Tag Archives: Genealogy

Many Paths to Sources: Vital Records Part 1

Generally speaking, in the United States, the requirement to record vital records (I’m primarily referring to birth and death certificates here, marriages are a bit different and we will discuss them in a later post) did not begin until the early part of the 1900s. This requirement was done on a state-by-state basis, so each state’s law started at a different time. Each state will have different privacy protections in place based on the state law at the time. This means some states are very difficult to get a vital record from and others are easier. For example, a birth certificate may not be available to the public for 100 years, but a close family member (you will most likely have to prove your relationship) may be able to get a copy of the record. These requirements differ from state-to-state, and the laws change over time. So, it is best to examine the state’s vital records office for the most recent information.

Ohio Death Certificate for Marshall C. Dimick

When I am looking for vital records, I usually have a few things I do to locate them. The order in which I do these may depend on how old the birth or death certificate is. If it is more recent, I might start at the state vital records office. If it is an older record, I might start at the FamilySearch catalog. My steps:

  • Read up at the state vital records office website.
  • Read the FamilySearch Wiki for that state’s vital records.
  • Look at some of the larger genealogy websites for vital records databases, such as Ancestry.
  • Examine the state-level archives, historical society, genealogical society, or whatever repository the state sends its historical materials to (if they do).
  • Examine the state and county of interest at the FamilySearch catalog to see if they’ve been microfilmed. Some counties may have done a local registration for births and deaths years before the state requirement was in place. This is true for Wood County, Ohio and Audrain County, Missouri, two locations I have successfully found county level vital records.
  • Look at online, user-contributed sources such as Find a Grave or public online trees in case anyone has posted a birth or death certificate for the person in question. (This can be surprisingly successful.)

The most important thing when trying to get a vital record is understanding when each state began requiring them. And understanding that it took a while for the counties to comply with new state laws. If a death certificate was required in 1909 and you cannot find a death certificate for 1909 or even for several years after, realize that things did not happen instantly in the early 1900s. I have looked for vital records in some states and sometimes cannot find them for 10 or more years after registration was required. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t recorded at the county level (though it may). More likely, the systems weren’t in place yet to comply with the laws.

Next time, we will look at some vital records substitutes and places to look for alternatives to the traditional birth or death certificate.

Many Paths to Sources: Newspapers, Part 1

First, let’s take a look at newspapers. Newspapers are one of my favorite subjects to speak about. Finding your ancestors in the newspaper gives you a nice, albeit often short, snapshot into their lives and gives their lives extra flavor. It helps turn them into real people that existed rather than just names on a document.

There are some fantastic online options for finding newspapers. The big three sites for subscriptions:

And there is not one that is better than the other. They all have different collections, so the one that is right for you, is the one that has the series of newspapers with your ancestors in them. Be sure to check their catalog for coverage before buying a subscription. All of these sites let you do that, so don’t skip this step and then get disappointed if they don’t have the papers you needed.

There are many free sites for newspapers across the U.S. Many states have a state digitization project and corresponding website. Here are just a few:

Of course, there is the Library of Congress’s collection of digitized newspapers:

Internationally, there are also some free digital newspaper sites as well. I know of a couple where I’ve done research:

Then there are link sites such as:

The above, is a lot. But is is literally just scratching the surface of what you can do with newspaper research. In Part 2 we will look more closely at finding newspapers online. In Part 3, we will delve into finding and accessing newspapers offline.

Many Paths to Sources: It’s Not All Online

In the genealogy field, you might see the statement “it’s not all online” frequently. Unfortunately, with so much being online, we tend to think it ALL is. Ancestry, FamilySearch, and others, with their hint systems and click to add to family trees has trained us that if it isn’t online, delivered by a hint, then it probably doesn’t exist. This is simple neurology as well. The brain does not like to work hard.1 So, if there is not an easy way to find or get something, the brain gets on board with “if it isn’t online then it doesn’t exist” mentality. But it’s not all online.

As an admin on the Facebook group The Genealogy Squad, we see this happen all the time. People ask for where they can find vital records, yearbooks, city directories, newspaper articles, and so on. When the answer comes back that the particular thing they are looking for is not online and they will need to call or email a specific repository, they balk. Surely it is online somewhere. Oh, I have to make a call, and possibly PAY for said document?!?

TV shows and movies do not help this either. I watch NCIS and Criminal Minds, all of which would have you believe that the smallest bit of information can be found online, regardless of whether you have a warrant to obtain that information, but that’s another topic altogether.

The companies that are digitizing, are choosing to do so based on whether they can sell a subscription, with the exception of FamilySearch. They digitize to preserve according to their religious beliefs. It takes a lot of time and resources to do the digitizing, store the digital images, create databases linked to those digital images, etc. so you can sit at home and do this from your computer with minimal effort. I’m all for it. But if you truly want to obtain those harder-to-find documents, solve those mysteries, and break down the proverbial brick wall, you have to go further sometimes.

In this blog series, we will look at some common sources and explore some of the other ways you might consider to obtain that source. Fair warning, it may take a little more thinking, exploration, and effort to obtain. But I want us all to get a little less comfortable so we can get a little further ahead with our research projects.

1. Elliot T. Berkman, “The Neuroscience of Goals and Behavior Change” (Consult Psychol J. 2018 Mar; 70(1): 28–44; digital copy, US National Library of Medicine (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5854216/).

NGSQ Study Groups for 2022

Can you believe it is only a couple of weeks away until 2022? I can’t. This year has gone so slowly that I’m shocked to find us at the end of it.

Our NGSQ (National Genealogical Society Quarterly) study groups are forming for 2022 and we still have a few seats left! These discussions are run by Cyndi Ingle (of Cyndi’s List) and myself and between the two of us, we offer 4 different time slots.

We have worksheets that help us breakdown and discuss the articles. Also, each month you get 5-6 unique questions for that particular article to help lead the discussion. We focus on principles found in the book Mastering Genealogical Proof so we are covering the elements of the Genealogical Proof Standard from each article. We also host private Facebook Groups to facilitate discussion between sessions.

You can find more information and sign up at this page: https://genealogypants.com/research-and-consultation-services/classes-and-study-groups/

Just click on the section you are interested in to get more details.

We will be sending out more information to those of you who have signed up very soon. We hope to see you in 2022!

New Goals for 2014

HappyNewYearAs we look ahead to the new year, we tend to plan for new adventures, things we’d like to improve, goals we’d like to reach and a year better than the last. While we can’t plan for what we can’t control, we can make goals for what we can.

This is my 2014 “wish list” for myself, genealogically speaking:

  1. Get my BCG portfolio turned in (My deadline is December 15, 2014!)
  2. Write at least 3 major articles (These are aside from those that may appear in my home society’s quarterly.)
  3. Gain 1 new client per month
  4. Speak/teach at least 12 times this year

Ok, that list feels short to me. But look at number 1! I’m going to keep the list short because that first one is a doozy! I really should just make that one item the only goal I expect from myself this year, but I am an overachiever so of course I put more items on my list.

Good luck to you and I hope you take some time to make a few goals for yourself this year.

Happy New Year Everyone!!!


Genealogy Gratitude – The Genealogy Husband

mensethI will finish this series off with a sincere gratitude for my spouse, Seth. He’s the ultimate in being supportive of my genealogy obsession. He supports me, not only financially, but with helping out with the kids when I want to take off on a genealogy adventure. Sometimes, when he gets to come along on those adventures, he’ll be my microfilm fetcher, reader or scanner, or my tombstone spotter. He’s always accommodating when it comes to taking a side trip to visit a far flung cemetery or repository. He also helped build the aforementioned home office (and didn’t once demand a “man cave”), moved many books, shelves, desks, filing cabinets and office supplies to and fro. He also let me pick the bright colors we painted on the walls.

Overall, he is the best genealogy husband a girl could ask for! I love you honey!


Genealogy Gratitude – Volunteers

Thank You!
Thank You!

You’ve seen them. Maybe you’ve been one. But you’ve definitely benefited from them. Genealogy volunteers! They tirelessly index records, sit at a library help desk, do look-ups, teach classes, mentor, lead genealogy societies, plan events, write articles, edit quarterlies and newsletters, send emails … they do it all. I know that I personally have benefited from many hours of volunteer time. This is my shout out to all volunteers who are, ever was or ever will be giving of their time freely for the benefit of others! It is another aspect of how awesome the genealogical community is!  THANK YOU!

Genealogical Gratitude – My New Home Office

My home office
My home office

It was only 10 years in the making. We moved into our house in 2003. It had an unfinished basement and we had a young family. My husband and his father got to work finishing the basement. On one side it has a creative studio space, TV/Family room, several closets and a bathroom. On the other … the new home office! It has two U-shaped desks that sit next to each other so my husband and I can work together. We also, finally, got 3 bookshelves for our books that have been in boxes since we moved in, 10 years ago. All of my Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, poetry, Shakespeare and other literature books and his sci-fi/fantasy collections finally see the light again.

All of my genealogy books and files have a home! Genealogy ShelvesMy dog has a little nest and I have a heater to take the chill off of the basement environment. We have two big windows that do let in a lot of light for a basement, so it is not a dark and gloomy as some basements.

I have plenty of room to spread my projects out (I usually have several going at the same time) and my husband has his own section that can be as messy as he likes and it’s not in our living room any longer!

So thank you hubby and father-in-law for all of the work over the years!


Genealogical Gratitude – Educational Opportunities

Pamela teaching her children (1743–45)I am continually grateful for the education opportunities that are available to me on the state level, national level and online. I am also thankful for the teachers, educators, lecturers and mentors who give their time to bring those opportunities to me (and everyone else who benefits, too). I know I wouldn’t be where I am today in the field if it hadn’t been for some really excellent examples who have stood at a podium and unleashed their wisdom upon a group of eager students or those who take time to talk to me (and others) personally about genealogy-related topics.

Those who have “gone before” taking the time to teach those of us coming next is one of the best parts of the genealogical community. A big thank you to all of those who have gone before and are “up there” at the podium (or writing books and articles, or teaching webinars, or leading small study groups). You’ve been a great influence on me!

Genealogical Gratitude – Coffee!

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia, Share Share Alike)

I don’t know about you, but I am in love with coffee. I am so grateful for coffee and how it impacts my genealogical research. I come from a long line of coffee drinkers so I am sure it runs in the gene pool! I am especially grateful for peppermint mochas. Plain coffee (with cream and sugar) is an excellent treat for next to the computer in the chilly Colorado winters. Also because it keeps me awake at night when I get on a research roll or get me going in the morning after a long night of working. Coffee is a fun way to meet up with friends and fellow genealogists! Coffee is a treat beyond the cup, it brings people together and helps create memories!

Wanna meet for coffee sometime? I’m up for it!