1. Did your relative have additional spouses or children?
2. Did your relative serve in the military (or marry someone who did)?
- graves in military cemeteries or graves bearing service markers
- entries in the 1890 US census veterans’ schedule for Union veterans (which survives only for states ranging alphabetically from Kentucky to Wyoming and sometimes also contains entries for Confederate veterans)
- response to the 1910 census question about survivors of the Union or Confederate Army or Navy
- listing in the National Park Service’s Civil War Soldiers and Sailors index, which links to lists of people in their units and a record of the unit’s activities and locations in the war
- federal (and sometimes state) records of those awarded military bounty land (see question No. 3)
- listing in a state adjutant general roster of WWI service members (check Ancestry.com and state archive websites)
- entries in the National Archives’ WWII Army enlistment file
3. Did your relative get land from the government?
4. Did your ancestors make the news?
For US ancestors, start your search at the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America, a free resource for nearly 10 million digitized newspaper pages published before 1922. Newspapers.com, Newspaper Archive and GenealogyBank are excellent resources for those with subscriptions. The latter two may be accessible free through your public library.
5. Has anyone written about your family?
Follow up this initial sweep with a more-targeted online search for articles and books. Your search terms will be
- The Periodical Source Index (PERSI) is a subject index to thousands of names, places and topics mentioned in genealogical and historical articles. Findmypast.com subscribers have access to the most current version of PERSI, where some search results link to digitized versions of the indexed articles. HeritageQuest Online, available for free at many libraries, and Ancestry.com have a version of PERSI that includes publications through 2009. You can order copies of PERSI articles through the Allen County Public Library’s Article Fulfillment service.
- Google Scholar searches scholarly journal articles, dissertations, legal abstracts, patents and more.
- JSTOR is another database of academic journal articles that often has genealogically useful material. It’s available in academic and reference libraries or from home with a JPass.
- WorldCat and the Library of Congress local history and genealogy online catalog are great places to search for compiled family histories and local histories. Many titles in WorldCat are available through interlibrary loan; visit your library for ordering help. The Library of Congress doesn’t lend most genealogical materials.
- Online digital book and document archives may have full-text search capability. Try FamilySearch.org’s Family History Books, Google Books, Internet Archive and HathiTrust.
6. Did someone make a record when your relative died?
- To overcome search problems with digitized newspapers indexed by optical character recognition software, search on a variety of names, places and other terms related to your ancestor.
- City directories are helpful for finding ancestors in the 10 years between federal censuses. Looks for these digitized on genealogy websites, in public library collections and on Family History Library microfilm.
- Don’t forget to check our list of resources.
Solve research problems with land records
Brick-wall research solutions
Often-overlooked genealogical records
Guide to solving genealogy problems with DNA
Research Remedies CD
Using Indirect Evidence video course