Recent Generations: Back to 1900
Where do you start if you don’t have a family tree available, although your family believes that it goes way back or you think it might due to no “recent” arrival records in the U.S.? Family archives can be a great place to begin your investigation.
Interview the older members of your family to see what they might know about the names of their forebears and the dates and places of their births, marriages, and deaths. For instance, if your grandmother knows the name of her grandmother, you can write a family tree going back five generations, which will get you into the mid-1800s. Older relatives may also have documents or scrapbooks that show the names of ancestors and the dates they were born (birth certificate), were married (marriage certificate), and died (death certificate), with deeds, wills, and other related records.
Family Bibles may be acceptable as documentation, and these books are valuable as family Bibles often list many generations. Please note to copy any page that lists the publisher and the date of publication. Historical certificates or notes like the one above are often thrown out by those who do not realize the value of keeping such documents after the owner passes away. Keep these original family documents or copies of them for your records in a safe place while they still exist.
Please note that the SAR does not require certified copies of these documents. Legible photocopies of the full document are satisfactory in many cases. Though be aware that when copying a page from any of the discussed 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.
Family histories are available for many surnames. These are available at genealogical or historical libraries, college and public libraries, and lineage society libraries. The SAR Genealogical Research Library in downtown Louisville, Kentucky has thousands of such records for your use. Except for the lineage societies, most libraries generally cover only families in the local area. The Library of Congress has a huge collection of family histories and publishes an index which is available in many of the larger local libraries.