Overlooked Resources: Business, Organizational, and Institutional
- Newsletter of the BCG
Ann Carter Fleming , "Overlooked
Resources: Business, Organizational, and Institutional
13 (September 2007): 22-23.
“I have looked everywhere” is often the cry
of frustrated genealogists, but have they really? In addition
to the basic records, researchers need to use a wide assortment
of often-overlooked records.
Catalogs for libraries and
archival facilities list many unique record types, including
those for businesses, governments, institutions, and organizations.
Likewise, numerous websites feature unusual records.
by determining the potential record types needed based
on the stage of life. During childhood and adolescence,
orphanages, hospitals, and schools may be of interest.
Midlife offers record opportunities in clubs, directories,
professional licenses, and prisons. In an older age, you
may ﬁnd your ancestor in records of an almshouse,
pension, or veterans’ organization, and one should
not overlook funeral home records at death.
Business newsletters often chronicle personal information
about employees including anniversaries, birthdays, births,
weddings, and retirements. Manuscript facilities or state
archives may be the repository for these newsletters. They
may be on microﬁlm or on ﬁle with the company,
if still in business. Business directories, like city directories,
are often beneﬁcial. A good example is the Martindale–Hubbell
Law Directory published annually. If you are trying to
locate an attorney today or years ago, check this directory.
It provides the name of the attorney, the name of his law
school, and some biographical information.
Government publications include records from local, state,
and federal levels. Mayor or county commissioner reports
may list cemeteries, schools, hospitals, or perhaps the
dairy farmers in the community. Other civic publications
may list employees such as police, ﬁremen, library
staff, and teachers.
Federal documents range from the Papers
of the Continental Congress, which contain signatures of average citizens
who signed petitions in the 1770s and 1780s, to more recent
publications, including listings of those buried in national
The Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Civilian
Conservation Corps (CCC) employed millions of people in
the 1930s, perhaps your ancestors or those of your next
client. The employment records for these workers are housed
at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis and
are available by mail (http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/civilian-personnel/).
These records include place of employment, employee information
and wages, educational opportunities and experiences, and
personal background information.
Have those frustrated genealogists looked at records of
religious organizations? When a person joins a religious
order, the order records their family history information.
This file also contains contact information for living
siblings or parents. Those ﬁles are maintained at
the home of that order and available to family members
via written request. Photos may be included as well.
Coroner and cadaver records may expand your knowledge
of an individual’s death. A coroner’s ﬁle
may provide the circumstances of the death, an autopsy
report may reveal potential family health data, and statements
from witnesses may disclose additional family information.
One coroner’s record from 1910 gives details about
a street peddler who died while pushing his cart along
his regular route. Included was a statement from his wife
and an inventory of the cart. The inventory lists notion
items that were important to many households in that era,
not just those along that peddler’s route.
Most genealogists have used World War I draft registration
cards in their research. But how many have looked for World
War I Bonus pay records? Most states paid bonuses to World
War I veterans or their heirs. The beneﬁt amount
and date varied from state to state. In 1922 Missouri veterans
received their payment consisting of ten dollars per month
of service with a maximum of twenty-ﬁve months.
These records are available at most state archives. The
same veterans were eligible for bonus pay from the federal
government in 1935.
A professional license is required for many occupations
today as it was in the past. Some of these licenses are
listed on the websites of the Secretary of State in your
area of research or are available from their ofﬁce.
Some societies have published school records, including
information on both students and staff. Teacher certiﬁcates,
class lists, and school photographs are often included.
Some publications even provide a sample of eighth-grade
tests. While your ancestor may or may not be named in one
of these publications, they do provide background information
for the time and area.
As board-certified genealogists, we should lead the way
in broadening our research and exploring new opportunities,
which will only improve our success rate. Records overlooked
by one genealogist are commonly used records by another.
Next time you visit a library, study a new record type.
Or, when attending a genealogical conference, listen to
a lecture on a new topic. Then share this information with
Standard 19 in The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual states: “reasonably
extensive research is prerequisite—regardless of
whether the problem is simple or complex—and includes
appropriately broadening the search beyond the person,
family, event, or record of most-direct impact on the project.” With
this in mind, all genealogists need to insure their research
has a broad scope.
When genealogists use a wide range of records and incorporate
information from them in a research report or publication,
the reader or client will have conﬁdence in the
work. Nobody can look at every record; however, genealogists
should be aware of the unique records in their research
area and use them as often as possible.
Ann Carter Fleming, CGSM
This article was originally published in OnBoard,
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