Not all records needed to find your ancestors are found online. Use these tips to research offline genealogy without leaving your home. #genealogy #ancestors
Genealogy Research,  How To Trace Your Family Tree

Research Offline Genealogy Records – Even If You Cannot Travel!

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!)

Not all records needed to find your ancestors are found online. Use these tips to research offline genealogy without leaving your home.

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.

Not all records needed to find your ancestors are found online. Use these tips to research offline genealogy without leaving your home.

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.

Not all records needed to find your ancestors are found online. Use these tips to research offline genealogy without leaving your home.

[It’s hard to do the genealogy happy dance quietly!]

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.)

Not all records needed to find your ancestors are found online. Use these tips to research offline genealogy without leaving your home.

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!

***Please note that this post contains affiliate links which means I may earn a commission if you decide to purchase a product/service. This does not cost you extra. Be assured I only recommend products/services that I use and think you would like too. Read my disclosure policy and privacy policy.

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Not all records needed to find your ancestors are found online. Use these tips to research offline genealogy without leaving your home. #genealogy #ancestors

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30 Comments

  • Mary Jo Vepley

    Hate to complain, but sure wish you’d use “regular” print for this site. I have eye issues and can barely read any of the text due to lack of contrast and the extremely fine lines of the font itself. Have a little consideration for those of us with failing eyesight, a thing I never worried about when I was young … never through I’d be in this predicament … still trying to do my genealogy and dealing with diminished eyesight. Your choice of fonts and colors is limiting what I can gain from reading what you wish to share. : – (

  • Teresa Webb

    Hello, Lisa hopefully you can help me or direct me. I have a membership with Ancestry.com. Every time I find or get a hint about one of my ancestry’s social security number, or marriage license, or birth certificate or even a death certificate there is never an image or an area you can click on to see the image. I do report it to Ancestry; but still no image — nothing. Very frustrating and upsetting. What else can I do?

    Thank you,
    Teresa Webb

  • Patty

    On the comment of not having a document or something to look at when a hint on Ancestry comes up it is because the item or items have just been indexed and not photographed yet. Indexing is pushing research much farther ahead than before, they have the record it can be read and information posted in the indexing card but it takes quite a bit to get these records visually researchable. They will come.

  • Mary

    Someone who is doing genealogy research, and who is also are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, should talk to their family history consultant. Each ward usually has one. Also for members of the Church, Ancestry and My Heritage memberships are free. This is something a family history consultant can help with.

  • Marion Smith

    Want to point out that it is not necessary to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints to access records on Family Search. It is open to every who signs up.

  • Pat Thomason

    Ancestry has ThruLines to one of my ancestors (1764-1825). His father is listed on Ancestry as “a mullatto”. His grandfather is listed as American Indian and has a son listed as American Indian so I assume the “mullatto” is American Indian in Virginia. Do you know of any place I can go to find if there is a record of American Indians in old Virginia? Oh, yes, Native American did not show up in either my DNA or my first Cousin’s DNA so this may be a ‘miss’ on Ancestry’s part.

    • LisaL

      It could be a miss on Ancestry’s part, but since we only inherit ~50% DNA from each parent, this Native American DNA may have made it’s way down to you. As far as “mullatto”, this was done by visual inspection by the census taker. Reach out to the Library of Virginia and talk with one of their staff for the best way to research Native Americans in VA.

  • Cheryl Lynn Bohn

    Hi, I enjoyed this article, as well as many others you have created. You pair your knowledge and experience with energy and curiosity in order to write these great, timely pieces.
    I have two challenges and wonder if you might be able to offer suggestions:
    1) My large, regional library Does Not Participate inthe Inter-Library Loan program.
    It is inexplicable to me. Many academic institutions, libraries, and archives only offer copy service to my library–which does not participate. Do you have any workarounds for this situation, please?
    2) I have a question about various FamilySearch libraries–am I correct in understanding that these local libraries may have retained copies of certain regional records, books, and microfilms?
    If so, is there a way to find out what resources the individual libraries have on hand?
    And, how might I borrow or get copies of these resources because I live out of state?
    I am hoping that the Philadelphia area libraries might have info that is available nowhere else.
    Thanks for sharing what you know with those of us who are still finding our way in the genealogy maze.

    • LisaL

      Hi, Cheryl, Yikes, no inter-library loan is a problem. If you are close enough to your state library, try and go through them. You might also check if you have or can get access to another county’s library and order through them. Good luck!
      FamilySearch libraries (local ones) do have some resources and records. I think they are usually microfilmed or microfiche. The best way to find out what they have is to give them a call or stop by. There is no database for that, I don’t think.

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