11 Key Record Groups Where Your Ancestors are Hiding

11 Key Record Groups Where Your Ancestors are Hiding ©

By Dayna Jacobs, AG®


(You are welcome to copy this for your own use, but please do not publish it online or copy for distribution to others. Thank you!)


  • In the U.S., every ten years beginning in 1790
  • State censuses in-between sometimes
  • Provide information on birth, marriage, occupation, children, and more


  • The United States has been involved in at least 15 wars and multiple Indian wars
  • Even when the country was not at war men enlisted in the military
  • Military records are plentiful, contain valuable genealogical information, and can be found for almost any family


  • Land records are the earliest sources available to us as genealogists
  • They apply to more people than any other type of record in the U.S.
  • By the mid-1800’s approximately 90% of adult white males owned land


  • Newspapers recorded events in the daily lives of our ancestors
  • Besides births, marriages, and deaths, we read about their coming and going, visitors, accidents, celebrations, local government, new buildings and businesses, opinions about current events – all the things that were important in their lives


  • Church records pre-date official government vital records
  • They can be found in places where government records have been destroyed
  • Churches were a central part of communities and people’s lives
  • Many kinds of church records besides vital events


  • City directories give us more than names and addresses
  • Other kinds of directories besides city


  • Always learn the history of the places where your ancestor lived
  • Histories can have abstracts of other records in them, biographical sketches, and origins of the settlers


  • Maps can solve genealogy puzzles
  • Geography helps us to understand our ancestors’ community life and movements
  • Maps help us to know where to look for records


  • Letters
  • Photos
  • Private papers
  • Any kind of original, unpublished document


  • Ship’s passenger records can provide birth data, a physical description, names of relatives and destinations
  • Immigration generated other kinds of records when our ancestors wanted to become citizens


  • Digitized
  • Microfilmed
  • Original
  • Compiled
The ICAPGen ℠ service mark and the Accredited Genealogist® and AG® registered marks are the sole property of the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists.  All Rights Reserved.

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