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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

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8. Resources are Tied to Geography, Part 1

    South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina Campus: Repository for manuscripts and published materials documenting the state's social, political, literary and cultural heritage.

     It can be quite intriguing to research an ancestor's life and be able to share actual documentation about events you learned about in oral history interviews.  It is even more exciting to be able to share proof of significant events forgotten by posterity.  Our ancestors lived real lives just like we do.  They are only different because they lived in a different time and sometimes a different place.  Historical documentation helps to validate the fact that they were really living, moving, and breathing individuals who followed similar hopes and dreams.  Documentation gives credence to the stories that survive. 
      At this point in our quest, you should be able to identify the geographical area where your ancestor lived.  Records were generated at each level of government.  It is important to document each known locality that corresponds to each event in your ancestor's life.  For example, George Anderson Tucker lived in Buffalo, Union, South Carolina, United States, and he died in Columbia, Richland, South Carolina, United States.  At each level of government, records were kept that can possibly give clues about his life.
     Recording places and events will help you identify government agencies, libraries, and archives.  Many resources are being made available online.  Knowing the county or parish where your ancestor lived will open the door to resources online and offline.  If your ancestor lived in more than one place, use the time line you created to keep track of where to look for his or her vital records.
     It is important to research the history of the geographical area, particularly paying close attention to the boundary changes which occurred.  Nothing is more frustrating than to search for documentation in one place only to find out that it was redistricted, and even though your ancestor never moved, he lived in more than one county during his lifetime because of boundary changes.  You will need to search for his/her life event in the place within the proper boundary on the date the event was recorded.  Be sure to study the local history of the area because many available resources can be found in this way. 
     Most people that I assist hit a "brick wall" in their research because after they search the obvious places, such as the census, they are discouraged.  They fail to do two key things:

1.  Research records generated in the actual locality where their ancestor lived.

2.   After they discover one piece of documentation they jump back to quickly to the next generation without realizing that they should search for every piece of evidence that would exist for every member of the ancestor's family group.

Moving back too quickly and not being thorough will limit what you will discover and will possibly hinder your research.  On numerous occasions the information gleaned from researching a collateral line has helped to reveal a direct-line ancestor.
     One of the biggest challenges to learning about the ancestral home has been the amount of time it has required to locate resources and undertake the study of a particular area.  Until recently, this has been also quite costly.  Such was the case until FamilySearch introduced the FamilySearch Research Wiki.  This community-based encyclopedia is a great place to start locating records that exist by geographical area.  After many years of research, I am still amazed by the many types of historical documents that exist.  As the community of professionals and enthusiasts contribute to the FamilySearch Research Wiki, it will grow to revolutionize the way we conduct family history research.

     We have provided a few screen shots so that you can see how to perform a simple search for resources on the Wiki.  The first screen shot shows the homepage of the Wiki.  You can register on the top right of the page, and you can learn more about using the site by clicking on "Tour" under the search bar. 

Let's perform a search for Pennsylvania in the search field.  The first result will take you to the main page of resources for Pennsylvania


Notice the left sidebar with topics you can explore.  There is a history of the origins of Pennsylvania at the top and links to genealogical resources on the center of the page. Near the bottom portion of the page you will find a list of county links.  Let's choose Philadelphia County, PA

A whole page of resources that you can explore exist here.  You will just need to be sure that you select a resource that corresponds to the lifespan of your ancestor. Once you narrow down the location by county, parish, or province, etc., be sure to locate the link entitled "Family History Library Catalog" because this link will take you directly to resources in the Family History Library for that particular area. 

Feel free to locate the closest Family History Center where you can order and view microfilm you find in the catalog. You may discover that some libraries and archives are also authorized to order microfilm.  

Looks easy enough, right?  Just remember that this site is dependent on its users to grow.  If you find a resource that is not on the Wiki, why not contribute it?  If you need help getting started, ask on FamilySearch Forums in the FamilySearch Research Wiki discussion section.
Happy Hunting!


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