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Where to Find Genealogical Records in Your Ancestors Hometown

There are three primary locations to search for genealogical information in an ancestor’s hometown: the town/city clerk, library, and courthouse. It may also be of interest to take a trip to the local historical society, museums, cemeteries, and churches.

The Town or City Clerk

The town or city clerk’s office will often contain records dating back many years-sometimes as far back as when the town was first settled. Records you can expect to find are certificates of marriage, birth, and death. You may also find land records, meeting minutes, burial records, old tax records, school records, and more. Be sure to take time to look through any old record book that is available since you never know what you may find.

Library

Libraries often house archives of local newspapers. Newspapers can be a genealogical goldmine, containing obituaries, marriage banns (engagement announcements), photos, and information about other events that may have involved your ancestors. Libraries also contain collections of town histories, and sometimes, genealogical information, such as published local genealogies. Town history books may contain information about your ancestors, especially if they were early settlers or prominent town figures.

Courthouses

Courthouses can contain a large number of valuable genealogical information. Among these records are divorce records, deed books, and information about court cases.

Historical Society or Other Museums

Historical societies and other town museums often contain collections of genealogical importance. Some information you may find includes published genealogies, town histories, old artifacts, and old town record books.

Cemeteries

If you know where your ancestor is buried, try to pay them a visit at the cemetery. Tombstones sometimes contain information, including the name of the deceased (and maiden names for women) dates of birth and death, military involvement, and more. Also be sure to look at the tombstones surrounding your ancestor. You may find other relatives buried nearby.

Churches

Churches sometimes house records of events, such as births, deaths, and marriages, of members of its congregation. If you know where your ancestors attended church, it might be worthwhile to visit the church to see if these records exist there.

The information provided here is only a general guideline of what a genealogist may expect to find in typical situations. For example, Connecticut houses deed records in town halls, and not in courthouses. And indexes for vital records in Claremont, New Hampshire can be found on microfilm in the town library, rather than at the city clerk’s office. Prior to visiting your ancestor’s hometown, call ahead to verify the location of genealogical records in that particular town or city.