Local Sources

libraryAn often overlooked resource when doing your family history was the locations / towns / cities / counties that an ancestor lived, especially an ancestral hometown if they family was in the same town for decades. It is amazing the different resources you can find in a local community that just might some details about your family.

Start at the town or city hall or their records department. Everything from marriage, property, voter, deeds and tax records could be available. Many towns have even digitized such records and have them online. If you need to go back decades see if the town has an archive of older documents. Some records can be bound in a huge book from the hand-written records that covers years earlier.

In the town most likely will be a public library which will hold a variety of resources. There can be microfilm of the local newspapers – a wonderful source. Also check with the newspaper offices and see if they have bound book copies of older newspapers you can look over. They might have a genealogical section in the library with books or information on local families. Some towns have their own history written up in book form and of course that would be in the local library. Imagine going to the index of such a book and seeing listings for one of your ancestors. The library could let you know if the town has its own local historical and / or genealogical society. If so, make a point to contact those society, which hold a treasure chest of family information.

Check the local cemeteries and churches. If you know which church your ancestor belonged to, it is easier, but if not try each church in the town. Most do keep church records of memberships and any special ceremonies (christenings, weddings, funerals). See what records each of the cemeteries have, most do keep fairly actuate records. Remember to see not just about the specific ancestor, but any other relatives, especially those who paid for a headstone and make note of their name and address.

Beside city or town records you have to check the county records. Again many counties have their information online. The county courthouse would be great to see if there were any legal cases involving your ancestor. Use the county resources, such as property and tax records if your ancestor did not live within the city limits.

Lastly one of the most overlooked local resource in any size community are their local museums. The more historical originated, the better likelihood there could be information on your ancestral family.

Go online first to see what city, county, library, society information is posted on their websites. Most will also have their contact information (phone numbers, addresses) so if you have a specific question, you can reach them by a call, email or letter. It is even better if you can plan a visit to the actual town or county to learn first hand what is available.

Photo: Library with books and digital / computer equipment.

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