Have you used county histories in your research? I have, many times, and still remember the thrill of pulling a “mug book” off a library shelf and finding an ancestor or his sibling with a great write up about the family and its history.
Granted, care needs to be taken when reading the details because the sketch subject could say anything he wanted – whether true, false or wishful thinking – and it would be published.
Personally, I have found stories about patriotic military service given by a grandfather during the Revolutionary War when the facts prove the family were notorious Tories driven out of the Carolinas.
I’ve also found family lore claiming my hubby’s Williams family from Cumberland County, Virginia were descended from Roger Williams of Rhode Island (descended from one Roger yes, but not that one!).
Another great piece of information I found was the maiden name of an ancestor, which appears nowhere else, but I believe because the subject of the sketch was talking about his own mother. I’d say odd were quite high that he knew his own mother’s maiden name.
The heyday of county histories ran from the post Civil War era until the Great Depression.
That means that most of these books no longer fall under U.S. copyright laws and they have been digitized.
If you haven’t often looked for these fabulous books, I recommend that you take the time to seek them out.
I’ve spent the last 9 weeks compiling 381 pages of links to digitized county histories for all 50 states. Yes, I know Alaska has no counties, but I found a few interesting early histories to include for our 49th state.
I have been posting the files, state by state, completed in random order, on my blog. So far, 11 states have been published and all 50 will post before the end of September.
I had originally planned to PDF everything into one file, but at 381 pages, it would be difficult to share.
I used William Filby’s book A Bibliography of American County Histories, which actually omitted a fair number of early histories and completely left out the popular “portrait and biographical record” series of books published pretty much nationwide. Along side Filby’s work, I used FamilySearch’s catalog and then sought links at Internet Archive, Hathitrust, Project Gutenberg and Google books.
I am sure there are still others out there that didn’t come up in my searches. There are also rare books, found on bibliographies, but which I couldn’t locate anywhere, and a few oldie but goodies in which rights were bought up by modern companies, which edited/added to original volumes and therefore they once again are copyright protected.
Readers are most welcome to copy and paste states into their own Word files, which is how I created my list.
The County Histories tab at the top of the page, under my empty branches photo, is a drop down menu that includes all the states I’ve already posted.
Now is a great time to browse for clues that might help break through a brick wall!