Tips for genealogical research
A lot of people have passed through York County over the years.
In the 1700s, it was a crossroads community, serving as a major artery for immigrants – many from Europe – who were heading west and south.
This century, descendants of these settlers find archives in York County valuable resources for understanding their family’s past.
Today, The York Daily Record/Sunday News ran a primer from the Dallas Morning News on genealogical research:
10 keys to the past
1. Birth, death and marriage. Once you have names, get the time and place of birth and death. Names sometimes were written down incorrectly in databases, so having the entry and exit points helps you ensure you are researching the right person, says Bockstruck. One patron of his was researching the surname “Zachary,” which was mistakenly typed as “Lachary” in various records.
Death certificates can provide both primary and secondary causes of death, which can give you some insight into your family’s medical history.
But keep in mind that as you go back further into your family, there might not be many formal records of births or marriages. Sloat recommends visiting a family cemetery if you are lucky enough to have one, where you can learn birth dates, death dates and relationships.
2. The census. After you’ve tracked down the vital stats, it’s time to turn to the community. Census records can give you a wealth of information such as birth places, military service, education, professions, property owned, etc.
Sloat says it’s important to take a look at the neighbors as well. “Families lived together, moved together, and their children often stayed nearby after marriage,” she says. “You will want to track each of the children in a family even after they have married and established their own families.”
3. Church records. Bockstruck says churches typically keep very good records, such as baptismal, christening, confirmation and marriage information, which can be found in books or on microfilm format in the library.
4. Newspapers. Find an ancestor’s obituary and look for surviving members of the family, those who preceded your ancestor in death, and other information such as religious affiliation.
5. School records. Think about the paper trails people might have left, says Bockstruck. For example, many people in the post-World War II generation went to college, he says, so there are probably scholarly records as well as social records.
6. Court records. You can find a lot of interesting information at your local courthouse or the courthouse where your ancestors resided at the time. Look up your ancestor and check for deeds, probate, voting records, marriage and even military service information.
7. Military service records. Certain files included not only service information, but rank, age, and if you’re lucky, a physical description. Other military files that might exist include payrolls, hospital, prisoner-of-war, court martial, promotions, draft or desertion. Many records for the Civil War and World Wars I and II were recorded at the county level.
8. Land records. According to RootsWeb.com, land records can tell you when your ancestor arrived and left an area. Some might even include a man’s former place of residence, which allows you to trace his migration pattern backward.
9. Immigration and naturalization records. For most people, your ancestors had to arrive in America at some point. If your immigrant ancestor became a citizen, his or her naturalization records might be at the county court or state archive, according to RootsWeb.com. Ships’ passenger lists are also helpful, and were preserved beginning in 1820, but became more standardized (more helpful to you) in 1891. Check the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C.
10. Other records. If someone in your lineage was adopted, you’ll need to track down adoption records. Anyone with Native American ancestry should take a look at tribal records, but finding any information depends on whether your ancestors were living on or off the reservation, says Bockstruck.
African-Americans should determine whether their ancestors were slaves or free blacks, and then go from there, says Bockstruck. If they lived in Texas, they were most likely slaves. Those north of the Ohio River would likely have been free, so look at Freedman’s Bureau Records.
On the Web
– genealogy.com: This basic site helps you get started for free, but access to records requires a paid membership of at least $69.99 a year.
– ancestry.com: Offers access to a family tree builder and an extensive collection of records, but requires a monthly membership of at least $14.95.