By Sheila Benedict
I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and a wonderful time with family and friends. Just as stated last month, when giving gifts, sometimes the best ones might be knowing who you are and where you came from. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of family history books put together to tell the story of a particular family and the many surnames of relatives. Some of those books are wonderful, but others have a lot of misinformation that will steer you down the wrong path. Everything — and to repeat, everything — needs to be source-cited to prove what is being written.
In the past, there has been a lot of information in the column about genealogical libraries and online sources but some lesser-known places, both in person and online, need to be featured.
One major source of data is archives, public and private. The information they have is usually very different than in a library. For instance, a religious archive keeps sacramental records such as baptisms, marriages, burials and other events that are specific to family. Those are private records, but some churches do donate copies to libraries, especially the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Of course, there is often strings attached to their donations, especially when it comes to privacy and copyright laws.
Other archives include those that are state-run such as the California State Archives in Sacramento. Their records may not have much family information as in this case, the archives is a division of the California Secretary of State’s Office and has mostly governmental records and some materials relevant to statehood. However, they could be beneficial if your ancestry includes famous pioneers or those who held an office.
One book, as an example, is “Irish Californians: Historic, Benevolent, Romantic” by Patrick J. Dowling and published by Scottwall Associates, San Francisco, in 1998. Yes, this is about Irish immigrants to the U.S. and then California, but there are many books that compile information on other ethnicities and backgrounds.
Another important archive is the National Archives of the U.S. and you can access them online. They have regional centers across the country and in California there are two: National Archives at Riverside (located in Perris) and National Archives at San Francisco (located in San Bruno).
Many copies of records held in Washington, D.C., and a branch in College Park, Maryland, might be at one or the other but the online catalog can help with that. There is also the Online Archives of California, https://oac.cdlib.org. Each of the states have similar archives for those of you that need to find family in other locales.
Further, every country also has archives, such as The National Archives of Ireland, located in The Republic of Ireland, Dublin, and the National Archives of the UK that covers England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is located in Surrey, which is part of London.
Others include the Danish National Archives, The National Archives or Mexico, and the Polish Digital Archives. These are just a sample of what is worldwide and very important to genealogical research.
Until next time — Happy New Year 2022!
Sheila Benedict is a professional forensic and family genealogist. She is the author of Research in California, which she wrote in 2015 for the National Genealogical Societies Research in the States Series and writes articles in a variety of genealogical society newsletters and magazines. All words are her own and may not be reproduced without permission. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.