We are going to think "outside of the  genealogy box".  I encourage you to think beyond the standard genealogy research of census records, birth records, marriage records, etc. A lot more is out there for your research! Don't limit your success by only researching the traditional genealogy records. Let's get started adding to our Genealogy Toolbox!
How To

How To Research “Out of the Box” Genealogy – (Round 2)

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In a previous post, I shared one of my children’s favorite television shows when they were little –  the Disney Channel’s show Out of the Box.  We all loved that show! Encouraged to use their imaginations, my children were soon using everyday objects to create castles and boats and forts and tea parties…..you get the idea.  My children were thinking outside of the box when it came to their play.

Now don’t worry.  We are not going to be researching imaginary ancestors or record sets!

But….

We are going to think “outside of the  genealogy box”.  I am going to encourage you to think beyond the standard genealogy research of census records, birth records, marriage records, etc.

A lot more is out there for your research! Don’t limit your success by only researching the traditional genealogy records.

Below I am sharing some “out of the box” records that can be used in your genealogy research.

But a couple of tips before we get started:

  1. Get to know your ancestor well – I mean very well! – in the traditional genealogy records. Were they in the military?  Do you know their occupation?  This will help you recognize your ancestor in the more unusual record sets.
  2. When you find an “out of the box” record set, learn about that unique and/or unusual record sets by reading the “About” sections on records before you begin your research.  Find out exactly what a record set contains and how the records are organized.  Also, learn about any idiosyncrasies about that particular record set. This will be a huge time saver as you research.

Let’s take a look at some “out of the box” record set examples.

Examples in Ancestry.com

Example in FindMyPast

Examples in State and Local Archives

This is just a sampling of what can be found in a state or local archives.  Take time to discover what types of records the state your research in has.

  • Merchant account records – Potential source of a merchants customers.
  • Cemetery Surveys – Potential source for family cemeteries [I found documented oral histories in these records!]
  • Road records – Potential source for placing your ancestor in time and place.
  • Records of lunacy – Potential source of individuals declared lunatics.
  • School Records – Potential source for children, school teachers and superintendents
  • Minutes for the Warden of the Poor  – Potential source if your ancestors were poor and required assistance from the county
  • Published Family Histories
Marshall High School, Richmond, VA (Source: Library of Congress)

Examples from Within Your Own Family

  • Published family histories – Often these can be found in the local library or on your family’s bookshelf. Use these as clues and verify the information.
  • Oral histories from distant cousins. Actively seek them out!
  • Oral histories from family members with dementia.  Our family members who suffer from the unfortunate diagnosis of dementia can still offer insight into your family history.  Read tips and suggestions  for interviewing a family member with dementia.

Realize these records are not the first records I search for my ancestors.  These are the types of records I pursue when I’ve hit the genealogical brick wall as we all do at some point.

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We are going to think "outside of the  genealogy box".  I encourage you to think beyond the standard genealogy research of census records, birth records, marriage records, etc. A lot more is out there for your research! Don't limit your success by only researching the traditional genealogy records. Let's get started adding to our Genealogy Toolbox!

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5 Comments

  • Toni Bettencourt

    I actually have a question that I hope you can answer for me or direct me to a reference that covers it.
    I have yet to find a reference that provides suggestions as to how to find your female ancestors siblings. I am, searching for my paternal grandmother’s brothers and possibly a sister. No one still living in my family knows how many siblings she had, although it is believed she had 2 brothers and maybe a sister. I believe we have her mother’s name, but not her fathers. Any ideas as to where I should start or a reference I could use?

    • LisaL

      If the correct time period, check the 1900 and 1910 census records. These both list the number of children a woman had and the number of children living. This could help confirm the number of siblings there were. Other resources might include your grandmother’s marriage certificate/record (see who witnesses were), newspapers in the area, and even church records might help. Also, since you have her mother’s name, research her thoroughly. Who did she marry (if she married)? Who appears next to her in the records? Essentially, determine possible sibling candidates and then research those individuals out. This type of research can be tough. Often there is no “one resource”. You’ll need to build your case by studying who is in the community.

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