This article provides ideas for family history research in local records about family members and their activities. Record all information with the documentation such as when and where it was found and in what set of records.
Writing family history may fulfill your dreams of being a detective. You will learn to follow hunches and seek information in odd places. You must be willing to follow the evidence and not assume things you don’t have evidence for. You may find that your ancestor was a bounder or a thief, but remember that this is all in the interest of research. You are obligated not to change the facts to suit yourself. If his or her escapades make you uncomfortable, you can choose some other branch of the family tree to investigate.
Below you will find places to look for your family’s activities that may not be on the internet if you want to write about their lives:
1. Newspaper archives (morgue)—Items may be catalogued and searchable by name or organization on a computer, or you may have to use a microfilm machine. It is tedious to scan through a newspaper on microfilm, however, the advantage is that you get a real sense of the time period you are researching. If you are looking for the name of your ancestor in school records, you may find it in an account of a class trip or awards ceremony.
2. Club or organization records—Minutes, lists of officers and members, activities, and qualifications for membership may be helpful. Read the minutes to see what kind of activities the club participated in. Look for your ancestor in the officer record. Was the club limited to people who lived in a certain county, or whose family came from a certain place, or who supported a certain cause? If so, you have a clue to pursue.
3. Church records—Membership records may give the names of the family members, the dates of marriage, birth, death, baptism, and christening. You may also find other details like the best man at the wedding, the God parents at the christening, family members at the funeral, and lots of other tidbits that you didn’t expect.
4. Deed records—If the family owned property, the sale or transfer will be recorded in the county courthouse. Both buyer and seller are recorded and sometimes the spouses’ names are listed, and of course, the date of the transfer and the metes and bounds of the property.
5. Other county records may be helpful. Court proceedings, wills, trials, divorces, and jail records afford information that may not be available anywhere else. These are somewhat tedious records to sift through. The language is legal jargon peculiar to the situation, and terms are unfamiliar. Treat this as a learning experience.
6. Funeral home records are a source often overlooked. Even though they are a business their records are considered official in documentation. They will include the family name, the place date of death and burial. They may include the name of the person who paid for the funeral.
7. The local library--Some libraries have a genealogy library. They may have other resources for you to explore. Libraries also will be famaliar with the resources of local historical societies. It doesn't hurt ot ask.
Many of these records are becoming available on the internet, but the originals are highly prized in research circles. If you find a transcription on the internet, it will tell where the original can be found. Be prepared to pay for copies when you find something important. Record the name of the record you find in a notebook or list, and include where you found it and the date.
The unsavory ancestor you found may be a wonderful character for a fictional story, and nobody has to know where he fit into your family tree..
More help in finding family history online. This is a free government site. All sites I recommend are free.
How to Use the Heritage Quest Online Website for Family Research
List of Free Websites for Family History Research
How to Begin a Family History