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Previous Research, Part 1

Introduction

Previous research is genealogical research that other people have already done about your family. It includes pedigree charts, family histories, genealogies, and other information.

Previous research materials are written by individuals and groups. They often include many generations and go back hundreds of years. They may contain information found nowhere else.

This guide describes some basic sources you should check when you start researching your family. You may want to check the sources again after you find additional relatives.

Previous research often has a wealth of information and many valuable clues. The accuracy of the research depends on how well the people who compiled the sources did their research.

What You Are Looking For

You are looking for information about your ancestors that other people have found, such as information about:

  • Birth.
  • Marriage.
  • Death.
  • Other biographical information.

Steps

These 6 steps will help you find information about your ancestor in previous research. You may find what you need in any of the first 4 steps.

Step 1. Ask your relatives if you can copy the genealogical information they have.

Ask your relatives if they have:

  • Family histories.
  • Family stories.
  • Pedigree charts.
  • Family group records.
  • Letters.
  • Photographs.
  • Birth, marriage, death, or naturalization certificates.

With their permission, make copies of these items. Be very careful with anything your relatives loan you.

Write down any other information they give you.

Step 2. Look in FamilySearch databases.

FamilySearch on the Internet has several automated databases. You can search these databases for your ancestor from Ancestor Search.

To see a list of other databases available for purchase, see Order Family History Resources.

Step 3. Look in other automated databases.

Check the Internet for other automated databases.

Many good genealogy databases are also on compact disc through various genealogy companies. Many are available for purchase or may be used at various libraries and organizations.

For a list of some Internet sites, libraries and organizations, see Where to Find It.

Step 4. Find family histories or genealogies.

Check the following to find family histories:

  • For descriptions of records available through Family History Centers or the Family History Library, click on FamilySearch Catalog on the bar above. Click on Surname Search for family histories. Then you may use the books you find at the library, order films at your Family History Center, or find the books at a public or college library near you.
  • Internet for catalogs of other libraries, such as the Library of Congress.
  • Public and college libraries in the area where your ancestor lived for previous research about your family. For ways to obtain help from these libraries, see Where to Find It: Public and College Libraries.

State archives or the state library. They may have the family history you want. For more information, see Where to Find It: State Archives, Libraries, and Historical Societies.

  • Family associations. You can find addresses of family organizations in Directory of Family Associations by Elizabeth Bentley. This book is available at many public and college libraries.

You may be able to have a book sent from another library to your local public library through interlibrary loan. For more information about interlibrary loans, see Tip 1.

For some of the major lists of family histories and sources of biographical information, see Tip 2 and Tip 3.

Step 5. Copy the information you find.

Make photocopies of the information you find.

Add the appropriate names, dates, places, and notes to your pedigree charts and family group records.

Step 6. Analyze what you found.

Check the information you found to be sure it makes sense. For example:

  • Were all the mothers and fathers old enough to be parents when their first children were born?
  • Also compare ages of grandparents to grandchildren.
  • Were the children born far from where their parents lived and died?
  • Does any information disagree with what you already know to be true?

For more information, see Tip 4.

Previous Research, Part 2

Introduction

Previous research is genealogical research done by other people. Some sources you should check and even recheck, as you find more information during your own research, are described in Previous Research, Part 1.

The following sources of previous research may also help you find information about your family:

Researchers research gathered information from either original records, compiled records, or other previous research. Previous research often has a wealth of information and many valuable clues.

The accuracy of the information depends on how well the people who compiled the sources did their research.

Town, county, and state histories frequently contain biographies and histories of many people and their families. These histories often include several generations.

Town histories usually cover the entire history of the town from its beginning to the time the history was written.

County histories usually cover the entire history of the county from its beginning to the time the history was written. Sometimes histories of each town in the county are also included. Many county histories were written between about 1885 and 1910 and include biographies of people living in the county during that time. A new surge of county histories were written about 1990.

State histories usually cover the history of the state from the time the first European or American settlers arrived to the time the history was written.

Steps

These 4 steps will help you find information about your ancestors in previous research.

Step 1. Use periodical or magazine articles to find information about your ancestors and the places where they lived.

Check genealogical and historical magazines for genealogies and biographies. Often, magazines also have records from towns and counties including birth, marriage, and death records.

First, check magazine indexes. Copy the following from the index:

  • Title of the magazine.
  • Number of the series, volume, or issue.
  • Date, if given.
  • Title of the article.
  • Author of the article.
  • Page number, if given.

Some major genealogical magazine indexes are:

  • Periodical Source Index (PERSI), an index for approximately 5,000 genealogical and historical magazines.
  • The New England Historical and Genealogical Register Index.

Second, obtain the magazine article using the information you found in the index.

For organizations which may have a copy of indexes and the magazines, see Where to Find It.

For information about interlibrary loans, see Tip 1.

Step 2. Use local histories and biographies for the town, county, and state to find information about your ancestors.

Check local histories for genealogies and biographies of your ancestors.

Check town, county, or state biographies if your ancestors were even semi-prominent or were notorious.

The following may have the local histories, biographies, etc., that you need:

  • Family History Library or Family History Centers. Family histories, county histories, biographies, and genealogies may be listed for states, counties, and towns listed in the FamilySearch Catalog.

Public and college libraries in the town and county. Libraries usually have histories, biographies, or other types of previous research that might have information about your ancestors.

  • Town or county historian. Ask the librarians in the area if there is a town or county historian. Such historians might have useful records for family history which are not found elsewhere.
  • County historical society and/or the county genealogical society. They might also have or know about useful records which are not found elsewhere.
  • State historical society and/or the state genealogical society. They also might have useful records not found elsewhere.

Some of the above organizations have web sites which may include their catalogs. Check their catalogs to see if they have books of interest to you. Write down the titles of the books and the names of the authors. You may be able to borrow the books through your public library. For information about interlibrary loans, see Tip 1.

For more information, including ways to get addresses and phone numbers, see Where to Find It.

Step 3. Copy the information you find.

Make photocopies of the information you find in books or magazine articles.

On the photocopy, write:

  • The title and author of the book or magazine article.
  • The name of the library where you got the book or magazine.
  • The library's book or magazine number.
  • If the copy is a magazine article, also write the information you copied from the index. See Step 1.

Add the information you found to your pedigree charts and family group records.

Step 4. Analyze what you found.

Check the information you found to be sure it makes sense. For example:

  • Were all the mothers and fathers old enough to be parents when their first children were born?
  • Are the ages of grandparents reasonable when compared to grandchildren?
  • Were the children born far from where their parents lived and died?
  • Does anything disagree with what you know to be true?

For more information, see Tip 2.

Tips

Tip 1. How can I use Interlibrary Loan?

  1. Go to your public or college library.
  2. Ask the library to order a book for you through interlibrary loan from another library.
  3. The library staff will direct you in their procedures. Sometimes this is free; sometimes the library charges a small fee.

Tip 2. What are some major lists of family histories?

Several lists of family histories have been created. These book lists are arranged by surname and give the author, title, and publication information for books about each surname. A few of the major lists are:

  • The Genealogical Index of The Newberry Library, by the Newberry Library (Chicago, IL).
  • Genealogies at the Library of Congress.

For places which may have a copy of these lists, see Where to Find It.

Tip 3. What are some major sources of biographical information?

Many biographical sources have been created. Indexes have been made for hundreds of these sources. The indexes are arranged by surname. A few of the major indexes are:

  • The American Genealogical - Biographical Index, edited by Fremont Rider.
  • The Greenlaw Index of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, by William Prescott Greenlaw.
  • Biography and Genealogy Master Index, published by Gale Research Co.

For places which may have a copy of these indexes, see Where to Find It.

Tip 4. Why do I need to be careful about the information in previous research?

In family, town, and county histories, people wrote what they knew about their families. However, sometimes what was written was inaccurate or false.

Verify the accuracy of previous research by comparing its information with original documents, including birth, marriage, and death records, and court and land records; original documents usually have the most accurate information.

Where to Find It

Internet

The Internet has many genealogical sites such as these:

  • Cyndislist has links to thousands of sites that contain genealogy information of all kinds.
  • USGenweb links to websites for genealogical research in every county and state of the United States.
  • FamilyTreeMaker has databases of names. There is a fee for some of the services.
  • Ancestry has databases of names. There is a fee for some of the services, such as PERSI.

Family History Centers and the Family History Library

Most Family History Centers keep some microfilms. Other films may be borrowed from the Family History Library. There is a small fee to borrow a film from the library.

Family History Centers are located throughout the United States and other areas of the world. See the Family History Center Address List for the address and phone number of the center nearest you.

Most Family History Centers in the United States and Canada and the Family History Library have the following databases:

  • Periodical Source Index (PERSI) indexes about 5,000 magazines. It is on microfiche at many Centers, and on compact disc at the Library. It is also available at Ancestry.com.
  • Ancestral File.
  • International Genealogical Index.
  • US Social Security Death Index.
  • US Military Index.
  • Scottish Church Records.
  • FamilySearch Catalog.

For descriptions of records available through Family History Centers or the Family History Library, click on FamilySearch Catalog on the bar above.

Click on Place Search, type the name of the state, county, or town in the Place box. (When searching towns or counties, add the name of the state in the Part of (optional) box.) Then select BIOGRAPHY, GENEALOGY, or HISTORY from the list of topics for that place.

Or click on Surname Search to find published family histories that may pertain to your families.

Select from the titles listed for descriptions of the records with the film or book call numbers. Use that information to obtain the records at a family history center or at the Family History Library.

For information about the Library and its resources, see Library Services and Resources : Family History Library and Family History Centers.

Public and College Libraries

Many family histories, genealogical magazines, and other genealogical materials are available at public and college libraries or may be sent to your library through interlibrary loan.

For more information about interlibrary loan, see Tip 1.

You could visit town, county, and college libraries and use their books. You can find their addresses and phone numbers in the American Library Directory, published by the American Library Association. American Libraries is probably available at your public and college libraries.

Periodical Source Index (PERSI) is available at some public and college libraries.

Genealogical and Historical Societies

Many family histories, genealogical magazines, and other genealogical materials are available at genealogical and historical societies. Some material is only available at the society.

You may find the names and addresses of societies in the following sources, which are available at many public and college libraries:

  • Directory of Family Associations, by Elizabeth Petty Bentley.

The Genealogist's Address book, by Elizabeth Petty Bentley Directory of Genealogical and Historical Societies in the U.S. and Canada, published by Iron Gate Publishing.

  • Directory of Genealogical Societies in the U.S.A. and Canada, by Mary Meyer.
  • Directory of Historical Organizations in the United States and Canada, edited by Mary Bray Wheeler.
  • The Encyclopedia of Associations, published by Gale Research Co.

You can also check Internet sites for information about societies. See Where to Find It: Internet.

State Archives, Libraries, and Historical Societies

You can find addresses and phone numbers for state archives and libraries in the American Library Directory.

The "Archives and Libraries" FamilySearch Wiki article for a state lists Internet and mailing addresses for several state archives, libraries, and historical societies. These organizations may have books or microfilms which you may want to use. Their Internet sites may list what records they have.


 

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  • This page was last modified on 18 July 2014, at 22:45.
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