Helpers, IGI, and Biographical Sketches
Hire a Helper
If you have run out of leads and exhausted the potential from other leads, you might have to expand your search radius. This larger scope may be more that you want to do, especially if it means traveling to another state or region for information. Local genealogical researchers can provide an efficient alternative to expensive travel or long-distance research. Many genealogical magazines and local genealogical researchers can assist in your search and will be familiar with the records you seek. Email and online forums make the contact and exchange of information fast and inexpensive.
The LDS and IGI
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) has the largest collection of genealogical source material in the world. The LDS has microfilmed records from churches, government files, and private collections all over the world, and the organization has kindly made this information available to the entire community without charge. Family relationships between tens of millions of people have been placed in the International Genealogical Index (IGI) as well. Please note with a word of caution that in the enthusiasm to find relationships between many people, familial links were sometimes assumed that are not supported by documentation. As several transcriptions of data were involved in producing the IGI database, some dates and places were sometimes misspelled or swapped. While the IGI is a valuable initial resource, it also has a fair number of errors and is not acceptable as documentation.
You may either search for your ancestor in IGI on the LDS website or visit a local LDS family history center. You can then use the microfilm or databases to locate any additional information concerning a known ancestor. You may be able to rent rolls of microfilm or obtain copies for use from the local LDS center for a nominal charge. Beyond the IGI information, there is microfilmed information on virtually all of the types of sources noted here. Even if you cannot afford to visit the necessary records centers in another geographical region, the LDS microfilms containing the deeds, family histories, probate records, census lists, church baptismal records, or tombstone listings that you require to search can be ordered. Please be sure to make the copies that you need for documenting your application and that handwritten summaries are not acceptable documentation.
Please note that when copying a page from any of these resources, you will need to note the bibliographical source of the copy on its reverse side. You may make a pencil mark, on the copy only, to help the reader find your ancestor’s name.
Check a Genealogist’s Guide to Records
There are several resources that can tell you what details are available and where to find them in every county and state in the nation. This search will probably reveal sources that you had not considered and keep you from going down paths with dead ends. These show the years that state censuses were taken between federal censuses, when vital records began to be required in the state, whether biographical histories are available for the county, the addresses to contact for information, when the county was founded and what county previously covered the area, and more. You may find these books at a local library, college library, historical society, or genealogical society. Several popular books of this sort include:
• Bremer, R. A. (1998). Compendium of historical sources: The how and where of American genealogy. Baltimore, Maryland: Clearfield Company.
• Eichholz, A. (2004). Red book: American state, county, and town sources (3rd ed.). Provo, Utah: Ancestry Publishing.
• Everton Publishers. (1999). The handybook for genealogists: United States of America (9th ed.). Logan, Utah: Everton Publishers, Inc.
• Kemp, T. J. (2013). International vital records handbook (6th ed.). Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc.
• Szucs, L. D. & Luebking, S. H. (2006). The source: A guidebook of American genealogy (3rd ed.). Provo, Utah: Ancestry Publishing.
Most of these have been published in several editions, and while the later ones are more comprehensive, the information in the earlier editions should generally be accurate.
Vital Records (Birth, Marriage, and Death Records)
For many years, states have required hospitals, clergy, and doctors to report these vital records and have them recorded and stored in state record centers. Some states and towns started this practice in the 1600s, while others started as late as the early 1900s. The records are usually available for review at a Bureau of Vital Statistics or the Health Department in your state. Please note that when requesting copies of vital records, be sure to get the “long form” of a certificate. The “short form” simply confirms the birth date, place, and name. The long form has the names of the individual’s parents and perhaps even more information.
The ease and cost of viewing and obtaining copies of these vital records varies from state to state. In some states, you can call the vital records office, ask the clerk to copy a specific record, supply payment options over the phone, and receive the documents within ten days’ time. However, many states require written requests with payments included, which may then take several weeks before a reply is given. If you do not know the exact spelling of the individual’s name or year of the event, it may be difficult or expensive to locate the record. Please note that death certificates may be especially helpful during research as some include the individual’s date and place of death, date and place of birth, spouse or children’s names as next of kin, and parents’ names and places of birth.
Many states use vitalchek.com to provide official copies of vital records.
Church, Cemetery, and Funeral Director Records
These records often provide excellent name, date, place, and relationship information on family groupings over three or more generations. Members of the same family were often baptized or christened, married, and participated in activities at the same church for many generations. Families had memorial services at the same place of worship and used familiar funeral parlors to arrange for burial in family plots. Please note that when copying a page from any of these resources, you will need to note the bibliographical source of the copy on its reverse side. You may make a pencil mark, on the copy only, to help the reader find your ancestor’s name.
Fraternal Associations, Military Records, and Academic Records
These types of social or professional documentation may provide information on birth date and place, parents’ names, and links to other useful records. The names and ethnic affiliations of many fraternal organizations are listed in the genealogy source books noted above. Some of the older, larger ones are B’nai B’rith, Elks, Free Masons, Hibernians, Knights of Columbus, Knights of Pythias, Masons, Odd Fellows, and Red Men.
County biographical histories were very popular in the late nineteenth century. A large percent of the United States’ population had immigrated from abroad or moved to new states in recent times and wanted to record their ancestors, previous homes, and present occupations for the benefit of their descendants. While the extended biographies and woodcut portraits were printed only for those who could and chose to afford them, these resources often provide listings of everyone in town. These biographies are often available at county or state history or genealogical libraries and local college libraries.
City directories are also quite useful in genealogical searches: they helped deliverymen and friends locate the homes of residents and provided a means for advertising the products and services of local firms, similar to contemporary phone books. City directories provide circumstantial evidence that a person was alive and living at a certain address. Death dates may be inferred from a dropped listing or a change in listing. Please note that when copying a page from any of these resources, you will need to note the bibliographical source of the copy on its reverse side. You may make a pencil mark, on the copy only, to help the reader find your ancestor’s name.