When I started researching my family history I was really lucky that I had my mom to answer my questions. Then – ten years later – I started joining organizations where documentation of family lineage is a necessity. What “we” think are great resources – family tradition, county histories, lineage books, etc. – can only be used as clues when applying to an organization such as the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).
Below are the tips I received from the DAR and thought I’d share them with you. There’s probably a printout on the DAR website, but I couldn’t find it. (I’m sure I used all of the evidence tips in my DAR application.)
- Start with what is known. Always work from known facts to the unknown.
- Record where the information came from. Create citations to be able to retrace research if necessary.
- Copy the Title and Copyright pages. You should always know which book the information came from.
- Keep a Research Log of all the sources reviewed. Even if you did not find the documentation you were searching for. Then you know where you have been, so that you know where you need to go.
Use as CLUES only – Check the Source Citations and Obtain the Original Records
- Family tradition. Information passed down by word-of-mouth can be interpreted differently.
- Undocumented county histories, in print and/or online. Can contain truth or error.
- Similar surnames or given names. Often the same name is found in different states at the same time.
- Information from genealogical indexes. May have several different entries for the same person.
- Family genealogies, in print and/or online. Often repeat incorrect information, over and over again.
- Lineage societies’ books or applications. May be older with few citations or documentation.
Birth, Marriage and Death Records
- Birth date and location evidence. Look for Bibles, church records and tombstones.
- Look at Poll Tax and Jury Lists. May be evidence of legal age and if exempt, evidence of advanced age.
- Jr. and Sr. may not be related. It could be a younger and an older man in the same area.
- Marriage records. Witnesses and bondsman could be related to either party.
- Marriage evidence. Look at land records. They may contain information about the spouse and children.
- Death records. May contain the name of the spouse.
- Death evidence. Check for wills, guardianship records, letter of administration, probate records or final estate settlements and inventories. Check from the time of death to several years after.
- Land records. Use these to separate two persons of the same name in the same community. (Land records are also called chancery records.)
Proof of Residence
- Tax, Jury and Militia Lists. These may be indicators of residence.
- Land records. Use to place individuals in a specific place and time.
- Deed books. There may be a Power of Attorney in the state or prior residence.
- Location of land. This is not always in the county where the purchase is recorded.
- Record migration of neighbors and relatives. People and family groups often moved together.
- Documents for witnesses. They may be neighbors and relatives.
- Wills. May not provide names, only relationship. Look at deeds and other earlier legal records.
- Draft Registration, Military and Pension files. May have birth information and names of relatives.
- Birth records. Be sure to ask for the complete record or the certificate with the parents’ names.
- Find the family in censuses. More than one generation may be listed in a household with relationship.
- Death records. May contain the parents’ names.