Source Guides

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This article originally appeared in Printed Sources: A Guide to Published Genealogical Records, edited by Kory L. Meyerink.


Many useful directories apply specifically to one type of genealogical source (although most such directories were not compiled with genealogists in mind). Many such directories have been published by associations affiliated with specific industries or were published to identify certain types of businesses. Genealogists are often most interested in specific source guides for newspapers, funeral guides, and cemeteries.

When searching for living relatives in an area known to have been the home of an ancestor, it is often advantageous to place an advertisement in a local newspaper. Such an advertisement might simply say "Looking for the descendants of David Hall, known to have lived in Pottersville in 1890." Often, such an advertisement appears as a letter to the editor or as a personal advertisement. Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media can be useful in finding the name of a local newspaper, its address, frequency of publication, circulation numbers, and advertising rates. Found in most libraries, the Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media was formerly known as Ayer Directory of Publications. Published annually since 1869, this directory contains entries for more than thirty-six thousand newspapers, magazines, journals, radio stations, television stations, and cable systems. It is another example of a standard library reference resource that holds research potential for genealogists and family historians.

The Newspaper Genealogical Column Directory is an example of a printed source written specifically for genealogists. Compiled by Anita Cheek Milner, this directory lists more than 150 genealogy columns appearing in newspapers nationwide. Entries are arranged alphabetically by state and then by county. Each entry includes the name of the newspaper column, research area covered, newspapers in which the column appears, frequency, and requirements and charges for submitting a query to the column.

An entry from the Newspaper Genealogical Column Directory.

Anita Milner comments in the introduction to this directory that many columns appearing in early editions of the Newspaper Genealogical Column Directory no longer exist. Often, columnists have not received enough queries from readers to justify the existence of a column. Because publication of queries is free in most columns, genealogists should take advantage of the opportunity to publicize their research needs. The illustration displayed here shows the column "Family Trees," by Nancy Parks. Note that her column runs in three Mississippi newspapers. Queries are free, and there are no restrictions on length or area of interest in each query.

Funeral and cemetery directories offer useful information for genealogists and can be found in the reference departments of large public libraries and university libraries. The American Blue Book of Funeral Directors is published approximately every two years and lists twenty-two thousand funeral homes, primarily in the United States and Canada. Listed geographically by state and then by city, entries provide the name of each funeral home, address, population served, and county in which located. The American Cemetery Association Membership Directory and Buyers Guide (Falls Church, Va.: American Cemetery Association, annual) lists three thousand cemeteries of all types (except governmental) that belong to the association. Entries are listed geographically and give cemetery name, address, telephone, facilities provided, and names and titles of key officials.

Cemeteries of the U.S.: A Guide to Contact Information for U.S. Cemeteries and their Records, edited by Deborah M. Burke, lists more than 22,600 operating cemeteries arranged alphabetically by state and then by county. Information provided for each cemetery includes name, address, telephone and fax number, founding and closing dates, facilities, special services, location of records, religious affiliations, and name of owner. A unique feature of this directory is the inclusion of approximately seven thousand closed cemeteries. Also, the directory contains bibliographic citations to publications about individual, county, and state cemeteries. This information will lead researchers to published tombstone inscriptions.

As mentioned in the first part of this chapter, researchers should not rely on one source when seeking answers. This tenet is especially true when searching for cemetery information. An additional source for cemetery names and addresses is the United States Cemetery Address Book, 1994-95, by Elizabeth G. and James D. Kot. Some of the cemeteries listed in this book do not appear in Burke’s book, noted above. Similarly, some cemeteries listed in Burke’s book do not appear in the Kots’ book. This example demonstrates the need for researchers to continually be on the lookout for similar printed sources. Consulting just one source on a particular subject limits a researcher’s scope.

Once a death date has been determined for an ancestor, the next logical step is to locate a copy of that ancestor’s obituary. One can begin by consulting Obituaries: A Guide to Sources, by Betty M. Jarboe. This useful guide provides access to obituaries and death notices listed in books, newspapers, and periodicals. Entries are arranged geographically by state with a section devoted to foreign sources. Included in the Appendix is an annotated list of Obituary Card Files located in major genealogical and historical libraries.


Printed Sources: A Guide to Published Genealogical Records


Publication Information:

Introduction - By Kory L. Meyerink

Origin of InformationCategories of Research Sources and ToolsEvaluation of Printed SourcesDocumentation and CopyrightLearning What Printed Sources ExistPublishers and DistributorsRepositories of Printed SourcesEffective Use of Libraries and Archives

Chapter 1: General Reference - Martha L. Henderson

Unique Resources in Public LibrariesDewey Decimal Classification SystemReference SourcesEncyclopediasGeneral History SourcesSocial History SourcesAlmanacs, Chronologies, and Statistical SourcesUsing DirectoriesLocal DirectoriesPrinted Professional DirectoriesInstitutional DirectoriesDirectories of Groups and AssociationsSource GuidesGeneral Language DictionariesHistorical and Etymological DictionariesSlang DictionariesSubject DictionariesSurname DictionariesGovernment DocumentsUsing BibliographiesElectronic SourcesReferences for Printed Sources: Chapter 1

Chapter 2: Instructional Materials - Sandra Hargreaves Luebking

Introduction to Instructional MattersHow-To Guides and Manuals for AdultsHow-to Guides and Manuals for Young PeopleGenealogy Technologies and Refinement of SkillsCourses and Programs of StudyPeriodical ArticlesIdentifying and Obtaining Instructional MaterialsEvaluating Instructional MaterialsSelecting Textbooks for Classroom UseThe Future of Instructional MaterialsReferences for Printed Sources: Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Introduction to Geographic ToolsIntroduction to Maps and GazettersMapping of a New NationRoutes to the WestCanals and WaterwaysRailroadsPolitical MapsNineteenth-Century MapsUSGS Topographic MapsOrdering Topographic Map Names and NumbersOrdering Topographic MapsDigital Topographic MapsOut-of-Print Topographic MapsFact Sheets and General Interest PublicationsOther Types of USGS MapsNineteenth-Century National GazetteersTwentieth-Century National GazetteersPostal Guides and Shipping GuidesMaps, Gazetteers, and the ComputerFinding Geographic ToolsUsing Geographic ToolsReferences for Printed Sources: Chapter 3

Chapter 4

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Chapter 5

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Chapter 6

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Chapter 7

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Chapter 8

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Chapter 9

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Chapter 10

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Chapter 11

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Chapter 12

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Chapter 13

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Chapter 14

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Chapter 15

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Chapter 16

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Chapter 17

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Chapter 18

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Chapter 19

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Chapter 20

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Appendix

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