The Answers You Need To Begin Your Roots Quest!
Start by writing down on a family group sheet or pedigree sheet all the information that you get from all your living relatives. Then whatever information is missing, that is what you research.
Just take one person's missing information and search for that. When you find the info, take another's missing information and search for that. Do one person at a time, otherwise you will be overloaded with searching and overwhelmed with information that you won't know what to do with. Start by getting vital records, then check census records, then church records, land records, county histories, etc.
Here are some links to tips about specific topics:
Records are usually found in the court clerks in each county.
Also check out these web sites:
County histories contain quite a bit of information specifically helpful to family researchers. They contain good sized biographies of prominent men and women, especially the "pioneers" who were among the first to settle in the area. These biographies can contain several generations of a family. If there was an immigrant, the family's previous residence may be mentioned. Their children along with the birthdates or ages and the political, religious or community ties are usally noted.
These histories can contain shorter biographical sketches of early town or county officials. Some include maps of the town or county along with the names of properlty owners or tenants. Some include tax lists, census schedules, church records or other information on the residents. Some include where other genealogical records are stored. Usually the histories are indexed, but some of the earlier books may require a page by page search. Most county histories are in the public library or college library of that county or town and if your are not in that area, you can borrow these books through the inter-library loan program.
The 1900 census lists the year of arrival. Check the passenger index. Some arrivals are not indexed, so check the original filmsforthat year. The National Archives microfilm catalog "Immigrant and Passenger Arrivals" ($2.00+ S&H) lists available indexes and passenger lists for various ports.
Most aliens became citizens within 10 years of the time they were eligible. Before 1906 the records were kept by federal, state and local courts. There is a book that summarizes these records on file for each state: "Locating Your Immigrant Ancestors: A guide to Naturalization Records" by James C. and Lila Lee Negles.
You can obtain this from Everton Publishers, Inc. or your local intra-library loan program. The Index to the Passenger Lists are available at your local Family History Center and most large genealogical libraries. You can request a search of the Passenger Arrival Records by requesting Form 81 from the National Archives or email your request for the form to: www.nara.gov please be sure you give them your postal mailing address.
Colonial legislatures gave land for military service, but these were mostly private acts passed to reward meritorious service to the colony. Some states did not grant land bounties. Those who got warrants from the federal government were not eligible for the state's. Some states allowed soldiers to take both federal and state land bounties.
Some warrants were assignable, meaning the soldier could sell his warrant and not wait to take the land. The soldier or heirs had to apply for the warrant. The warrant applications are in Refcord Group 15 in the Military Service Records section in the downtown Washington building of the National Archives. In seeking various records related to a federal bounty-land warrant, you need to learn the warrant number, the acreage claimed and the act used.
For World War 2 information, write to National Personnel Records Center, 9700 Page Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63132 and request Form 180, fill it out and a copy of the service record/pension application records will be sent to you.
For Civil War information, a soldier enlisted near his home. To get his service record you need to know the state he served or unit. Write to the National Archives, Washington, DC to get NATF Form 80, fill it out and send it in, they will send you copies of his service record. You can send an email to get the NATF form: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put your mailing address, not your email address.
Check your local public library for the telephone directory of the area you want and call everyone with that surname to see if they are related or know of any information.
Also check out these web sites:
To become enrolled as a Cherokee today, you must find a direct ancestor on either the Dawes Roll or the Guion Mill Roll of Eastern Cherokees. You can request a search of the Cherokee Applications from the National Archives, Washington, DC by requesting Form 83 or email your request for the form to Inquire@nara.gov please be sure you give them your postal mailing address.
Some web sites:
http://www.ibb.com/indian.html (Arizona's American Indian Store)
"Newspapers on Microform" (3 vols) tells which issues and what newspapers were published near the town and the time period your are searching in order to identify the correct newspaper and it can be found on LDS microfilm #1145942. If none exist, then check for newspapers from the county seat.
When you find a newspaper you are interested in, read the source code that is a "key" to where the microfilm is available. From the source code determine the name of the organization that has the microfilm and make arrangements for an interlibrary loan request at your local library. If you cannot find a copy of "Newspapers in Microform", then contact the state historical societies and ask them about availability of old newspapers from that state being on microfilm.
Newspapers must be searched page by page which is very time consuming venture. Rural newspapers typically include gossip columns arranged by townships so if your ancestors were primarily within one township, then you reading time can be greatly reduced if you are willing to accept a small risk of passing over some info by only reading the township column. Prepare yourself if you find nothing. Newspapers contain both disappointments and surpirses.
Check your local library for the book "Shipping:A Survey of Historical Records" by P. Mathias & A.W.H. Pearsall (Newton Abbot, England:David and Charles, 1980). It has shipping companies and their record holdings and shipping records, index of names of ships, an index of persons, firms, places and principal trades. "Ships of Our Ancestors by Michael J. Anuta; "Passenger Ships of the World, Past and Present" by Eugene W. Smith.
You should be aware that many ships changed names, moved to another home port or wore out or went down only to have another ship built with its specifications and name. In several instances more than one ship carried the same name at the same time. Be sure to check all ships with the same name for the time period of your ancestors.
Addresses: The Steamship Historical Society of America, Inc., University of Baltimore Library, S.S.H.S.A.Collection, 1420 Maryland Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21201; The Mariner's Museum, 100 Museum Drive, Newport News, VA 23606; Mystic Seaport Museum, G.W. Blunt White Library, Mystic CT 06355; Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex Street, Salem, MA 01970 and San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Hyde Street Pier, San Francisco, CA 94123.
African-Americans, regardless of whether their ancestors were free or slave, are usually able to trace their ancestry back to the end of the Civil War without too much difficulty using the same sources white Americans use. Pre-Emancipation slaves were considered the personal property of their owners and are identified by the plantation records. Research then focuses upon the owner's family and the records it produced as slave owners, as well as on the slave family itself.
Searching for slave ancestors always reequires a thorough investigation of the white slave-owning family in all public and historical records. The census records of 1870 are the first to list blacks by name. In 1850 & 1860 slave statistics were gathered, but did not list slaves by name, just tallied, and are useful as circumstantial evidence that a slave of a certain age and sex was the property of a particular owner. Free blacks and their families names were included in 1850 & 1860. Military records from Revolutionary War are available.
Birth records are available as the slave owners need to protect his personal property by officially recording it. If you know the birthdate, you can search the birth records for a male or female slave born on that date and an owner/plantation name will be given. Bills of sale will be found amoung land records, estate records or miscellaneous county records. Slave trade manifests are availabe at the National Archives, Washington, DC. Also write to the Registry of American Black Ancestry, Box 417, Salt Lake City, Ut 84110 .