When I was volunteering at the National Archives recently, Mr. Warren asked for my help. He explained that he had been looking through the1880 Census films searching for his ancestor who had lived in Ft. Morgan, Morgan County, Colorado. He wanted to know where the remainder of the census could be located because Morgan County was missing from roll 92. He pointed out that the counties were listed on the film alphabetically and Morgan County was not there.
Morgan County was not missing from the census film. Morgan County was not created until 1889. Previous to 1889, Morgan County was part of Weld County. It took me only a few moments to find Ft. Morgan in Weld County, located on film 93.
Mr. Warren could have avoided this common mistake by researching the time and place where his ancestor lived. Knowing the history of the area and the time period when an ancestor lived at that location is one of the most basic rules of genealogy. This sounds simple but it is very often overlooked in our haste to find an ancestor.
Take the time to educate yourself about the location you are researching. Start with the most basic information such as the number and street address or the township. Then, determine the county, state, region and country. Once you know where an ancestor lived, research the history of the area. And as we learned from Mr. Warren, determining the time period an ancestor lived in an area is very important as well. It is useful to make a time line with the information collected for future reference.
Some questions to answer about the time and place:
Answers to these questions can be found in the following publications:
The Handybook for Genealogists, 10th edition by Everton Publishers. This book is divided by country and state and include maps. States are divided into four sections. The first section has a brief state history and state level vital records information. Section two has a list of the genealogy societies, historical societies and repositories in the state. Section three has the bibliography for record sources. Section four has a list of counties and is the most used section of the book. Each county listed is followed by details such as the date created, parent county, the address and phone number of the county courthouse, records available including the years, and the URL of the official county website or the USGENWEB site. This book is available at the Broomfield Library and at the Denver Public Library. Look for the10th Edition, which will have the most up to date information.
Ancestry’s Redbook, edited by Alice Eichholz, Ph.D.,C.G. This book is arranged alphabetically by state. Each state chapter is divided into topics such as vital records, census, court, probate, land, cemetery, tax, church, military, newspapers, immigration, Native American, libraries and societies. It also includes a state map and a list of the counties with county information similar to The Handybook. This book is available at Broomfield Library and at the Denver Public Library. Regional, State, County and City Guides. These resources will vary depending on the area being researched. The best way to find out if there are guides for the area you are researching is to search the local library catalog. Most libraries now have online catalogs. Some of these publications can be found in the Family History Library Catalog. However, unless it has been microfilmed, it can only be accessed at the library in Salt Lake City. The Denver Public Library has a good collection of guides as well.
Periodical Source Index (PERSI). PERSI is a subject index which covers genealogy and local history periodicals written in English and French Canadian dating back to 1800. PERSI can be searched by surname and also by locality. The collection is online at Ancestry.com and in book form at the Denver Public Library.
State, County and Town Histories. These histories vary depending on the location. They contain a wealth of information. The Denver Public Library has a large collection of histories. Also, check local library catalogs and the Family History Library catalog.
Family History Library Catalog. This catalog has been mentioned several times. It is available
Learn a lesson from Mr. Warren by becoming familiar with the place where your ancestors lived. It will help you to be a more efficient researcher.