Records and Sources

Using Old Maps

using old maps in genealogy

Old maps are a great genealogy find

Maps may not be the first place you think to look when doing genealogy research but they can be really helpful resources once you get the hang of using them (and once you actually find the ones you need). You won’t get much actual ancestral information from a map but sometimes pinpointing a location can really help direct your next course of action. Besides, it can be nice to see a geographic representation of your family roots in map form.

Firstly, they are not as commonly available as written documents and there are many different types of maps out there. Not only do you need the overall region and time frame, you may not want just any map. Topographical maps will show terrain but no urban details, and some maps may only show county borders or other municipal features. (more…)

11 Jan 2013

The Complete Peerage

My latest addition to my genealogy library of resources has been a CD copy of”The Complete Peerage”, compiled by G.E. Cokayne. It was originally a 14-volume collection of texts with the full title “The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant & Extinct or Dormant.” It documents all the noble titles (Earls, Dukes, Barons, etc. ) through the history of Britain between the 1100s up until contemporary additions in the 1900s.

Like most antique books, the Complete Peerage CD is a collection of scanned pages from the originals. The volumes are arranged in alphabetical order so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding who you need. You do need to know that the entries are done by the name of the Barony or the Earldom, not by the actual family names of the individuals. This can be a little tough if you don’t know the names of your ancestor’s titles, but it is worth browsing through even if this is the case. (more…)

11 Jan 2013

The National Archives

American National Archvies for genealogy research

The National Archives of the United States

When doing any genealogy research in the United States, you will undoubtedly end up finding some sources in the National Archives.  It’s one of the greatest collections of historical information in the country. You’d best know how to use it.

Where are the Archives?
It’s not just one building so you can’t just show up and tour all of the Archives at once. The complete collection of material is actually housed over a number of different locations, including museums, libraries and smaller archive centers. The main facility is in Washington D.C, where you can also see historical icons such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This is the main place where researchers go but it will depend on the documents you are particularly looking for. Their website has a list of all locations and the details on visiting and seeing materials. (more…)

06 Jan 2013

Criminal Records

criminal records and genealogy

Criminal records can hold some genealogical treasures

Everyone who studies genealogy is always on the look-out for that next notable person they discover in their family tree. Someone famous or even just someone interesting. But not all notoriety is the same. You may find you have some relatives who are “famous” for the wrong reasons. I’m talking about those criminals and other law-breakers that we all have in our trees.

Now not all criminals are going to be of the same calibre, and many are likely just small time issues. But no matter what your ancestor’s crimes were, you can be sure that there are going to be some documents for you to uncover.

When we talk about criminal circumstances, it can include all sorts of different things. Accusations, arrests, trials, fines, penalties, jail stays and more. You may even discover some executions. The various kinds of criminal records and scenarios will vary by location and era, since the justice system has changed so much over the centuries. (more…)

26 Dec 2012

The Dawes Rolls

If you are doing any research into Native American ancestry, you’ll want to get familiar with the Dawes Rolls. They are known as the Dawes Rolls after Henry Dawes, who was in charge of the documentation. The documents are more officially known as the “Final Rolls of the Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory”.

To encourage the native population to accept Federal laws and the rule of government, this commission offered each person a plot of land for homestead as long as they agreed to be registered and accept the authority of the United States federal government. These rolls document all those who applied from the “five civilized tribes”, or the Creeks, Choctaws, Seminoles, Chickasaws and Cherokees. More than 100,000 people signed up and are documented in the Rolls. (more…)

24 Dec 2012

Tanguay’s Dictionary

Since my father’s family is French-Canadian, I’ve been looking into resources that target this genealogy area. My most recent purchase as been a digital copy of the Dictionnaire genealogique des familles canadiennes, complied by Rev. Cyprian Tanguay. In English, the title of this collection is The Genealogical dictionary of Canadian families. It’s really better known just as Tanguay’s Dictionary (or dictionnaire Tanguay).

It’s a 7-volume work filled with vital record information (including dates and names for births, deaths and marriages) spanning the time between 1608 and 1760. It’s limited to the Quebec region of Canada, though that shouldn’t be much of a limitation since that is where most French-Canadian families lived at that time. (more…)

18 Dec 2012

Land Deeds

old-mapsThough property documents and land deeds may not strike you as the first place to check for genealogical information, but you should not discount these sources in your research.

Unlike regular vital records, you never know exactly what information you will find on a deed. But because a person needed to be identified as completely as possible, there were often many pieces of information included. Several members of a person’s family might be mentioned (parents, spouse, children) as well as neighbour’s names. This will most definitely be the case when property is willed in an estate. You may also find a birth date, occupation or place of birth. (more…)

16 Dec 2012

Homestead Act Records

homestead act records for genealogy

Settling of the American west offers a lot of genealogy information

Buying real estate or land can leave an important paper trail that can have plenty of genealogy information once you find the records you need. Land deeds are a great resource for any family tree studies.

But the Homestead Act in 1862 is a true treasure-trove of information if you are lucky enough to have American ancestors who took advantage of this land offer. There are very detailed files associated with all the people who claimed homestead land.


16 Dec 2012

Heraldic Visitations

If you have any ancestors in the 1500-1650 time period from the UK, you will have to do some research through the Harleian Society’s heraldic visitations. They are amazing and filled with genealogy information as well as local history.

There was a widespread problem of fraudulent coats of arms usage, and so King Henry VIII decided to document proper family lineages in 1530. He sent a group of “heralds” to visit every town and parish in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland in order to record the family history and pedigrees for all the noble families. This huge project went on from 1530 until 1688, consisting of several rounds of visits. For my own history, my ancestors were mainly from Cheshire and there are visitations for that area for the years 1580, 1613 and 1663. (more…)

16 Dec 2012

Cemetery Research

Visiting a cemetery is a very in-person and hands-on way of collecting family history information. You can find graveyards with your ancestors and other family members through various online cemetery records, print or online obituary announcements, or from still-living relatives.

genealogy cemetery research with gravestones

You can learn a lot about genealogy from gravestones

Tombstones and grave-markers can give you a lot of important information about the people who are buried there. Birth and death dates are the most obvious, and are found on nearly every stone you’ll find. Symbols on the stones may indicate church associations, which can help you locate further records about them (often birth, death or marriage records). (more…)

15 Dec 2012