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

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'1.'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.

2.'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.

Population schedules give a "snapshot" of your ancestor's family on the census day and indicate where they were living.

'3.'Census Population Schedule: Census
Census population schedules are useful in finding the town and county where an ancestor lived. They list people who lived in each house in every town and county when the federal census was taken (every 10 years, starting in 1790). Censuses from 1850 to 1920 give at least the name, age, and state (or country) of birth for every person in the house. Earlier censuses (1790 to 1840) give the name of the head of household, plus age categories for all the males and females in that house. Censuses show neighbors, who often are relatives.

Federal census records are available for states and for the country.

What you are looking for
Your ancestor's name on a population schedule.

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

'4.'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, relations, or friends.
  • A collection with records from the place where your ancestor lived.

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

'5.'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 clues about when a family moved into and out of an area. They may also indicate where the family came from and moved to. This helps determine where children were born. Parents may deed land to their children and spouses.

'6.'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 showing your ancestor buying or selling land, especially to relatives.

Why go to the next record
Baptisms are alternatives to birth records. In many religions, children were generally baptized within a few days of birth and usually near the place they were born.

'7.'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 baptism.

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

'8.'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 or county where your ancestor lived.

Why go to the next record
Wills, administrations, and inventories often give a link from your ancestor to his parents and siblings.

'9.'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 when he or she died, 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
Tombstone and sexton records often have birth information.

'10.'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.
  • Your ancestor's name in the sexton records.

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.

'11.'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
Military Pensions often give birth information for the soldier and sometimes for the spouse and children.

'12.'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 or a spouse received for military service.

Why go to the next record
Military records often give clues for finding birth information, such as age and birth place.

'13.'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.

Why go to the next record
If your ancestor came to the United States by ship or train, birth and family information may be found in passenger lists and border crossings.

'14.'Passenger Lists and Border Crossings: Emigration and immigration
Passenger lists record individuals arriving in the United States by ship. Before 1820, few records were kept, and most of them are indexed in the Passenger and Immigration Lists Index. Federal records began in 1820 and usually give the name, age, and sex of each passenger, country of origin, occupation, date and port of departure, date and port of arrival in the United States, and the name of the ship and captain. After 1893 they often give the person's last city of residence overseas. After 1 July 1907 they usually give the city and country of birth, name and address of nearest relative in the home country, and if they are going to join a relative in the United States, the name and address of the person.

Between the United States and Canada, border crossing lists began in 1895. They listed people who crossed the border on trains, plus ship passengers arriving in Canada who said they were going to the United States. They usually give the name and birthplace of each person, port and date of entry, last residence and name of nearest relative there, and previous visits to the United States.

There are passenger lists for towns, states, and the country. There are border crossing lists for the countries.

What you are looking for
Your ancestor's name on a passenger or border crossing list.

Why go to the next record
Family Bibles often give birth date, parents' names, etc.

'15.'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.
  • A collection of family information from Bibles.

Why go to the next record
Biographies, diaries, etc., often have birth information, such as birthdates, birth places, and parents.

'16.'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 other family members, such as a brother, uncle, child, parents, father-in-law, son-in-law, etc.
  • A diary written by your ancestor or someone close to him or her who might have mentioned your ancestor.

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.

'17.'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

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.


 

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  • This page was last modified on 18 July 2014, at 23:26.
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