Originally posted in GERMAN-AMERICAN-L by Nancy Ring-Kendrick on Tue, 05 Jan 1999 .
Unless you are a king, the President, or some other notable, finding
your ancestors and making sure a "family tree" is kept for future
generations may be up to you. The National Archives staff does not do
family research, no does it collect or preserve family trees. Books on
family history and genealogy are compiled and published by individuals
or family groups who do so because they are interested in discovering
and preserving their family history.
Start With Yourself:
You are the beginning "twig" on your family tree. Start with the known
- yourself - and work toward the unknown. Find the vital information
about your parent and write it down. Next, look for information about
your grandparents, then earlier generations.
Begin at home. Look for information in family Bibles, newspaper
clippings, military certificates, birth and death certificates, marriage
licenses, diaries, letters, scrapbooks, the backs of pictures, and
Be concerned with extracting four items: names, dates, places and
relationships. These are the keys of the family researcher. People can
be identified in records by their names, by the dates of events in their
lives (birth, marriage, death) by the places where they lived, and by
their relationships to others, either stated or implied.
Visit or write to relatives in your family who may have information,
particularly older relatives. Often, others before you have already
gathered family data. You should write letters, make personal visits,
and conduct telephone surveys to locate such persons and to find out
what information is already collected. Advertise your family interests
in national, regional, and local genealogical magazines. These
magazines are usually available in public libraries.
Vital Statistics. Some states began to keep records of birth and death
earlier, but, for MOST of the United States, birth and death
registration became a requirement around the turn of the century (ca.
1890-1915). Before the turn of the century, births and deaths were
recorded, GENERALLY, only in church records and family Bibles. Marriage
records will be found in most counties, often dating from the
establishment of the county.
Deeds and Wills. Record of property acquisition and disposition can be
good genealogical sources. Such records normally are in county
courthouses. Often the earliest county records (or copies of them) are
also available in state archives.
Visit state, regional, and local institutions in your area. Libraries,
historical and genealogical societies, and archival depositories are all
good sources for genealogical and family history data. Be sure to find
out what books are available on ho to do genealogical research."
Census Schedules - Population Censuses:
"A census of the population has been taken every 10 years since 1790.
The National Archives has the 1790-1870 schedules, a microfilm copy of
the 1880 schedules, the surviving fragments of the 1890 schedules, and a
microfilm copy of the 1900 and 1910 schedules. (Practically all of the
1890 census schedules were destroyed by fire in 1921. The remaining
entries are for small segments of the populations of Perry County, AL,
the District of Columbia, Columbus, GA, Mound Township, IL, Rockford,
MN, Jersey City, NJ, Eastchester and Brookhaven Township, NY, Cleveland
and Gaston Counties, NC, Cincinnati and Wayne Township, OH, Jefferson
Township, SD, and Ellis, Hood, Kaufman, Rusk, and Trinity Counties, TX)
The 1790 - 1840 schedules give the names of the head of household ONLY;
other family members are tallied unnamed by age and sex. For the 1850
and 1860 censuses, separate schedules list slaveowners and the age, sex,
and color (but not the name) of each slave. The 1850 and 1860 schedules
include the name, age, and state, territory, or country of birth of each
FREE person in a household. Additional information is included with
each succeeding census.
The available schedules for the 1790 census were published by the
federal government in the early 1900's and have since been privately
reprinted. The published census schedules for 1790 are for Connecticut,
Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina,
and Vermont. Schedules for each state are listed in a separate, indexed
volume. The schedules for the remaining states - Delaware, Georgia,
Kentucky, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Virginia - were burned during the
War of 1812. And as a substitute for the Virginia schedules, the
federal government publish names obtained from state censuses and tax
lists, thereby listing about half of the known population of the state
in 1790. Over the years additional lists of names have been published
privately, and they provide more of the missing information for Virginia
and other states whose 1790 schedules were destroyed. The government
has not published other census listings, but many privately published
lists are available from libraries and other sources. Although the
lists vary considerably in format and geographic scope, they frequently
save researchers from fruitless searches and help locate a specific
entry in the actual records.
Also helpful in locating specific census entries are the following
unpublished indexes in the National Archives Building:
- 1810 Census - a card index for Virginia only.
- 1880 Census - a microfilm copy of a card index to entries for each
household that included a child aged 10 or under. On the cards are the
name, age, and birthplace of each member of such households, and there
is a separate cross-reference card for each child aged 10 or under whose
surname is different from that of the head of the household in which he
is listed. The cards are arranged by state and thereunder by the
Soundex system, that is, alphabetically by the first letter of the
surname, thereunder alphabetically by given name of the head of the
- 1890 Census - a card index to the 6,160 names on the surviving 1890
- 1900 Census - a microfilm copy of a card index to all heads of families.
Otherwise, content is similar to the 1880 index.
- 1910 Census - a microfilm copy of an index to all heads of families in
the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia,
Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri,
North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee,
Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. Content of the index is similar to
the 1880 index.
The National Archives has the 1890 special schedules of Union veterans
and widows of veterans for Washington, DC, about half of Kentucky, and
for states in alphabetical order from Louisiana through Wyoming.
Schedules for other states no longer exist. The schedules five the name
and post office address of each living veteran and of each veteran's
widow (along with the name of her deceased husband) and information
about the service of each veteran named."
The above information comes from the National Archives and Records
Administration, General Information Leaflet Number 5.
To find the regional address for the National Archives near you just
click: http://www.pclink.com/tar/addresses.htm [this address does not exist any more].