Are you satisfied with low hanging fruit genealogical sources, or do you strive to dig deeper with your ancestry? Most genealogists will tell you to start your research with the census. The census is readily available online and easy to use. Other easy sources to find are death and marriage records. I consider these low hanging fruit sources, ones that are easy to find.
Digging deeper or using records that are tougher to use and harder to find are important when doing genealogy research. I used to think if I could fill a five-generation pedigree chart with names, birth, marriage, and death data I would be happy. The more I research the more I want to know. I am not satisfied with 'just the facts'.
Some records aren't used as often as they should. How many of the records below do you use regularly in your research?
Genealogical Records to Pursue
Land Records-you either love them or hate them. Usually, land records are easy to find. They are recorded at the county or state level and have been archived. Family Search and Ancestry have numerous land records in their databases. I will admit I like the information I find in land records, but do not enjoy reading them. Reading them on microfilm is even more challenging. Once I read so many land records on microfilm, I think I got motion sickness.
Land records are important because they show where your ancestor purchased or sold land. Remember they may not have lived on that land. They can show family relationships. Finding, using, and understanding land records provides valuable information.
A tip I received from Rhonda McClure at the New England Historic Genealogical Society was to add all the land bought and sold. If the numbers aren't equal, there is more to find.
Voter or Poll Records-qualifying to vote can provide records of interest to genealogists. Potential voters must prove residency. I have seen addresses, ages, previous voting place, and naturalization information in these records. Voting records are held at the city, town, or township level.
Criminal Records-do you have an outcast in the family? Look in newspapers and court records for more information. Information gleaned from these records can lead one to other records of importance.
Probate Records-Probate records are coming online more these days. I know Calhoun county, Michigan has microfilmed their probate records and the index is available online at Willard Library, Battle Creek, MI. The Archives of Michigan is in the process of scanning all the probate records in their possession and will be available at Michiganology when completed.
Tax Records-Benjamin Franklin says nothing is certain except death and taxes. Tax records are the first ones to be re-recorded in the case of a fire or damage. The government wants their money, and the taxpayer doesn't want to pay twice. The taxpayer will bring receipt of tax payment to the assessor. Information varies on what is recorded, but they are well worth finding.
Manuscripts-genealogists underutilize manuscripts because they are harder to find, or one doesn't know where to look. Finding aids are important when looking for manuscript material.
- World Cat-provides the researcher with access to over 10,000 libraries and archives. Information varies, but look for a diary, oral history, church membership, and other records. I found church records for Ypsilanti Presbyterian Church by using World Cat. They are stored at Bentley Historical Library at University of Michigan.
- NUCMC-National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections leads the researcher to archival and manuscript materials. Once you learn how to search at NUCMC a world of resources is open. Repositories include historical societies. Family letters, bible records, plantation owners, tax lists, marriage records, and more can lead you to your family.
- Archive Grid-is a great resource for unpublished resources. Finding a diary, school record, or store ledger is a genealogical gem for those looking for them. The difference between Archive Grid and World Cat is that Archive Grid is for unpublished resources and World Cat covers published resources.
Most manuscript collections are not digitized, but the catalogs listed above will lead you to the repository. Next, you will need to plan a road trip or contact the repository for access information.
If you haven't explored manuscripts, please do, you won't be disappointed. I have found items I had no clue existed by being creative in my search. A few examples of my searching included: Manistee Lutheran minister, Lemke; lighthouse keepers in Michigan; Ypsilanti MI Presbyterian church records, justice of peace records for Detroit, Michigan, Governor Begole records, and so many more.