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Tips For Researching From Home


If a researcher is lucky enough to live near the ancestral home place in the United States, many of the sought-after records might be at the local library or courthouse. Eventually, however, there will be ancestors who lived in another county, state, or nation. Like the majority of researchers, the challenge is  using strategies to access that information. That usually means seeking help from either a for-free volunteer or a paid researcher.

Sources of Help for a Distant Location

  1. Record-keeping offices of the municipality, county or parish, state or nation - These sources ara available for all U. S. states and counties/parishes. Your local library with a genealogical collection might have such a reference book. Two standard works are the Everton Publishers, Inc., The Handy Book For Genealogists: United States of America and Ancestry's Red Book : American State, County & Town Sources. Be sure to check publication dates in the book to insure you are finding recent information. This information is also available for most locations  by use of an internet search engine, online web sites which list genealogical aids, and genealogical location-specific search sites such as those hosted by Rootsweb, especially the U. S. GenWeb sites.

  2. Public, university, and private but public access libraries such as those operated by local genealogical or historical societies - Online catalogs or listing of resources, when they exist, make these libraries easy to search. This is a quick way to determine if there are resources there that could be beneficial. It is important to search on various combinations of the search term since catalogs might have a source listed to be available only with a specific combination of search terms. Use of an internet search engine either for the library in a specific locality or for lists of libraries in a state can yield web page addresses.

  3. Genealogical or historical societies - These are usually organized on a county or parish basis although some larger or more active states might have regional societies of groups of counties. Their activities usually include research, publishing, and preservation of records in that area. Many societies have members who are willing to do limited research or lookups for free or for a nominal fee. While it is possible to find printed sources for those organizations, perhaps the quickest way is to do an internet search for the county U. S. GenWeb or genealogical society web site for that location.

  4. Relatives or other acquaintances - Another opportunity is a relative or friend living in the area of research or one who will be traveling near there agreeing to stop by a cemetery for tombstone information, an office for a record copy, or a library for a lookup or data search. Information  that includes record location, hours or operation, and what to ask for makes it easier and quicker for this helpful researcher.

  5. Paid research - Staff members at local record offices, library staff, and paid researchers for local genealogical societies sometimes do lookups and copying of specific records. (Some genealogical societies raise money for society projects with inexpensive paid lookups.) Most of these do not do extensive searches or copying since they often have little time which they can devote to research for others. The fees, services provided, and timeliness varies with the individual or office. A telephone call, postal inquiry, or email message is a good way to check for availability of services.Professional Genealogists who do fee-based research in an area can be found in a number of places: lists maintained by libraries, record offices, and local, state, or national genealogical societies, periodical advertising and advertising on the internet. If not sure where to start on the web, a search engine with appropriate terms will yield pages to surf. The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) maintains a locality-specific searchable list on its web site. Professional genealogists offer extra services which may include (but are not limited to) search log reports of which sources yielded information and which did not, analysis of the meaning of the information for your search, suggestions for further research based on the special interests, knowledge, and skills of that professional.

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