Are you searching for your ancestors in offline genealogy records? It’s tough!
You have heard it before – Not all (actually, MOST) genealogy records are not online. Despite the rapid addition of genealogy records to the internet, neglecting to research offline genealogy records for our ancestors is a mistake.
For instance, tax records are among some of my favorite records to research, but they frequently are not online. (I don’t like paying taxes, but I love the records they generate!)
Guardianship records, merchant records and other “out of the genealogy box” records” are records that are useful in tracking down an elusive ancestor. Again, these great genealogy resources are often not online.
Unfortunately, those records seem to be where I am not.
Traveling to multiple repositories is time consuming and expensive and just not always possible.
Is it possible to research offline genealogy records from home or at least without leaving town? YES!
10 Tips To Research Offline Genealogy Records
Networking Genealogy Style
Most of us are familiar with networking within our professional lives. Making connections and building relationships within your profession helps you to be successful in finding new clients, growing a business and reaching your professional goals.
That same networking concept applies in genealogy research. Build relationships with fellow researchers in areas where your ancestors lived and you need to research. (Of course, reciprocate for others who need help in your location!)
1.Post a query in online genealogy forums or message boards. Find message boards on Ancestry.com and GenForum. Search for a location based forums or Facebook groups and post your question there. Some genealogical societies have message boards on their sites open to both members and non-members.
2.Contact a state and/or local genealogy society. Often local genealogy societies have members who are willing to do look-ups for out of town researchers. Local genealogy society can also have unusual and interesting records on families in their area. Ask what they have in their collections! I have found everything from church directories/minutes to other genealogists’ research notes.
3.Talk to the local public librarian. Give the local library a phone call. Librarians are fantastic resources for genealogists and are very familiar with the types of resources their county may have. Additionally, many libraries have an section devoted to local history. I’ve found many great resources on these shelves including county histories and family histories. The librarian can help set up an inter-library loan if needed. I found photos of my ancestors in one such family history book on a library shelf.
Librarians also know with whom you should talk in the community for more information.
4.Talk to the county clerk’s office in the county you are researching. Staff can tell you what they have and do not have at the courthouse. Sometimes, older records may have been transferred to a state archives and the originals are not kept in the courthouse. Staff in more rural courthouses tend to “know everybody”. Make friends and see who they recommend you talk to.
5. Always ask “Who else do you think I should talk to?”. Never leave a genealogy conversation without asking this question. Remember … Network, network, network.
Old School Genealogy – Microfilm
I just have to ask. Does anyone else get motion sick reading microfilm? Okay, that might be more than you want to know about me. 🙂
Microfilm was a mainstay in the genealogist’s research before we had home computers. While we do not use microfilm as often, it still is important for many types of records.
6. Ask for an Inter-library Loan. Talk with your librarian about how to find and request your needed records.
7. Search WorldCat. – Search for family history books, collections of family papers, microfilm and just about anything you can think of. You may find a library or repository close to your location with a copy. Many are available for inter-library loan.
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Other Options for Offline Genealogy Records
8. Ask for help on Random Acts of Genealogy Kindness (ROGK) – ROGK is a great resource for genealogists. Volunteers perform look ups for individuals who do not have easy access to the records in their area. You do need to sign in and after that, you are set to search for a volunteer in the location you are researching. Be sure and read their guidelines before you get started. Consider becoming a volunteer yourself!
9. Research at a FamilySearch Library or Affiliate Library near you. Here you will be able to view digital records not available for online viewing at home. Find a Family History Center here.
10. Hire a professional genealogist – Hiring a professional is sometimes the best way to get the records you need searched and an analysis of what is found (or not found). I recommend using a genealogist who is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists. APG members adhere to a certain code of ethics in their businesses. State archives will often have a list of professional genealogists who specialize in their state records. (And if you need help in North Carolina or Virginia, visit my research services page.)
Just because you cannot go to the location of your ancestors to perform research, does not mean you have no options for research. Be creative in seeking offline genealogy records. You just might be at what you find!
You might also be interested in these related posts:
- 6 “Out of the Box” Genealogy Resources
- How To Perform Your Genealogy Searches More Successfully
- How to Be Cost Effective When Researching Genealogy
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