Researching Your Roots at the Family History Center
Second article in a series by Electra Kimble Price
Who? What? Where?
In preparation for research into your family history you should be able to have the answers to the following questions. If you do not have exact answers try to have approximate dates and places:
1. What side of the family are you going to research first?
2. Who are the five oldest relatives alive? About how old are they and where do they live?
3. Where were they born?
4. Be prepared to name (on both sides of the family) your father or guardian, grandparents and great grand parents.
5. Figure out what relatives were alive in 1920 and in what states they were residing. Make a list. The latest Federal Population Census Schedule that you will be able to search is 1920. The Privacy Act requires that a little over 70 years must pass before it [the census data] is available for public use. It is important to do a census history on your family by starting with 1920 and working backward to the 1790 [census]. The first enumeration began on the first Monday in August in 1790 and every 10 years after that.
6. Are there death certificates put away from which you can extract information? Take time to examine the information given. Determine if the name, marital status, and race of the deceased and the county of death fits with the information that you knew or though you knew. The place of death, the place of usual residence and sometimes a street address. With this information you can check a city directory. Begin with the year of death, and go back year by year until you no longer find them listed. Check all the people with the same surname and other connected surnames.
City directories usually have a separate listing for each person of working age, even when they live at the same address. The city directory should give a place of employment for each person who is employed. The death certificate also gives the occupation and sometimes the place of employment. You could look that up in the directory and find out more about the employment.
If you know the religion you can check the city directory or the telephone book for the church. This may lead to church records. The death certificate will also tell you the name of the institution where the person died, another possible source of information. The cause of illness could reveal some hereditary factors of prime importance. Accidents, suicides or homicides may result in a newspaper article. The attending physician may give you information.
The certificate usually has the location of the cemetery and the funeral home. Another source of information. The Social Security numbers have been included in the past 3 decades. Using the SS# you can get a copy of the deceased's application form. It gives full name, date and place of birth, as well as parents' full names including the mother's maiden name.
Always analyze the relationship of the informant to the deceased. If you don't know the relationship, find out. It will probably lead you to a genealogical connection. If you find a birth date and place on the certificate then you have a lead to an official birth certificate. Each bit of data that you find gives you clues and leads to other sources that will help you add to your family history.