Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Begin your family research at the library

Need help getting started finding your ancestors? The Warrenton Library's Virginiana Room houses a number of state and local resources, and reference staff is available to assist you in person, on the phone or by e-mail. The library also hosts occasional classes and genealogy one-on-one sessions, so be sure to check our program offerings.

Here are some tips to get you started with your family tree:
  • Start with yourself and work backwards in time; list your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc.
  • Consult censuses and vital records. The United States Census records are made available after a 72-year privacy period. Many of these records and more can be found using online resources such as Ancestry Library Edition (library database available at all locations); HeritageQuest (available in the library and from home using your library card) and FamilySearch.com (website). For more online resources and recommended websites, see our Local History & Genealogy page.
  • Always try to find original records such as marriage certificates, wills, deeds, military records and passenger lists to verify the facts you find. When you do find something, make a copy and note the source; you may need to return to that source later, or you may share your research with other family members.
  • As not everything is on the Internet, you will probably need to look at records on microfilm or paper. Court records are particularly useful. Contact public libraries, genealogical societies or county courthouses in areas where your ancestors lived -- they may have unique tools such as obituary and newspaper indexes, local histories, maps and manuscript collections and clipping files. Virginia and Fauquier County-specific resources are housed in the Warrenton Library's Virginiana Room. Reference staff at the library may also be able to obtain some of these materials for you through interlibrary loan
  • Learn about the times and places your ancestors were living. Historical newspapers can be found on microfilm and in some cases, online. Local libraries and historical societies often index these papers. For example, the library has the Fauquier Democrat/Times-Democrat on microfilm from 1907-present, and staff and volunteers maintain an online index of life events (birth, marriage, death, etc.). The library also subscribes to ProQuest's Historical Washington Post: 1877-1993.
Best of luck on your family research!

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