Beyond the Basics
Finding and Using U.S. Records
for Your Genealogical Research
Elaine Jones Hayes
Special Collections Librarian
Laramie County Library System
2. Review of Beginning Genealogy
1. Record What You Already Know
2. Read a How-to Book
3. Begin Your Research At Home
4. Look for compiled information
5. Choose one ancestral line to
6. Look for Original Records
3. Other U.S. Records
• Probate (Wills)
• Cemetery and Burial
• Federal and Local Tax
• City Directories
• Immigration/Naturalization 3
4. Where to Find Public Records?
• Check books and periodicals in libraries.
• Check the Internet & Genealogy Internet
databases such as:
–Ancestry Library Edition
5. But not everything is on the Internet:
• You may have to go to the original source in a
county courthouse, state vital records
division, state archives, etc. And pay $ to get a
copy of the birth certificate, will, etc.
• Search the Internet on Google.com or another
search engine, but look for a .gov website.
12. Probate Court Records
• Probate process involves:
–Collecting a decedent’s assets
–Paying necessary taxes
–Distributing property to heirs
13. More About Probate Court
• Probate court has general power over:
–probate of wills,
–administration of estates, and
–in some states, is empowered to
appoint guardians or approve adoption
• May be called Surrogate or Orphan’s
14. Two Classes of Probate Records:
–Person died leaving a valid will
–Person died leaving no will
15. Why Use Probate Records?
• Exist in times and places earlier than
• Identify family relationships and
verify death dates.
• Name spouse or past-spouses and
16. Where to Find
Probate Court Records
• Most wills are registered and filed in the
counties where they were probated.
• Also books or periodicals.
• ancestry.com or www.familysearch.org.
20. Land Records
• Land records exist from the very
beginning of the first permanent
settlements in America.
• In early America the great majority
of free adult males were land
21. Why Use Land Records?
• Place individuals in a particular place
at a specific time.
• Often list the spouse.
• Often state other relationships.
22. Land Records – Patent vs. Deed
• Patent indicates the first sale of a piece
• Once a patent is issued, the property
becomes part of the “private” sector
of land ownership and is
subsequently sold by a deed.
23. State Land States vs. Federal Land States
• State-Land States:
–Land controlled initially by the
• Federal Land States:
–Lands initially controlled and
dispersed by the United States
government (public domain).
24. The State-Land States
• New Hampshire
• New Jersey
• New York
• North Carolina
• Rhode Island
• South Carolina
• West Virginia 24
25. State-Land States
• Usually recorded in the deed books of
each county or town
• Look for:
Grantee (buyer) index
Grantor (seller) index
26. Federal Land States
• New Mexico
• North Dakota
• South Dakota
27. Federal Land Records
• Applicants completed a structured process.
–Completed papers were sent to the General
• Case files can show:
–Places of origin
28. Federal Land Records –
• Began in 1862.
• Required filing fee, residence,
cultivation, and improvement of land.
• Allotted to heads of households,
widows, single persons of either sex
over the age of 21.
29. Homestead Records
• Genealogical value:
–Contain proof of residence.
–Can show previous residence, port of
entry, place of origin.
–Final documents show name, age,
marital and citizenship status, postal
address and settlement date.
30. Finding Homestead Records
• Search at www.glorecords.blm.gov
• To find the information needed to order
land-entry case files from the Nat’l
34. Federal Land Records –
Cash Entry System and Credit Sales
• Land ordinance of 1785 opened lands
–Case files often only contain a receipt.
• Credit Sales
–Gave owner 4 years to pay.
35. Military Bounty Land Grants
• Given in lieu of monetary
compensation for military service.
• Citizenship not a requirement for
military bounty land.
36. Finding Military Bounty Land Grants
• All federal military bounty-land original
records are housed at the National
Archives in Washington, D.C.
• Bounty Land Warrants can also be found
37. Finding Military Bounty Land Grants
Laramie County Library System (LCLS)
has several indexes for the revolutionary
war bounty land.
• Also check Ancestry.com, Ancestry
Library Edition , glorecords.blm.gov and
38. Individual or Private Lands
• If located in federal-land state, will be
described by township, range and
• If located in a state-land state, will retain
metes and bounds.
• Registered in deed books at the county
or town recorder’s office.
39. Private Land Records
• Genealogical value:
–Names of the buyer and seller
–Description and acreage
–County and state of residence
41. Church Records
• Kept before civil records.
• Report births, marriages and deaths
(baptisms, marriages and burials.).
42. Church Records
• May be difficult to locate.
– Difficulty determining your ancestors religious
Many church records have been published,
microfilmed or are available on the Internet.
• Check PERSI. PERSI is available on Heritage Quest at
www.laramiecountylibrary.org. You’ll need your
library card # and PIN # (Default is wyld).
• Check the LDS Family History Library catalog and
database at familysearch.org.
44. Cemetery and Burial Records
• Cemetery caretakers usually keep good
• Note names and dates of others in that
–See the Sexton’s records.
• Older records may also be found in:
–local libraries, archives, or historical
45. More Cemetery Records
• Look for cemetery listings on the Internet.
• Funeral director’s records may be as good as
• But try to visit the cemetery in person if
possible. If not possible try www.raogk.org.
47. Cemetery Records on the Internet
• Find A Grave at www.findagrave.com
• Interment.net at www.interment.net
• The USGenWeb www.usgenweb.org and
• RootsWeb Cemetery search
• Most states have on-going newspaper
digitization projects. This only covers pre-
• Look for newspapers from the geographical
area where your ancestor lived.
• Search WorldCat.org and try ILL (Interlibrary
54. Military Records
• In general the U.S. National Archives and
Records Administration (archives.gov) has
military records from 1775 to ~1917.
• The National Personal Records Center (NPRC)
in St. Louis, MO has records from ~1917 to the
55. More about Military Service Records
• Colonial wars (1675-1763).
• Revolutionary and Post Revolutionary (1774-
–Most rosters and rolls have been published
and are also available in genealogy libraries
and/or on the Internet.
56. Revolutionary War Records
• Revolutionary war records.
•Available at the National Archives
and regional branches. There is a
NARA branch in Denver.
•Check the Internet and computer
databases like FamilySearch.org,
Ancestry.com, Ancestry Library
Edition and Heritage Quest.
•Also see www.dar.org.
57. Revolutionary War Records cont.
• Three types of records:
–Bounty-land warrant applications
–Military service records
59. Civil War Records
• Some 2.8 million men served the Union
and Confederate armies during the Civil
The Civil War Pension Index is available
at Ancestry.com, Ancestry Library
Edition, and FamilySearch.org is one of
the best places to start looking for
60. Civil War – Confederate Records
• The National Archives does not have
pension files for Confederate soldiers.
• Pensions were granted to Confederate
veterans and their widows and minor
children by the southern states. These
records are in the state archives or
62. Military Service Records cont.
• WWII to present (1938 to present).
–Service records restricted to immediate
• Right-to-privacy laws (75 years).
–Housed at National Personnel Records
Center St. Louis, MO.
• Fire in 1973 destroyed millions of
63. World Wars I and II
• World War I draft registration cards.
–Required males between 18 and 45 to
–Are available from the National Archives
and the Family History Library and on
Ancestry Library Edition.
• Discharge records for World Wars I and II
areon file at the local county courthouse.
66. Types of Tax Records
• Personal Property tax lists
• Poll Lists
• Land Tax Lists
• Rent Rolls
• Tax records can be found in county
courthouses, state archives, books, Internet
databases, LDS Family History Library etc.
67. Why Use Tax Records?
• To trace a family’s location.
• Indicate the amount and type of
• Estimate birth and death dates.
• Some tax lists can be found on the
Internet or on genealogy databases such
as Ancestry Library Edition and Heritage
68. Tax Records – Federal Tax
• Federal direct tax to raise money for armies.
–1798 French war direct tax on real property
–War of 1812 (1814-1816).
–Civil War direct taxes.
• Income taxes.
• Property taxes.
• License fees.
69. Tax Records – County Taxes
• Poll tax lists.
–Colonial and antebellum counties usually
taxed free adult males (poll or head tax))
when the young man reached 18 or 21
and ceased when the man reached 50 or
• Search county poll tax lists and property
71. Immigration Records
• From the earliest colonial period until
approximately 1820, immigration records
were kept by the colony or state where the
port was located.
• Customs passenger lists
• From 1820 until approximately 1891
• Immigration passenger lists
• From 1892 until ~1957
72. Immigration Records cont.
• Federal immigration records are in the
National Archives in Washington, D.C.
–Copies of some of these records are also
located in the regional branches of the
• We have books such as Filby’s Passenger and
Immigration Lists Index, 1538-1940.
• Also on Ancestry Library Edition or through
other Internet databases.
73. Immigration Records on the
• Ellis Island
• Castle Garden
• Immigrant Ship Transcribers Guild
77. Naturalization Records
• Naturalization is the process by which an
alien becomes an American citizen
• From the first naturalization law passed
by Congress in 1790 through much of the
20th century, an alien could become
naturalized in any court of record.
78. Recent Naturalizations
• In 1906 congress created the
Immigration and Naturalization Service
(now the U.S. Citizenship and
79. US Citizenship & Immigration Service
• The USCIS has a Genealogy Program
which is a fee for service program.
• See www.uscis.gov/genealogy.
80. Naturalization Process cont.
• Naturalization process took a minimum of 5 years.
– After residing in the United States for 2 years, a
person could file a "declaration of intent“ to
become a citizen.
– After 3 additional years, the person could
"petition for naturalization."
– After the petition was granted, a certificate of
citizenship was issued.
82. Additional Sources
• Agriculture Society Records
• Association Records
• Biography Indexes
• Employment Records
• Insurance Records
• Non-US Records
• And more (use your imagination/creativity)
83. Other Good Genealogy Websites
• Cyndi’s List www.cyndislist.com
• FindAGrave www.findagrave.com
• RootsWeb www.rootsweb.com
• U.S. GenWeb www.usgenweb.com
• Library of Congress www.loc.gov
• WorldGenWeb www.worldgenweb.org
84. Upcoming Genealogy Classes:
We repeat the basic series (Genealogy Basics and
Genealogy Beyond the Basics) in February, June
and October every year.
Handouts for the basic genealogy classes are also
available on the Laramie County Library System
website and in the Special Collections department.
85. Thanks for Attending!
• Please consider:
–checking out a
genealogy how-to book (929)
–Becoming a member of a genealogy society
(CGHS meets 2nd Tuesday – Sept. to May).
–researching in our Genealogy room.
–accessing Heritage Quest from our website
• www.laramiecountylibrary.org you’ll
need a LCLS library card number and a
PIN (default PIN is wyld).
Notes de l'éditeur
Introduce self, talk about the Genealogy room upstairs, turn off cell phones, we will be done about 8:30 PM. Note that I will be primarily talking about U.S. records but you will need to do all your U.S. research first to find the clues to make the “hop across the pond”.
Begin With Yourself and Work Backwards in time.
Original Records that we talked about last week are:
Vital Records (birth, marriage, death)
Social Security Death Index
For Each Record Type We’ll Discuss Today:
What they contain
Where to find them
Check books. Search the LCLS library catalog. Search other libraries through WorldCat. Check the LDS Family History Library at www.familysearch.org for records in books or microform.
Check the Internet & genealogy Internet databases such as Ancestry Library Edition and Heritage Quest. Many original documents are being scanned and are available at www.familysearch.org.
Then you may have to go to the original source which will probably be in a county courthouse, state vital records division, state archives, etc. And pay $ to get a copy of the birth certificate, will, etc.
Get familiar with the privacy vs. open access rules of the state. Remember the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) created a right to access for most genealogy information.
This is the state of Virginia’s office of vital records. Every state has different rules for accessing vital records. They’ll tell you on the website what they have, what the rules are, how to order, etc.
They will tell you what they have, how to access and what it costs on their website.
There is an abundance of genealogical information on the Internet but not everything is or ever will be available. Verify what you find.
How do you verify things? Does it make sense? Is there any supporting evidence? Contradictory evidence?
Learn to do a good Internet search engine search:
Try Google google.com. and/or Mocavo mocavo.com. Mocavo is genealogy specific.
Probate definition—legal dispersal of the estate of someone who died.
In the past in certain states Probate Court was called Surrogate or Orphan’s Court
Final document is issued and recorded by the probate court and, if land is involved, with the local land records office.
Most wills are registered and filed in the counties where they were probated. Look 30 to 90 days after the death of the property owner.
Many have been published in books. Some are available on the Internet –try www.ancestrylibrary.com (available in the library only), ancestry.com or www.familysearch.org.
Land records exist from the very beginning of the first permanent settlements in America.
In early America the great majority of free adult males were land owners.
Land records exist from the very beginning of the first permanent settlements in America.
In early America the great majority of free adult males were land owners.
Land controlled initially by the individual state. This includes the 13 original states, some of the southern states and Hawaii.
Federal Land States:
Lands initially controlled and dispersed by the United States government (public domain). These states are in the south, west and mid-west. These are the homesteading states.
Following the Revolutionary War each state dispersed property within its own boundaries
States granted land:
To raise revenues.
In lieu of financial rewards to soldiers.
To both accommodate and encourage western migration.
Southern states filed with county registrar of deeds
Many New England states filed through the town clerk’s office
Grantee is the buyer
Grantor is the seller
Public lands were first introduced in 1785.
Given to citizens or intended citizens to:
Pay the military (bounty)
Generate revenue to help compensate for the depletions of the Revolutionary War
The structured process depended on the authority under which the got the land. I
Began in 1862.
Required filing fee, residence, cultivation, and improvement of land.
Approximately 285 million acres given to citizens or intended citizens.
Allotted to heads of households, widows, single persons of either sex over the age of 21.
GLO= the General Land Office
You must provide:
Name of land office.
Land description (township, range, and section).
Final certificate number or patent number.
Authority under which the land was acquired (homestead, bounty-land warrant, etc.). Fortunately this is exactly the information you’ll find at glorecords.
Introduced in 1800.
Gave owner 4 years to pay.
Extensions were granted almost every year until 1820.
Abolished in 1820.
Similar to cash entry system.
Given in lieu of monetary compensation for military service.
Given to entice enlistments during military conflicts.
Citizenship not a requirement for military bounty land. Military service was the requirement, so this is also proof of military service.
Records were created by two different agencies:
Pension bureau handled the application.
General Land Office fulfilled the warrant.
Bounty Land Warrants can also be found at glorecords.blm.gov.
New England recorded through the town clerk.
Names of the grantee and grantor.
Description and acreage.
Dates (written and recorded).
Previous owner’s name.
County and state of residence.
Kept before civil records.
Like vital records.
Report births, marriages and deaths (baptisms, marriages and burials.).
Recorded removal to or arrival from another congregation (migration).
Recorded confirmations, lists of communicants, and membership lists.
May be difficult to locate.
Difficulty determining your ancestors religious affiliation.
Difficulty locating where that church’s records are now.
WPA compiled “Inventories of church archives….”
Excellent for churches and geographic areas they covered.
Out of date now.
Many church records have been published, microfilmed or are available on the Internet.
Check PERSI (Periodical Source Index) is available on Heritage Quest at www.laramiecountylibrary.org. You’ll need your library card # and PIN # (Default is wyld).
Check the LDS Family History Library catalog at familysearch.org.
Cemetery caretakers usually keep records of the names and death dates of those buried, as well as maps of the grave sites.
They may also keep more detailed records, including the names of the deceased's relatives. Try to go to the cemetery yourself.
Note names and dates of others in that plot.
Look for cemetery listings on the Internet.
Usually no records for family cemeteries.
Most other cemeteries maintain some records.
Funeral director’s records may be as good as official records.
Things you are looking for in Newspapers:
Marriage and engagement.
Probate court proceedings (legal notices).
Notes of thanks following a death.
After 1800. So not telephone books, they exist before telephones, more a criss-cross directory. Also good for home research (house histories).
Aid in locating ancestor in place and time.
Aid to finding ancestor in censuses (exact address).
Later city directories list:
People in household.
Show when children leave the household.
Show year of death.
Many are available on Ancestry Library Edition. Also check local libraries and Google Books.
In general the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (archives.gov) in Washington D.C. has records for those serving in the United States military from 1775 to ~1917.
The National Personal Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO has records from ~1917 to the present day.
Most of this information is more historical than genealogical.
Revolutionary war records.
Contain more genealogical data than colonial records.
Microfilmed and indexed. Some are online.
Available at the National Archives and regional branches. There is a NARA branch in Denver.
And at the LDS Family History Library.
Also check the Internet and computer databases like Ancestry Library Edition and Heritage Quest.
Three types of records.
Bounty-land warrant applications.
Military service records.
Immediate family – the veteran themselves or parents, spouses, siblings and children. But even if the records you are interested in were in the fire, don’t despair there MAY still be records available. The DOD and NARA has tried to replace these records with records from other sources such as the VA, military bases etc.
Some have been microfilmed by the Family History Library (in Salt Lake City) and can be borrowed.
Antebellum means the South before the Civil War.
The immigration records that exist for this time can be found in either the port city or in the archives for that state, usually located in the state’s capital.
Each of these lists provides valuable information about our immigrant ancestors
Most people went to the court most convenient to them, usually a county court.
A few State supreme courts also naturalized aliens, such as the supreme courts of Indiana, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, New Jersey, and South Dakota.
Aliens who lived in large cities sometimes became naturalized in a Federal court, such as a U.S. district court or U.S. circuit court.
Before 1906, there was often very little data in these records. Now these are usually administered in district courts but naturalization ceremonies (taking the oath of allegiance) can happen anywhere.
For naturalizations that took place after 27 September 1906, download Form G-639 at:
www.uscis.gov/files/form/g-639.pdf All 1906 and newer naturalization information will be found here.
The USCIS has a Genealogy Program which is a fee for service program providing family historians and others access to historical immigration and naturalization records. Fees are between $20 and $35 depending on the service requested.
The declaration of intent is also called the first papers. So you may find any of these three items. Only the last step indicates that they actually became a citizen.