Genealogical Research


FYI Hints When Searching for Your Ancestors

by Gesine Tschiedel Koether

Searching for family and friend’s history can be quite addictive as well as costly.  The resources can be found at your local library but often you want to settle in at home to do your research.  The computer programs such as, paper, ink and additional resources, as well as visiting libraries and museums, are well worth it.  The list of information below helped me with my research of my ancestors as well as other historical subject matters.  Some of the hints are Texas specific but all of them helped.  Hope they help you as well.

  1. Seventy-two (72) years must pass before a census can be released.  The first census taken in Texas was in 1850.  The 1900 census showed the year of immigration, if available.  However, neither the ship’s name nor the port of entry were shown.  The last census to be released was the 1940 census.  We hope the 1950 census will be released soon.  Keep in mind that census records vary in information. This means no two census show the same information.  It is also common to find names of your ancestors and friend’s to not match exactly with what you know them as.

  2. Texas did not require birth or death certificates until 1903.  Not everyone could or did follow these rules.  This means finding an early birth or death certificate is sometimes rare.  Other important information can be found on birth and death certificates such as parents’ names and places of birth.

  3. Church records are a good resource for birth, baptism, confirmation, wedding and death dates and location.  Names might not match exactly.

  4. Draft registration and muster lists provide name, location of applicant, relatives, birthday, occupation, and other valuable information.  Registration documents do not always mean your ancestor served.  Additional research is needed to verify whether the applicant served in the armed service.

  5. Family Bibles, family books, area school records and area historical books might provide additional information on the person you are searching for.

  6. Some naturalization records were filed with the district clerk, but sometimes they are found at the county clerk’s office.  You need to know what the area rules were for how long they needed to be here before applying for citizenship.  Minor boys came in under their fathers’ citizenship records.  Women’s citizenship came in with husband or father, but without voting privileges, women were not always considered important enough register.

  7. The 1867 Voter Registration will be the first time most African-American ancestors can be found in official Texas documents

  8. Fayette County marriage records began in 1838.  The Fayette Heritage Museum & Archives has the index of marriages, but not the actual records. these records.  Rox Ann Johnson and Maria Rocha are very helpful in assisting patrons locate resources found at the Fayette Heritage Museum & Archives, located on the second floor of the Fayette County library.

  9. Local newspapers for Fayette County through 1965 can be found on the Portal to Texas History web site.  Newspapers are a great source of information, including obituaries and articles about a person, place or ceremony.  The local Fayette County Historical Commission members have written articles for publication in the Fayette County Record.  These articles, called “Footprints of Fayette County,” are a wealth of information.

  10. Remember: your data should be verified as names, dates, location, etc. could be mistakenly reported.  Often two people in our nation, state and/or county could have identically the same name.  Accurate information is vital in passing down the history of your ancestors and friends. 

These are just a few of the many items that help in researching our ancestors and friends.  Have fun while searching for these nuggets of treasured pieces of information.  You never know what you might learn about your family and friends.  Bringing this information to light is a gift not only to those now but also for those yet to come.