While going through my aunt and uncle’s book collection, I rescued a copy of Annals of Platte County, Missouri, published in 1897. Subtitled From Its Exploration Down to June 1, 1897: With Genealogies of Its Noted Families, and Sketches of Its Pioneers and Distinguished People, the book was a gem of a find.
In case you’re not familiar with county histories, they’re among the most coveted of local printed resources. Varying in size and scope, they contain at the least a history of the county and a brief sketch of original families. At the most, these books are well-indexed maps to family genealogies, local gossip, political debates, church meetings and local hangings. If your family members were pioneers in any county, find a county history and dig in with gusto.
Not only did my book trace some prominent Platte County families, it also noted where people were educated, their various businesses, the state of their health, their organizational memberships and military service.
When I found the book, my first thought was “why did my aunt have a book about Platte County, since none of our family lived there?” My second thought was “how can I make this book available to Platte County researchers?” Although I thought about donating it to the San Diego Genealogical Society library, I decided to keep it and do free lookups for online genealogists. Since other people have done lookups for me in the past, I enjoy the chance to return the favor.
If you have a county history, or are looking for one, I can recommend several online sites. Your first stop should be USGenWeb, the premiere site for American genealogy. All of the county sites have a mailing list, or a list of volunteers and the books they own, along with guidelines for requesting lookups.
Other sources include:
• GenLookUps: A Directory of Genealogy Lookup Volunteers
• GeneaSearch: Free Lookups
• Genealogy Lookup Forum
• Books We Own
Post a lookup request on any county’s mailing list; you’ll find a complete compilation of all county lists at lists.rootsweb.com.