Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sunday Search: Local Resources


One of the first resources, beyond that of family members, pictures, and documents, which we all use when we begin our genealogical journey consists of numerous memberships to various websites. Websites like Ancestry.com are great resources and powerful tools to build the basic framework of your family tree but they are by no means the only resource out there and, in fact, there will be numerous holes still remaining once those databases are exhausted. Where the real work begins is when there are still questions to be answered. This is when the local and offline digging begins.

Too often, local resources are overlooked in recreating the lives of ancestors. It may seem obvious to many of us that have been researching for years but these museums, schools, societies, groups, associations, libraries, and local records offices are frequently forgotten by many. It is a sad reality of the current state of genealogical research as most people starting out and many that have been working on their families for some time often fall into the trap of marketing and instant gratification. This is particularly astounding when you consider the fact that these local resources were once the foundation of countless family histories.

And I must admit that there are many times when I too have overlooked these tremendous resources. Sometimes the most obvious places are overlooked, sometimes they are places that we frequent every week or every month. A great example of this is my local masonic lodge where I have access to all of the records. Knowing that my family has at least a little history with this building and fraternity has made it possible to find some supplementary information that added to the lives of many in my tree. Taking the search to grand lodge widened that group of ancestors even further.

When my family and I traveled to Virginia last summer some of the stops we made we to these local places unavailable online. And, of course, sometime just being in the places, the communities, where my family lived proved valuable to offer perspective to the stories that have been passed down and in adding dimension to the lives of ancestors. Sometimes local depositories are also the only place where the information will be found as has been the case for me with some of the cemetery records near me.

The other important factor is that sometimes when I business closes or moves out of the area, much of the company history is left with the local government, library, or historical society. If you know that an ancestor spent their life working for that company it is certainly worth the time to talk to those local resources. However, the most important aspects to all of this are the simple truths that local resources have local experts who are usually willing to assist you with your research without the exorbitant costs that can sometimes be charged by general sites and/or firms and this research can serve to strengthen your ties with that community whether or not it is the place you call home. After all, those communities are also part of your family history.