Massachusetts, United States, Deaths 1776-1840Edit This Page

From FamilySearch Wiki

Contents

The Basics on How to Search for Ancestors in the United States

While there is no set way to do research in the United States, this guide gives basic research steps and an explanation of the records.

The following list of suggested records is given in an order likely to help many people.

What you are looking for
An understanding of the research process and how to use the suggested list of records to search.

United States Previous Research, Part 1

Previous research is the work other people have done. By searching what others have already done, you may save hours. However, previous research is only as good as the skills of the person doing the research. Therefore, you should double check the information in previous research.

What you are looking for
Information about your ancestors compiled by other people.

Why go to the next record
Any of the following records may:

  • Have the information you are looking for.
    * Add information to what you have found.
    * Clear up differences found in previous searches.

If you find new information, you may want to again look at the records you searched before.

A collection often gathers information from many sources. Some of these sources may no longer be available or would be difficult to find.

Genealogical Collections: Genealogy

Genealogical collections usually give information about families and may include several generations. They usually give the names, and birth, marriage, and death dates and places for the husband and wife, the children, and possibly siblings and parents.

There are genealogical collections for towns, counties, states, and the country.

What you are looking for

  • A collection about your ancestor's family.
    * A collection with records from the place where your ancestor lived.

Why go to the next record
Burial records are alternatives to death records. People generally were buried within a few days of death and usually near the place they died.

Church Baptisms, Marriages, Burials, Minutes, etc.: Church records

Church records usually include baptisms, marriages, burials, and minutes. Baptism records usually give the name of the child, parents' names, and date and place of baptism. Marriage records usually give the names of the bride and groom, witnesses, and the date and place of the marriage. Burial records usually give the name and age of the deceased person, with the date and place of burial or death. The name of the spouse may be listed, and for young children, the names of the parents may be given. Church minutes have a variety of information, including lists of members in various years.

Church records were kept in towns or counties by the minister or clerk of a congregation.

What you are looking for
A church record of your ancestor's burial.

Tombstone and Sexton Records: Cemeteries

Tombstone and sexton records contain information from tombstones or from records kept by the sexton of the cemetery. They usually give the ancestor's name, birth date, and death date. They may include the birthplace and date, name of spouse, names of children, and names of other relatives.

There are tombstone and sexton records for towns, counties, states, and the country.

What you are looking for
Your ancestor's tombstone inscription or your ancestor's name in the sexton records.

Why go to the next record
Town records often have death information for people in the town, such as death dates.

Town Records: Town records

Town records are kept by town clerks and may include information about births, marriages, deaths, town officers, taxes, elections, care of the poor, burials, disputes, records of roads built or cared for, military service, land transactions, etc.

There are town records for towns and cities.

What you are looking for
Your ancestor's name in the records for the town where he or she lived.

Why go to the next record
Land records give an idea of when a person died and often list spouse and children.

Land Transactions, Person to Person: Land and property

Deeds contain the names and residences of the grantor and his wife (the sellers) and the grantee (buyer). Deeds may contain the names of children and their spouses, siblings, and sometimes the parents or in-laws. Deeds give a description of the land, the date the deed was actually written, and the date it was recorded. Witnesses and neighbors mentioned may be relatives or in-laws.

Deeds are kept by the clerk of the county where the deed was recorded.

What you are looking for
Records transferring land from your ancestor to someone else, especially about the time of your ancestor's death.

Why go to the next record
Wills, administrations, and inventories indicate when and where a person died.

Wills, Administrations, and Inventories: Probate records

Wills, administrations, and inventories (probate records) show a court's decisions regarding the distribution of the estate of a deceased person to his heirs or creditors. They may give the person's death date, names of family members, family relationships, and residences. They may also give information about the adoption or guardianship of minor children and dependents.

There are probate records for towns, counties, states, and the country.

What you are looking for

  • Your ancestor's will, the list (inventory) of what he or she owned at death, or records of what was done to settle the estate.
    * Similar records of people who are or might be your ancestor's parents or relatives who might have included him or her in their wills.

Why go to the next record
A magazine may have an article about your family or copies of the records you need, such as church and cemetery records.

Genealogical and Historical Magazines: Periodicals

Genealogical and historical magazines often publish such information as: family histories, obituaries, newspaper notices, church, cemetery, land, probate, tax, military, and naturalization records. Historical magazines may contain biographies and histories of towns, ethnic groups, organizations, industries, historical events, political campaigns, military activities, etc.

There are genealogical and historical magazines for cities, counties, regions, states, and the country.

What you are looking for

  • An article about your ancestor.
    * An article about your ancestor's relatives.
    * An article about the town or county where your ancestor lived.
    * An article with records for the town or county where your ancestor lived.

Why go to the next record
Town and county histories often give short biographies of first settlers and people in the area when the histories were written. State histories often give biographies of prominent men.

History: History

Histories tell of the events in a community or larger area. Effective family research requires some understanding of the historical events that may have affected your family and the records dealing with them. Learning about governments, laws, wars, migrations, and religious trends may help you understand political boundaries, family movements, and settlement patterns. These events may have led to the creation of records in which your family was listed, such as land and military documents.

Histories often contain biographical sketches about individuals and their families. They may include birth, marriage, and death information.

There are histories for towns, counties, regions, and states.

What you are looking for
A history of the town, county, or state where your ancestor lived.

Why go to the next record
Biographies, diaries, etc., often have death information, such as death dates and places.

Biographies, Diaries, etc.: Biography

Biographies, diaries, etc., give information about persons who lived in a particular area. Regional, state, or national biographies generally include well-known persons, such as politicians, or other people who have attained status in their profession. They may mention the person's parents, spouse, children, and ancestors, with birth, marriage, and death dates and places. They may give information about the person's religion, occupation, military service, etc.

There may be biographies, diaries, and similar records from towns, counties, or states.

What you are looking for

  • A biography about your ancestor or his family.
    * A diary written by your ancestor or someone close to him or her who might have written about your ancestor.

Why go to the next record
Military pensions often give death information for the soldier and sometimes also for the spouse and children.

Military Pensions: Military records

Military records may contain birth information about a large portion of the male population. They may also have information about their deaths and marriages.

Pensions are offered for military service by state or federal governments. The applications and pension records often contain birth, marriage, death, and service information; residences; and names of spouses, children, and other close relatives. They began with the Revolutionary War and continue to the present.

There are military records for towns, counties, states, and the country. There are military pension records for states and the country.

What you are looking for
A record of the pension your ancestor received for military service.

Why go to the next record
Military records often give death information, such as date, place, and cause.

Military Records: Military records

Military records may contain birth information about a large portion of the male population. They may also have information about their deaths and marriages.

Pensions are offered for military service by state or federal governments. The applications and pension records often contain birth, marriage, death, and service information; residences; and names of spouses, children, and other close relatives. They began with the Revolutionary War and continue to the present.

There are military records for towns, counties, states, and the country. There are military pension records for states and the country.

What you are looking for
Records about your ancestor's military service. To find his or her military records, you usually need:

  • The state where he enlisted.
    * His company, regiment, or unit.
    * Dates of service.
    * Dates of service.

Why go to the next record
A person disappeared from the tax lists when he or she died or moved from the area.

Personal and Real Property Taxes: Taxation

Tax lists were created year after year and are often used as substitutes for missing censuses. They give the name of the person, a description of the property being taxed, and the amount of tax. People who did not have taxable property were not listed.

Taxable personal property includes such items as cattle, horses, carriages, and other valuables. Taxable real property includes land and buildings.

There are tax lists for towns, counties, states, and the country.

What you are looking for
A tax list for the area where your ancestor died around the time he or she died.

Why go to the next record
Family Bibles often give death and burial dates.

Family Bible: Bible records

Family Bibles were passed down from generation to generation. They often have a section for recording family information. The recorded information usually gives birth, marriage, and death dates for one or more generations. The Bible record may list parents and names of children and their spouses, including maiden names.

Family Bibles are usually in the possession of family members, or the Bibles may have been given to town, county, regional, state, or national repositories.

What you are looking for
A Bible for your ancestor's family.

Why go to the next record
If your ancestors were not English or if they belonged to a church other than Anglican or Congregational, the appropriate minority histories and records may have information about them.

Minority Histories and Records: Minorities

Minorities include religious, racial, and ethnic groups. Minority histories and records can help identify where your ancestors lived and when they lived there, where they migrated to and from, the types of records they might be listed in, and other information to help you understand your family's history. Histories, newspapers, and periodicals have been created for most minority groups and may contain biographical information.

There are minority histories and records for towns, counties, states, and the country.

What you are looking for

  • A history about the minority group of your ancestor.
    * Records of the minority group.

Why go to the next record
Directories are essential when searching in large cities. The address and occupation help you find your ancestor in other records, such as census, vital, and church records. Directories often mention if a woman is a widow, which indicates that her husband died.

City and Regional Directories: Directories

City and regional directories are similar to telephone books. They list persons who were employed, house owners, retired, widows, and temporarily unemployed, and sometimes list boarders. They give the person's name with his or her home address. They may give the person's occupation and work address. Sometimes they indicate widow or widower.

There are city and regional directories for cities, counties, regions, states, or the country.

What you are looking for
Your ancestor's name in a directory.

Why go to the next record
This is not a complete list of all records you could search. If you did not find what you need, check the FamilySearch Catalog - Place Search or archives and libraries for the area where your ancestor lived for other records which may have information about your ancestors.


 

Need additional research help? Contact our research help specialists.

Need wiki, indexing, or website help? Contact our product teams.


Did you find this article helpful?

You're invited to explain your rating on the discussion page (you must be signed in).

  • This page was last modified on 18 July 2014, at 23:26.
  • This page has been accessed 533 times.