Saturday, February 15, 2014

Family History Hints, Part 8

Image courtesy of  Surachai/

At one point during the research for Genealogy Roadshow, I was asked, "Where do you get these records?" I guess I didn't realize till then that what was "common knowledge" to the genealogists is foreign to those in other fields. I hope that the information I provided helped to enlighten the staff.

            “Where do you get these records?”

That is a common question, and sometimes we may be reluctant to give the answer, but not because we are trying to guard trade secrets; it’s because it depends on the record, the time period, the geographic location, privacy issues, and much, much more. Our on-line resources are not as prolific as the ads for would have you believe. One archivist puts it like this:

//////  = the amount of information available to us on the Internet
//////////////////////////////// = the amount of information available to us on microfilm (repositories vary, but we most frequently use films and fiche from the Family History Library in Salt Lake, rented from them and sent to be viewed at local Family History Centers and Regional Libraries) much of which is being digitized to eventually go up on line.
//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// = the amount of information in hard copy format at various repositories around the world (libraries, archives, museums, courthouses, cemeteries, historical societies, etc.), much of which will NEVER be on line

So trying to find a scarce record on-line is often an impossibility; we need to hire sub-contracting genealogists on-site to “pull records” from the repositories listed above. When we are “lucky” enough to locate something (a baptism record, the minutes from church meetings, etc.), we are thrilled. Renting microfilms takes time, but we have folks we know in Salt Lake who can go in and find a filmed document, if we know exactly what and where it is. However, often it’s an issue of scrolling through thousands of records (e.g., probate files) looking for the family of the applicant on possibly a dozen different rolls of film. This takes literally hours. I spent 5 days in Salt Lake, 8 hours a day, searching for one particular family and link. All I found was what it wasn’t.

People who have sent in [to the show] their queries after 20 years of searching are not likely to have their question answered by us. Not unless we happen to luck into it. But we keep waving our magic wands . . . sometimes cracking them over our heads. 

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