Vaughan Vaughn
Research Tips

Submitted by James Rice

These are a few ways I think some of you could attack your research problems. 
There are things that could fairly easily be done in the public records to possibly
answer some of the questions.  Let me suggest a few of the
main things to try

1.  U.S. Census Records
 From 1850 onward, the Federal Census Records can be a big help and are fairly readily available.  If you are not near a library that has microfilm copies of the ones you need, they all can be rented through your local LDS Family History Center.  Also, the commercial online
genealogy services are making quite a few census records available online.  Also, many of the census records are now available for purchase on CD.  The Federal Censuses are available for every decade through 1920, except for the 1890 one which was destroyed before being microfilmed.  Beginning in 1850, the census records give the given names for everyone in the household.  Thus, for example, if you are looking for the parents of someone born before the census was taken in 1920 and you know the state in which they were born,
there's a better than even chance you can find them as a child in the family of their parents.  If the surname is a common one and you have no clue as to the father's given name, it might mean looking at quite a few records, but the basic data should be on one or two rolls of the 1920 Soundex for the state involved.  The same approach applies for the earlier censuses.  The 1900 census is unique in that it give the month as well as the year of birth for people listed.  The Soundex indexing system goes back to the 1880 census, although a family had to have a child under age 10 to be Soundexed in 1880. For the 1870 and earlier censuses there are printed indexes to use.
The pre-1850 censuses exist for most states, and, for some states,
the censuses all the way back to the first one in 1790 exist. However, the pre-1850 ones will only tell you the name of the head of household and tally the household members by gender and age bracket. 

2.  Marriage Records
Most, but not all, states have marriage records that go back well into the mid to early 1800's, possibly earlier.  If you know a groom ancestor, finding his marriage record is probably thebest way to identify the wife. Also, many of the early marriage records list a bondsman who was often a relative of the bride or groom.

3.  Death Records
Most of the southern states did not begin regularly keeping death records
until after about 1910.  Northern states may have them back into the
latter 1800's.  A properly completed death certificate can be a real find,
since it usually gives the names of the parents of the deceased, including
the mother by her maiden name.  This information was supplied by an "informant", usually a surviving family who would have know about the deceased and his parents.

4.  Birth Records
These too, are generally a 20th century innovation. I have never had the occasion to look for one, but, if you can find one for someone you are researching, it should clearly tell you who the child's parents were.

5.  Social Security Records
The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is widely available online and in libraries on CD.  It lists the names of persons who have died since about 1963 (as I recall) and for whom a Social Security Death Benefit claim was made.  If you are researching someone who died that recently, you may very well find them in the SSDI.  This will tell you a little about
them but will also give you the information needed to get a copy of their original Social Security application, and I understand that will tell you a lot more about them, including the names of the applicant's parents.

6.  Bible and other family records
Of course, if you have records that have been kept within your family, by all means, begin with them.  A properly kept family Bible is wonderful if it exists and you can find it.

There are several places on the Internet where you can find much more detail on using these and other public records to research your ancestry, and doing it in the records is by far the best way.  Surname lists are fine for sharing records data with distant cousins and avoid duplication of research work, but remember that genealogy without records proof may
be as much mythology as genealogy.


Any questions, suggestions, corrections, or additional information, contact me, Linda CONAWAY Welden at:

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