After Census Records
If you are searching for your ancestors, your first document search was probably through census records. However, the census search ended for the most people in 1850. Although the census records begin inn 1790 and continue every ten years, it was not until 1850 that the names of every family member were listed, plus ages. place of birth and occupation.
To get further back in time, it is absolutely essential to research county records where the ancestors resided. That includes wills, estates, marriages, deeds, tax digests, military records, etc. This is the best and fastest means of locating accurate information.
In former times, people kept a family register in their bibles and this served as a document of proof of birth, marriage and death for other records, including military. The DAR has collected and published a vast number of old bibles and housed them in State Archives. Occasionally, someone took an old bible record to a State Archives where it was put on microfilm. However, since this practiced seemed to have ended around 1940/50, we now look to public birth and death records. Most public birth and death records commenced after 1900. Marriage records were typically recorded at the local court house by the minister, however, that was “standard” practice, so we must assume that it may not be possible to retrieve all records. The work-around on locating marriages is to “pay attention” to the names of witnesses on all documents surrounding your ancestor, particularly in wills and estates where distributions occurred.
Generally, county records in the United States go back to ca 1600, viz: the period of landing in this country. For those records which did not survive, there are work-arounds. Stay tuned for more articles on this.
Available county records in 7 States: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia on GeorgiaPioneers.com where additional information in other States is also being gathered and added. Members have access to all data.