Introduction to Red Book: Background Sources

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This entry was originally written by Alice Eichholz, Ph.D., CG for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
USA sil.png
the Introduction to Red Book.
Vital Records
Census Records
Background Sources
Land Records
Probate Records
Court Records
Tax Records
Cemetery Records
Church Records
Military Records
Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Archives, Libraries, and Societies
African American
Native American
Internet Resources
County Resources

Targeting an area for research requires an awareness of three groups of background sources. The first two readings in local history and guides to appropriate methodology and resources are covered in Background Sources for each state. Maps are covered in the following section. There is a wide variety of helpful resources. Individual contributors have included their reference material, used to develop their chapters, and their personal suggestions based on their professional experience.

Three resources should be used to augment these individual state discussions:

  • Filby, P. William. A Bibliography of American County Histories. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1985. Very incomplete, but it contains bibliographic surveys of some printed county histories for every state.
  • Genealogical Publishing Company. Genealogical & Local History Books in Print: U.S. Sources and Resources. 2 vols. 5th ed. Baltimore: the author, 1997. A handy reference to a large number of books and microforms in print, organized by state and county and therein by topic, it is revised in updated editions.
  • Kaminkow, Marion J. United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress—A Bibliography. 5 vols. Baltimore: Magna Carta, 1975. With a supplement dated 1986, this resource lists the large number of local histories available in the Library of Congress. Although they cannot be obtained on interlibrary loan through this library, other local or regional libraries may allow some volumes of their accessions to circulate.

Two libraries with extensive genealogical collections, the National Genealogical Society Library collection, now housed at the St. Louis Public Library in Missouri, and the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston offer book-loan services by mail for their members. The FHL’s huge research facility in Salt Lake City has microfilmed or microfiched nearly all printed material in its collection, which can be ordered for viewing at any of its local branch center libraries. Search the online catalog by locality for publications that can be ordered for rental at local branch centers.

Most major libraries have online access to the indispensable OCLC’s FirstSearch, a world access library catalog that indicates which libraries in its system hold any particular book.