Finding Historical Source Documentation

Before I get too deep into other forms of research, I need to take time to verify the information in the compiled genealogies I created. I do this by locating historical documentation.
What do I mean by historical documentation? There may be a number of definitions for the term. I am looking for –

  1. Original documents (not transcribed or compiled records) such as census, birth, death, and marriage records, pension records, letters, bibles, wills, deeds, etc., created at the time the person of interest is living or at a later time by someone that knew them personally.
  2. Transcribed records are sometimes my only choice if the original records are no longer available to the public. They are subject to more errors than original documents and should be verified against original documents whenever possible.

My favorite places to search for historical source documents are (in order of importance to me)

  • FamilySearch Record Search – a free and ever growing data base of source documents. More and more historical documents are appearing here. I find this address to be the easiest to use, but it may be discontinued now the new site is available to the general public. I like the way FamilySearch “knows” the most common spelling variations.
  • Ancestry.com Census Records and the Drouin Data Base. Ancestry has the best single collection of census for the U.S. and Canada. They are continuously expanding their other vital records as well. Their Vermont vital records may be helpful for this Marden research. They also have the Drouin Data Base which is an excellent resource for Canadian records. I just wish they would take the time to re-index the Drouin material – it could be so much more if it only had a decent index and included all names found in the records (such as parents, god parents, witnesses, etc.). Fortunately for me, Ne-Do-Ba maintains a full access subscription to Ancestry.
  • New England Historic Genealogical Society has a lot to offer for New England research at an affordable cost of $75 a year. They have many historical documents for Massachusetts towns, access to historical newspapers and their “Register” which has been published since 1847.
  • Maine Genealogy has very few historical documents, but they do have a very nice collection of transcribed data from a number of great sources. If you are researching Maine folks, it is worth checking out. In addition to their own records, they act as a search engine for Books on the web and FamilySearch.
  • The USGenWeb Project seldom has historical documents, but you can find some nice transcriptions. Coverage is spotty and many regions do not appear to be active or growing after an initial spurt of activity. It appears to be suffering from lack of interest or lack of volunteers or both. However, it is always worth checking out.
  • Footnote.com is the place to go for Revolutionary War Pension Records and other military service data. It certainly is cheaper and faster than ordering pension records from the National Archives. Now, if they would only get serious about Civil War pensions records, I would be in research heaven!
  • Heritage Quest Online also has Revolutionary War Pension records online. I have noticed these files do not always include all the same pages found at Footnote, so I always check both sources to make sure I am not missing a page. Many public libraries offer this service. If you are a library member you can usually get the password to use the service from your home computer.

Deeds, Probate, and Wills are another good source of historical documentation. There are very few of these resources found online, so they always seem to get left for last.
Obituaries are a somewhat modern thing. Since most of the people in my research project are from an earlier time period, I have not addressed obituaries here. Most folks will want to have a couple of good obituary sources in their favorites list.
This is just a brief overview of my favorite resources. I am sure there are many other great websites I don’t know about or that cater to different locations or specific cultures. Unfortunately for me, there is no great place to go for Wabanaki historical documents of genealogical value – except my very own site nedoba.org ;)

Do you have any favorite sites you would suggest?
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