This category includes thousands of rich collections of published resources that can add depth to your family history. Published family histories may link to your family lines and can include the names, birth, marriage, and death dates, relationships, as well as stories about that family. Although published family histories can contain errors, the clues they contain can lead you and greatly help your research process.
The biographical sketches and oral histories of other people may give insights into what life was like for your ancestor. You’ll also find a record of events that had a profound impact locally, but don’t merit a mention in other history books. If your ancestor had any interaction with the subject of a biography, you may even find a mention of him in the publication.
In addition to actual family histories in biographies, there are several indexes to genealogical and biographical materials, among which is the Biography & Genealogy Master Index (BGMI). This index can alert you to the existence of published biographical and genealogical materials that may not be available online.
Social and place histories will typically contain descriptions of geographic features, transportation routes, and the economy of the area. They can also include historical information on seats of government, public institutions (e.g., prisons, schools, etc.), churches, and charitable institutions. Migration patterns are often mentioned, particularly in relation to the settlement of the area.
Military histories can give you a unique look into your ancestor’s military service. While they may not mention your ancestor by name, they can include details about military battles and engagements, the daily routine, and conditions (e.g., weather, illness, food, supplies, etc.).
If your ancestor had noble or royal lineage, you may find a published genealogy within this category, as well as heraldry and coats of arms. Some publications include images of armorial bearings as well as descriptions and family history information.
The names and dates you find in records create the framework for your family history, and putting what you know into the context of history can help you get to know more about your ancestors.
Even in cases where your ancestor isn't mentioned specifically, learning about local events, social conditions, and the lives of their contemporaries can fill in some of the blanks, give you a more well-rounded view and add interest to your family story.
- Through the Card Catalog, it’s easy to see what local histories are available geographically. Use the filters to select Stories, Memories & Histories and narrow your search to that collection. Next in "Filter by Location" select a country, state, and county to see what’s available for the area.
- When searching for a person in these collections, start with just a surname. Exploring all of the matches for your surname in a local publication can lead you to other related families in the area.
- Once you’ve located a title of interest, use the keyword search to find topics of interest. Use search terms like crop, church, school, epidemic, drought, fire, flood, a neighborhood name, or any other topic you’re interested in learning more about.
- Try searching the local histories for a particular year of interest. For example, the year your ancestor moved away. You may find reference to an event that precipitated his departure.
- Browsing the book is sometimes the most effective way to find what you’re looking for. For many of the titles on Ancestry, you’ll find links on the database search page directly to the table of contents, list of illustrations, individual chapters, and the index. These are often mirrored in the navigation bar of the Advanced Image Viewer. (Look in the blue bar above the navigation icons that says "Go to section.")
- Older databases may not include the advanced navigation, but it’s still possible to read the title just as you would a book, and even where pages don’t match up exactly, you can do the math to skip ahead to sections of interest.
- Search wide in these collections, searching for the names of friends, neighbors, and associates of your ancestor. While your ancestor may not have warranted a mention, notes on an associate could shed light on your family story.
- Use the stories you find in these publications and locate records to back up what you find. You may find "embellishments" in some published, family histories, local histories and biographies.