United States, How to Find Genealogy Records

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Revision as of 10:04, 21 November 2012

United States  Gotoarrow.png How to Find Genealogy Records
See also United States Genealogy

This is a page is a series of links to Wiki articles on how to find various types of genealogically related records in the United States. The individual articles are arranged by subject heading. The linked articles may also include links to other related articles. You may also wish to search the Wiki for "How to Find" articles from various individual states. Please feel free to add new links or update existing links as it becomes necessary.

Contents

General References

These are articles of general interest in the United States on the subject of searching and finding records.

Family Records

Searching your own and family records is always the first place to start your genealogical research. Always ask relatives, both near and distant, if they have any records or photos of the family. Look for birthday cards, wedding announcements, birth notices, certificates and public documents such as driver's licenses. See also the following articles:

Birth Records

Birth records might seem like the first place to start your search, but experts recommend looking into death records first and marriage records second. Followed by Birth records, because birth records are usually the most difficult to find.

See also: United States, How to Use Birth Records

Death Records

Many death records are little known and quite obscure. Be sure to look for mortuary records, burial permits, transportation records, funeral programs, obituaries, memorials and grave purchases in addition to death certificates or other formal records.

See also United States, How to Use Death Records

Marriage Records

Be sure to search for wedding announcements in newspapers, anniversary announcements in newspapers, invitations to wedding receptions, announcement of banns, church notices, as well as marriage licenses and certificates.

See also: United States, How to Use Marriage Records

Census Records

There are both national and state censuses. The United States Federal Census starts in 1790 and the latest release is for 1940. The year 1890 is only available in very limited areas due to a fire. To find if a state has census records and for what years, go to The CensusFinder. There may also be local county and city censuses.

Note: There are several complete digitized copies of the U.S. Census online, most with complete images and indexes. Some of the websites require a subscription fee to view all of the Census records.

This list is likely incomplete, please search for similar articles and see the links in those articles. See also the categories at the bottom of this article.

Church Records

The United States is a country of religious diversity. Unlike many other countries, there has been no “state church,” except for a few periods in some of the early colonies. Church records in the United States began in the early 1600s. Unfortunately, the United States did not require a civil registration or recording of births, marriages, and deaths until well into the 20th Century although some of the states began the process in the mid-1800s. Sometimes church records are the only records containing birth, marriage and death about individuals. Therefore, they are a valuable substitute when vital records do not exist.

This list contains links to general articles, please see additional articles concerning individual religions or congregations and by geographic area. For example, see Vermont Church Records.

Obituaries

An obituary may be a published or unpublished death announcement. A particular obituary can be a simple two line death notice or an elaborate biography of the deceased. Obituaries may be a good source of information about a person and may also include information about family members. Obituaries usually give the name of the deceased and the death or burial date. They may also contain information such as the birth date, marriage date, names of parents and spouse, children, occupation, education, and the location of living family members at the time the obituary was written. Obituaries are usually printed in a funeral program, a newspaper or in a local history.

Obituaries have only recently begun appearing online. Collections of obituaries may only go back as far as the 1960s or 1970s. Before those dates, you may have to do a search in newspaper collections.

For further specific information search for individual states, counties, cities and towns, for example see Utah Obituaries. Also remember to search newspapers in the city, county and state where the person lived or died. See United States Newspapers.

Cemetery Records

Cemetery or burial records are sometimes called permits for burial. These records often include birth, marriage, and death information. The records can sometimes provide clues about military service, religion, or membership in an organization, such as a lodge. These records are especially helpful for identifying children who died young or women who were not recorded in family or government documents. Check the sexton's records, or visit the cemetery in person to see if other relatives are in the same or adjoining plots. To find tombstone or sexton records, you need to know where an individual was buried. The person may have been buried in a community, church, private, military, or family cemetery, usually near the place where he lived or died or where other family members were buried. You can find clues to burial places in funeral notices, obituaries, church records, funeral home records, death records and County deeds.

For further specific information search for individual states, counties, cities and towns, for example see Utah Obituaries. You will likely find that there are many valuable sources outside of the Research Wiki. Look for links to these websites on the listed Wiki articles especially in the individual states.

Funeral Home Records

Funeral home or mortuary records may contain useful information not found on the death certificate. The records may contain a list of the surviving immediate relatives, sometimes the names of grandchildren, in-laws, and other relatives. The record could provide residences for the listed relatives. A copy of the obituary or notes used to prepare the obituary may be in the record, along with a record of newspapers where the obituary was placed. Records may also contain information regarding former residences, education, church affiliation, military service, membership in clubs, lodges and other organizations. The records may include details of the grave location or type of marker. Notes regarding the funeral services, such as the officiating minister, pallbearers, and music may also be included. Information may also include life insurance information where additional genealogical information could be obtained.

Emigration and Immigration Records

Emigration refers to the process of leaving a country and Immigrations refers to the opposite process of arriving and entering into the new country.

The process of emigrating from one country to another generated various records. Often a country required the emigrant to receive permission to leave. If the emigrant obeyed this law (about one-third did not), there may be an application to leave or a passport. Emigrants also had to book passage and board a vessel for the new country. Each step could have generated a record. Most emigration records give the emigrant's name, age, close relatives or traveling companions, and last place of residence (sometimes birthplace). Immigration records may contain the same types of information.

There are dozens of Research Wiki articles on this subject. Please see Tracing Immigrants Origin Emigration and Immigration


See also United States Naturalization and Citizenship

Naturalization and Citizenship

Naturalization is the process of becoming a legally recognized citizen of a country. The naturalization process varies by country, state, and time period. The records also vary. In the United States, earlier records usually give the immigrant's name, age, and country of origin. More recent records tend to be more informative. Some records give a wealth of data about the immigrant and his or her family, including specific places of origin.

See also Tracing Immigrant Origins and the further links in that article.

Military Records

Military records are from times of war and times of peace. They identify individuals who served in the armed forces or who were eligible for service. Military records can help you learn more about your ancestors who served their country. These Wiki pages teach terminology and describe the contents, uses, and availability of major sets of records created mostly by the federal government. You can use them to learn about federal and nationwide sources. The Wiki pages discuss only sources that identify personal information about individuals in the armed forces and their units. They do not discuss historical sources about military institutions, weapons, battles, or tactics. The Wiki pages for the separate states have more information about state military records.


Newspapers

Probate Records

See also: United States, How to Use Probate Records

Land and Property Records

Colonial Records

Territorial Records

Court Records

Town and Local Records

See also: United States, How to Use County and Town Records (Those Including Vital Records)

Miscellaneous Categories

References

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