research, including Internet sites, see How to Use Previous Research. 

Step 2. Check these sources to learn where your ancestor lived.

Step 3. Check these sources if you know the state but not the county or town.

Census indexes usually give the town and county where the head of the household lived. The censuses were taken every 10 years starting in 1790. United States Census Indexes are available from 1790 to 1940 for most states. For more information about censuses, check Census on the FamilySearch or in this Research Wiki

PERiodical Source Index
Archives
 :Free family history
U.S. Land Records Online (About.com)
Search System.net
 :GENEALOGICAL COURT RECORDS
familysearch.org/catalog-search Enter Probate indexes + county, town, or state.
U S Courts.gov/CourtRecords
 :Genealogy Blog
familysearch.org/catalog-search Enter Tax lists + county, town, or state.
 
Tax Lists Ancestry
State militia lists at Ancestry
 :Cyndis List Military Lists

Step 4. If you want to know where your ancestor lived previously, check:

Note: The words in parentheses ( ) indicate whether to search for town, county, state, or national records.

United States


Step 5. Find information about the relatives of your ancestor.

Use the sources in steps 1 to 4 to find where the following people lived:

  • Children of your ancestor. Parents often lived near their children.
  • Brothers and sisters. Siblings often lived together or nearby.
  • In-laws. In-laws often lived nearby.

Since people usually moved with others who were relatives, friends, or neighbors, learning about these people may lead you to information about your ancestors.

Step 6. Check places where other events happened.

If you know where your ancestor was married, check marriage records, deeds, county and town histories, and other records of that place for birth information. See lists above.

If you know where your ancestor was born, check for marriage records of that place as many ancestors were married in the town or county where they were born.

See the list of suggested records for the other events.

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  • This page was last modified on 12 June 2013, at 13:39.
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