Question #7 from our Ancestry poll, “What time frame is hardest for you to find documents?” showed the following results:
Each century and country has its own unique challenges in finding documents that can help build a family tree. This blog post is about using documents from the United States. Government documents for genealogy are hard to find in the 16 and 17 hundreds because record keeping was not mandatory in the early years of its formation.
Finding Genealogy Records in the 1600 and 1700’s
Starting with the 1600’s, it will be nearly impossible to find birth, marriage, or death records. You are better off looking for: taxation, church, last will and testaments, and probate records. They may be sparse and hard to find, but they do exist. Try searching the FamilySearch microfilms for the type of document that you are seeking. Go to the local historical society and library to see what records they have to use, or advice they can share.
Finding Family History Records in the 1800’s
As the country develops, states start to record genealogy information for birth, marriages, and deaths. The next resource to emerge in the 1800’s is city directories. They are a great tool for piecing together your family history. You can learn a lot about a family in the 1800 and 1900’s. Many state archives and universities hold these valuable books. You can learn when someone married, left home, moved, or died by following the family in a directory for consecutive years. You can start to look for birth, marriage, and death records, as many states started to record this information.
Finding Historical Documents in the 1900’s
By the 1900’s all states were recoding pertinent information that can help you to verify the family history information that you have and help to grow your family tree. To see a chart of when a state started to record vital information, click here.