Southern California Genealogical Society
SCGS RESEARCH ASSISTANCE - Articles

Techniques and Tips: Taking a Second Look
By Jo Anne Sadler

Family history research is changing at very rapid rate. Not only because of increased technology, the explosion of the Internet and CD research, but also due to the use of photocopy machines that were not widely available in the not-too-distant past.

After a hiatus of almost 20 years, I have made family history research a top priority in the past three years. I reviewed all my 1970's and 1980's records to determine where I could expand my research and found some success in the following areas:

Marriage Records:

Before someone gets married, most times they have to apply for a marriage license. These records are usually kept separately from the marriage certificates. Sometimes, as in 19th century New York City records, the application and license are on the same form but generally, they are a separate record. Many vital record offices will advise that they only have the marriage license record and not the application but they are well aware of the distinction.

If you only have a marriage certificate, it is worth trying to obtain a copy of the application. Generally there is more information on it. Sending a photocopy of the marriage certificate with your request will certainly help in getting a positive result. The charge for an application is usually the same charge as for a marriage certificate.

In one instance, even though I had my parent's marriage license and application, I requested a copy of the marriage register from the church where they were married. The register indicated where they each had been baptized and it turned out my mother was baptized in another religion than the one all of us had been raised in. Newspaper research may yield a wedding announcement or notice.

Vital records:

Most of my early vital records were certified copies transcribed from the master register onto a standard form. A certified copy generally does not record all the information that is on the register and could contain transcribing errors. In 1981 I obtained a copy of my husband's grandfather's 1878 birth record in Pomeroy, Ohio. Recently I requested a copy of the actual register and found that the grandfather was a twin. This information was not indicated on the first birth record. This was an interesting development as the 1900 and 1920 New York censuses both indicate that the grandfather was born in Ohio and the twin brother was born in New York!

If I had written to a county office and didn't get a result, I resent a request to the state office and vice versa. Sometimes just waiting a while and then resending the request can yield results. The more information given in a request, the more chance of success.

City Directories

City Directories are a great source of information, not only for locating a relative but can contain local city history, city maps, ward maps (a great help in identifying enumeration districts), business, church, school, and fraternal organizations.

Many city directories have a reverse directory in the back that lists all tenants at a given address. In rechecking the directories, I found several related family members living in the same apartment building. This is a great resource in off-census years. Check the advertisements in the directories, you might find one for a business your relative worked at or owned.

As in the present day, most cities had more than one directory. I have found different published city directories at a Family History Center than on the shelves at a local library. You may find an ancestor in one directory and not in the other. Check all different sources of city directories; Family History Centers, local libraries, local historical societies, and the National Archives.

Whether you are new to family history research or an old timer, taking a second look at your records may yield new and exciting information.

 


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