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The Road to Research:
Sources and Resources


"Okay," you say, "I've filled out the forms, made a mess of my home digging out evidence, stuck everything in folders of some kind, and asked everyone who used to love me every question I can think of till now, nobody wants to be around me anymore! What am I supposed to do next?"

You're now ready to begin walking the path of dedicated research. There is an abundance of material awaiting you.

But, before you begin ---

There is a Cardinal Rule in genealogy you should now learn and commit to the center of your memory:


It is critical to your research that you follow this rule. Aunt Sadie, bless her soul, spent twenty years working on the family history. When she found out you were interested in it, she passed all her work on to you. The problem is, Aunt Sadie is human -- prone to bad days -- and prone to making errors like the rest of us. Now that you have this wealth of family research, you, the dedicated student of research [well, you ARE, aren't you?] need only to remember the CARDINAL RULE and prove Aunt Sadie's work.

On the other hand, most of us barely have data back to our grandparents to begin with. And so, we begin our road with letters, questionnaires, phone calls, and e-mails to relatives and old family friends. Any data we receive must also revert to the scrutiny of the Cardinal Rule and be proven.

In the end, when you have decided to share your knowledge, usually by publishing it, your ability as a genealogist will never be more critically judged. You must be able to prove your line of descent using as many original documents as necessary.

That leads us to the purpose of this page:

Tapping every resource possible...

A resource is a source of supply or support, a source of information or expertise. Several examples are:

  • City and County Clerks' offices
  • Your parents, grandparents, or Aunt Sadie
  • Libraries
  • Genealogical societies
  • The Internet

Archives and Libraries

National Archives and Records Administration
Pacific Alaska Region (Anchorage)

654 West Third Ave.
Anchorage, Alaska 99501-2145
Phone: (907)261-7820
Fax: (907)261-7813


Alaska State Archives & Records
141 Willoughby Ave.
Juneau, AK 99801-1720
Phone: (907)465-2270

Alaska State Library
Alaska Historical Collections

P.O. Box 110571
Juneau, AK 99811-0571
Phone: (907)465-2925
Fax: (907)465-2990

University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Elmer E. Rasmuson Library

310 Tanana Dr.
Fairbanks, AK 99775-6800
Phone: (907) 474-7481


Genealogical and Historical Societies

Anchorage Genealogy Society
P.O.Box 242294
Anchorage, Alaska 99504

Fairbanks Genealogical Society
P.O. Box 60534
Fairbanks, AK 99706

Genealogical Society of S.E. Alaska
P.O. Box 6313
Ketchikan, AK 99901

Gastineau Genealogical Society
3270 Nowell Ave.
Juneau, AK 99801
Phone: (907)586-3695

Alaska State Museum
395 Whittier St.
Juneau, AK 99801-1718
Phone: (907)465-2901
Fax: (907)465-2976

Alaska Historical Society
P.O. Box 100299
Anchorage, Alaska 99510-0299



 Finding just the right source ...

A source is a reference work. There are three types:

  • Locality - helps you find out about specific geographical areas.
  • Primary - an original document or published article that was the original record of information, in other words, never before published; a certified copy; the best evidence or proof you can provide.
  • Secondary - not the original record, nor is the information new; be sure to return to the Cardinal Rule, especially when using these tools of research.

Some examples of sources are:

  • Birth, death, and marriage certificates [primary & secondary sources]
  • Deeds (primary]
  • Wills [primary]
  • Maps [locality & secondary]
  • County history [locality & secondary sources]
  • Town records [locality, primary (if they are the original records), secondary (if transcribed and published)
  • Family genealogies [secondary]
  • Aunt Sadie's work on the family research [secondary unless facts are evidenced by primary sources]
  • The Internet [locality & secondary sources]

Many people find themselves facing stumbling blocks to their research very quickly because they either don't know or just don't realize the varied types of books, microfiche, microfilm, databases and web sites available to help them. Listed below are just some of those sources. When using secondary sources, the researcher is forewarned NOT to rely solely on 'the printed word' as human error is ever present, but to seek out original documents for confirmation. Use those printed tools as tracers and guides to the original data.


There are many book companies and supply centers to choose from. It is best to acquire catalogs from at least three different suppliers to be able to shop around for the best prices. Also, not all catalogs carry the same books. Listed below are only several of the larger ones geared toward the entire United States and other countries. The price of each catalog is listed after its address. To find more suppliers, you need only read Everton's The Genealogical Helper. You can probably find this periodical in your local community library's reading room.

  • Genealogical Publishing Company, 1001 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21202.  Web:
  • Higginson Genealogical Books, 14 Derby Square, Salem, MA 01970.   Web:
  • Stemmons Publishing, Box 612, West Jordan, UT 84084.  Web:
  • DeWolfe & Wood P.O. Box 425, 2 Waterboro Rd., Alfred, Maine 04002.  Web:
  • New England Historical Genealogical Society, 101 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02116.  Web:


  • National Archives Microfilm Rental Program.  Web:
  • Census Microfilm Expeditors. Web:



Events created records. Now, where are they located? That depends on the kind of record you're seeking. Several of the lesser-used helps are city directories which are available for most larger U.S. cities.

Follow a family over a span of years, and you can watch as each child appears. Also, if you're looking for occurrences of a particular surname, national and international phone listings are widely available on the Web or on CD-ROM where they can be viewed in many public libraries or even purchased. The more common sources, however, follow:

Vital records including birth, marriage, death and divorce:

  • Available from the Clerk of the County, or, in most cases, from the Department of Public Health at the State level.
  • Records will range from $3.00 to $15.00 each.
  • Generally, if the State cannot find your record, they will keep your money anyway; so go to the County Clerk first and try there.
  • Be sure the county is the right one for the date you are working from BEFORE you order your certificate.
  • Try to get as many copies of vital records certificates from your family members as you can before having to purchase them.

For vital records from the 20th century, the U.S. government's publication Where to Write for Vital Records gives the address, cost and ordering information for each state's Bureau of Vital Statistics and indicates the years for which the records are available.

County Court Records

  • Marriage
  • Probate Records
  • Land Records
  • Divorce records
  • Other - Court Minute Books, Tax Records, School Census, other loose papers and document
  • Birth, marriage and death records may occasionally be found but varies from state to state, check references. Sometimes delayed birth certificates may be found.

Most counties will provide limited amounts of information through correspondence. Do not expect them to do much searching and limit your request to a few items.

Cemetery Records

  • Birth and death dates, but you must be extra wary of errors
  • Clues about family relationships
  • Information from monuments
  • Burial records or sexton's records
  • Cemetery deeds and plats
  • Burial permit records
  • Grave opening records
  • Local funeral home

There are several types of cemeteries - church, public, family, state and national. Determine where your ancestors are buried from a death certificate, obituary, local index or family story. Some public, state, and national cemeteries will have lists of those buried. Also check the local cemetery office for information. Information from cemeteries can help with birth dates and often with information on other family members buried in the family plot.

U.S. Census Records [covered again more thoroughly on another page in this beginner section:

  • Important research tool that gives personal information about ancestors at ten year intervals from .....
  • 1790-1920 excluding 1890 -- all Federal census years end in zero.
  • Organized by state, county, township and/or city.
  • Census information highlights you can gather from each year in addition to the name, age, birthplace of individuals and their parents --

1850 to 1870 - Birthplace of person & province or country.

1880 - Birthplace of parents & province or county.

1900 to 1910 - Year of immigration & citizenship, if foreign born.

1920 - Also year of naturalization.

State Census Records

Ran every ten years in between U.S. censuses -- all years end with the number five.


Microfilmed copies of local newspapers are often found at the county library or archives, or they may be available on interlibrary loan from the state historical society. Several books can help you locate newspapers for specific locations and dates. These include:

American Newspapers 1821-1936
United States Newspaper Project - National Union List
Ancestry's Red Book

The following may be found in newspapers:

  • Obituaries
  • Marriage notices
  • Birth announcements
  • Family reunions and social events
  • Graduation announcements
  • Legal notices of land sales, tax rolls, probate of wills, settlement of estates, divorce proceedings and reports of civil and criminal cases may give information about the family.

Ship's Passenger Lists

  • List of passengers who arrived at ports on East Coast, West Coast, Great Lakes and Gulf of Mexico
  • Information available from passenger lists depends upon time period of arrival.

Church Records

For many areas and time periods church records are one of the best sources for genealogical information and for many areas they are the only available substitute for official records. Church records are generally accurate because the recording priest or minister was usually present at the time of the event. Several types of church records are valuable to genealogists, the most fundamental being birth, baptismal, marriage, death and burial records.

In order to use church data you must know the actual church or parish your ancestor attended. Check in the community in which they lived. Contact the library, historical society or genealogical society for the address of the oldest church of the suspected denomination. The National Directory of Churches, Synagogues, and Other Houses of Worship lists churches geographically and by denomination.

I'll start this area off by listing an online resource that is non-denominational -- the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) site at (  They have been adding their files online for years and though not everything is added yet, you just may find what you're looking for there.


Alaska Moravian Church
4105 Turnagin Blvd, Suite 217
Anchorage, AK 99517
Phone: (907)646-7630
Fax: (907)646-7631


Diocese of Juneau
419 Sixth St., Suite 300
Juneau, AK 99801
Phone: (907)586-2227

Diocese of Fairbanks
Catholic Bishop of Northern Alaska

1316 Peger Rd.
Fairbanks, Alaska 99709-5199
Phone: (907)374-9500
Fax: (907)374-9580

Archdiocese of Anchorage
225 Cordova Street
Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907)297-7700


St. Herman's Theological Seminary
414 Mission Rd.
Kodiak, Alaska 99615-6329
Phone: (907) 486-3524
Fax: (907) 486-5935


Military Records

Military service records are found at two levels of authority, state and national, and are located at either the State Archives or the National Archives. A very helpful publication for locating military records is U.S. Military Records: a Guide to Federal and State Sources, Colonial America to the Present.

For veterans of earlier wars including Confederate records from the American Civil War, you will probably do well to start at a state level. Also, many states have published indexes or lists of veterans so you will want to check for any available indexes for the localities you are searching.

To locate addresses for individual state's archives check the AASLH Directory of Historical Societies.

The National Archives' Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives will introduce you to military Records and their indexes at the national level. The National Archives will search the register of enlistments or the compiled military service records of an individual soldier if you submit a request on GSA form.

American Revolution:

  • Documents relating to a soldier, his widow, or children are on file in the National Archives and are available for a fee.
  • Read the microfilm yourself first. Then request all information in the file including `unselected material'.

War of 1812, Indian Wars, Mexican War - Records available through National Archives, similar to Revolutionary War. Microfilm indexes available through LDS Family History Centers.

American Civil War:

  • Service and pension files relating to Union soldiers are in the National Archives and are indexed.
  • Confederate records are located in the National Archives while others are retained by the states.
  • Form for ordering records A NATF Form 80, write to National Service Records, National Archives, Washington DC. 20408.

World War I to present:

  • WWI draft records located at Federal Records Center, 221 St. Joseph Ave, East Point, Georgia.
  • Other records at National Personnel Records Center, GSA, Military Personnel Records, 9700 Page Blvd., St Louis, MO 63132.
  • Records not open to public. However, genealogical data will be provided to close relatives upon application with sufficient information to locate the records such as name, service number, branch of service.


NEXT: Using the Internet


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