|Introduction to Genealogy|
While relatively few people are able to link themselves to families whose complete genealogies have been researched and published, it is well worth tracking down any previous research which may have been done on your family. Keep in mind as you find information, however, that previous research is considered a secondary source, and not proof on its own. Start with your family and see if their might be a relative who has already done some work on the family history. Previous research can also be found in the following sources:
Published Family Histories & Genealogies
You may be able to find published books about your family in a library near where they lived or in a database on the Internet or CD-ROM. The Family History Library run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) in Salt Lake City, Utah, has satellite research centers around the world where you can access their collections, as well as an online catalog of their holdings. You can also contact a local genealogical or historical society or, if you live in the U.S., search the Library of Congress. Make sure that you verify that one of your known ancestors is listed in the book and don't just make assumptions because it is about a family with the same surname as yours. Before entering data from a published family history or genealogy into your charts or database, be sure to try and verify it on your own through primary source records.
If any of your ancestors were among the early settlers of a particular community, town, county, parish or state, local histories may be invaluable as sources of information. A good local history can give you insight into the day-to-day life of your ancestors. Many also provide genealogies for many of the early families in the community. The best places to find published local histories are the local libraries, genealogical societies or historical societies. The U.S. Library of Congress and the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah both have a large collection of local histories from around the world.
Some researchers are lucky enough to have ancestors with biographies written about them. These may be either a complete biographical work or a page or so in a book of compiled biographies. The same sources mentioned for local histories also apply when searching for biographies. In addition there are many large biography sites on the Net including Biography.com and even Wikipedia.
Genealogical & Historical Periodicals
Genealogical and historical magazines and journals are also good places to check for previous research about your family. Many publish records, genealogies, family trees and more for people who lived in the area which they cover. The Periodical Source Index (PERSI), an index of articles which have appeared in over 5000 different periodicals published in the U.S., Canada and around the world, is a great resource when searching out possible articles about your family. This index is available at many genealogy libraries, for purchase on CD-ROM and in one of Ancestry.com's pay-for-use databases. Other sources include large genealogy libraries as well as small, local genealogical & historical societies.
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