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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Quest for Documentation is Determined by Location

Beginning the search to identify and document your ancestors can be frustrating if you do know know where to look for records. Many family historians want to experience the joy of the hunt themselves. Some begin searching online databases for the records they can easily find. This article will help lead you in the direction of discovering more resources in the locality where your ancestor lived.
What do you want to learn?
Knowing exactly what you want to learn about your ancestor will help guide you to the types of records that will answer your question. You will want to avoid the endless searching where you turn up everything except the details that you set out to find in the first place.
There is a certain thrill when you find your ancestor on an online tree and connect to a living descendant, and you may find important clues. It is important to compare notes with others who are researching the same person. It is especially rewarding if they can share or point you to the actual historical documentation that they used to draw conclusions.
When you first start researching, you will be looking to document basic details about birth, marriage and death for ancestors closest to you such as a parent or grandparent. It will save you a great deal of time and energy if you know exactly where these events took place. In some cases, you will be able to access these records online. In order to determine how to find access to vital records:
  1. Search the Research Wiki for the state (example used: North Carolina)
  2. Select the locality from the list of search results.
  3. Locate "Vital Records" on the list. (North Carolina Vital Records)
Records vary according to:
  • time period you are researching
  • type of vital record (birth, marriage, death, etc.)
  • place to access record
How do you learn about records in a locality?
You will need to also research the records available in the area. The Research Wiki is a helpful resources to use here too. Search the county/parish and state to discover records in an area. Search Cyndi's List to find more.
If you want to discover more, study the holdings of the local archives to see if they list record collections online or offer a publication that you can purchase. In addition, the local library may have a collection on site or online for researchers. Review the library's website for links to history or genealogy.
For example, the Buncombe County, NC Libraries website lists genealogy resources under the link, NC Collections (Pack Library). One thousand images are available online with more coming (oral histories, newspapers, genealogies, and more).
Make a list
While you are documenting the basic details about your ancestor, more may come to mind that you want to learn. Make a list. Keep a record of the places where you find documentation because you may discover more later in those same places.
Be sure to ask for suggestions of other places that you may try. Local librarians and archivists are experts about the historical documentation that survives in their areas and where to access those records. If you learn of resources that were not listed on the Research Wiki or Cyndi's List, be sure to contribute what you learn to make it easier for the next person who comes along.
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