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:
BELIEVE NONE OF WHAT YOU HEAR, ONLY HALF OF WHAT
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
- Genealogical societies
- The Internet
Archives and Libraries
National Archives and Records Administrationalaska.email@example.com
Pacific Alaska Region (Anchorage)
654 West Third Ave.
Anchorage, Alaska 99501-2145
Alaska State Archives & Recordsarchives@eed.state.ak.us
141 Willoughby Ave.
Juneau, AK 99801-1720
Alaska State Libraryasl.firstname.lastname@example.org
Alaska Historical Collections
P.O. Box 110571
Juneau, AK 99811-0571
University of Alaska, Fairbanksfyref@uaf.edu
Elmer E. Rasmuson Library
310 Tanana Dr.
Fairbanks, AK 99775-6800
Phone: (907) 474-7481
Genealogical and Historical Societies
Anchorage Genealogy Societyags@ak.net
Anchorage, Alaska 99504
Fairbanks Genealogical SocietyFGSLookup@hotmail.com
P.O. Box 60534
Fairbanks, AK 99706
Genealogical Society of S.E. Alaska
P.O. Box 6313
Ketchikan, AK 99901
Gastineau Genealogical Societyggs@alaska.com
3270 Nowell Ave.
Juneau, AK 99801
Alaska State Museumbruce_kato@eed.state.ak.us
395 Whittier St.
Juneau, AK 99801-1718
Alaska Historical Societyakhist@gci.net
P.O. Box 100299
Anchorage, Alaska 99510-0299
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
- 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
- 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.
Box 425, 2 Waterboro Rd., Alfred, Maine 04002.
New England Historical Genealogical Society, 101 Newbury Street,
Boston, MA 02116. Web: http://www.americanancestors.org/home.html
- Genealogical Publishing Company, 1001 N. Calvert St., Baltimore,
MD 21202. Web: http://www.genealogical.com/
- Higginson Genealogical Books, 14 Derby Square, Salem, MA 01970.
- Stemmons Publishing, Box 612, West Jordan, UT 84084. Web:
- DeWolfe & Wood
TO BUY OR RENT MICROFILM:
- National Archives Microfilm Rental Program. Web: http://www.archives.gov/research/order/renting-microfilm.html
- Census Microfilm Expeditors. Web: http://www.censusmicrofilm.com/
TO BUY CD-ROMs:
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
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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
1850 to 1870 - Birthplace of person & province or
1880 - Birthplace of parents & province or county.
1900 to 1910 - Year of immigration & citizenship, if
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
American Newspapers 1821-1936
United States Newspaper Project - National Union List
Ancestry's Red Book
The following may be found in newspapers:
- 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
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.
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 (https://familysearch.org/).
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
Alaska Moravian Churchwww.alaskamoravian.org/
4105 Turnagin Blvd, Suite 217
Anchorage, AK 99517
Diocese of Juneauwww.dioceseofjuneau.org/
419 Sixth St., Suite 300
Juneau, AK 99801
Diocese of Fairbanks
Catholic Bishop of Northern Alaska
1316 Peger Rd.
Fairbanks, Alaska 99709-5199
Archdiocese of Anchoragewww.archdioceseofanchorage.org/
225 Cordova Street
Anchorage, AK 99501
St. Herman's Theological Seminarystherman@gci.net
414 Mission Rd.
Kodiak, Alaska 99615-6329
Phone: (907) 486-3524
Fax: (907) 486-5935
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
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.
- 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.
For the Beginner