Southern California Genealogical Society
SCGS RESEARCH ASSISTANCE - Articles

Getting Started #5: Correspondence
by Beverly Truesdale

At some point in your research, you will need to write letters to the various court houses, cemeteries, churches or even family members or other people.

When writing to a court house for a marriage document, be polite. Don't ask for everything on a family name. Ask for one item, as the clerks do not have the time to do research. Be specific. Be sure to include the bride and groom's name and approximate date. When writing for a marriage record, ask for an uncertified copy of the original application for a marriage license, the register entry and the original bond. Ask for the cost of the document and be sure to include a self-addressed stamped envelope. You may want to check The Handy Book by Everton's to see what records are available for a specific time period.

When writing to a minister, tell him that you are compiling a history on your family and would he please check the church registers for that surname? Ask for a birth, baptism or marriage record. Be sure to include the date of the event. Enclose a donation and a self-addressed stamped envelope. Be sure to thank him for taking time to check the records.

When writing to a cemetery, ask if they would check their records for your family member's name and be sure to include the death date or an approximate date. You might ask if there are others with the same last name or is there a family plot? You may wish to send a donation, and include a self-addressed stamped envelope.

When writing to family members, let them know that you are compiling a history of the family. Offer to share information. Tell them you will be glad to send them a copy of the family history. Ask for specific questions, such as what is the date of your grandparents' marriage, where did they live, is there a family Bible or are there other family members who might have additional information on the family? Do not include too many questions at one time. Some relatives may not want to talk about the family. And again, always be sure to include a self-addressed stamped envelope.

Be polite in your letter writing; be sure to say please and thank you. Keep a copy of your letter for your records.

Also, check the many periodicals that are available. Most of them have a query section and you just might find someone who is researching the same name as you are and you can contact that person for information on the family. You just might find a new "cousin."


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