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Non-Traditional Genealogical Sources

Genealogists typically use the same types of records for performing family history research: vital records, old censuses, deeds, and more. However, there are many other types of sources that can be useful in genealogical research. This list is only a sampling of the many non-traditional genealogical sources a family history researcher may discover.

Family Bible

Family bibles can be a great resource for genealogists. It was once common practice to record family births and marriages in the family bible. In fact, these may be the only place where the events were ever recorded. When recording information from a family bible, be sure to not the date when the bible was printed. This is important in determining if the information was recorded at the time the events happened, or copied from older records (for example, a 1775 marriage that was recorded in a bible printed in 1885 has been copied, and therefore may or may not be completely accurate).


Old letters can provide genealogists with a story about their ancestors. They may provide information about births, deaths or marriages, daily life, fighting in a war, and more. Envelopes that accompany letters provide addresses and the date of mailing (which is especially important if there is no date on the letter itself).

Baby Books

Baby books provide the names & birth dates of the people they were written about. They may also list the names of family members and godparents. These books also often contain a physical description of the baby, baptismal dates, and addresses.

Account Books

Account books were often kept by the head of household (typically the father), and contain records of financial transactions. These may include land sales or purchases, cash advances to a child, equipment purchases, household expenses, and more. Miscellaneous notes, such as births, deaths, marriages, baptisms, and occupations may also be included in account books.


Diaries were commonly written during important historical events, such as the California Gold Rush, wars, and migrations. It was also common for people to write diaries about their daily lives. Unfortunately, many diaries have not survived, but those that have can be a genealogical gold mine, containing personal stories, names, dates, locations, and much more.


Old photographs not only provide an image of what an ancestor looked like, names & dates may be written on the back. The city where the photograph was taken may also be listed, as well as a brief story about what is happening in the photo.