Tag Archives: Research Guides

Creating a Genealogy Research Guide

I have a question for you. When you find an ancestor has a connection to a completely-new-to-you place, genealogically speaking, how do you prepare to tackle this new location? Or do you just jump in and hope for the best?

Jumping in unprepared isn’t usually the most efficient way to go about your research, particularly if this new location is blessed with many historical records.

An efficient researcher needs a plan of attack and that plan is called a research guide. A research guide isn’t necessary for every new location that pops up in your family tree. If you are seeking, say, a single marriage record or a few land deeds, your time is better spent going for it. However, if it becomes evident that an ancestor/family has deep connections to a city, county or state, then a research guide will save you time in the long run and help ensure a thorough search of local records and repositories.

A research guide isn’t hard to create, but it does take a bit of time. Here are some ideas to help you create a unique research guide. Not all of the items in this list will pertain to your family. Pick and choose the ones that fit:

  1. Identify a location where you have a need to research family.
  2. Write a short summary about the history of the town or county. When was it formed? Is the area known for certain kinds of jobs? What is the climate like? Is it in the mountains, flat land, on a river or lake? Who were the original settlers? Did anything famous (or infamous) happen while your family lived there? Are the inhabitants of one ethnic background or was the community more diverse when your ancestors lived there?
  3. Create a timeline of important events during the period in which your person or family lived there.
  4. Locate a map of the area. (Print it out or save it at home.) If you can find a map of the town to mark exactly where your ancestors lived, save that one. Google Maps works for streets and houses still in existence.
  5. In what county is the town located? Was it always in that county?
  6. Where are the following records located for the town? Birth, marriage and death records, religious records (if applicable to your family), tax lists, voter registrations, military enlistments, land deeds, probate records, national, state and local censuses? Is there a record loss at the town and/or county level? Where are the town clerk’s office and county courthouses? How can you contact them? Will they do look ups for you or must you visit in person or hire a researcher?
  7. Are there any unique record collections in the town that relate to your family?
  8. What newspapers were published when they lived there? Are they accessible today?
  9. What libraries are local to your town? Are there any genealogy or historical societies in your town/county?
  10. Where is the county archives located? (if there is one) Where is the state archives located?
  11. What national libraries and/or record collections might have information about your town? (Library of Congress, Family History Library, DAR Library, etc.)
  12. Are there family members to contact about the ancestors you are targeting in this project?
  13. Have town or county local histories been published? When and are they digitized and online?
  14. Are there historical photos online for your town? Where would you look for them? (Library of Congress, Google images, eBay vintage postcards, etc.
  15. Is anything known about the migration waves related to your town that might have affected your ancestor?
  16. What was the political climate at the time?
  17. Check the FamilySearch research wiki for your town/county. Is it listed in the catalog? What other resources are available to help you in your search?

Here is a research guide I created for myself for Passaic, New Jersey:

  1. Identify a city or town where you have or need to research family: PASSAIC, New Jersey
  2. Write a paragraph about the history of the town. When was it created? Is the area known for certain kinds of jobs? What is the climate like? Is it in the mountains, flat land, on a river or lake? Who were the original settlers? Did anything famous (or infamous) happen while your family lived there? Are the inhabitants one ethnic background or was the community more diverse when your ancestors lived there?   Passaic was original settled by the Dutch in the 1600s, but didn’t incorporate as a city until 1873. However, the ethnic makeup of its residents changed dramatically from that time on and Passaic became a city settled by waves of immigrants beginning about 1880. The Slovaks, my family, first arrived in America about 1889. As I’ve since learned, my grandparents were part of an ethnic minority called Carpatho-Rusyns. Although they never had a homeland of their own, they settled in eastern Europe by the 600s. At the time immigration to the U.S. began, most Carpatho-Rusyns were living in Galicia, then part of Poland, eastern Slovakia, around Presov, and part of Ukraine. They brought their language, culture and religion with them to Passaic and even the second and third generations remained tightly knit as an ethnic group.
  3. Create a timeline of important events during the period in which your person or family lived there.

1889 – first Slovaks arrive in the U.S. and many settle in PA, OH and Passaic, NJ

1890-1910 – peak years for Slovak settlement in Passaic, drawn to the factories

1914-1918 – World War I

1924 – U.S. began to severely restrict immigration under the new  Immigration Act

4. Locate a map of the area. (Print it out or save it at home.) If you can find a map of the town to mark exactly where your ancestors live, save that one. Google works for streets and houses still in existence.

Slovak immigrants all settled in the neighborhood of St. Michael’s Greek Catholic Church at 96 First Street, living either in the neighborhood directly around the church or across the Passaic River in nearby Garfield.

St. Michael’s Church, 96 First Street – Red Pin

5. In what county is the town located? Was it always in that county? Passaic is in Passaic County and always has been.

6. Where are the following records located for the town? Birth, marriage and death records, religious records (if applicable to your family), tax lists, voter registrations, military enlistments, land deeds, probate records, national, state and local censuses? Is there a record loss at the town and/or county level? Where are the town clerk’s office and county courthouses? How can you contact them? Will they do lookups for you or must you visit in person or hire a researcher? All records can be requested via mail except land records.

Tax records – not available
Military records – not available and none of the family served in U.S. military

New Jersey Bureau of Vital Statistics (from 1917 to present)
P.O. Box 370
Trenton, New Jersey 08625
Telephone: 609-292-4087 (information)
Telephone: 609-633-2860 (to order records)
Fax: 609-392-4292

NJ State Archives (before 1917)
P.O. Box 307
Trenton, NJ 08625-0307

County Courthouse – won’t do searches for land deeds; must hire a title search company!

Passaic County Naturalization Records: Digitized and free online at: http://records.passaiccountynj.org/PRESS/Clerk/ClerkHomePB.aspx?op=basic

Voter Registrations: Destroyed by clerks; not required to keep under NJ

Federal Census Records: Censuses available 1900-1940, which covers Slovak immigration

State Census Records:

1895 – https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1054
1905 – https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=61557
1915 – https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=61558

Church Records: 973 area code; zip code 07055;

Possible churches where baptisms, marriages and burials took place:
Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel, 96 First Street, Passaic, 777-2553

St. Mary of the Assumption Church, 63 Monroe Street, Passaic, 779-0427

St. John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Church, 170 Lexington Ave., Passaic, 473-1928

St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church, 217 President St., Passaic, 473-7197

7. Are there any unique record collections in the town that relate to your family? None of which I am aware.

8. What newspapers were published when they lived there? Are they accessible today?

The Passaic Herald News is on microfilm at Passaic Public Library, but it must be used in person. Newspapers.com has recently added the Passaic Herald News to its collection.

9. What libraries are local to your town? Are there any genealogy or historical societies in your town/county?

Passaic Public Library, 195 Gregory Ave., Passaic, 779-0474

Passaic County Historical Society, at Lambert Castle, 3 Valley Road, Paterson, NJ 07503 | Phone (973) 247-0085 | Email info@lambertcastle.org

The PCHS also has a genealogy club.

WorldCat – locations of books on Carpathian-Rusyns
Google Books – list of titles about Rusyns

10. Where are the county archives located? (if there is one) Where are the state archives located?

The Passaic County “archives” only houses press releases, budget items, etc.

 New Jersey State Archives, 225 W State St, Trenton, NJ 08608

11. What national libraries and/or record collections might have information about your town? (Library of Congress, Family History Library, DAR Library, etc.)

Library of Congress

Family History Library

New Jersey State Library – https://www.njstatelib.org/

12. Are there family members to contact about the ancestors you are targeting in this project?

Distant cousins, mostly through DNA matches

13. Have town or county local histories been published? When and are they digitized and online?

History of Passaic and Its Environs, William W. Scott – https://archive.org/details/historyofpassaic01scot

 Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel, 75th Anniversary Book (1965) – I own a copy.

 The Passaic County history was published in 1882, before the Slovak migration began.

14. Are there historical photos online for your town? Where would you look for them? (Library of Congress, Google images, eBay vintage postcards, etc.)

eBay
Google images
Library of Congress – https://www.loc.gov/search/?in=&q=passaic&new=true&st=

15. Is anything known about the migration waves related to your town that might have affected your ancestor?

Only that Slovaks became acclimated and assimilated into American life and were replaced by mostly Hispanic immigrants. Before the Slovaks came the Irish and Germans.

16. What was the political climate at the time? Slovaks migrated for the economic opportunities. They were not persecuted because religion or ethnic bias. World War I caused difficulties communicating with family members, as Slovakia only existed as part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.

17. Check the FamilySearch research wiki for your town. Is it listed in the catalog? What other resources are available to help you in your search? There is a wiki page for Passaic County.

From the information I collected about Passaic and its history (and typed into Word), I can format my research guide as I please – copy and paste, add to, or eliminate unnecessary information. It is also simple to update.

It took me less than an hour to answer all the questions, but I have a general understanding of the history of Passaic, know where local repositories are that will likely be of the most help and will probably stumble across several others as I delve into my research.

If you haven’t ever created a research guide, I highly recommend it!